America Stresses Over Making Time for Holiday Cheer

America Stresses Over Making Time for Holiday Cheer
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Why you should care

Because the most wonderful time of the year shouldn’t be a source of anxiety.

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’Tis the season … to be stressed. At least that’s how it feels when you’re struggling to buy last-minute gifts amid throngs of shoppers and your smartphone is dinging an email-a-minute because your office is scrambling to finish projects before the holiday break. And then there are the various parties and dinners you agreed to that you can’t cancel on. Though you might hear folks rattling on about “good cheer,” make no mistake, we’re all pulling that classic duck move: staying calm on the surface, paddling frantically underneath.

Staffing service Accountemps surveyed 2,700 workers across 27 major U.S. cities in November, and found that:

Managing holiday and work commitments is the top stressor for 32 percent of employees this time of year.

It’s little wonder that Americans are stressing out about their ability to find time for merriment. They are, after all, working very long days. According to a 2014 Gallup Poll, the average American works 47 hours per week, compared with fewer than 35 hours per week in Western European countries like France, Germany and Denmark. Half of full-time, salaried U.S. employees — those who don’t earn overtime pay — said they worked at least 50 hours.

But those long hours mean American workers need time for good cheer more than ever. We asked the experts for advice on creating room for holiday fun, without feeling more frazzled than festive.

Double up on gifts

Buying gifts is a time-sucker. To do it right, buy in bulk. Debbie Lillard, an organization expert, recommends creating groups of people who can receive similar presents.

“All the grandparents are getting books, all the nephews are getting music gift cards, all your kids are getting tickets to events,” she recommends, minimizing the number of stores or websites to visit. Plan this early, and schedule the shopping over a few weeks.

Do some truth telling

Holiday spending can be very stressful, so if it’s proving to be too much, nip it in the bud. “If exchanging gifts with every family member has become a burden … let people know in advance. Don’t hesitate in voicing your desires — you may find you have plenty of company,” advises productivity coach Kelly Jayne McCann.

Don’t manage time, manage yourself

Time management expert Mitzi Weinman has an odd mantra, considering her profession: “Managing time is an impossibility.” Instead, she says, you have to manage yourself. That means being aware of what stresses you out, learning how to respond more effectively and being strict about priorities. “One of the ways to make time for your partner, other important relationships and yourself is to look at it as a priority,” she explains. “Block that time out in your calendar.”

Scheduling appointments for family time might sound a bit clinical, but time-tabling everything is the easiest way to ensure it gets done.

Run a tight ship

Truth is, the sheer volume of demands this time of year means it’s unlikely to ever feel completely stress-free, but expert advice can make things easier.

Scheduling appointments for family time might sound a bit clinical, but time-tabling everything is the easiest way to ensure it gets done. “Put [these appointments] on all your calendars at work and home. It always works,” advises Luis Congdon, a relationship coach. Also, double up on tasks and social time. Invite your friends over for a tree-trimming session, for example, or get the kids involved in the cooking.

And if, when planning your work schedule, something can wait until after the holidays: Let it wait. Let it wait. Let it wait.