Handle the holidays like a millionaire – less stress, more joy

Christmas giftWhen you were a child, didn’t you love the ‘magic’ of the holidays? The perfectly selected presents, food, family, sparkling decorations?

Well, chances are, there was someone behind all of your holiday childhood magic, and that someone was very likely your mother. Now that you’re the mom, it can feel daunting to re-create that enchantment of the holidays for your children. In our fast-paced world, holidays and stress have become nearly synonymous. It’s no wonder. With work and home vying for our precious time and resources, it can sometimes feel like an insurmountable task to actually enjoy the holidays.

Dr. Jude Miller Burke, psychologist and author of The Millionaire Mystique: How Working Women Become Wealthy – And How You Can Too!, has some simple tools to not only help you get through the holidays, but also make sure that you get the most out of this time of year, and have the time and energy to slow down and savor your family.

Dr. Miller Burke has developed a top-10 list for busy women that leverages important tools from her book that can help all of us to survive and thrive amid the holiday hustle and bustle. She asked 100 female business owners and executives (most of whom are mothers) for specific tips on how they achieve work and family balance to reduce stress and increase well-being during the busiest time of year. Here, she shares with Project Eve her 10 Tips for Handling the Holidays like a Millionaire. (See complete list below.)  

One of the biggest holiday challenges for today’s working mother is that we oftentimes try to do too much. Dr. MillerBurke said, “The first step in adjusting expectations is to examine your values and acknowledge to yourself what is important to you during the holidays.”

She urges women to develop their “internal locus of control,” which keeps us grounded to our own priorities and decisions and doesn’t allow us to be easily distracted andpulled from one thing to another.

Dr. Miller Burke said that the second step in achieving holiday peace is to have a discussion with your spouse/partner and children and come to some agreement and understand everyone’s expectations. Create a master plan, a holiday business plan if you will, that everyone works from to accomplish tasks.

To maintain harmony, Dr. Miller Burke said that it is just as important to prioritize what you won’t do during the holidays, as well as writing that ubiquitous to-do list. She suggests keeping a detailed to-do list, including even the small things like picking up flowers or baking ingredients. Next, she advises creating “a family stop-doing list, such as ‘we are going to skip midnight service and go to an earlier service because everyone gets so tired.’ Or, ‘let’s have an alcohol-free holiday to improve everyone’s energy level.’”

There is not one answer to managing the holidays well; it is a combination knowing your own values to define what the holidays mean to you, daily self-care, supportive friends, assertiveness to say no, organization, sharing the responsibility, and maintaining your internal locus of control. Understand from the ‘get go’ that there will be problems and you need to allow time to manage ill children or secure the inevitable forgotten gift.

Having the discipline to say ‘no’ is a skill that must be cultivated and practiced, Dr. Miller Burke said. “More than 50% of the self-made millionaire women I studied were comfortable ‘arguing a point to closure’ and therefore, assertive andare more comfortable than others at saying no,” she said.

She said that for some women, saying ‘no,’ is hard. For those of us accustomed to saying yes over and over until we are overwhelmed and buried, she recommends a simple tactic.

Practice. Practice. Practice.

“Practice saying ‘no’ at least twice a day during this season,” Dr. MillerBurke advises. “Experiment and say no with humor. Say no very gently but repeat yourself to ensure you are being heard. Say no firmly. Say it loudly. But, just practice saying no.”

In her popular book The Millionaire Mystique, Dr. Miller Burke found some commonalities among the many successful women that she studied. “Self-made millionaire women were significantly higher than average in conscientiousness, extraversion, team-orientation, caring about the well-being of others in their work group, open to new experiences, and curious about life.” In addition to having this set of personality traits, Dr. Miller Burke’s millionaire women were also “lower than the general population on neuroticism – they knew how to leave personal troubles at the door and focus on work.” These personality traits can be helpful in enjoying the holidays because you are more organized, creative, and worry less.

Interestingly, these women also had in common some kind of adverse childhood events including parental alcoholism or abuse or the death of a family member. “Because they successfully handled on average two serious childhood events, they used the same coping skills later in life to manage their personal and professional lives.” she said.

Dr. Miller Burke explores the need to persevere through career bumps and failures, saying that more than 50% of the millionaire women she studied had failures and more than 70% had detours in their careers, mostly due to family responsibilities.

“It is important to persevere even if on a leave of absence or working part time due to childbearing and childrearing. When I had my twins at age 40, I reinvented myself and secured the necessary training and credentials to provide leadership assessments and executive coaching. I started providing direct service again after having been in senior management for 10 years. This change worked well when we moved for my husband’s business and while raising children,” she said.

Just like creating a holiday “board of directors,” Dr. Miller Burke recommends cultivating a few key mentors to help achieve ever-higher levels of success. “Mentors are a sounding board and someone to advise us during difficult business times,” Dr. Miller Burke said. “I recommend having several mentors throughout your career – both women and men. Both genders can teach you different things and help you to build the social capital you need to advance. Knowing that others ‘have your back’ and believe in you creates confidence.”

At the core of Dr. Miller Burke’s The Millionaire Mystique and in her 10 Tips for Handling the Holidays like a Millionaire is the notion of honoring yourself, understanding how your background impacts your expectations and facing stress head-on.

“If you grew up as I did with a Mom who cooked well, was there for you emotionally, knew the gifts her children would want, and decorated beautifully for the holidays – it can be tough. I still feel the pull today between taking care of myself and taking care of others and trying to find a balance,” Dr. Miller Burke said. “Because we know how great it made us feel when our Mom spread her holiday cheer, we want to give that to others. But, when Mom goes into overdrive and is irritable, exhausted or ill, no one has fun.”

Dr. Miller Burke recommends defining your own holiday and then discussing with your spouse/partner and kids. Write it down after receiving everyone’s input to have a master holiday plan. Work at it daily and stay cognizant that a happy Mom is a happy family.

10 Tips for Handling the Holidays like a Millionaire

  1. Select your holiday board of directors. These are the friends you go to for real support and tough love, whom you share holiday highs and lows and check in with so that you can support each other during this hectic time. You may want to each identify and share a self-care goal you want to achieve to help your mental health.
  2. Define your family holiday values. Decide with your spouse/partner and kids what are your most important activities and rituals for the holidays. Get rid of the rest. The ‘perfect’ holiday does not exist and to try to achieve an elusive experience we see in the media creates unnecessary stress! Create a detailed, but flexible, schedule that allows for family consideration.
  3. Stop playing Santa. You want this to be the best year ever, but you could lose your mind in the process. Be aware of others’ expectations for you whether at work, home, or in the community. Make an active decision to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ and have a ‘stop doing’ list. It is not just your job to make it a holiday to remember. Everyone needs to share this responsibility.
  4. Delegate to your spouse and kids. You know you should delegate to people in the office, but you should and must do the same at home. Self-made business women organize and delegate. Collaborate to write a master list and then as each person completes their job, check it off the list. Find someone to not only help with shopping, but also wrapping and other errands.
  5. Pick the one gift for 2014. Gift shopping, wrapping, cooking, entertaining all require extra time. Consider buying one item you love for presents, but buy in different colors for your employees or siblings. Buy the most difficult presents now and start early to avoid the holiday rush.
  6. Get a holiday intern. Hired help is not just for millionaires. Many high school and college students have weeks off of school and are interested in having a job. Have your holiday intern grocery shop, pick up gifts, wrap, and send out the mail. This will save you many hours of time.
  7. Make self-care nonnegotiable. Keep going to exercise classes and continue to eat healthy in spite of what holiday delights are offered to you. The holiday season will come and nothing is going to stop it. Practice mindfulness – be 100 percent wherever you are – work or home with no interruptions. Worrying about holiday home tasks while at work or vice versa only increases your stress. Breathe deeply and be present wherever you and are this will decrease your stress. And, remember sometimes a “I’m sorry, Johnny is ill and we can’t make it” is all you can do. Take control of what you choose to be stressed about.
  8. Be realistic about party plans. Stop using your schedule to prove your love to everyone by being at everything. If you are at max due to the kids’ schedules and work deadlines, do not offer to host the holiday coffee for the neighborhood! Be selective about invitations you accept and if you know you can’t or don’t choose to attend a gathering, rsvp quickly to avoid carrying the stress. Most people will understand.
  9. Anticipate, don’t avoid stress. Successful women don’t dodge stress, they face it head on. Problems will arise complicating the holidays even further. Communicate proactively at work with your supervisor and your employees to keep small problems from becoming bigger ones. Irritability and conflict seem to be inherent in these busy months, and accepting this and using humor to diffuse tension can be effective. At home give each child time alone before bedtime to check in on their emotions; this will ward off problems later
  10. Prevent sticker shock.  Setting a holiday budget is a great idea and I strongly encourage you to do so. But, often we are grabbing presents quickly at the expense of price. To avoid being hit with shocking debt later, keep receipts from holiday expenses in an obvious envelope and review them daily to be aware of spending as you go. And spreading the shopping out over two or three months will ease the impact on your budget.


Jude Miller Burke is a business psychologist, executive coach and millionaire. She is the former Vice President of Operations, Optum, at United HealthGroup, where she built a national employee assistance program. At Honeywell in Minneapolis, Jude provided employee assistance counseling and management consultation for ten years. Jude also provided executive coaching for the past ten years through the University of St. Thomas Business Center, Murro Partners, and JAMB Consulting in Phoenix, Arizona. Visit The Millionaire Mystique website at http://www.themillionairemystique.com/

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