What a year. We embark on the notorious silly season. 'Tis the season to be merry, but if you anything like me, it is also a season of great stress and to dos. Every year I need to make a concerted effort not to become overwhelmed.
So, what do you do to get through it? Better than that, to try thriving? I’m still a work in progress. Between school exams, end of year functions, planning and anticipation for the festive season, time becomes thinner and stress and that feeling of being overwhelmed starts to grow.
A few years ago, I ended up in hospital with what was later a simple gastritis around November. It caused a realisation at the time, that I was not taking as well care of myself as I should and that I needed to change my way, especially for silly season.
That was the start to my journey of managing my time and expectations - as well as those of others around me - for the better.
So, what did I get wrong?
I added to many additional tasks that are often unnecessary.
I agreed to attending to many events/functions.
I committed to too many school and church functions/events.
I did not allow myself or our family down time, especially on weekends.
I got swept up in all the Christmas stuff and needed to remember its spirit.
I have made many mistakes over the years, often got things wrong, trying to do too much, do everything really, and I burnt out. This happened a few times, but most especially at silly season. I have a strong philosophy of learning, as best I can, from my poorer decisions. Slowly over the years, I have implemented better habits for myself and us as a family. This was not and is not an overnight change, it is years in the making and often times I still become overwhelmed, but grateful to be better at managing my time. Time is precious and should be treated as such.
What changes do I try implement and suggest?
Start by planning Silly season early :), I find October a good month to think about wants and needs and timing.
When there is an invite to a function, really think about how you are likely to feel having attended - a simple analogy is does it "fill your cup" or "empty it". This is difficult, especially if you never want to disappoint people. This subtle pressure is never a reason to always say yes. I believe strongly that in order to really be kind to myself and others, I first need to be honest with myself and make sure I commit to events where I can be fully myself, engaged and present.
Limit weekend activities. This is a very big one. Anyone that knows us well, knows about our Sunday rule. Fridays maybe, Saturdays are good, but Sundays are rarely committed to seeing people. This we have found has had the biggest impact on us as a family, and we are strict. Unless it’s a birthday wedding or similar important event, it’s a standard no. Setting aside a set family time every week is very healthy habit. Off time, for us and our family is essential. Sunday may be our day but that is a choice, over silly season I recommend you ensure one off weekend, to do the inevitable "stuff" that needs to be done at this time.
Weekdays afternoons cannot be overtaken by appointments. So, appointments that are not urgent, are simply delayed to January.
Say NO more often. NO. NO. NO. You do not need an explanation or an apology. Simply NO THANK YOU.
You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be happy. A great daily mantra. If you are happy, so will those you love.
Recently, I was reminded of the value of taking lunch. Make it a good break, not another excuse to squeeze in emails and WhatsApp, seriously. I also, a while back, switch off notifications to my watch. I became a terrible distraction and negative loop. It’s bad enough we have a cell phone alerting us to so much (something else I have permanently done is keep my phone on silent - not vibrate). Surprisingly, this adds to you daily pressures and can be over whelming. I can hear many of you say that you need to know who is trying to get hold of you because you use your phone for work. This can be true and if so adapt, there are features you can use to take time out and still be professional. Most communication is message and email, so you can do it in batches, instead of in drips.
So, my hope, is that we all can be better at thriving over the coming season. That we may be more present in each event, smiling, and be truly savouring the times and memories we create. Make a list of all the things you want this season be remembered for, and work to achieving those, examples of mine include - enjoys the quiet moments, savour my times with family and friends, make new memories, laugh more and be silly and my most important goals is to feel the love, and share the love.
2023 has been harder for most people. We are witnessing unprecedented conflicts, desperation and hardship. One of the gifts to the end of the year is the chance to reflect on the present, on the past year, and find a new, hopefully better way forward.