Tips From an Award-Winning CEO on Managing Anxiety During the Holidays

Kent Vorland, CEO of SmartTrade, says "just relax, the new year is nothing more than a new day."

13.12.2019 | contributed by Kent Vorland
Photo by Angelina Jollivet on Unsplash
Photo by Angelina Jollivet on Unsplash

Kent Vorland, CEO of FinTech startup SmartTrade, writes refreshingly and candidly about the mental health struggles of a young entrepreneur on his LinkedIn page. Here, for Global Shakers, Kent provides tips on surviving “the most wonderful time of the year.” A time that leaves many of us burnt out, depleted and starting off the next with little enthusiasm and riddled with anxiety.

The holiday season is upon us, and whether you’re celebrating Christmas Clark Griswold-style or leaning more towards a Scrooge-type attitude to the Yuletides, we will all be caught right in the midst of increased stress levels everywhere as we try to tie up business by the time people break off for the last of their annual leave.

The stress of getting meetings with everyone before the end of the year, tying up loose ends, attending events, buying presents, arranging family reunions and God knows what else is enough to inflict crippling anxiety on just about anyone. And that’s while many of us are already suffering from it throughout the other 11 months of the year!

This is not even getting into the increased bombardment of stimuli from every company that has ever existed, telling you that you must buy their stuff for that special someone you care about.

Visual and audio ads are hitting you from every direction, and they’re as difficult (if not worse) to get away from as Wham!’s “Last Christmas” on the radio.

In short, this season has become a taxing affair — both to our wallets and our mental health and nothing will change that,

However, what we can do is adjust the way we approach it. First and foremost, the most common misconception about these end of year celebrations is that if you haven’t tied up all business by January 1st, it’s as if everything will reset and all the work you’ve laid down in 2019 just goes down the drain and you have to start all over again.

This is simply not the case and you can rest assured that the work that you desperately intended to have completed will be just as important on January 1st as it was on December 31st.

Rather than accelerating the ageing process and burning yourself out trying to be everywhere at once, simply reduce the number of meetings and events you attend and gradually reduce your commitments leading up to the holiday.

No amount of business is worth losing your health over.

This is something that took me a long time and a breakdown to realise and I’m still not great at following my own advice, but I’m certainly getting there.

Don’t let yourself reach breaking point before you make changes!

Furthermore, you may feel there’s a significantly heightened pressure to always be smiling, cheerful and happy when you’re surrounded by twinkling lights and Christmas elves.

That’s great and all, but it’s almost like when we were kids and your mother would constantly tell you to clean your room. One day you decide you’re finally going to do it. You come home, ready for action and then you hear, “Kent, it’s about time you clean your room!!!”

Even though you were going to, you would now be doing it because someone told you to, rather than doing it out of your own initiative.

This can essentially make something you wanted to do feel wrong despite it being something you “should do.” So for someone like myself who’s had a good run with both crippling anxiety and depression, quite often having to put on a fake smile and a pretty mask, the holiday season’s pressure to always be cheerful can at times make it feel wrong. It all starts feeling a bit catch 22-ish and can seem impossible to get out of.

This is where a tranquil state of mind and a keen awareness of the present becomes more powerful and important than ever. The most dangerous thing about the stress around Christmas time is everyone worrying about what will happen in the New Year, and what more can they rushedly do in the last few weeks of the current year to make the next one go a little smoother.

This is despite the fact that we all know that, for the most part, this is all out of our control —“whatever will be will be.”

After much experience in worrying about what every new year will bring, I have come to think that we must have gotten things mixed up and that this is what the holidays should really be all about — being present. Not Christmas presents.

Present around our families, in our own bodies and the reality that we are one of billions upon billions of people in the world all under varying degrees and types of pressure and we should give ourselves a break.

There are many methods to find and recognise this presence. This can be as simple as being aware of yourself whenever you stand up or sit down or stopping every once in a while when on the move to take a look around and admire what you see (courtesy of my dear friend Aylish Jarvie).

Anything that makes you stop and think about what you are doing right now!

Be mindful going into 2020. You and your business will thank you for it.

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