One year when my kids were small I was so overwhelmed by the cacophony of the holiday season that I created a fort out of blankets and a curtain rod. With “La la la, I can’t hear you” pinging around my head, I self-medicated by annotating 12 issues of People magazine and devouring three giant chocolate bars that winter night. Writer Virginia Woolf said women need a room of one’s own; sometimes a tent-fort will do.
Fast-forward to 2017. My oldest is completing college applications and my now thirteen-year-old is a sassy force of nature. On top of that, I’m investigating a “career pivot” from talent acquisition to copy editor after 15 years out of the paid workforce. I’m drowning in plain sight underneath the weight of family tradition, decorating “opportunities” and seasonal communications, all tasks I’ve managed in years’ past with a degree of self-composure. Still, I’m astonished at my lack of ability to handle the swim of the season with its endless requests of my time on top of a job search. Between researching a potential new industry, updating my resume and LinkedIn profile and networking, the expectations exhaust me. On some days, I doubt my ability to successfully reboot my career.
I know I’m not the only one who feels overwhelmed at this time of year and our career reentry goals make it even more challenging. Here are some tips to lighten the load that this season may have dropped on your doorstep. Enjoy!
How do I know I’m not the only one afflicted with seasonal stress issues? In a study published by Harvard Medical School’s Department of Neurobiology, Holiday Stress and the Brain, 62% of respondents said their stress was “very or somewhat elevated”, while only 10% said they experienced no stress.
The Harvard study notes that our pre-frontal cortex, the brain’s project manager, goes into overdrive. The result? Our ability to manage time, be attentive, switch focus, plan, organize and remember details suffers. Isn’t that the definition of what we do during the holidays?
And if that’s not bad enough, the study also found we have a decreased ability to remember during times like this: our brain cells die off. Add the many tasks that a career reentry strategy requires and it’s clear that there is more work than normal this holiday season. I adore my brain cells and want to keep them — I know you feel the same way.
4 Tips to Cope With Stress During Your Career Reentry
1. Listen and Ask
Digging down to the root cause of stress can be challenging even without the additional focus on workforce reentry. If you don’t know where your stress is coming from, find a quiet place to think (preferably not a Target bathroom) and breathe mindfully. Ask yourself what you want to experience during the holiday season. As important, ask yourself what you don’t want. You might get answers that surprise you.
2. Launch the Flotsam & Jetsam
If you’re clear that your stress is a matter of too much to do and not enough time, ask your family to help you prioritize the holiday task list. Then notice who volunteers to own the activity since you cannot. I traditionally create and send out holiday cards; it’s important to my husband so the girls did the job. They also decorated the Christmas tree and the house. Was it perfect? Actually, it was because I didn’t do as much as I normally do.
If you’re still feeling stretched, pare down the sheer number of activities you participate in.
The truth: we only get 24 hours each day. It’s possible to cram more in but is sacrificing brain cells worth it?
And if you can’t cut down, then simplify by giving others an “opportunity” to pitch in. Ask your relatives to bring a dish to dinner instead of preparing the entire meal yourself. Minor changes can add up to a big pay-off in stress relief.
The surprising upside of asking for help was that I learned what each family member refused to live without. We will continue to drink hot chocolate on our annual Christmas Eve auto tour of lights. Hosting an annual holiday party is a must for my husband but he and the girls are 100% responsible; I just have to show up. Nobody cares about a Christmas morning breakfast, perfectly wrapped gifts, or Christmas concerts, plays or entertainment of any kind. And hallelujah, everyone volunteered to take down the decorations! So launch the things that don’t hold meaning for you. Jettison tasks that don’t need doing; believe that the essentials will get done. Or they won’t, in which case they aren’t essential.
3. Lunch & Leisure
Just as you schedule “think time” to contemplate your career reentry strategies, schedule downtime to nourish yourself. Eat healthy food in the company of people you love. Schedule a leisurely lunch with a friend who also needs respite from the holiday frenzy. Be present, relax and don’t forget to look marvelous. Just as preparing a return to work is easier in a community of like-minded women, the same goes for tackling seasonal stress. De-stressing is easier with friends by your side to support your journey.
A big stress reducer for me is to order yummy meals instead of making them myself. I have friends who swear by GoodEggs.com, weekly organic dinner kits delivered to your door. Or check out:
4. Laughter, Daily Medicine
When was the last time you gut-laughed? If you can’t remember, it’s been too long.
There’s a reason why Jason Headley’s It’s Not About the Nail has received over 16 million views on YouTube … it’s hilarious!
What makes you smile? What makes you giggle? Maybe it’s a quick text exchange with a witty friend. Don’t put it off — text her. Perhaps you follow a blog written by a hilarious writer. Don’t wait — re-read her funniest posts.
The best advice I’ve ever received is to make a habit of playing with laughter all year long. So when the holidays roll around I have an arsenal of levity at my fingertips.
Fill us in on how you reduce holiday stress in the midst of your career reboot so we can scatter the knowledge. We wish you joy and peace of the season to you and your family.
Prior to ReBoot Accel, Kelly Perri excelled in talent acquisition management, project management and vendor relations in the tech space. While pausing her career to raise her family, Kelly created and sold mixed media/collage art and studied encaustic painting and letterpress printing. She also contributed as a PTO president and board member at her kids’ schools. As a lifelong reader and writer, Kelly is obsessively curious about how individuals find work that animates their best selves and propels them toward their unique and highest good. Kelly is exploring a pivot toward the writing, editing, content creation and digital media arena and we couldn’t be happier to welcome her into a Digital Media Project Manager Returnship to promote ReBoot Accel’s effort to help women become current, connected and confident in their return to the workplace.