Holidays are supposed to be “the most wonderful time of the year” when everyone is happy and filled with the holiday spirit. Usually, this season inspires nothing else but feelings of warmth, joy, and belonging. But is it like that for everybody?
This time of year can arouse other feelings too. Such as loneliness, stress, anxiety… For some of us, decorated Christmas tree, festive gatherings and parties, gifts and free days are nothing else but a trigger for so-called Holiday Blues.
Sari Chait, Ph.D., a Boston-based clinical psychologist, explains and describes the factors that can easily contribute to seasonal sadness.
“There are often very high expectations for a happy, picture-perfect holiday season,”
she says. “The expectation is often that everyone is coupled up happily, families are laughing and having fun together, and everyone can afford to buy whatever gifts they want.”
So, this Holiday Blues is simply a reaction to the stresses and demands of the season. People can feel depressed around the winter holidays due to a condition known as a seasonal affective disorder (SAD), sometimes referred to as seasonal depression.
Just think about it. At the time of holidays (especially Christmas), the number of our activities increases. We have multiple tasks, social events, roles, and duties to manage. It’s not easy and it is definitely not possible to fulfill all of our assignments with a big, holiday smile. Add to that the financial stress a gift-shopping must produce, and there you have it – your own personal Holiday Blues.
This energy demanding season takes its toll, whether we know it or like it. Christmas and NY are the usual suspects for conditions like fatigue, stress, irritability, bloating, and sadness during the holiday.
Among some of the top stressors are lack of time and money, commercialism, the pressures of gift-giving, and family/co-workers gatherings.
On top of that, traveling to meet your friends or family for holidays can also be highly stressful. On the other hand, not being able to be with family or friends can also be equally frustrated.
What can one do then?
If being with your family increases the risk of stress, not being with them does the same, nice Christmas tree makes you sad, not having one also gives you the blues… What should we do to avoid this nasty downside of the merriest holiday there is?
First of all, it’s good to know that the majority of the Holiday Blues stress is work, and not home-related. So, as leaders, is any of this our concern?
You bet it is!
Every manager should be worried about the stresses the holiday season can create for their employees and team members.
A good manager will understand it’s a busy time for everyone. It’s a hectic, stressful, semi-casual and semi-not-so-casual-as-job-must-be-done tome of the year. What could you possibly do or say to make it easier and less frustrating?
Well, there is something that helps.
Let’s start from a one-to-one holiday conversation with your employees. If you don’t have such thing, introduce it now:
- How did you do this year?
And, for God’s sake, don’t ask it like the boss. Ask like a friend who really wants to know. Encourage them to answer openly and with the sincerity. This is how the trust is built, and just a spoonful of that magic can do wonders for the Holiday Blues (usually linked with lower self-esteem).
- What are your plans for the next one?
Same here. Only, this time you will be focusing the conversation on the future the organization and the employee has together. It will calm those jumpy from the Holiday Blues, giving them a certain sense of security and belonging. Whether they are planning on getting a new car, get in shape or something else, the goal is to get them talking about their future plans without the pressure of discussing roadmaps, strategies, and expectations.
- How can I help?
This simple question can open the doors with a hundred locks. After all, it’s your job as a leader to inspire people to be the best version of themselves. And people hit by a Holiday Blues are everything but the best version of themselves, right?
So, let’s move on.
- Thank you (for everything you contribute with).
The year is almost done, all the numbers are closed in the books. It’s probably the best time to launch such a simple line so that the employees receive the gratitude they deserve.
Now that you completed this one-on-one Holiday conversation, it’s time to gather your team and start the year properly – by communicating with those who will make it a good one. There are some issues you should address at this post/seasonal time, and we are extracting here the most alarming ones.
- Post-Holiday lack of enthusiasm.
Boost enthusiasm in the workplace after the holiday season. You can do that by creating/organizing something for employees to look forward to. This will help you build and nurture a positive work environment, the one that can motivate employees to perform at their best.
- Distracted employees.
Even though the holiday season is over, some of your employees are still hearing jingle bells in their head. They are not focused enough and completing their routine tasks takes longer to complete. Help them set attainable goals for the new year. Let them regain their focus by breaking up larger goals into smaller, more achievable goals. Working on several smaller projects rather than a few large projects is much less daunting and it allows employees to cross off more on their to-do lists.
- Lower work quality.
If your employees somehow fail to meet deadlines or produce work that is below par, especially in a post-holiday time, they might still be in a post-holiday slump. Recognize that and think about organizing a professional development day early on in the new year. By providing employees with training and learning opportunities after the holiday season, you are helping them refocus their energy and attention, bringing them back to the peak performance in no time.
But, before you take this advice it is of the utmost importance to know the difference between the holiday blues and more severe depression. The first sure sign of the holiday blues is that it goes away sometime after the holiday ends. A depression simply doesn’t go away. It lasts longer and interferes with activities of daily living.
So, if you enter February with one or few moping employees, it’s time to react as a friend and a colleague. Do your best to support them and make sure they consult with a medical professional.
Other than that, you are fine until next Christmas.