Destress during the holidays: Tips for ‘Type A’ professionals

December 23, 2014, 10:31 AM UTC

You’ve heard (and perhaps even made) the pledge every year: “I’m going to slow down my work schedule during the holiday season.” The intentions are sincere but, it can be very tough to take it easy. For “Type A” execs and entrepreneurs who throw themselves into cooking, shopping, and entertaining with the same zeal they approach end-of-year business demands, heightened stress levels are pretty much guaranteed.

So what do you do to ratchet it down while still getting it all done? In an interview with, some successful female entrepreneurs shared their strategies:

  1. Delegate and simplify. “I have given myself permission not to have to be the sole architect of the perfect Christmas,” says Cathie Reid, Managing Partner of Epic Pharmacy Group, a specialty pharmacy company. Her turning point: four years ago, business demands made it impossible for her to throw herself into the holidays. “My husband bought most of the presents, Christmas cards went out the window and I didn’t make painstakingly decorated reindeer cupcakes for a single school or family function. And the world didn’t stop!” She learned a valuable lesson. “There are plenty of others who are willing to take responsibility, and while they might not do it the way I would it doesn’t mean that their way isn’t just as good or better! This mental mind shift has made a huge difference to my ability to stay sane at a crazy time of year.”
  2. Schedule an endorphin fix. Julie Smolyansky, CEO of Lifeway Foods (LWAY), which manufactures kefir, a probiotic yogurt drink, says that she puts her workouts in her calendar “or they will slip off entirely as I end up saying yes to all the last minute requests.” Her go-to workout is running, which she’ll only do in the daylight, combined with a toning or yoga class. And she says no to just about anything that interferes with exercising. “If it’s not in my calendar at this point, I will now schedule for mid- January unless it’s really important. The days leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas become extra crazy. If I don’t get my workout in, I will be one very grumpy woman!”
  3. Say no. “I limit social engagements to just a few that I can really enjoy,” says Pamela Slim, a career and organizational development consultant and author of Body of Work (Portfolio, 2013). Close friends, neighbors, and key business associates are on her list; other invitations are politely declined. She also simplifies her holiday meals (“no one needs 15 side dishes!”), and makes regular hikes with her family a priority. Work is taboo during the week between Christmas and January 1, but Slim uses that time to prepare for the New Year by organizing and purging “unnecessary stuff.” Her kids, aged seven and nine, get in the spirit as well by getting rid of outgrown toys and clothing.
  4. Find time to give back. Tina Wells, CEO of Buzz Marketing Group, a marketing and communications agency focusing on Millennials , doesn’t exactly take time off, but she does devote the last week of the year to helping her fellow entrepreneurs. “I have ‘office hours’ when anyone can ask me for advice,” she says. She posts her availability on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and typically hosts four sessions a day, ranging from 30 minutes to an hour. Most people, she says, are looking for help with a specific idea or business problem, but she’s also coached people who run not-for-profits and “even an aspiring singer trying to market herself.” The session are her way of giving back during the holiday season, but the mentoring also provides a different kind of mental stimulation, the benefits of which she carries into her own business.
  5. Kill it, and then chill. To keep herself centered and focused, Ingrid Vandervelt, former Dell Entrepreneur in Residence and CEO of Empowering a Billion Women by 2020 (a tech initiative launching early in 2105), meditates every day to “get to the bottom of anything that might be eating at me like ‘buy gifts for X, Y and Z.’” She then moves full speed ahead on her holiday and business to-do lists. “I work my tail off until a certain date and then treat myself to a couple of weeks of sleep and time with my family. At the moment,” she says, “I’m all in. But ping me on the 22nd, and I’ll be off the grid.”

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