The holidays can be a magical stretch for many people, filled with good food, great friends and family, and exciting gifts.

But as Thanksgiving and other seasonal celebrations inch ever nearer, this time of year can also be very stressful for, well, anyone. Mix in economic worries and inflation, a lingering pandemic, and global uncertainty, and stress levels are exacerbated (sometimes exponentially) this time of year. 

There are many issues too big for a small business owner or their staff to tackle alone, but when stress levels are high and things feel overwhelming, often small actions can have big impacts on employer and employee mental health.

This holiday season, consider small ways your business might be able to make an outsize impact locally. And be cognizant of stress in your workplace while also having a toolkit on hand to alleviate some of that burden.

To make an impact, consider closing up shop for a half (or whole) day so management and employees can volunteer together. Homeless shelters, senior centers, food pantries, toy drives and more often need additional help around the holidays. And perhaps the volunteer opportunities could extend beyond the new year. Businesses can also hold internal raffles for charitable causes or organize their own coat, toy and food drives during the holiday season.

Another option in the workplace is creating an adopt-a-family program; staff can shop for those in need, wrap presents and distribute gifts before the holidays.

And while caring for others is the reason for the season, self-care is also vital this time of year. Limit commitments outside of work, turn off your cell phone when possible, team up with like-minded businesses to disperse the workload around the holidays, consider surprise paid time off so employees can accomplish personal holiday tasks, and realize you don’t have to attend every holiday party to which you are invited.

One last thing to consider: Set reasonable expectations for both yourself, your business and your employees. The holidays are often an idealized time of year. When they don’t meet expectations, both at work and at home, that can also exacerbate mental health struggles. Be realistic when setting hours, revenue targets and other goals this season.

The window from Thanksgiving Day through the new year can be exciting and rejuvenating. Or it can be stressful and draining. Often it’s all of these at the same time. This year, step away from the noise, set realistic expectations for you and your employees, and focus on making this time brighter for others. 

The rest, as they say, is gravy.