Things were starting to unravel.
In 2005, Primerica’s almost decade-long partnership with Citigroup had reached the point where we just didn’t fit within their environment anymore and it was causing problems for both them and us. Around Christmas that year, things had escalated to the point where we had to call a meeting with their CEO to find a solution that would help both companies.
I’m a guy who always looks forward to the holidays, and regardless of what else is going on around me, I always find a way to enjoy them. I’ll be honest, though; with the financial future of so many people hanging in the balance, and an inevitable structure change looming at Primerica, that holiday season came with some added stress I hadn’t endured in other holiday seasons.
The stress and anxiety of preparing for the holidays coupled with the pressures of work can turn the most wonderful time of year into the most miserable for even the most content person. I’m no exception. I could’ve easily let my mind become overwhelmed with all the difficulties we were having and our uncertain future and spent that Christmas in 2005 too troubled to enjoy the festivities. But I chose not to. Instead, I employed three easy strategies that you might also find helpful when you’re feeling overwhelmed by all your holiday responsibilities.
1. Have an attitude of gratitude.
Studies show that expressing gratitude can help improve your mood, increase your energy levels, relieve stress and increase your motivation—all by just looking around and being thankful for your blessings.
I was worried about what was going on with our company that year, but I was also thankful Rick Williams and I were at the helm of Primerica, that we could lead the charge to secure the financial future of our sales force—because I knew he and I would do everything in our power to make sure they were taken care of.
Even though your job stresses you out, be grateful you have a job. A lot of people are going into this holiday season without one. Be grateful for your health. You may be exhausted and feel run-down, but you’re healthy and spending your holiday at home instead of in a hospital room somewhere. Even if you couldn’t get everything you wanted for everyone on your holiday list, be grateful you could do something for them and aren’t like the thousands who couldn’t do anything for their loved ones. You have plenty to be thankful for this year. Remember that the next time you start to feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety.
2. Have mercy on yourself.
We love giving to others this time of year, but don’t forget the importance of gifting yourself with self-love. You are one person, so stop thinking you can do all the things on your never-ending work and holiday to-do lists alone. Delegate. That’s what you have people for. And when you start to get overwhelmed, take a breather. The company won’t go under and your holiday celebration won’t be canceled if you have to take a few hours or even a day to recharge. You might not make every party you’re invited to, but that’s OK. You did your best and you need to let yourself off the hook.
3. Stay present.
You can’t undo the past or control the future. What you can control is what is happening right now this very minute and how you react to it.
I could’ve spent that entire holiday of 2005 looking for earlier signs that things were unraveling with Citi or fretting about what 2006 held for Primerica and our sales force, but it wouldn’t have done me a bit of good and it would’ve made me and everyone around me miserable. The only thing I could worry about was what needed to be done right then—in that day and that moment.
That’s all you can do, too. When you start to feel like all the holiday demands are pulling you in 10,000 different directions, and visions of missed deadlines, unwrapped gifts and long shopping lines start to dance in your head, take a deep breath and ask yourself what has to be done in this hour. Not in the next hour or the next day, but in the 60 minutes you are currently operating in. Then do it again in the next hour. And keep doing it until your to-do list is all checked off.
I hope you can find joy in your holiday and that you will continue to employ these strategies once the holiday season has passed. They can be used every day to help you get through your hard times. I certainly used them when the tides were starting to change with Citigroup and to help get through some of the toughest and darkest days in both my professional and personal life before and after—and they’ve made all my seasons brighter.
Happy holidays to you and yours! I hope you all have a positive, joyous and peaceful holiday season!