working during the holidays

The Best Advice I Have for Working During the Holidays

The Best Advice I Have for Working During the Holidays | Writing Between Pauses

The holiday season is getting dangerously close. After Halloween is always when we see a big explosion of Christmas everything in the U.S., but this past weekend, Danny & I admired Christmas trees in Lowe’s. (And Forrest desperately begged us to get a bunch of lawn decorations that, in total, cost more than his school.)

I also work in marketing, so the holidays are never far from my mind when it comes to client work.

Back when I first graduated from college (2011??? Is that right? Am I ancient?), I remember the hardest part of starting my career was working through the holidays. I had never had to work Thanksgiving before! I’d always been bundled up the Wednesday before, driving home to my parents house, working on NaNoWriMo, and then driving back to college Sunday. I’d never had to work the week leading up to Christmas, except when I was in high school, and that was usually only one or two evenings the weekend before the big holiday. Working the day before Christmas or, worse, working on Christmas, or even worse, having to spend Christmas with everyone then go back to the work the next day felt like a big culture shock.

Holiday movies had led me to believe that most businesses effectively shut down during the holidays. Doesn’t it seem like everyone always has the week or two around Christmas inexplicably off in every Christmas movie? They’re all spending loads of time at home without a care in the world. No one is rushing to their laptop to QA some social media posts or make sure a report got delivered to a client.

But, unfortunately, life isn’t like the movies. Yeah, I was shocked too. The first time I had to work December 23, have Christmas Eve and Christmas Day off, then pack myself up to go back to work the day after Christmas was a really, really whiny week for me. I know for those just starting their careers, this can be a huge issue with their morale; it’s hard to be cheerful during the dark Winter months when you don’t even get to feel like you really enjoy the only holiday!

Especially for those who are self-employed or running their own businesses, holidays can feel even more rushed. You have tons of client work; everyone is stressed; plus you’re planning this big holiday, potentially with travel. If you have kids, it’s even more stressful.

Here’s the truth: it sucks working during the holidays. It does! It just does! Whether you work customer service (and trust me, the Thanksgiving I spent working at a grocery store was potentially one of the worst days of my life; if you want to see humanity at its absolute worst, go to a grocery store on Thanksgiving and wait until they announce the store is closing. The number of people who drag their feet and plain refuse to leave the store so everyone can get home to their families is shocking) or you work at an office job or if you work for yourself—working during the holidays can be exhausting.

There are ways to make it easier! So whether this is your first holiday season working full time or your 10th, I want to share a few ways to make things like a little easier.

1. Keep your expectations low.

The holiday season is full of expectations. You’re going to churn out amazing client work*, take your family to the pumpkin patch and the tree farm and every other holiday event you can find, keep your house clean, not lose your mind, cook amazing holiday dinners, entertain friends, post jealousy-inducing Instagram photos, and buy amazing gifts that make everyone happy.

Oh, yeah, no.

You aren’t Martha Stewart and no one is expecting you to be! Having a few easy get-togethers with friends throughout the holidays is more important than throwing a bash that leaves you exhausted. And who cares if your house gets a little messy if everyone is having fun for these 3 short months? (Let’s be honest: I care. But I have to let it go.)

The secret is this: keep your expectations low. You will be working through the holidays. Maybe it won’t be like a Hallmark Christmas movie, but hey! That might be a good thing. Lower expectations (for yourself, for your home, for your parties, for work) will serve you well to keep you from feeling disappointed and sad when the season is over.

*Just me?

2. Make work fun.

For several years, every Christmas Eve Eve (you know what I’m talking about), I wore jingle bell earrings to work. If I had to be at work on a day that I would have preferred to spend sipping hot cocoa & watching movies with Danny, then I wanted to have fun.

I’ve worn ugly Christmas sweaters to work. I’ve donned Christmas leggings. I’ve baked cookies to take to my coworkers. I’ve scream-sang Christmas jingles in the car on the way to work to get myself in a better mood. Basically: I’ve made the days I’ve had to work during the holidays as fun as I absolutely could. It wasn’t always fun! Sometimes, there were emergencies, clients freaking out, big events coming up. Emails to get sent out. Next quarter calendars to plan. Christmas falls at kind of a terrible time of year to have a big holiday. But it’s still possible to have fun at work.

Take the cookies. Wear jingle bell earrings. Watch a Christmas movie if you work from home. Eat as many cookies as you want. Light a Christmas candle. Do whatever it takes!

3. Keep the traditions you’re used to.

I have to work for most of the holidays anyway, I thought, my first Thanksgiving working, so what’s the point?

Back when I worked at a grocery store, we all got off work at 2pm (seriously). I rushed to my car and drove home, went up to my room and promptly fell asleep. My entire family was downstairs waiting for me to come down. The entire day had sucked; I was in such a bad mood, having to get to work at nearly 6am to work a full 8 hour shift until 2pm. By the time I got home, I was really done. I stomped my way upstairs and slept through Thanksgiving. I remember waking up and crying. I’d missed one of my favorite holidays, I felt terrible, and I wanted nothing more than to just have a fun day with my family.

It can be tempting to bury yourself in work or just ignore the holidays. It’s easy to say who cares and just ignore it. But if you’ve always celebrated the holidays and there are parts of it you love (whether it’s Thanksgiving or Christmas or your own special family tradition), there is no reason to stop now. You’ll only feel sad that you let yourself miss it.

4. It makes the holidays different.

… but not necessarily worse. Working during the holidays won’t be like being a student during the holidays, or a child during the holidays. Also, working for yourself during the holidays, having your own child during the holidays… it’s all different. Not worse, just different.

You’re never going to be able to reverse time and relive your childhood experiences with Christmas morning. That’s in the past. So why not accept the way the holidays have changed shape now? Sure, you have to work during the holidays—but you can grab coffee with your friends more, go to holiday parties after work, learn how to make hot toddies, and more. It’s different, sure, but it doesn’t have to be bad.