This semester has been one of the most stressful semesters in my 20 years of teaching, and it’s provided numerous lessons in finding balance, having patience, and remembering to breathe through life’s little struggles. One of the biggest lessons it’s given me is reminding me of the importance of keeping me at the top of my priority list and scheduling time for self-care.
It’s so easy to forget to put ourselves on our priority list, isn’t it? We get caught up in other people’s problems, drama, and life in general, that we sometimes put everything but self-care on our to-do list. But, if you’re anything like me, lack of self-care equals crazy making. While it may seem that “I would get so much more done if I skipped [insert your self-care plan for the day],” the reality is that you wouldn’t. The days that I find myself skipping my morning power hour (of walking, meditating, and journaling) tend to be some of my least productive and most stressful days. Yet, sometimes when I wake up, I think to myself, “I should skip my morning power hour and just dive right in.”
Then I remember to breathe and remind myself that I am no good to anyone if I skip my self-care. You have to keep your cup full – after all, you cannot serve from your own reserves or you will very quickly find yourself depleted, with nothing left to give. This is especially important to remember as we head into the holiday season.
But when you already have too much on your plate, how do you carve out time for you? Here’s what I’ve learned over the years:
- Ask for help – whether it’s a big project at work or Thanksgiving dinner, it’s okay to ask for help. Sometimes people are just waiting for their cue that their help is wanted and needed. For example, a few years ago, I started doing my holiday celebrations potluck style. Yes, that meant I didn’t have control over how the mashed potatoes turned out, but it took a lot of the stress off my plate and my friends enjoyed bringing and sharing their favorite holiday dishes with everyone else.
- Go for the minimalist approach – As a recovering perfectionist, this one can be challenging for me, but a few years ago, I learned a wonderful phrase: “That’ll do.” You know what happens when you make enough for 50 and only 10 show, right? You have leftovers for weeks that eventually go bad and you have to toss half of it out anyway. And you get really sick of turkey – or whatever you made. Here’s a new approach: if you expect 10, cook for 10. Not 50, 20, or even 12. There will still be plenty to go around even if 12 show and you’ll save a few dollars in the process and waste a lot less. And while you’re at, no your decorations don’t need to perfect and no one will really notice if there are a few lumps in your mashed potatoes (and even if they do, who cares?).
- Presentation is not everything – Yes, you can decorate your platter with fresh flowers and add decorative swirls of chocolate on your dessert plate, but here’s the thing: no one cares what it looks like as long as it tastes good. The hours you spent prepping the ‘perfect presentation’ may get appreciate for 5 seconds and then it will be ignored, eaten, or destroyed. Thus, it’s not worth your time. Trust me on this one. Time with loved ones is more important than time away from loved ones to prepare the perfect plate.
- Prioritize – what’s really important to you? If having a Martha-Stewart-worthy table is something you truly enjoy doing and value, then by all means, decorate! But if you’re only decorating because you feel like you ‘should,’ then skip it. If you feel you simply must, but don’t want to go to the trouble of decorating, go low maintenance and buy some premade table decorations or one of those little pre-decorated table trees that are a foot or so tall. But, if you’re like me, you may decide to just skip the decorations in favor of giving yourself a little breathing room.
- Take care of you – every single morning, ask yourself, “What do I need to do for me today?” Then go do it. Right now before you forget or life gets in the way. You are worth this and you will find yourself in a much better mood and more productive when you make time to take care of you. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate thing or take all that long, but you’ve got to fill your cup. Every. Single. Day.
I hope you find time to take care of you and are able to enjoy your holiday season a little more this year. Yes, it only comes once a year, but that doesn’t mean it has to be picture perfect. Always remember: there’s no such thing as perfect, and thankfully, this only comes once a year!