A friend of mine asked a few weeks ago if we were feeling the holiday stress, and my response was that I rarely get stressed about the holidays. I’m not the kind of person who gets all their shopping done months ahead of time, by any means. However, I have a very small family to buy presents for, and my friends and I don’t typically exchange gifts, so it’s not very difficult to order a few things online here and there and then be done. Hooray for Amazon Prime and free two day shipping!
No, what stresses me out about the holidays is trying to take time off work. I’m very lucky in that my company gives us the entire week between Christmas and New Year’s off (well, they ask us to take off the entire week, and in exchange, we use two of our vacation days… two days for five days is not a bad deal!). However, preparing to take an entire week off work can be very stressful. Sometimes I think it would be easier not to take any time off than to deal with all the contingency plans and trying to teach other people to do my duties while I’m out.
I faced this problem just a month ago, when I went to Peru, but at least then I was leaving Thanksgiving week, which meant it was really only two normal work days off (and the rest were all holidays for everyone else too). One thing I usually do when I’m on vacation is check my work email once a day – if I can see what’s going on, I’m less worried about what I’m going to have to come back to. Plus, it’s just so much easier to sort through my emails once a day rather than come home to several hundred and have to go through them all at once!
But this Christmas, I’m taking a cue from Aron, who announced a few days ago that she’s taking a social media sabbatical for the holiday. Her post pointed out something that many of us take for granted: it’s so easy to get caught up in the online world and forget about the real world. Think about how much time you waste checking Twitter, checking Facebook, checking Google Reader. I’d argue that it isn’t quite a “waste” of time (personally, it makes me feel more connected to get to read about what other people go through in their daily lives), but at the same time, it’s not going out and actually living.
But while I can talk a good game about this, let’s be honest – I’m not brave enough to actually give up my social media addiction. I also don’t think that’s what’s causes me stress – I find blogs/Twitter/etc to be a good forum for de-stressing and relaxing at the end of the night. I think Twitter has actually helped me approach the blogging world in a more relaxed manner – where I used to stress about how many unread blog posts there were in my Google Reader at the end of the day, the jump-in/jump-out nature of Twitter has helped me to see blogs as less of a to-do list and more of just something to entertain myself with when I have time to kill and have an electronic device with me. (I get tons of blog reading done while standing in line at a sandwich shop waiting for them to make my lunch, for example).
This holiday break, though, I am going to try to disconnect from work a bit more. It will be tough, especially since my client has a big product launch coming up in a couple weeks, but I think if I can take the week to completely forget about work instead of stressing about my neverending to do list, I’ll come out more relaxed and stronger on the other side. work has been really getting me down lately – to the point where I’ve broken down in tears when on the phone with families about little things, because I had already hit the end of my rope with work happenings. Not good!
For me, fun is “getting things done”. I’m Type A and I’ve accepted that about myself. So I’m not going to get rid of my personal to do lists (ahem, redecorate the living room and clean out my closet), or stop working out. In fact, I always use my holiday break as a chance to get in more workouts and eat better – it helps to revive me from the daily grind of restaurant meals and not enough time. But I’m going to spend this break focusing on what matters to me, rather than constantly dealing with the demands other people place on me. It’s time I started doing that more in my daily life anyway, so maybe this break will get the habit started in a good way.
But before I can start doing that, I still have one more uber-stressful day of work to get through. Just have to remind myself that it’s like the last mile in a marathon – not that much fun, but the finish line is straight ahead. Final mile, here I come!