“The most wonderful time of the year” is here. ‘Tis the season for shiny decorations, more gatherings with friends and loved ones—and extreme fatigue and adrenal exhaustion if you’re not properly prepared. If you feel your blood pressure rising at the thought of your personal and professional to-do lists, you’re not alone, and sadly, the statistics prove why.
According to Deloitte, 87% of professionals surveyed say they have a passion for their current job, but 64% report feeling frequently stressed at work, dispelling the myth that passionate employees are somehow immune to stress or burnout. If you’re already feeling burned out, the mandatory “fun” of the holiday season and end-of-year sales sprints can leave many people feeling Grinch-like.
The Deloitte survey found that nearly 70% of professionals feel their employers are not doing enough to prevent or alleviate burnout within their organization. Twenty-one percent of respondents reported that their company does not offer any programs or initiatives to prevent or alleviate burnout. This can be particularly true around the holidays, when kids are often on break from school, and out-of-town guests may show up for weeks on end, adding to pressures at home and at work.
As an online business owner manufacturing and shipping Japanese green tea from my home in rural Oregon for the past 18 years while raising a family, I’ve developed ways to deal with stress. I hope these techniques will help you to reduce the sense of chaos and keep in mind what truly matters.
1. Create healthy habits of mind
Selective attention is a helpful quality in life, such as when you scan a crowd for a friend, or when you carry on a conversation in a crowded restaurant. You can use this same skill to track your thoughts during the day when your mind wanders. According to Terry Small, B.Ed., M. A., a master teacher and Canada’s leading learning skills specialist, positive thinking creates “channels” in the brain and your brain gets good at producing positive thoughts. Anxiety researchers have found that the more often brain pathways are activated by thinking about the stress, they become more sensitive and susceptible to anxiety.
And the tricky thing is, trying to suppress fear and worry is counterproductive. You might be tempted to ignore or deny the negative thought or emotion, which might work temporarily, but it does not help you to process and resolve it. The best attitude toward these negative emotions is just to notice and embrace them–what I found helpful is to “label” the negative thought or emotion, such as “sad” or “angry”. This increases your objectivity and helps you feel a sense of control over your thoughts without suppressing your feelings.
2. Take time to switch off DMN daily
When we are not engaging in tasks that demand focused external attention, our brain is running with “Default Mode Network (DMN)”. According to studies, DMN contributes to mind wandering, remembering the past, and thinking about the future. High activity in DMN can cause destructiveness, depression, anxiety, and reduced productivity. Meditation is a great technique for us to switch out of DMN, making meditation more than a relaxation technique, but rather, a way to focus your attention and gain clarity about what is happening around you in order to respond appropriately.
To pause DMN, simply close your eyes for a moment, and pay undivided attention to the sounds you hear without any judgment, opinions, or thoughts while inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly for at least 10 breaths. This “turning off DMN” doesn’t require any special space or tools. And it gives me an instant effect to feel centered and liberated from the “noise” in my head.
3. Use self-brainstorming skill
Sledding, skiing, trimming the tree, preparing the menu…the holiday season can cause a lot of pressure to perform each tradition perfectly. When one thing goes awry, it can wreak havoc on our emotions. When you find yourself diving into worst-case scenario mode and spiraling, tap into “self-brainstorming.” Grab a piece of paper (or your journal) and write down all the possible outcomes, with a special effort to include good ones. Self-brainstorming helps to develop open-mindedness and cultivate creative thinking and a more hopeful outlook.
4. Use natural remedy–Increase brain wave activities with green tea
What we put into our bodies is important year-round, but particularly around the holidays, take time to notice the impact of caffeine and sugar on your mood. Green tea creates “calm alertness,” due to its good balance of stimulus (caffeine) and natural relaxant (theanine). It also contains a potent compound called EGCG, which has been extensively studied in the last couple of decades and exhibits a remarkably wide range of health benefits, from anti-inflammatory ability to preventing cancer.
Regular consumption of caffeine may increase anxiety and some of you choose to limit caffeine intake by drinking decaffeinated Green Tea. Unfortunately, the decaffeination process removes the natural relaxant, theanine, along with caffeine. However, the water process decaffeination retains the high level of EGCG–especially when you consume a whole leaf as in Matcha or Sencha powder.
EGCG affects the brain waves by increasing alpha, beta, and theta brain wave activities. Alpha waves occur when the brain is in a resting state. Beta waves occur when you are alert and focused on problem-solving. Theta waves occur in sleep and during relaxation. The overall rise in these brain waves makes you feel centered and collected. The best type of Green Tea for EGCG is organic sencha green tea powder, which offers more Catechins or EGCG and less caffeine than matcha, due to both growing conditions and post-harvest treatment.
Practice these tips and the natural remedy using Green Tea powder–I hope these will help you experience more joy during this festive time of year.