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Demanding jobs are tough year-round, but they’re especially difficult during the holidays—doubly so if you have to work on the holidays themselves. If you’re wondering how you’re going to survive the holidays this year while working your job, you’re not alone. Whether you wear stretch scrubs or a suit to work, here are eight tips for surviving the holidays while still working full-time:

1. Get things done ahead of time.

If you work over the holidays, your schedule is probably going to be a blur between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. If you can, try to get as many of your holiday tasks as possible done before the busy season starts. Finish your gift shopping, decorate your home, plan out the food menus, arrange any holiday travel—whatever’s on your to-do list, go ahead and get it done. Working during the holidays is already stressful enough without having to also rush through your holiday prep on top of working full-time.

2. Ask friends and family for help.

If you’re the one who usually carries the holidays for your family, it might be time to ask for some help this year. If you have a spouse or adult children who will be taking time off around the holidays, request that they help pick up the slack and take on some of the things you have been doing. Make a list of all the tasks that you normally take care of during the holidays and identify ones that can be easily done by other people. For example, your spouse might not be great at picking out gifts, but they can definitely wrap presents for you.

3. Set expectations early.

If you have to work during the holidays, you might not be able to attend all (or any) of your usual family gatherings. Once you have your schedule locked down, communicate it to your family and let them know what you will and won’t be able to do this year. You might be able to make it to a family dinner, but not cook an entire spread. Be prepared that your family might stir up a fuss, or not understand why you have to work on the holidays. Lean on your more supportive family members for help with managing the rest of them.

4. Celebrate on a different day.

One workaround that families use is celebrating on a different day than the official holiday. After all, the holiday isn’t just about the date it’s held on, but also about being together and upholding traditions. If your family’s schedule can accommodate it, try to find another date that you do have off that also works for your family. You may enjoy celebrating on a different day more than trying to cram in a gathering before or after work on the official holiday. For all you know, you may start a new family tradition.

5. Get festive at work.

Just because you have to work during the holidays, it doesn’t mean that it has to be a total drag. If your work permits it, bring a little bit of the holiday spirit to the office with your wardrobe and accessories. For instance, if you work as a nurse, you can wear cotton scrubs printed with holiday graphics. If you work retail, you can wear patterned sweaters, Santa hats or light-up necklaces. Even if you must wear your regular clothes to work, you still might be able to add a subtle touch, such as a small pair of earrings.

6. Take care of your own health.

Many people are more susceptible to getting sick over the holidays. Not only is it already cold and flu season, but the added stress of the holidays also makes you more vulnerable to getting ill. The additional pressure of working over the holidays only heightens the problems and wears you down at a time when you’re already exhausted. Make it a priority to drink enough water, eat healthy, exercise and get enough sleep to help keep your body strong. Take time off when you can to rest both your body and your mind and replenish your energy reserves. You’ll need it to make it through the holidays.

7. Give yourself something to look forward to.

There’s no getting around it: Working during the holidays can stink, and your motivation is probably going to tank as the season goes on. To help yourself keep going, schedule something that you can look forward to. Even if you can’t take Christmas Day off, maybe you can negotiate for a few extra days off at New Year’s–or schedule a massage for the weekend after the holidays. Just make sure that it’s something that you will look forward to and that will help you feel refreshed and rested.

8. Take a break from technology.

It may be tempting to scroll through your various social media networks to see what everyone else is doing on their days off, but this will probably just make you feel worse. Try temporarily deleting the apps from your phone and logging out on your laptop to give yourself a break from the endless slog of posts. Watching other people have fun on their holiday vacation when you’re stuck at work is a total downer, so try not to put yourself through it. Use the time to watch a movie, read a book or do something else relaxing instead.

Working during the holidays is tough, but it’s possible to make it through the winter and even have a little fun while you’re at it. Follow these eight strategies to not just survive but thrive during the holiday season while working a demanding job and taking care of your holiday errands.

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Deborah Swanson
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