Librarians and library specialists are a dedicated bunch of people. On the whole, we strive to put the best we can out there for our patrons, whether it be the best collection, the best program, or the best service with the resources we have. That goes doubly so around the holidays- you can’t have things go wrong around the holidays, or you’ll break the spell of magicness and happiness and perfectness.
Yet the holidays are one of the peak times for stress, not only professionally but personally as well. Professionally we see it because we as library staff are having to balance a host of issues, including which (if any) holidays to recognize, what programs to hold during breaks (whether school breaks or teacher breaks), staff sickness and vacations, and inclement weather rescheduling. And all of that is on top of our normal stresses in our work life.
Personally we see stress for any number of reasons- dealing with family gatherings, balancing money issues, dealing with the delicate task of scheduling vacation time, making sure we actually unplug from work, and getting things organized at home simply add to everything we have at work. Furthermore, the pressure to have the perfect holiday is everywhere in media no matter what you do or do not celebrate.
Teens and tweens are not immune, either. They’re having to deal with relatives with whom they don’t interact on a regular basis, they can lose contact with their support network during breaks, and the pressure to be what their family wants versus who they are can be traumatizing. That is just the beginning- what can I get for my parents/uncle/grandma/sibling? How do I react to the awful present without getting in trouble? What do I do about the family turkey/ham/beef dinner when I’ve told everyone I’m vegan/vegetarian? How can I convince them that I don’t need a present and that they should save the money for rent? And on and on. It can be enough for anyone just to say “I quit.”
There are ways to lower your holiday stress, to start getting out of the vicious cycle. First, get rid of the idea that everything has to be perfect. Nothing is ever going to be, and you’re going to drive yourself insane making it so. Even Martha Stewart, the American Icon of perfectionism, went to jail, so her crown is tarnished. Let this be one of your new mantras instead:
Second, distill everything down to its basic parts. Remember math and factoring? Do this for every task in every day, at the beginning of the day. Get things down to the minimum of what needs to be done, and list those; everything else is a “want.” Make sure that the “needs” get done, and if any of the “wants” get done, then that’s just a bonus. If you have too many “needs” in a day and you’re still going insane, you haven’t factored down your tasks and projects enough. Or, if there are simply too many “needs” on your plate, it may be time to press this button:
Third, remember that you can say NO. There are often too many things to which we say YES in our lives- it’s a major reason why we’re over-scheduled and stressed out. Especially around the holidays, we seem to take more and more onto ourselves, and this is the time when we need to take it easier on ourselves. Take a look at your schedule, personally and professionally, and see what you can say NO to. It can be something that can be rescheduled, declined, reassigned, or otherwise pushed off to easier days to make your life easier. Just remember to say it positively if it’s a work-related task, depending on your work environment.
Fourth, don’t be afraid to ask for help. For some reason, we can get it into our heads that we need to do everything by ourselves, and that asking for help is a sign of weakness, when in reality knowing when, where, and how to ask for assistance is the smartest thing in the world. If it’s at work and you have other staff you can approach, go to them and see if they can help you out with what you’re working on. If you have good working relationships, they will be willing to help, just as you’d be willing to help them. Utilize your workplace volunteers if possible to take some of the smaller tasks off your hands, and leave you free for larger things. In your personal life, ask for help around the house if it needs cleaning, or see if someone else can have the dinner/lunch/brunch/whatever. Think about whether your really need all the decorations, or if you really need all the food you’re planning on having for the celebration. (And if you DO, do YOU have to be the one to cook it? I mean really, can people tell the difference between your mashed potatoes and the mashed potatoes from the local deli?)
Finally, take time for yourself each and every day. Youth/teen specialists are really bad at not taking breaks and lunch/dinner times- typically because our programs fall during such times, and scheduling around them is often an issue. School librarians/media specialists are in the same boat as their break times are often usurped by other staff taking their time for other purposes. In all the hustle and craziness, don’t forget to take a few minutes (if not your whole break), and do something for yourself during your work day, and again when you’re off. At work, grab your music player or phone and hide in a private area and breathe deeply for a few minutes at work to get rid of the negative energy, or take a quick walk around the building. Indulge in your favorite snack. At home, make sure you exercise, but also take time for yourself- whatever is relaxing to you, whether it’s a hot shower or bubble bath, a kickboxing class, binge watching a TV series. Just make sure that you take that time to recharge.
Keep in mind throughout the holiday season that everything is going to be OK. No matter what life throws at you, you can get through it. If you need to, take a page from Uncle Lewis’s book: