The holiday season is great with its parties, friends catch up and family reunions, getting presents and shopping (for those who enjoy it), but it often comes with its share of fatigue and frustrations.
And let’s face it; it is also one of the most stressful times of year. With projects to complete, more functions that you can really attend – especially for parents, shopping with way too many people, late nights, and way too much food (and drinks)…
There is so much to do, so many place to be at, so many wonderful (and less wonderful) people to see, so many events to plan, so many things to remember.
But you know that you always end up happy that it is over.
The holiday season starting with Halloween and ending at best with New Year’s Eve or stretching well into January or even February for those celebrating Chinese New Year can feel like a marathon…. You need sustained energy to keep going and make it to the finish line.
Often the emotional charge of the holidays is to blame. The reunions, the end of the calendar might force us into interactions that we avoid the rest of the year or force certain painful self-reflections.
Another overwhelm factor is the sheer amount of events and things to do. Between all the things you want to do, the ones you are going to miss out on, the ones you have to go.
So what to do?
1 – Choose
If you are list maker, take a piece of paper and make a table with 3 columns:
- At the top of the first one write: To do, then list all the events and things you have lined up or think you should do. For example: office party, handwrite Christmas cards, buy gifts for my cousins, etc.
- At the top of the second one write: So want to
- At the top of the third one write: Don’t really want to
Now the fun starts: look at each item on your list and put a cross into column 2-So want to OR in 3-Don’t really want to.
Be honest and quick. Once you’ve evaluated all the items look at the two columns. If you are have more items on “2-So want to” than on “3-Don’t really want to” you are on a good track.
Now look at all the items in column “2-So want to” and circle the ones you REALLY want to do/attend.
Now let’s look at column 3, ask yourself which are “mandatory” and circle them, everything else can be cancelled.
Finally, have another look at the mandatory items and ask yourself: “Would I regret this is 3 months if I don’t do it?” If the answer is no, then you can probably skip this as well.
Here are a couple of examples:
Mandatory: buy gifts for my in-laws (in case you unfortunately don’t get along, otherwise it would be under “2-So want to”) but if there is a family tradition and they will be giving you gifts, you’ll probably hear about this all through next year and few more to come…. So this stays in the mandatory list.
Mandatory: handwrite 30 Christmas cards. You’ll feel great if you do it (and that’s your thing) but you probably won’t be thinking about in March if you don’t – so remove from mandatory list.
If you have more crosses on column 3-Don’t really want to you are setting yourself up for a very, very difficult and frustration inducing Holiday season….
Apply the mandatory process until you have more things to do in column 2-So want to than mandatory items.
If you are not a list maker, you can do the same process by asking yourself “Do I really want to do this?” with everything that is brought to your potential To-Do list…. If it feels good, go ahead, if not only keep things that are truly mandatory to you.
2 – Anticipate
If you have a lot to wrap up at work, a large family, an active social circle or any other configuration that makes it likely to have a lot to do you already know that you will be tired. Just accept it and prepare yourself.
One of my favorite thing to do when life gets too much is to get a proper 60 to 90 minutes massage. I had a phase when my life was so busy and there so many demands on my time and attention that I’d go every month to a very talented masseuse that I knew and spend 2 hours under her competent care.
Planning time to deeply take care of yourself when you know life is going to be a bit too much can completely transform your experience.
The Holidays is also a time that weighs on your finances, but still you can organize affordable “intense self-care” with the help of groupon.com. Getting a massage or trying a floating booth for an hour or trying a special relaxation yoga class (such as Yoga Nidra) for 50% of the actual price should be a no brainer in times of increased stress.
3 – Count your blessing
Finally, even if you still have too much, end up too tired and bit frustrated you can count your blessing because you have people to see and things to do…. some people don’t.
So at the start of another busy day, tell yourself 3 things that you are grateful for.
This post was written on behalf of Groupon. All opinions and shopping experiences are my own.
“My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”
Working moms have so much wisdom to share – just because their lives are full to the brim….
And once you decide to “make it all work” you realize that serious skills development is required.
Dr Portia Jackson brings us examples of seriously skilled working moms on her Podcast series (on iTunes or her website: http://www.workingmotherhood.com).
She interviews moms from various backgrounds, professions, inclinations and skills. And all share a bit of their wisdom.
I love the “I am not alone” effect and the inspiration that each of them bring.
And I had the privilege of being interviewed in April.
In case you missed my segment, you can listen to it here :http://www.workingmotherhood.com/podcasts/marcia-ayacaba/
If you are in need of a little inspiration from real life women, treat yourself with one of the podcast episodes.
It’s 9:45pm, the kids are finally asleep! Your husband is on a business trip (again).
The kitchen looks like a war zone. You check the fridge to make sure there is cheese left for tomorrow’s lunch boxes (cheese & chips – one more day).
You still have a to send out that report.
10:30pm, you’re finally done. Somehow those evening emails always end up taking more time than planned.
You go to your room & seriously consider going to bed without washing your face nor brushing your teeth…
You manage to get to the bathroom and go through the motions.
And as you sit on your bed the tears start rolling. They kind of just come out at first, for no reason. Then you feel the wave of sorrow, frustration and guilt take you over.
You end up doing the ugly cry sitting right there.
But instead of offering you solace and a very needed release, the crying fit only opens up the door to an endless string of judgment.
The “should” start pouring out.
You SHOULD feed the kids better, after all you are educated and have the money to buy good food but the kids have been fed out of a box or a pack all week long – you hope they still remember what vegetables look like.
You SHOULD be able to keep your house together. Forget Martha Stewart, but you are not raising animals…
You SHOULD be able to do this. Your mom worked, millions of moms work everywhere. If they can pull it off, so SHOULD you!
You SHOULD do more things with your kids. You work at the office, then work at home (trying to tame the chaos & finishing emails…) and you really do not have much time to “do” anything with the kids.
You SHOULD be better at this motherhood thing!….
By 11:15 you know for sure that you are the worst mother in the world and finding sleep is going to be very, very hard.
Let’s try something:
Take a couple of deep breathes (to reset your nervous system). Then go to the kitchen and find (or wash) a mug. Boil some water and choose a nice soothing herbal tea and make yourself a big full mug (to bring you comfort and relaxation).
Find a comfortable place and sit down.
Now imagine that instead of talking to yourself, you are talking to your sister or your best friend. She is having a rough day and the “should” are crushing her.
What would you say to her?
Would you chime in and point out a few more “should” that she missed?
Probably not. You’d highlight all the things she does so well – like spotting when one of the kids is going through something (even if they seems just fine to you). Or preparing great meals when she has the time.
You’d help her bring some perspective – the other moms do it to and it’s just as hard at times.
You’d remind her that some days are harder than others but “this too shall pass”.
I believe that being a working mom is hard. Not so much the working part, but the mom part. And I have yet to meet a mother who says motherhood is like a stroll in the park….
Then you add anything to it and your chances of overwhelm skyrocket. Anything can be a job, your own business but also aging parents, a disable sibling, health problems, anything.
Being a mom is hard. Because it’s not just about you, because you care, because you want the best for someone else and you can’t always give it to them nor guarantee that they will get “the best”.
But sometimes being a mom is hard because we make it hard. We lack compassion for ourselves. We set up standards and expectations that we cannot meet – either because we are unprepared or they don’t depend exclusively on us or they are simply unrealistic.
Keeping the house “nice” is a good example. We often don’t have a “process” to ensure it stays orderly and clean (the process usually is: mommy will do it later). Others are making most of the mess so it’s not always easy to keep up. And having children, a full time-job (no help) and expecting a spotless “interior design” magazine house is kind of…unrealistic.
And so we go: I am so useless, I can’t even keep my house in order! Instead of seeing that: “I don’t have a specific sequence or process to make sure things are in order”,“the kids have been particularly playful today – and it shows – good for them”, “ I have had a busier week so the laundry has piled up” or “I might need to hire someone to help me maintain my standards”.
So on those particularly hard days, instead of beating ourselves up, let’s be kind and gentle, let’s find words of encouragement, let’s be our own best friend.
Photo courtesy of FrameAngel, freedigitalphotos.co
Article written for Working Moms Against Guilt Magazine:
I recently attended the first Wisdom2.0 Parenting & Youth event in San Francisco.
Being in a room full of people believing that mindfulness could help develop and enhance the skills required to raise or work with children provided great learning.
They had a fantastic guest: Will Kabat-Zinn, a mindfulness teacher and father who with his wife also works with parents of autistic children.
He said something that struck me: “we are not trying to be super-human, just human.”
My first thought was: “Are you kidding me?!? Who is trying to just be human? Not me, not most of the people I know, nobody in the media…”
Between the airbrushed images in the magazines, the looking-great-in your pjs actresses & models, the few super-hero like top women execs, the I run 5 businesses at the same time with no effort, and the perfect teeth syndrome that makes people wear these funny liners that sometimes come-off while they speak. We are surrounded by super-human aspirations.
My version of super-human was not Mother Theresa-like (who amplified positive human attributes) but more Wonder Woman-like (who doesn’t live by human physical and mental limitations, who is bullet-proof, can fly, etc.).
A few years back I realized how futile my attempts at being a super-woman were. I never tried to dodge bullets nor jump from the roof and fly (even thought flying would have been a practical super-power to have…). But I did try to be mentally & emotionally indestructible, I tried to split myself into too many pieces, I tried to keep going without attending to my basic needs (sleep, nourishment, exercising, etc).
Eventually I was so immersed in my super-woman persona that I actually had to learn what it meant to be “only” human.
For those of you who are way over there on the super-human side, human looks like this:
- you can’t do it all (at once),
- some things you can’t do at all (remove someone else pain, or fly),
- you are not perfect (perfect is an evolving concept, so you can never be “it”)
- you can’t plan and control everything (life happens with or without your consent)
- you have to speak to your partner/friend (they are also just humans pretending to be “supers”, so they can’t really read your mind),
- your body HAS needs and limitations – even if you ignore them, they are still there (and they will show up eventually, usually in unpleasant & painful way)
- happiness is good but CAN’T last forever (that’s a fact, I know it sucks…)
- pain is, how can I put it?… painful! and that’s OK, you will survive.
I am still learning to be just human. It is an experience to say the least, one that brings bigger pains AND bigger joys. It takes lot of practice to acknowledge and accept them (vs ignoring or wanting to fix them)
But through practice, I started noticing a deeper change, a kind of freedom. The freedom I am talking about is the one that allows you not to explode (or implode depending on you temperament) every time something upsets you, it allows you to feel deep grief and bounce back the next moment, it allows you to say “enough” or “more” when it feels right to YOU. It allows you to be happy not to the point of bursting but to the point of feeling full while knowing you can take more.
It transforms the way you experience life.
Most people at the event agreed that they too where trying to be super-human. For some it was called trying to be “perfect”…
This article was reposted on the Huffington Post:
photo from Pinterest
Being tired is almost normal – it’s the best friend of being busy… It’s rare to spend a week without hearing someone complain about fatigue.
But there is more to it than a casual conversation starter. A 2012 US government study found that two-thirds of the adult population has a habit of sleep deprivation. So we are not talking about: “ I didn’t sleep enough last night”, but more about “I usually do not sleep well/enough, ever…”.
According to a study by the US government, sufficient sleep is between 7-9 hours. Before you start saying how you only sleep 5 hours and do very well, let me point out that by now there are thousands of research results demonstrating that less than 7 hours sleep per night will eventually have consequences for your health.
Besides the obvious feeling of being groggy and grumpy during the day, there are serious consequences for not getting enough quality sleep: depression and anxiety, problems with memory and concentrating, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, stroke, and more…
But there is another consequence, probably the most life threatening of all. One that hasn’t yet been researched or at least I haven’t seen any study on it…
The habit of sleep deprivation slowly leads to exhaustion, both physical and mental.
Exhaustion slowly robs you of the most important element in your life – You! The real You!
You are still alive, probably suffering daily from one or more of the ailments listed above. It may look like you, but after a while it is not really you, only a shadow of who you really are deep inside.
This is something very hard to explain, but if you have been exhausted for a long time – I am talking months and years on end – you “feel” what I am saying.
You have been asking yourself “what the h**** has happened to me?” “who is this woman using my body?”
You used to be cheerful and funny, daring and adventurous, creative and productive, ambitious and motivated, caring and expansive, relaxed and easy going.
Now you are serious and restrained. You’d rather stay home than try out that new place that just opened. You still have your pencils and colors but they are tucked on a shelf somewhere (for when you’ll have time again). You plan and choose your activities based on how much energy you’ll need to spend not based on the amount of fun they will provide. You are short tempered and impatient. You curse at slow traffic and the old ladies in their cars.
You snap at your little angel because she has, once again, spilled her juice all over the floor (it will be a sticky mess if you don’t clean it up right away) and baby boy is yelling at the top of his lungs because he dropped his rattle…
Slowly but surely you have started to dissolve and transform into another you. And of course not the best you – the least fun, the least creative, the least enthusiastic, the least patient. The least you.
You are now a sand dune. No matter how high it is, if the wind is constant and lasts long enough, the dune will shrink until all that is left from the mountain that stood there before is a little mound of sand.
That’s the real cost of exhaustion… Eventually all that is left of you – not the person you used to be but the one you still are inside, is a majestic mountain looking like a mound of sand… All on account of not sleeping enough, not taking breaks, not investing time in activities that help you refuel your energy and motivation.
Once you realize that, taking care of yourself doesn’t seem like such a waste of time anymore, does it?
This article was reposted on Business Heroine Magazine:
Very often people consider any word starting with “self-” as describing a selfish behavior and therefore automatically negative.
The problem is that looking after yourself, requires that you focus on YOU, on what is right for you, on what you need. And no one else can know what that is – only yourself.
When I tell people that I help busy professionals avoid burn out and create strategies to make sure they never have to worry about it again, the usual reaction is : “of course, people do too much, life is really crazy, etc”.
And for a long time I thought the same thing, and maybe you believe that too.
Great Infographic about the benefit of power napping.
I must say that having a nap room was one of my dreams in my previous office. I did mention it but we were already quite space constrained….
This is what I call optimum self-care in action. And the numbers are quite impressive.
Have you ever tried?
Stress and modern life
Modern life is very intense, demanding and often challenging. That is especially true if you live in a big city, which brings along unhealthy levels of pollution, busyness and overstimulation. It is almost impossible not to be carried away by the whirlpools of stress that never stop appearing.
How can you live the fast paced urban life without being carried away by its crazy rhythm? How to restore yourself, bring peace to your mind and find a way to break free from external pressures?