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In business, it is always a balancing act trying to figure out how to meet deadlines, bring in revenue, and simply get things done.  During the holidays, everyday stress is compounded as our obligations increase. A 2015 study by Healthline, and referenced in the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience newsletter, found that 62% of people report that their stress is is ‘very’ or ‘somewhat’ elevated during the holidays.  The key stressors reported were:

  • Financial 
  • Navigating personal relationships
  • Maintaining routine such as exercise

During a time of year when we are supposed to be relaxing and enjoying the season, increased stress can be a catalyst for illness, fatigue, arguments, and procrastination.  The holidays can bring out the best in us and the worst in us, with the additional stress affecting our relationships. As an aside, according to research by David McCandless and Lee Byron, the two weeks prior to Christmas is one of the peak break-up times of the year.  

Depending on the kind of business we have, the holidays can either be a time of increased activity as is the case with retail gift based sales.  Large corporations such as Target and Walmart often see their biggest sales months in November and December. Small businesses, including online businesses, may see a lull.  This can cause a tremendous amount of stress if there hasn’t been adequate money put away to compensate for the drop in revenue.

As a CEO, certified coach, and person with over decades of business ownership under my belt, I have witnessed first-hand entrepreneurs who get through the holidays unscathed.  There are five things they do consistently and those five things not only allow them to enjoy the holidays, they often set them up for a solid coming year. 

The 5 Things Successful Business Owners Let Go Of to Deal With Holiday Stress 


1.They Let Go of Perfection

The most successful business owners understand that perfection is a form of procrastination.  Is it the end of the world if Bob from accounting didn’t realize that it was an ugly sweater party and he is still in his suit?  Is it okay that employee gifts are in gift bags instead of hand wrapped? Of course! In business, it is imperative to understand that version one is better than version none.  Ultimately, it comes down to intent. If the intention is to add value to people’s lives then perfection is unnecessary.

On the personal side, during the holidays, the usual 90-minutes at the gym might turn into 30.  The table might not be perfection because instead of something worthy of Joanna Gaines, you let your 7-year old decorate.  Successful business owners, who also navigate family, figure out a way to enjoy the season without worrying about perfect ribbon curls or baking twelve different kinds of Christmas cookies.

Last Friday night, we went to serve dinner to the homeless.  We were running early so we went to Target to buy blankets. The blankets were $10 and we also purchased sweat shirts and long sleeved t-shirts.  When it came time for people to come to the table and select an item, the blankets were the first things to go. An older man, who was missing several teeth, and had the look of someone who had experienced a lot of life, grinned happily as he cradled his new blanket.  $10 made a massive difference to this man and it was quite humbling as I confess that my former perfectionist self used to spend $10 on the wrapping alone for one gift.

Let go of perfection and you will be a lot happier.

2. They Let Go of Non Income Producing Activities During Work

During the holidays, our work time can be somewhat diminished as we have parties to attend, and host, school functions if our children are still at home, gifts to purchase, and decorations to hang.  It can be tempting to do our online shopping while we are supposed to be looking for new clients and customers. It can be seductive to rationalize that it is the holiday season and we can start fresh in January.

Successful business owners do not do this.  During business time, they do business.

I once had a mentor, Kathy,  who decided to build a home-based business.  She and her husband had seven children; both worked several jobs to keep the household afloat.  As a devout Catholic, Christmas was a holiday that meant going to church more often, more family meals, and an abundance of gifts.

Kathy was unflappable and highly organized.  She had a schedule that included looking for new customers while her children were at school and after dinner.  She continued to focus during the holidays and devote her work-time to her fledgling business that was generating about $1,000/week in 2003.  She took one afternoon off and did all of her Christmas shopping. She stayed up late after her last phone call to do her wrapping. She took time off to go to the extra church services all the while sticking to her schedule.  By 2005, she was earning over $1,000,000.

Kathy had a philosophy – your next best customer will come into your business even on Christmas Day.  In my experience, that is absolutely true.


3. They Let Go of Negativity

When we are tired, or even hungover from the Christmas party, we can become vulnerable. That in combination with financial stress, holiday business booms or busts, can amplify our emotions.  Negativity can creep in with that voice in our head telling us that we should give up or that our prospects do not want to hear from us during the holidays. Successful business owners guard their thoughts and choose to let go of any negativity.

In 2014, a good friend, Ken, was diagnosed with stage four cancer.  He was given 90 days to live. That would have put his death during the holidays.  He was forty-six at the time and had two young children. In addition to helming his family’s heating and cooling business, he was also building a startup.  When he called to tell me about the diagnosis, he said, ‘Susan, stress gave me cancer.’

Ken made a decision to let go of all negativity in his life.  This included certain people, thoughts, and media. He committed to enjoying his family and his life.  As a result of letting go of negativity, he lived until February of 2016 defying the odds. He told me that his last year was the happiest of his life because he had chosen to remain positive.

As stressful as the holidays can seem, negativity can easily be amplified if we allow it.  Letting go of negativity is a choice. Set boundaries with people. Spend at least ten minutes daily listening to uplifting podcasts or reading personal and business development books.  Take time to breathe and appreciate your life. At the end of the day, negativity will only serve to keep us away from our goals.


5. They Let Go of Self-Sabotage

Self-sabotage is prevalent during the holidays.  Excess alcohol, food, less sleep, missing workouts, and picking fights are all examples of ways in which we self-sabotage.  Successful business owners appreciate a little indulgence now and again but restrain themselves if the excess is going to affect their bottom line.  

We have heard stories of the boozy boss and the CEO who let their pent-up anger be directed at an undeserving employee however people who self-sabotage eventually self-destruct.  

I once mentored a woman who had gained enough weight that her flight attendant uniform was no longer fitting.  She made the decision to do an intense detox over Christmas because she was done with the self-sabotage of stuffing her emotions with food and not exercising.  After releasing 10 pounds on her small frame, people began to notice. She ended up starting a business with the products she had used and went on to make millions.  

Avoiding self-sabotage takes discipline.  If you want something badly enough then you will change your life to get it even if it is the holidays.


5. They Let Go of Selfishness

Successful people tend to be the most generous people.  They figure out ways to serve even when it isn’t convenient.  When we are overly focused on our own problems we are not focused on the solutions to those same problems.  One of the fastest ways to let go of selfishness is to serve others whose needs are greater than our own.

In our family, we have served in many ways over the holidays.  We have played Santa and taken armloads of gifts to families in need, served meals to the homeless, and donated with grateful hearts.  

When we have an abundant mindset, we have no fear of generosity because the gifts we give always come back to us in a multitude of ways.  Successful business people fully understand that the holidays are a time of generosity; generosity attracts more generosity in the form of new clients, customers, revenues, and overall abundance.

Figure out creative ways in which you can be more generous this season.  Let go of any selfishness and focus on serving. Observe how this shifts your entire outlook.


Susan Sly

Author Susan Sly

Susan Sly is considered a thought leader in AI, award winning entrepreneur, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and tech investor. Susan has been featured on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime, ABC Family, and quoted in Forbes Online, Marketwatch, Yahoo Finance, and more. She is the mother of four and has been working in human potential for over two decades.

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