This season is supposed to be a time of fun and good cheer, but it can also bring an unexpectedly large dose of stress along with it. After all, there are cards to send, food to prepare, halls to deck, presents to buy (and wrap and deliver), family members to contact, parties and gatherings to attend, and a host of other "to-dos" that can quickly fill up anyone's schedule.
This whirlwind of activity can seem overwhelming at times, and can often turn celebration into anxiety. So how can you achieve balance during a time of year where crammed schedules are the norm? Below are some simple steps you can take to edit your to-do list and find balance during the holidays or any season of life that's leaving you stressed.
1. Establish Your Priorities.
There can be no talk of proper schedule management without first establishing priorities. Take a moment to think about what's really most important to you: Is it spending time with family? Volunteering at a local charity? Engaging in that hobby that you never seem to have time for during the year?
Write your priorities down, as this will help you establish a mental connection that will act as a compass to keep you in line with the direction you truly want to go. Since it's so easy to allow the day to be filled with whatever happens to happen next, your priority list will remind you of what's most important to you. It will also give you clarity in terms of the activities that you'll need to avoid in order to stay on track.
2. Perform a "Time Audit."
Since practically all activities on your to-do list are going to require time, you have to determine whether your time is being well-spent on things that matter (your priority list), or essentially wasted on low-priority or inconsequential activities. Take a sober look at how you're spending your time and see if it's lining up with your most important priorities.
One of the best exercises to help you stay on track is to ask yourself this simple question: "Is this the best use of my time right now?" Any time you feel that pull to procrastinate or get distracted by replacing tasks that are truly important to you with others that aren't as much, remind yourself of that question.
3. Avoid Over-Committing Yourself (a.k.a., Learn to Say"No").
One surefire way to cause yourself a ton of stress is to try to fit into everyone else's holiday plans as well. You may have volunteered to head up the office Christmas party planning committee, while also trying to host a party at your house the same week. And you've been invited to three different Christmas parties yourself already this month. You're trying to hang up Christmas lights and decorate your house in a holiday-inspired theme that would make Martha Stewart envious. You also told yourself that this was the year where you're going to bake a ton of cookies, package them in decorative tins and mail them to all of your distant relatives. While none of these activities are bad or wrong to do, let's face it--you can't do them all.
The truth of the matter is that all of us know when we're reaching that tipping point where we've over-committed ourselves. If you've already reached that point, it may be time to respectfully decline (or greatly limit) your participation in some of those activities. It may also be necessary for you to hire some help or delegate certain tasks to others (that's what kids are for!) when it comes to finding balance.
4. Get Some Exercise.
One thing that cannot go overlooked during any busy season is your physical health. Exercising will not only keep you energized and physically alert for all of the tasks you have at hand, but it can also act as a powerful stress-reliever. Do your best to work some simple 30-minute sessions into your weekly schedule, or maybe take a nice walk around the neighborhood each night after dinner. Engaging in any activity that can get the blood flowing and center your mind will help you stay physically and mentally ready to manage the demands of your schedule.