10 ways to preserve time and energy when you need it most

I don’t need to tell you what a year it’s been. And I can’t think of a year in recent history that we have been in greater need of the magic, wonder and peace many of us find at this time of year.

And yet … typically packed with things to do and sometimes fraught with complicated expectations and emotions, the holiday season is a challenging one even in ordinary years.

This year? Given the stress of 2020, many of us will become quickly overwhelmed if we don’t press the pause button on occasion. Give yourself the gift of self-care. Here’s how:

Pace yourself.  Cramming all your cooking, buying, planning and everything else into one or two days is a recipe for burnout. This time is supposed to be restorative, and this is a season, not just a day. Plan so you can maintain your time and energy over the season — including a recovery period when it’s over.

Make a list of what you have to do, and then prune it.  This is not a bad idea for any time of life, but especially those times that tend to overwhelm us. Go ahead and pour everything from your head onto a to-do list, but then break out the garden shears. Take at least one thing off your list for each week of the season, and let it go. Focus on the things that yield the greatest benefit in the relationships that matter to you, or the greatest amount of joy. If it doesn’t serve one of those aims, try to let it go or put it on hold. (If this is making you think of Marie Kondo and “Tidying up,” you need to see this post and this one on bringing her approach to your mindset.)

Budget your money, not just your time.  It’s easy to overspend at this time and then spin into a spiral of stress and anxiety (and perhaps more spending). Take charge now by planning what you will spend and sticking to it. This has the added benefit of reining in impulse spending. The stress of spending more than you feel good about will just sap your energy.

Put projects on hold.  It’s a tough time to start anything new, so if at all possible, don’t take on any new project assignments right now. This may mean deferring decisions until after the first of the year, or you may need to say “no” outright (here are some ideas to help you learn how). You won’t always be able to decline, but give yourself permission to filter requests for your time until after the first of next year, if at all possible.

Reach out.  Do you have a child or older person in your life to celebrate with? This is a nice way of forging connections and fostering the magic of generativity – something that will fuel your energy, even if it takes some of your time.

Soak up the season.  Spend time on something creative like music, art, food or whatever in this season brings you joy. This can take up time, but if it feeds your soul, it will feed your energy, too, and your ability to contribute to the things that matter to you. So, give yourself permission to make time for these pursuits. They matter.

Give a gift to yourself of time for you.  The holiday season seems to stretch longer each year. At least once each month, you give yourself something: A day off, a book you have really been wanting and the time to read it, a massage, a socially distanced lunch with a friend or family member, or something else that really matters to you. More is better. This is about self-care and reminding yourself that you and your needs matter.

Consider starting a gratitude journal.  Gratitude helps us gain perspective, reframe our worldview and build joy. Make a habit of reflecting on something (or multiple things) you’re grateful for at the end of each day. A gratitude practice can be that simple, but it is also powerful, especially for staying grounded when we are at risk of becoming overwhelmed. If you are not a journaling person, just do a reflective inventory on a regular basis of the things you are grateful for.

Get outside and move.  Getting outside and getting active is great for improving mood, energy and sleep. In addition, you’re likely to run across somebody else and build or reinforce your sense of connectedness – something that has been elusive for many of us this year. It helps to get out of the house and out of our own heads, and even better if we can do something good for our bodies at the same time.

Learn about one new holiday.  Most of us are well aware we don’t all celebrate this time (or any time) in the same way. Why not take awareness to the next level and broaden your sense of this season by learning about what matters to someone else. As Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “man’s mind, stretched to a new idea never goes back to its original dimension.”

Your perspective

What gives you energy to soak up the experiences that matter most to you? How do you manage your time in this season? I hope you’ll share some ideas!

Last updated December 1, 2020

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