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Broadening the On-ramp for Women-run Companies

Holidays: Why Stressing Might Be More Relaxing Than Destressing

While holidays are designed to help people rest, I almost always feel exhausted after them. Since everything I’ve tried to do to relax over the holidays has failed, I’ve started to take a completely different approach. I surrender my hopes of slowing down and simply allow myself to feel more stressed, stretched, and exhausted. In doing this, I actually feel far more rested. Especially if you are a type A entrepreneur, this approach may work for you, too.

Mo Siegel, the founder of Celestial Seasonings, once told me that he is happiest and most relaxed when he is operating at maximum efficiency. When he told me that, I realized that I have always felt that way too. If you are also an entrepreneur, I imagine this may resonate with you as well. Yet, I have always bought into the story that the ways in which “normal” people relax over the holidays - sitting around the fire, watching movies in the middle of the day, sipping hot cocoa and holiday cocktails, eating big holiday meals, attending holiday parties and family gatherings - “should” be relaxing for me too. I’ve willed myself to do all of those holiday rituals because I’ve always wanted to be a “normal” person, a good friend, and a good family member. Rather than feeling rested and recovered, these “normal” traditions leave me feeling lethargic, demotivated, and depressed. I’ll spare you the GI details, but suffice it to say, things do not go well in that department either. My attempt to relax “normally” leaves me feeling far from my normal self, and the stress and anxiety that feeling “abnormal” and failing to relax creates for me, exacerbates all of these issues. I dip into depression, which exacerbates my issues even further. It typically takes me two to three weeks to recover and feel like my normal self again.

I finally asked myself the question: If I am happiest and most relaxed when I am operating at maximum efficiency, why would I try to relax by feeling the opposite?

My new approach is as follows:

I am choosing one big and two little holiday activities that mean a lot to my family and friends. I shed the expectation that I will feel relaxed in doing so, assume I will suffer my typical negative consequences, and schedule time to relax and recover afterward. This year, my family spent three days together in Florida. I joined in as much as I felt I possibly could, which still felt like an “abnormal” level of participation that wasn’t “enough”. It took me six days to recover. Yet, I enjoyed the time we spent together, and my attempt to participate, while it may have been feeble, meant a lot to my mom. This made the six-day recovery worth it. I’m going to choose two smaller activities that will still feel worth it, but will require a bit less than a six-day recovery.

I am going to politely and candidly decline all other holiday invitations and remember my own advice that a “no” can be even more helpful than “yes”. I am going to accept that this may not always be the case and let the chips fall as they may.

For anyone reading this who may invite me to participate in a holiday activity, please know that I am always grateful and touched by invitations, even when I cannot participate within my healthy parameters. I hope you will do what you feel inspired and healthily able to do this holiday season. I will try to do the same.

Happy Holidays.

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