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Change expectations to tackle holiday stress

Q. I am stressed already, work-wise. The holidays are coming, and I am even more stressed thinking about all that they entail and how much work I’ll have. I know stress is bad: I know, take a deep breath, take a walk, but really, what can I do?

A. There are many things you can do to relieve stress, and don’t minimize the value of a deep breath and taking a walk. Taking the time to incorporate stress-relieving activities into your daily routine will keep the level lower and help you build resiliency. I consulted with Kathleen Greer, founder and chairwoman of KGA, an employee assistance firm in Framingham.

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“The real key to managing stress is to change your thinking about what is in front of you.” Greer says. “For example, when you are thinking about the holidays, try to find a way to think about them differently. That might mean a different kind of gift-giving than in the past, a different approach to parties and events, or a different way to reacting to family dynamics.”

Greer suggests asking yourself some questions about how you want the next six weeks to go. What might you want to change about gift-giving? How might you want to change your reaction to the family member who is always inappropriate? When you think about these things differently, you can automatically reduce stress. Lowering expectations of yourself and others is a good start.

If you are a manager, the most important thing you can do is look at your own situation. You really can’t be helpful to employees if you are over-committed. Employees are watching you and feeling your stress. See if you can minimize that stress, not add to it.

If you are not a manager, it may be a good time to talk with your boss to review priorities over the next six weeks and work on the projects that are urgent and important. Put what can wait off until the new year.

Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
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