Pre-Emptive Stress-Busters for the Holidays

The holiday season brings stress at work and at home. And with stress comes cloudy thinking. So, today, here are stress-busting recommendations to help you anticipate and prepare for tense situations in your business and in your personal life during a holiday dinner when a family member brings up an embarrassing incident from the past, or intrusive question about your personal life.

To understand what anxiety or pressure does to you, here’s a quick explanation: When the brain is stressed, it produces cortisol. Cortisol raises your heart beat, modulates adrenaline levels, and clouds your thinking.

And it’s the “clouds your thinking” part that can get you into trouble. Whether it’s an outburst with your family, or in your office with a co-worker, we often don’t handle sudden stressful situations well. Because cortisol muddles the mind, when you recognize that under stress you’re not going to be at your best, plan now.

In anticipation of holiday season stress, put yourself into a pre-emptive mode. Neuroscientists also call it a “pre-mortem” or “prospective hindsight.” It’s a process explained in a TED talk video called “How to stay calm when you know you’ll be stressed.” (By the way, there is an insightful discussion about how to anticipate bad medical news and ask the right questions of a medical professional starting at 6:30. You’ll want to know this someday).

So with the holidays upon us, here are recommendations to help you and your business make it through the next few weeks:

  1. Monitor Results Daily and Share with Staff. If your results are less than you had hoped, make sure key members of the marketing team get daily updates. Being informed, they may, in the face of adversity and pressure, come up with a great idea that could help save the season.
  2. Know Where Past Data is Filed. There’s a chance that, in a panic, you’ll wonder how a campaign from last year (or a few years ago) performed. You may want it for reference, or to correct an inaccurate memory of a past campaign’s performance. Know where you have that data for quick reference when it’s needed.
  3. Monitor Complaints on Review Sites and Social Media. You can’t please everyone, so expect there may be customer complaints. During the holiday season more than ever, monitor chatter online so you can be proactive and respond to complaints immediately.
  4. Create a Back-up Plan for a Crisis. This time of year, the weather is unpredictable. Anticipate there could be a paralyzing snow or ice storm somewhere in the country. Or a delivery provider, overwhelmed with late package orders, could have a meltdown. Have a back-up plan.

And, for your personal life, when you anticipate an undesired discussion will come up over a holiday dinner or party, be prepared with a friendly and firm response. Your heart may beat faster and your adrenaline rush when a sensitive topic comes up, but don’t let clouded thinking result in a reaction you’ll later regret.


Gary Hennerberg

After a lot of years in marketing and sales, this is what I know works:

Stories sell. Think unique. Stimulate emotion. Close deals. And here are a few other gems from my new book, “Crack the Customer Mind Code.” Know the persona, interpret your offer and let your prospect give themselves permission to buy. That’s how the brain is wired. It’s how people think.

What else? When I’m not breaking down complex topics (or ones marketers over-complicate) into easy-to-grasp stories that sell, I crunch numbers. Manage projects. Write. Teach. Lead.