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posted: 12/16/2012 7:40 AM

Career Coach: Tips for staying sane during the end-of-year crunch

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By Joyce E. A. Russell
Special to The Washington Post

It's that time of year when everything seems to be looming in front of us -- work responsibilities to close out before year end; holiday shopping to do for our families, colleagues, friends; houses to clean and get ready for visitors; and much more. As much as you would like to retreat to a cave, you have to tough it out.

Here are things you can do to keep yourself sane during the next few weeks:

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Get enough sleep and exercise. "Who has time for that?," you say. Or, "I can always catch up on my sleep and exercise after the new year starts." But, perhaps these are the very things you must make sure to keep during these stressful weeks ahead.

Create a reasonable list of what you need to get done and prioritize. Everything can't be No. 1 on the list. Our tendency is to schedule more when we probably should be scheduling less for each day.

Leave time to unwind. Make sure to find some some quiet time each day to recharge and let your mind wander and relax. Maybe that's the drive in to work. When you find yourself getting ready to lose it, take five minutes and go for a walk or just close your eyes and tune out. If you have an office, go in your office and close the door and take some deep breaths.

Limit requests for your time. Sometimes just saying "no" (while difficult) keeps the extra assignments or requests to a bearable amount.

Avoid berating yourself. You don't have to be like everyone else. Accept yourself and focus on what you have done, rather than on what you have not done.

Give yourself a technology break. Turn off your technology for some time each day. Just get away from it to relax your mind and ease the sense that you must be responding to everyone every second of each day.

Don't absorb all the negativity around you. If colleagues are acting stressed, frustrated or angry, try not to react in an equally hostile way. This just makes the situation worse and you end up feeling even more anxious.

Delegate some of your projects. This is definitely no time to be Superman/woman. Allocate roles to others around you at work, home and in other parts of your life.

Stay calm when mini-crises occur at work. Don't overreact when the copy machine breaks down or the coffee and donuts arrive late to a meeting.

Take time to thank the people around you. Giving thanks to others can show you appreciate them; it can lighten their mood and can put you in a better frame of mind for yourself.

Remember your larger purpose at work and at home. Sometimes just thinking about our purpose can help us remember why we are working so many hours or running around like crazy.

Smile as often as you can. Be positive and remember to count your blessings. We all have something to be thankful for. Think about those things, rather than the daily hassles.

Staying sane at the end of the year is a challenge for all of us. The strangest thing is that it comes every year and we seem to fall into the same traps year after year, ending up stressed and worn out. This year, try to make at least one change to end the year on a less stressful, more enjoyable, note.

• Joyce E.A. Russell is the vice dean and the director of the Executive Coaching and Leadership Development Program at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is a licensed industrial and organizational psychologist and has more than 25 years of experience coaching executives and consulting on leadership and career management.

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