15 ways to mentally prepare yourself for the holiday rush

Editorial Team

7 min read
Woman stretching arms above head

The 2021 holiday shopping season is going to look a little different than previous years. Some experts are predicting a strong holiday shopping season, buoyed by rising vaccination rates and store reopenings. However, the fear that supply chain delays will cause items to sell out are changing the way people shop.

A survey by McKinsey found that 40% of respondents expected to start shopping for gifts earlier in the year as compared to 2020, anticipating shortages, longer shipping times, and supply-chain challenges. For merchants, this means the holiday rush is likely to extend longer, and be more grueling, than in previous years. 

Small business owners will have a lot on their plates during this busy period. Mitigating supply chain delays and managing customer expectations on top of the normal stress that comes with selling during peak season can quickly lead to burnout. Therefore, it’s important to be proactive about reducing anxiety and stress for yourself — and your employees — during the shopping rush. Here are a few ways to mentally prepare for the excitement of the season.

1. Meditate

Research shows that regularly practicing meditation can benefit your mental well-being and overall health. Not only can you tap into a sense of calm during your session, but the benefits also extend throughout your day. Meditation can help you focus, increase patience, reduce negative emotions, and manage stress better. Try an app like Headspace or Calm to get started with ten minutes of meditation per day. 

2. Move

Take a midday walk, bike to work (weather permitting), or practice yoga at the end of the day: whatever activity you enjoy, make sure you move. Virtually any form of exercise can be a stress relief, and all it takes is around 30 minutes a day. Movement can also help with self-confidence and positivity, pumping up your endorphins in addition to stress relief. 

3. Stretch

When you don’t have time for a 30-minute walk, stretching can help you capture similar benefits. As one expert told Huffington Post, stretching “can help you keep better posture and alignment in your spine. It helps you feel physically better, which, in turn, keeps you from getting into a degraded mental space.” For inspiration, check out ClassPass’s routine of stretches to reduce body tension

4. Eat well

It’s tempting to eat whatever’s convenient while working through the holiday rush: unfortunately, however, convenient meals are often less nutritious — a packet of chips, a fast food meal, or cup after cup of coffee. It’s easy to let healthy eating habits go right out the window when you’re multitasking. But, it’s better for your mental and physical health to keep fueled with healthy ingredients. Stock the break room with better-for-you snacks and force yourself to take a lunch break, even if it’s just 20 minutes. 

5. Focus

Make space somewhere in the week to review your purpose and focus on what it is you’re trying to achieve. Keeping a bird’s eye view, even while you’re in the weeds of trying to serve the holiday rush, can help you stay calm. 

To avoid feeling overwhelmed, consider redesigning your mental model or thought process about how the world around you works. Simple habits can reshape your perspective and reawaken the entrepreneurial mindset that inspired you in the first place. Read more about this process in our guide, “Redesign your mental model: 3 questions small business owners should ask themselves every day.” 

6. Prioritize

Short of cloning yourself, it’s impossible to do everything at once by yourself. As the business owner, you should prioritize what only you can accomplish and delegate the rest. Keep the important stuff in focus and let others handle the routine tasks of running a business. 

7. Connect

The holiday season is a special time to reconnect with family and friends. Make sure you’re setting aside time to do the same. After nearly two years of intermittent shutdowns, quarantines, and social distancing, spending time on important relationships is important to help allay stress and avoid feelings of isolation. Connect with those who inspire you, care for you, and support you. Keep yourself from turning inward too much by staying centered on the realities, trends, and communities around you. 

8. Sleep

The importance of sleep cannot be overstated. Losing sleep can lead to a range of performance problems, such as the inability to concentrate, forgetfulness, and anxiety — not to mention long-term health issues. Cutting back on sleep to try to squeeze more hours of work out of the day is going to do more harm than good. 

Remember, you aren’t the only one experiencing stress during the holiday rush. Your team is going to be on the frontlines troubleshooting issues, mitigating supply chain issues, and responding to customer needs. Setting your team up for success will help lower your anxiety, too. Here are a few ways to help your team prepare for the holiday rush. 

9. Refine roles and responsibilities

Over the year, your business model may have changed to accommodate curbside pickup, handle more online orders, or serve clients with social distancing. Accordingly, roles may have changed and responsibilities blurred. Before the season kicks off, take time to align your team by defining who does what. Ease anxiety and improve communication among your workers by sharing your expectations of their performance, roles, or assigned responsibilities to meet the demands of the season. 

10. Hire

If you can afford to, hire seasonal help. Contractors and freelancers can come on during this busy time to take on some of the routine tasks that prevent your staff from troubleshooting and interacting with customers. Look to platforms like Wonolo or Upwork to find contractors who can take on shifts to give your team a break. 

11. Train

Provide refresher training for existing staff and onboard your new team members to make sure everyone is on the same page. Even veterans who have been with your company for years may need training this season. The pandemic may have changed the way you do things. Therefore, providing training on your returns policy, how to issue and accept gift cards, and how to use your POS system can help your team feel prepared for the rush. 

12. Encourage self-care

Consider implementing a formal self-care policy to make sure your employees know they are supported. It can be as simple as planning extra shift coverage so employees can take a time-out, or creating a quiet space where a team member can take a moment. You may provide a few additional days off in January to show your team you appreciate their all-hands-on-deck attitude. Be creative, but make sure you provide space for mental health when needed. 

13. Be flexible

Keep in mind that for many employees, the complications of working during a pandemic are still a daily reality. Be flexible in how you accommodate working parents or team members taking care of their families. How can you adjust working hours to make it easier for these employees to do it all? Can you let some employees work from home? Adding flexibility around the holidays is challenging, but achievable. 

14. Listen

Perhaps the most important thing you can do for your team during this time is to listen. Open the channels through 1-1 conversations, anonymous surveys, or team calls to understand their concerns and what might drive anxiety. Your employees are human too — with their own stresses and concerns they’re dealing with. Let them know you’re available not only to listen to what they need to say, but to do what you can to alleviate the workplace pressures you can. 

15. Show gratitude

Finally, take the time to recognize and thank your employees for how they’re contributing to your business — especially during this busy period. Meeting customer demands, in a pandemic, with the risk of product stockouts, is a big task. Celebrate the commitment, the creativity, and the resilience your team has shown over the last year. Consider these ideas for celebrating your staff and caring for your employees during the holiday season and beyond.

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