With 31 percent of giving occurring in December, the mere thought of holiday fundraising can be enough to send nonprofit professionals into a tailspin. The year-end rush to wrap things up and raise those last-minute donations can turn the most wonderful time of the year into the most stressful.
That’s why we’ve rounded up a few stress-busting tips to help you calm your nerves and recharge. With these techniques in hand, you can kick stress to the curb, take year-end fundraising by the lapels, and finish off on a high note with a happier, healthier you.
1. Get Better Sleep With a Bedtime Routine
The quality and amount of sleep you get can have a direct effect on your mood and stress levels. Since it can seem impossible to get a good night’s rest when you’re already feeling wound up, try to add a soothing activity to your bedtime routine to get you ready for a solid night of rest.
According to sleep specialists, it’s important to establish a transition between wake time and nighttime in order to turn off anxious thoughts and prepare your body for sleep. Set aside at least 30 minutes before bedtime to wind down with a good book, a warm bath, stretches, or relaxation exercises.
When you establish a calming pre-sleep ritual, you can separate your precious sleep time from the day’s events and fully recharge. And if your brain is still buzzing about tomorrow’s to-do list, try writing it down and setting it aside ‘til the morning.
2. Start Your Day With Lemon Water
Classy’s director of customer support Marshall Peden presents an important power fruit to add to your year-end diet: lemons. Squeeze the juice of a quarter to half of a lemon into a glass of water at room temperature, and drink up. It’s important that the water is warmer to improve digestion and encourage health benefits to kick in.
This healthy habit will help rehydrate your body, flush your digestive system, and stimulate your liver to increase bile production—an acid that aids digestion. Lemons are packed with vitamin C and can also help clear up your skin and boost your immune system to fend off any nasty colds.
3. Get Your Body Moving
Whether you do yoga like Classy customer support agent Britney Haas, or another type of workout, exercise is a fantastic stress-reliever that pumps up endorphins, enhances your mood, and gets you a better night’s sleep.
Fit a short workout—even if just a 10-minute walk before work—into your last days of the year. Head outdoors for best results, since natural sunlight can release serotonin in your brain, lifting your mood and helping you feel calm.
4. Indulge in Delightful Smells
Make like customer support agent Brad Harris and spark a scent and flare those nostrils. Research shows that aromatherapy can relieve stress and the smell of lavender, in particular, creates a calming effect that reduces anxiety levels. Use a lavender-scented candle or air freshener in your office, lather up with scented body wash, or massage a bit of essential oil into your wrists and temples.
5. Snack on Dark Chocolate
Good news for all of you chocoholics out there: A 2009 study confirms that eating 40 grams of dark chocolate every day for two weeks reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol and catecholamines, “flight-or-fight” hormones produced in response to stress. Other studies also show that dark chocolate can lower blood pressure and risk of heart attacks or strokes. The flavonol antioxidants in cocoa help reduce blood pressure and improve blood flow.
You may not need the ultra-king-size chocolate bar that customer support agent Phil Sansone has above, but keep a stash of dark chocolate to munch on during your work day. Since processed foods contain fewer flavonols, opt for dark chocolate with 70 percent cocoa content or more.
6. Sip on Tea
Rather than revving up on coffee, opt for tea to calm those nerves. To investigate its effects on stress recovery, one study compared two sets of participants: one group that drank a black tea beverage four times a day for six weeks, and another that drank a fake tea beverage for the same amount of time. After experiencing a stressful event, those who drank the black tea had lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Even just the ritual of brewing tea—taking a couple minutes from your day, hearing the sound of the kettle—may help you start to relax. Just take a look at customer support agent Katherine Peters, you can practically hear the stress melting away as she sips that tea.
7. Listen to Relaxing Music
Research shows that the type of music you listen to can alter your mood, and if you find the right beat it can even ease physical symptoms of stress. Try listening to calming music on your commute and while you work. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to relaxing music, but a good place to start is with light jazz, classical numbers, or a nature playlist of rainstorms and thunder. Listen to a few styles out there and see what helps you chill out to create your own soothing soundscape.
You might even notice that the background noise helps you focus and problem solve. Researchers have found that a moderate level of ambient noise improves creativity for most people.
8. Write a Thank You note
When your year-end tasks feel overwhelming, taking time to appreciate what you have can really put things in perspective. Research consistently shows that gratitude helps people feel happier, improve their health, handle hardships, and nurture relationships.
Take a moment to write down a few things you’re thankful for from this past year. Or, better yet, send a quick thank you note or text to someone who has made a positive impact on your life. One study found that participants who delivered a letter to someone thanking them for their kindness demonstrated a huge boost in personal happiness.
9. Proofread Your Emails for December 31
With 12 percent of all charitable gifts being made in the last three days of the year, it’s important to optimize your outreach by sending at least two emails on December 31. Pull up your last emails for the year and do a once-over for spelling and grammar.
If you haven’t written a second email yet, don’t panic. Just whip up a quick message to go out in the evening that a) counts down the number of hours left, and b) emphasizes donors’ last chance to lock in their tax-deductible gifts for the year. It can be as short as, “Three hours left to make your tax-deductible donation!” A deadline can hike up a sense of urgency and compel donors to act fast.
10. Schedule Your Thank You Email Ahead of Time
You’re working hard to get out those year-end appeals, but don’t forget to prep the final message: your thank you email. You don’t want to have to worry about emailing donors when you wake up after your New Year’s Eve celebrations.
Write your follow-up message ahead of time and schedule it to fire off first thing on January 1. When you’re enjoying a leisurely New Year’s Day with loved ones, you’ll be glad you took care of this ahead of time.
11. Be Kind to Yourself
We are often our own worst critics, and while it happens to the best of us, it is also detrimental to accomplishing tasks, physical health, and staying stress-free. In the midst of your day, start paying attention to your inner dialogue. Would you speak to a friend the way you’re speaking to yourself? If not, replace those unhealthy, negative thoughts with positive self-talk. When you’re feeling too busy to give yourself a pep talk, take it from customer support agent, Ed Trujillo: you’re worth it!
At the end of the day, take a breather and know that whatever’s going to happen is going to happen. Life throws us all curve balls sometimes, and all you can do is prepare to the best of your ability. Be proud of all of the incredible work you’ve accomplished in 2017. Now it’s time to kick off your shoes, grab a cocktail, and ring in the new year!