By Helen Kornblum
It’s happening again. Before every holiday season I promise myself that I’m going to keep things simple and not work myself into a frenzy over an impossible to-do list that stresses me and everyone around me. I already feel myself losing my balance with the demands of work, special plans for the kids and too many family expectations. How do I stop this?
Wow! Look at the vocabulary you used in that question: frenzy, stress, losing, demands and expectations. Although none of these words suggest a happy holiday, you understand the most important concept, that YOU can stop the impending overwhelm.
Most of us have already turned our lives into a never-ending to-do list, no matter the season. We use scrap paper lists, clever paper templates or electronic apps to besiege ourselves with the busyness of life. We bemoan not having enough time, energy or money to get it all done — a mindset that demoralizes and overwhelms us. Some of us take an odd pride in having so much to do. Our culture makes us feel important if we’re busy and in demand. Or maybe that’s our own interpretation of modern life. The more texts and emails, the better!
All of our frantic activity looks like productivity, but is it bringing us closer to what we truly want? People who seek out coaching often ask for help because they want to change something that has eluded them. What we do shapes who we are or who we will become. A good coach always listens for the client’s underlying agenda. How will changing what she does affect who she is or wants to become?
What we choose to do is also a reflection of our priorities. If you don’t impose your priorities on your to-do list, the list will hijack your life. You have to make choices to exert control. Must you accept every holiday invitation you receive? What’s your family’s favorite activity? How many holiday cards and homemade cookies are you determined to produce and at what emotional cost? What effect does all that shopping have on your annual budget for other family goals? What can you do to resist the consumerism that surrounds you? The answers to these questions are different for every person.
You can have leisure and calm all year long if you’re willing to pause long enough to sort out your priorities, make conscious decisions and manage your expectations.
At its heart, taking this approach is a spiritual exercise, nicely suited to the November through January season.