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Holidays can take a serious toll on even the most joyous of people, making you feel more like an imp than an elf. In fact, 44% of those polled in Healthline’s 2015 survey said the holidays are “somewhat stressful,” with the greatest trigger being “finances.”

As a small business owner, this time of year is even more stressful for you, thanks to managing extra spending and employee time off, all while trying to stick to your day-to-day schedule and live up to your very real (and sometimes rather “unreal” or “surreal”) responsibilities.

It’s easy for this stress to put you in a bad mood — but don’t let it. Use the following ideas to take the frenzy out of this frazzling time of year. (It’s ok Santa, trust us… you’ll be fine. We also hear you have a great benefits plan.)

Write a Schedule and Stick to It

Write out everything that needs to get done the week leading up to the holidays and the week after, both of which are likely busy for you. Then, break this list out to include what you have to do for your business, your employees, your family, and your personal life. Think meetings, parties, important tasks (more about that later), and work deadlines.

Is anything overlapping? What are you okay with putting aside? Use this to write a schedule that allows time for every aspect of your life, without overbooking yourself. Pencil in at least one hour of alone time every day, when you can meditate, workout or any of the things that help you feel refreshed and recharged.

If you’re struggling to find an hour for yourself, download the Insight Timer meditation app. It gives you a range of meditation options, lasting from 1 to 60+ minutes. Turn it on, put on your headphones, and enjoy a little chill for a minute or two. You’ll be amazed at the difference it will make in the rest of your day.

 For a little fun, visit Google’s Santa Tracker. Not only will it assure you that the man himself is completely on schedule, there’s an interactive advent calendar too. 

Save on Employee Gifts With Coupons

Your employee gift needs to be inexpensive while still being enjoyable or functional. The best way to save on a great gift that hits these requirements is to use coupons. Not the kind you cut out of the Sunday circulars, but digital coupons.

Coupons are surprisingly available for almost anything you could think of, whether from a coupon site or the manufacturer.

“You may be surprised to know that you can find coupons for services, like Uber Eats, and GrubHub, grocery stores like Safeway and FreshDirect and online food ordering with brands like Peapod and Schwan’s.”

— Marco Piu, General Manager

Do a quick online search for what you want, including “coupons” in the search to get a long list of potential discounts and coupon codes. Better yet, forget spending money altogether and focus on gifts that cost nothing but mean a lot, like:

  • Thank You Cards: It’s the end of the year, so turn this into a handwritten thank you note focused on their achievements throughout the year.
  • Extra PTO: While, technically, this costs money in that you’re paying an employee for time off, it doesn’t require any up-front spending. And employees will definitely appreciate this one.
  • Create An Online Company Yearbook: If you like being crafty, create a digital version of an employee yearbook, collecting and captioning photos from events and office moments. You can make one for free with Canva.

Get Big Tasks Done Now Instead of Waiting

This is an exercise in prioritizing — which tasks will take the longest amount of time or energy to complete? Get these done before the holiday parties and family gatherings start. With these done and out of the way, you can relax a little and enjoy the busiest part of the season.

Remember to make your task list reasonable. There are only so many hours in the day, and in this case, even less with all your other obligations. Be realistic and ask yourself what’s really possible.

“What can you actually accomplish right now? For instance, if a project depends on reaching clients, can you get through right now? Holiday and vacation schedules can make reaching clients challenging. Focus on what is within your control, and, if you can, put off what you need others to help with.”

—Todd Wheeler, President and CEO of  Concierge Colorado and Hospital Concierge of America, writing for AllHealthcare.

As you write your list, break tasks into smaller pieces that are easier to complete. Instead of writing, “Plan dinner at my house for Christmas Day,” break that down into, “Plan the menu, purchase groceries, pick up beverages and plan outfit.” This makes one big task more manageable, tackling it in small chunks as you have 20 minutes here or 30 minutes there.

Celebrate After the Holidays

With so many events crammed into December, put off one thing that likely causes a lot of stress — your company holiday party. Instead, schedule your company party in January. Start planning it your first week back at work, leaving it off your plate during the holiday season.

If you want to do a holiday party in December, if possible, try to delegate the planning to someone else, like the office manager or a group of employees. Give a budget and parameters and ask for final approval on everything. It’ll be one less thing you need to worry about — and it will still get done.

Note: Save yourself more time and stress by making sure your employees really want a party.  If they do, would they prefer the party to be during work hours or after hours? Bring a date, bring the kids… or not?

No More Bah Humbug for You

Use these ideas to feel less stressed this holiday season. With the right schedule, planning ahead on important tasks, and delegating where possible — you’ll find joy and happiness in spite of the challenges the holidays throw your way.

Bonus: A Little “Ha, Ha, Ha” Never Hurts Either

We all know that laughing can reduce stress, but it can also soothe tension, increase personal satisfaction and improve your overall mood, according to the Mayo Clinic. This holiday season, laugh more by surrounding yourself with people who are happy (we’re 30x more likely to laugh when we’re in a group of rather than by ourselves). If you’re having a solo moment try watching funny YouTube videos or visiting a satire site while enjoying a quick cup of coffee, eggnog or any form of holiday libation.

Got a holiday stress-buster? Need advice? Want to share a great joke? Your comments are welcome. 

The stock photography in this post is courtesy of Pexels