I recently saw a mug at Barnes & Noble emblazoned with “Bah Humbug.” I turned to my friend Erin and said, “I don’t like that; it’s so negative.” Three days later I called Erin, and informed her that I simply had to have that mug.
I get it; the season isn’t about me. As I recently proclaimed (loudly), once you’re a mom, the season is no longer yours. I mean, it’s yours—in the sense that you’re responsible for ensuring that it goes off without a hitch, but doing so doesn’t leave much time for you to have your own merry holiday (or moment, for that matter).
I sometimes find myself pleading with Santa in the wee hours to fill my stocking with something extra special. (Yes, I realize that putting a thatched hut that sits on the azure waters of Tahiti and comes with a butler, a masseuse, and a therapist into a stocking is perhaps asking a bit much.)
From stressing over the list of Who’s Getting What to decorating the house, figuring out what we’ll eat for our major holiday meals, acquiring Secret Santa and teacher gifts and, of course, tweeting and blogging about it all in an effort to share my accomplishments with those who will actually identify with my hard work, I am left, on January 3rd, wondering how the ho-ho-ho of my own holiday got lost (again).
I’ve made a vow, folks. Every month from January to December of 2011, I will put away a bit of money so that next January (2012), I can take a night (or three) away to celebrate getting through another 365 days, relax, reassess, and set my intention for the new year.
But since I have a year before I instill that tradition, here are some strategies I suggest we take on in January to ensure that we’re able to start the new year off on a (mostly) balanced foot.
1. Identify an afternoon (or an entire day if possible) during which you’ll do nothing but quietly contemplate the coming year. What do you want to do, learn, see, read, accomplish? Write it down. Be sure that what you’re choosing is realistic. If you want to hike the Alps, learn Mandarin, see the Eiffel Tower (in person), read War and Peace, and create constant happiness in your home, you may be setting yourself up for a bit of disappointment. At this point in our lives, the “resolutions,” if you will, don’t have to be grandiose. They can be as simple as, “read a book that has nothing to do with parenting,” take a cake decorating class, organize one month’s worth of photos (from the last umpteen years of photos you have in your closet), or clean out your closet.
2. Identify one item to take off of your to-do list in 2011. Were you in charge of a large event in 2010 that wasn’t fun to be in charge of but that you took on because you felt that you should? Or you worried what people might think if you didn’t? Vow not to chair it this next year. Are you the one who curses the universe as you unload the dishwasher ever morning? Ask your spouse if you can trade him for something he’s perhaps tired of doing.
3. Get out your 2011 calendar and write down the word “NOTHING” in one 1-hour slot per week. If possible, do this to one 2-hour slot. Stick to it. Don’t schedule appointments, meetings, laundry or anything else during that time. When that time arrives, ask yourself what YOU want to do during that time and do it. Whether it’s nap, read, knit, stare at the grass, whatever!
4. Practice saying “No.” When you’re asked to do something, take a moment and think about whether or not that activity is a good use of your time. If you need some time to contemplate it, ask for a few hours (or days) to check with your schedule. Saying “No” to things that won’t fill you up spiritually offers the opportunity to say “Yes” to those that will!
5. Be in the present moment. It’s hard to be bogged down by the enormity of your to-do list when you’re living in the present.
6. Be aware of when you say, “I should…” or “I’ve got to…” Nothing terribly self nurturing typically follows those intros, and if you’re saying them a lot it likely means your days are filled with to-dos that you aren’t terribly interested in doing (and that stress you out to think about doing!). If this is the case, refer back to #4.
7. Remember this question: Will it matter in a year? If it won’t, don’t stress over it quite so much. Sometimes, when my to-do list gets so long that I think I feel an anxiety attack coming on, I look at the items on it and think about which ones are most likely to have a long-term effect on my sanity, family, or health. Those are the ones I focus on first and foremost.
8. Speaking of to-do lists, limit yours to 10 items. You simply may not add #11 until one is crossed off. Period. I’ve been doing this for the better part of a year and it works wonders!
9. Take a “no technology” day once a week. For some, Sunday works best, and for others (who enjoy spending Sunday in front of TV with a laptop nearby), Monday or Thursday is a better option. Or change it up each week depending on what that week looks like. On this day, don’t check e-mail, Twitter, or Facebook. Even limit your phone calls as much as possible. Use this time to focus on yourself, your family, the laundry, or whatever else you feel like doing that day.
10. Know what it feels like to be “off balance” so that you can do what you need to do to get back in balance before you’re curled up in a ball in the corner sucking your own thumb! Pay attention to the way your body feels when you’re overwhelmed. How does your chest feel? Your head? Your limbs? Mine feel very heavy and weighed down. If you can feel this imbalance coming on, it makes it easier to head it off before it overtakes you. As you get more and more practice doing this, you’ll be more adept at knowing what you need and when to keep yourself in a more balanced state.
Elizabeth Lyons’ is an author and inspirational humorist. Her most recent book is You Cannot Be Serious: and 32 Other Rules that Sustain a (Mostly) Balanced Mom. Visit her website at www.ElizabethLyons.com