To Survive the Holiday Chaos
In the old calendar, Samhain (now Halloween) marked the end of the year. A time when this world and the next were pressed closely together, a time of spirits and predictions when energy and intentions and magic held a special sort of power.
Samhain may be over, but setting your intentions for the months to come can still have a powerful impact. Providing focus and intention to a time when, quite frankly, most of us are just trying to get through the day.
As the Holiday Season approaches it brings with it tidings of joy and goodwill, along with long hours, overtime, errands, rushing around, online shopping, screaming kids, and the overhanging feeling of guilt that we’re somehow not making the most of the season. The stress of the holidays has a way of wearing you down and making it feel like even accomplishing the most basic of tasks is an uphill battle. It doesn’t have to.
Setting Your Intentions can Save Your Sanity
First, let’s rewind a little bit. By this time of year, most of us have long since abandoned whatever goals or resolutions we might have made those long nine months ago. Our schedules, our diets, our best-made plans, they all go out the window once the holidays tick around. But why? Just because you didn’t get it absolutely spot on right off the bat? Making a few deliberate choices and taking decisive action can help you to keep your sanity and actually make the most out of the holiday season.
So what does it actually mean to ‘set your intentions’?
Setting your intentions is about focusing your life, your time, and your energy towards accomplishing your goals. It’s an active process, not a set and forget, that you have to do every day. But starting off on the right foot can help make this process easier.
I am going to walk you through three simple steps to help set your intentions for the fall and make the most out of the looming chaos…
Find Four Hours to set your Intentions
If you’ve ever cracked open a self-help or productivity book, they usually start with the suggestion of ‘taking a day’ to start the process… a day? You’ve got an entire spare DAY lying around that you’re not using? The last time I had an entire day to myself it was because I had Norovirus and no one wanted to be within ten feet of me (google it, or don’t, because ‘ew’). Having a whole day to yourself to get things done is a luxury that, if I had it, I wouldn’t be so behind on everything else in the first place!
So let’s get real here. Four Hours. That is really all it really takes, and that’s all most of us can manage at one time anyway.
Block off one entire morning after dropping off the kids at school, try and slip out a few hours early from work, grab a triple espresso or energy drink and try to power through in the evening. Drop the kids at grandmas if you can, or suggest a swap day with a friend, ‘you take them Saturday, I’ll take them Sunday’ kind of deal. Find an afternoon between Job #2 and Responsibility #17 where you can stretch that time and just block it off. But find the time, and build a barbed wire fence around it. It is yours, and it is all you’ll need for this.
Clean and Purge for your Mental Health
Deep cleaning your entire house and going through all of your clutter is a daunting multi-day task and not really a realistic goal here. But that is not what we are doing here. The process I am going to outline is not about organizing, it’s not about tidying. This is a power move to plow through the chaos and restore some measure of sanity. I will go more into detail at a later date, but for now, just know that it is the process that is important.
Odds are, if there is chaos in your life then there is chaos in your house, your car, your office… you’re getting the picture here. So start by finding two areas. Just two places that are piling up with stuff that you really want to deal with and just don’t have time.
For me? It was my car and my desk. Somehow, someway my car always ends up full of other people’s junk. And my desk runneth over with unopened bills, packaging, receipts, and other miscellaneous junk I don’t really need. Grab a garbage bag and an empty bucket or bin, plug in your headsets or put on some high tempo tunes, and get ready to attack.
Once you’ve got your bag, your bin, and your songs going, you’re ready. Pick something up, anything at all, and ask just two questions;
Is this garbage?
Yes. Good, then throw it away.
No. … are you sure? Do you actually need that old Walmart receipt? Or the pen that’s running out of ink? The Tupperware lid with no container? If you are really sure you need it, then you can move onto question two.
Does this object ‘live’ within five feet me?
Yes. Okay, great. Put it there. Yes, even if it’s already cluttered. And don’t get distracted attacking that new area! Stay focused and turn back to what you’re working on.
No. Dump it in the Bucket. You can deal with it later. Now is not the time to be going on side quests. Put. It. In. The. Bucket.
With the music jamming and no distractions, it should take no more than one hour per area (unless you bit off more than you could chew – aka, trying to tackle the entire garage). This process frees up the need for side trips, keeps you focused on the task at hand. The end result is a more manageable area in a relatively short amount of time and a bin of stuff that can be sorted through at a later date.
Be Kind to Yourself
You’ve just spent the last two hours jamming and getting *^it done. You deserve a break. And I’m not just saying this. It’s important.
So Take. A Break.
You just got something done. You set a task, you tackled it head-on, and now it’s done. You probably already feel good for accomplishing that, but reinforcing that feeling with a little love and some self-care creates a positive feedback loop that will encourage you in the future. Been waiting to catch up on an episode of Stumptown? Hit play (but just the one!). Feeling kind of hungry? Grab a bite, something that will really hit the spot. Want to close your eyes for five minutes? Put on some nice tunes, lay back, set a 20-minute timer, and grab a well-deserved nap. Been feeling kinda ragged? Buff up your nails and put on a fresh coat of polish.
Or, best of all, go for the combo. Pop on Stumptown, grab yourself a bag of chips, or maybe a little fruit and cheese to feel fancy, both followed with a few squares of stolen Halloween candy, and try not to get chip crumbs in your nail polish before it sets. Settle down, take an hour (or one episode of your favorite TV show) and be kind to yourself.
Take a Monkey Off your Desk
The holidays have a way of collecting a myriad of tasks and errands and little odd jobs that, quite frankly, we say yes to without considering whether or not we actually have the time or energy to get them done. Did you say yes to helping out with that school function? Did you agree to host dinner for one of the many family events coming up over the next few weeks? Did you promise to babysit for a friend, or stay late at work, or do any one of a hundred other things that are really just NOT your problem?
It’s all right. We all do it and I am not saying you should abandon your responsibilities to your friends or family. But each one of these things, these responsibilities, these little favors, is a monkey being piled onto your desk. A screaming, belligerent, poo throwing monkey. And your desk can only handle so many monkeys before it overflows and then, well, zookeepers have horror stories…
So take stock of your monkeys. Figure out which ones are yours, which ones are others, which ones only you can do, and which ones can be handled by anyone. Then, hand out the monkeys. No time for the four-hour-long school event? Offer to pick something up or help out in some other way. Agreed to babysit but seriously behind, ask for a swap, or to return the favor. Hosting dinner? Well, it’s pot luck now. Said you’d stay late at work? Take the morning off or a long lunch to run errands.
And if you agreed to do something that you just straight up do NOT have time for? There is nothing wrong with admitting that you are overwhelmed and overextended. Take a deep breath, kick the monkey off your desk, and keep going.
Focus Your Intentions on What is Important
You’ve set aside the time, you’ve attacked the chaos in your physical space, you’ve taken the time to be kind to yourself and you’ve taken the monkeys off your desk. Or at least, most of the monkeys. Now take the last few moments of your secluded section of sanity to focus.
Setting your intentions is hard, for a couple of reasons.
Knowing what you want is more complicated than you might expect. Knowing you want out of life, well, that’s a whole other series. But knowing what you want in the next three months? That’s usually a little more manageable
Setting your intentions requires being honest with yourself about what you truly want out of the coming months. For those who practice self-honesty regularly, this is a habit. But for others, it can be more difficult. We often have the potential to confuse what we need or want with what everyone else believes we should need or want. Being honest with yourself is hard, but if you can manage it, self-honesty provides a level of focus that helps keep your sanity.
- Do you want to ace your classes at school?
- Do you want to reconnect with friends or family?
- Do you want to step up your game at work and try for that big promotion?
- Do you want to be more proactive in addressing your own health?
- Do you want to make more memories with the kids?
All of these, and many more, are perfectly valid goals worthy of support. As long as you are honest with yourself, recognizing your priorities and your goals is an important step. But no one else can do them for you, or even help, unless you take those first steps yourself.
Once you know which intentions (and yes, you can have two, but more than that is not recommended) to focus on, you need to make it a part of your routine. Remember, this is an active process, not a set and forget. I will go more into ‘focus lists’ in the spring, but for now we’re going to do a rough outline.
Each week, create a list of up to five things to focus on that line up with your chosen intentions. Put it somewhere that you will see it every day, multiple times a day. In your planner, car visor, as the screen on your phone. Note: this is not a To-Do list, it is purely to help keep you on track and remind you of the things which you have already determined to be important. I’ll give you one of my focus lists from a few weeks ago as an example;
- Conquer Genetics Mid-term
- Establish SEO connections
- Make healthy food choices
- Nephew – Aunty Time
I kept my list limited to four that week, as the first two were big-ticket items that took up a lot of my time and energy. The second two were more ‘back of the mind’ considerations that I tried to take into account when I could. I didn’t manage to finish everything I needed on the SEO, but I did make a good start. I avoided the drive-thru but wasn’t perfect with my food choices. I got to spend Tuesday night with my two adorable nephews, even if one of them did puke on me. And, best of all, I managed to get an A on my midterm.
This process, like the one we used in step two, takes time but, when practiced regularly, helps to provide a clear intention and keep your mind and energy focused on what matters most.
Setting your intentions is, funnily enough, an intentional process. But it’s one that can keep your head clear and your life resembling some semblance of sanity in the months to come. More importantly, it gives you the freedom to focus on the things that really matter to you.
You’ve set aside the time, you’ve owned your physical space, you were kind to yourself, you eliminated unnecessary burdens, and you have focused on what matters. All that’s left is to follow through.
Take the time, make the choices, and focus on what you want out of each and every day, week after week. You’ve got this.
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