7 Practices for Balancing Year-End Stress – and Beyond

Dr. Natalie Lotzmann

People may try to downplay it, but in truth, there is no avoiding stress. It is an undeniable part of everyone’s life – and it’s particularly evident as the year comes to a close and the holidays approach. Whether it’s at work or at home, clear deadlines and high expectations challenge our personal ability to cope with this recurring year-end stress.

I believe that a certain amount of stress is actually good for people. In fact, an October 2015 study at University of California, Berkeley found that moderate and short-lived amounts of stress have powerful benefits, including improving alertness, cognitive performance, and memory. Daniela Kaufer, the researcher behind this study, says people who feel resilient and confident that they can manage stress are much less likely to be overwhelmed by it. And these people are more likely to have a healthy response than people who think of stress as bad.

Sane practices to avoid the end-of-year craziness

However, when stress becomes long-lasting or a permanent part of your life, it loses its positive force and often causes negative physical and psychological consequences. It is important to recognize and address the early warning signs of unhealthy stress. Sleeping disorders, irritability, physical symptoms, and lack of concentration and efficiency are some of the mental or physical symptoms that may arise from too much stress.

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to protect your personal health and performance for the long term by creating a personalized stress management system.

This time of year is perfect to start such a system, especially if you are trying to find the balance between meeting high-pressured Q4 work deadlines and enjoying your holidays. Here are seven quick and easy stress-reduction practices – take a look and see which ones you want to add to your own personal stress management system.

  1. Create a healthy distance. In stressful situations, take a deep breath, become aware of your feelings, and spin a different perspective on the circumstances. Avoid an immediate, knee-jerk response, and instead reflect on what really matters and which behaviors will lead to best outcome. You can also practice switching off your business mind so you can be present for your family and friends and fully participate in interests outside of work.
  1. Respect your circle of influence. Think positively and recognize that you cannot change the world singlehandedly. Accept what you can and cannot change, and choose your battles well. For instance, if some aspects of a job cannot be changed, focus on what can be different.
  1. Stop trying to be perfect. Stop trapping yourself into the I-can-do-it-best-on-my-own pitfall. Let your social support of co-workers, friends, and family help your buffer stress. The Berkeley study suggests a person with people to rely on is more likely to manage stress well. People even trust and like you more when you are able to ask for help.
  1. Track stress and satisfaction levels. Ask yourself regularly, on a 1-10 scale, how stressed are you with your job, and how satisfied are you? If stress levels regularly score higher than job satisfaction, take time to analyze the circumstances and get the perspective of people you trust. Get counseling if needed.
  1. Manage your resources and others´ expectations well. Generally it´s better to underpromise and overdeliver. But sometimes, in-time delivery causes significant amounts of additional working hours. Don’t be afraid to talk frankly with the requester. Often deadlines have built-in buffers and your contribution may be negotiable.
  1. Build inner resilience and create balance between body and mind. Recognize and prioritize what your body and mind need to feel well and perform optimally. Sleeping enough and drinking plenty of water are key! And introduce some mindfulness meditation and physical exercise regularly to achieve a healthier balance in life.
  1. Be a multiplier and a role-model. Create a caring environment – both at work and at home – and see how you can positively influence your environment and shift a stressfully charged atmosphere to a more relaxed, nurturing, and caring one.

Why not share these practices with those around you and encourage them to take care of their mental and physical health too? It may be the best gift you can give someone this time of year!

Stress management is not a one-time kind of fix. It requires a bit of discipline, along with finding out what kind of practices work for you personally. Even small changes can take the negative force out of stress – not only at year-end, but every other day as well. 

Benefits of a healthy culture at SAP

The vision and purpose of SAP is to help the world run better and improve people’s lives – and we believe this extends to our employees as well. We take stress management seriously so we continually provide resources to our employees to help them find balance in their life, strengthen their resilience, and take care of their overall health.

We believe this is as important as any business responsibility. And we know for certain that when our employees feel healthy and cared for, it has a positive impact on their productivity, engagement, and innovation. So it’s a win-win for all!

Here’s to healthy holidays – and a wonderful 2016!

Dr. Natalie Lotzmann

About Dr. Natalie Lotzmann

Dr. Natalie Lotzmann is the Chief Medical Officer, responsible for executing on SAP's Health Strategy globally. She is a seasoned thought leader in the field of linking health metrics to talent management and an innovative people strategy.