11/29/2013

Stress Budget during the holidays

Less Stress BudgetThe holidays can be festive times. They can be fun and happy for many people. But it can also be sad and stressful for many. An activity that helps my clients is creating a stress budget in times of burnout, hardship and during the holidays. Just like a financial budget tracks spending of money, a stress budget tracks the expenditure of stress!

Let me show you an example and offer an activity for you to try:
Let's assume that one starts the work week with 100 units of stress resistance or self-care units.

 Activity
 Cost
 Balance
 Awoken up in the middle of the night by son coming home past curfew and making too much noise
 20
 80
 Argument with colleague during board meeting
 15
 65
 Dealing with normal work hassles
20
 45
 Driving home 
10
 35
 Argument with with spouse
530

In this scenario you are left with a little bit of currency in reserve. After watching your favorite TV show, getting a good meal and 8 hours of sleep, you are likely to charge all the way back up to 100 or higher for the next day.

Although, not everyday looks like this with a reserve:
 Activity
 Cost
 Balance
 Breakfast argument with spouse ad son
 15
 85
 Accident on the highway on your way to work makes you late
 15
 70
 Dealing with normal work hassles
20
 50
 Argument with secretary 
10
 40
 Major crisis occurs: Your wife was in an automobile accident
45-5
Did not complete all work and boss is stressing out
15-20
 Drive home
10
-30


You may have overspent your reserve by 30 units!


Not everyday do you get to re-charge. Maybe that night you had to eat fast food as your wife was in the hospital for four hours. By the time everyone is home it is past your bed time and you did not get to enjoy any "me" time. The night is restless as you keep checking on your wife and worry about her car. So you start with only a balance of 65 the next day.
 Activity
 Cost
 Balance
 Car does not start at first
5
60
 Deal with normal work hassles 
2040
 Drive home
1030
 Son wants to talk to you about his bad day
1020
 Take care of cooking dinner and caring for wife
200
Now the day is over and you are exhausted. You still have a totaled car to deal with and dirty dishes and laundry are piling up. All you want to do is go to bed!

Especially during the holidays where there is even more stress! There are presents to shop for and purchase. There are family and relatives to visit and greet. There are community and job get-togethers and parties to attend and contribute to. There are holiday meals to create and contribute to. There are decorations to put up through-out, around and on the house. There is a sense of volunteerism (to help those less fortunate).
All of these activities (and more) are can be fun but they can also take even more of your self-care units or stress resistance units.This can cause a lot of stress and difficulties especially when our self-care units are already really low from a crisis, like an automobile accident or  family emergency.

So what to do about this?
Just as with financial budgeting, some planning can really help. Plan out and decide which festivities you are going to try to be involved with in advanced. Schedule time in for self-care. Even when life is hectic and unpredictable, be cognizant of your own needs. For some people, going to bed earlier will help re-charge their self-care units. For others, this might mean leaving time at the end of the day for a hobby (like exercising, musical instrument, playing cards with friends, watching TV, relaxing with tea and a hot bath, yoga, etc). I offer even more ideas for hobbies and relaxation methods in this post. 
Also another key to this is prioritizing tasks in life. I speak about this in more detail in my video. In order to decide what to do during the holidays, we must decide if the activity is important enough for us. If the activity is not important or relevant to you, in some cases, it may be better to stay home and re-charge instead of feeling like you must go to every event.
So the main message is two-fold. The first is preventative in deciding in advance (planing out) some holiday events. The second is an on-going habit of intentional self-care time. The third is in communication. Let your friends an loved ones know where you are at stress-wise. If you imagine that your self-care units are getting low and you need time alone or to get more rest, let others know. They will be more likely to understand when the situation is explained to them and transition from holiday events will go smoother.