The need for resilience in December


The need for resilience in December. Do we really need more resilience in December? The answer to this question is a resounding “Yes”. According to Firstbeat’s extensive wellness database which, while focusing mostly on data from Finland, also includes a significant percentage of measurements from other countries, December is the most stressful month of the year. Firstbeat highlighted the following main factors contributing to this phenomenon: 

– increased end-of-year pressures at work;

– heavier overall load;

– increased darkness and shorter days;

– holiday chores and demands; and 

– for some, an increased consumption of alcohol / late nights due to various social events and parties.

Researchers from Firstbeat also pointed out that while the amount of stress increases, the restorative effect of sleep decreases at the same time, even if we sleep for longer at the end of the year when compared to the months of the year with more daylight.

An article published last year by Open Access Government, a digital publication that provides an in-depth perspective on key public policy areas from all around the world, quoted findings from the GoProposal survey of 750 small businesses which identified November and December as the most stressful times for businesses, followed closely by January and February.

This means that we should be looking at building our resilience for December as a marathon which requires both physical and mental toughness because, in addition to an increase in work-related and domestic pressures, December brings an additional emotional toll. 

As Mental Health Watch pointed out, December even feels different than any other month. For many people, it may be filled with pain of dreams which did not come true. Loneliness amidst the images of happy families and friends coming together for the season’s celebrations; grief and loss of loved ones. Anger and unresolved tensions resulting in disagreements with colleagues or family members; financial stress due to the cost of living crisis.

You don’t have to continue to perpetuate this vicious circle. Give yourself a permission to break free from things that are no longer necessary, useful or enjoyable. Break free from the things and people that suck your energy and leave you exhausted physically and mentally. 

You can build your resilience and make December more enjoyable and relaxing with some tips which are based on the top three characteristics of highly resilient people described by Diane Coutu in her article How Resilience Works. These characteristics are:

  • a staunch acceptance of reality; 
  • a deep belief, often reinforced by strongly held values, that life is meaningful; and 
  • an uncanny ability to improvise. 

As Diana Coutu pointed out, we can bounce back from hardship with just one or two of these qualities, but we will only be truly resilient with all three.

So, here are a few tips for resilience in December and beyond.

Be realistic and let go of “should” – Neither the holidays nor your life have to be perfect or the same as last year. Learn to say ‘No’ – Taking on too much and creating endless ‘To Do’ lists will only stress you and deplete your limited resources in terms of energy, time and money.  If you are dealing with loss or grief, be kind to yourself and gently remind yourself that as circumstances change, traditions will change as well. Think of what new traditions you can invent to fit your circumstances. If you are lonely, volunteering your time to help others is a good way to lift your spirits, broaden your social network and create new friendships.

Ask for help when needed – Unfortunately, people have not learned how to read each-other’s minds yet, otherwise they would have volunteered their help more often to those who need it, be it at work or at home.Don’t wait until you are exhausted and boiling with anger inside – ask for help from the start and notice what a difference it will make.

Keep your healthy habits going – this is one of your best defenses against stress. Get enough sleep, eat well and move – take a walk, go dancing, get to the gym or a yoga class. Exercise helps relieve tension in the body, which in turn helps to reduce your overall stress response – both physically and mentally.

Identify your triggers – Learn to become more aware of your stressors by taking time to reflect on them. If you know what stresses you in the first place, you can pause, take a breath and respond mindfully rather than just react and let the triggers take over. 

Practise gratitude – The end of the year is a good time to reflect back on the past 12 months and to be grateful for all the achievements and good things in your life – however different from your dreams they may be. There is a growing body of evidence that people who regularly practise gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things (even the smallest ones) they are thankful for, experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. 

Create your personal resilience development plan – Take some time to reflect on the top three characteristics of highly resilient people. Ask yourself: 

  • Do I have some or all of these key qualities? 
  • How well are they developed?  
  • What can I do to develop these qualities even more? 
  • What could be my top three actions needed to develop further each one of these three qualities? 
  • Who else / what else is needed to help me with these actions?

Then, create your own success strategy – a plan of action designed to achieve your overall goal of improving your resilience.

Make an effort to develop your resilience and notice the difference that it will make to all areas of your life.

Finally, if you ever need to “top up” your motivation to become truly resilient, read this blog by Jon Morrow: 7 Life Lessons from a Guy Who Can’t Move Anything but His Face

Make an effort to develop your resilience and you will notice the difference it will make to all areas of your life. We all need resilience and not just in December.