Are you dreading this holiday season?

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm.” – Aldous Huxley

Are you dreading this holiday season?

By Andrea Novakowski

It’s that time of year again — the holidays! Are you full of good cheer, or do you feel more like my client, Jeffrey, a team leader at a software development company, who’s more focused on the year-end crunch than the joy of the season?

All Jeffrey can see is what needs to be done: delivering the software update, making a final push to complete those goals that seemed inspiring last January but now feel like a burden, and oh, by the way, hosting Uncle Ralph and Aunt Susan, who are spending four days at his house over the Thanksgiving holiday.

At a recent coaching session, Jeffrey told me he was headed to a team meeting, where the topic of discussion was getting their key project back on schedule. Over the last few months, the timeline had been slipping. People were starting to play the blame game rather than looking for solutions. Jeffrey was dreading the upcoming interaction.

He shared that he was feeling especially anxious because all of this was coming up right before the holidays and there was going to be way too much to do between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. He was resigned to feeling distracted during the holidays and eating a lot of Tums alongside his turkey.

How to handle negative emotions at work and at home

Whenever you feel like you’re on a downward emotional spiral, you have a choice. You can stay in that place, believing you have no alternative, or you can use the following three-question process I use with my clients to handle end-of-the-year chaos:

  1. How am I feeling? Identify the emotion: is it dread, heaviness, confusion? Name that feeling and imagine it. This step will bring that feeling to the surface, where it can be acknowledged instead of buried. Now pick up the feeling and remove it from yourself. You can actually put it aside.
  1. How do I want to feel? Identify the feeling you wish to have — joy, possibility, hope — and bring it toward you. Spend some time with this feeling. Really feel it, envision it, and embody it.
  1. What’s the one thing I can do to bring me closer to how I want to feel? If hope is the feeling you want, try mind-mapping a list of positive outcomes. Or you could connect with someone who has successfully managed a problem like yours or recall the last time you encountered this situation and what you did to move forward.

The last step is supported by new research from the University of Arizona in partnership with Cornell and Duke universities and cited by Mel Robbins in her book The 5-Second Rule. According to Robbins, “When you set a goal — something you’re moving toward — the brain opens a task list. Whenever you get near things that can help you achieve that goal, your brain fires up a signal to get that goal completed.”

In other words, identifying what you want and setting a goal around it spurs your brain into action.

Let your brain help you out, not bog you down

At our following session, Jeffrey told me he’d learned a lot from using the three-question process. “Now that I’ve noticed my negative thoughts and emotions, I can use them as a push to seek alternative positive feelings,” he said.

This process can be used in your business for any challenge you are facing, from dealing with difficult clients to meeting your monthly quota. No matter what the situation, you can shift your thinking and get your brain involved to help move you toward a solution.

Don’t let this holiday season get you down. Create the vision of what you want, and then move into action to get it.


These three questions are a condensed version of a larger, more involved process that may serve you if you’re encountering problems with negative thinking in your business. Interested in learning more? Let’s chat.