I am not one who appreciates being busy; it stresses me out in a hurry. I thrive when I can focus all of my energy on a single goal, rather than having my hands in multiple different baskets at once.
I am a huge believer in down time and white space because of the clarity they bring to my life, but there are hectic seasons when busyness is inevitable.
Right now I am feeling the burn of a bustling schedule that has my family constantly running from one thing to the next. Our afternoon and weekend calendar is stuffed full of rehearsals, concerts, recitals, plays, and performances of all varieties. There are upcoming school celebrations that require costumes (and volunteers), awards ceremonies, dances, and a six-day trip for one child, which happens to fall during the inherently crazy last week of school.
AP tests and finals are also looming in the coming weeks, causing a huge amount of stress for my older kids, which creates a ripple effect, if you know what I mean. We call it The End of the School Year Rush, a yearly occurrence with five kids at home, but sometimes it feels more like torture for one like me who craves stillness and unstructured time. Just get me to summer already!
While being overly busy may not be my first choice, I have found through a little trial and a lot of error that there are ways to make successful navigation through such turbulent waters a bit more manageable.
These four strategies are a good place to start:
When I read Greg McKeown’s book, Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less (a must read, by the way), a light bulb went on in my head when I came across this concept:
“If you don’t prioritize your life, someone else will.”
There will never be a shortage of competing opportunities. Each of us could easily fill our schedules with good things that help others in a variety of ways. I am all for serving and lifting those in need. However, not all good opportunities are created equal across all stages of life.
If we do not define the things that are most important to us (and worthy of top priority status) in our current situation, it is easy to allow other less meaningful things to crowd out the essentials, leaving us feeling overwhelmed and frustrated. During excessively busy seasons, prioritizing is even more important because disposable time is sparse and precious.
It would be wise to take a few moments to decide what is most vital for you to accomplish right now (because it might be different next week or next month) and put those things first. No matter what.
2. Say no to unnecessary commitments.
Once you have set your priorities, don’t be afraid to turn down invitations that may take your focus from where you need it to be. The world will not end if you are not able to bring cookies to a school function, volunteer at the food bank, or attend a party with your friends. If you are stressed and overwhelmed, you may need to concentrate on other areas first.
Remember that there are seasons for everything, and you need never run faster than you have strength. Sometimes that might require you to let others down, at least temporarily, because, once again, there will always be too many good things to fit into a limited schedule. That can be incredibly difficult, but saying no will likely preserve your sanity. There need not be any guilt in that.
3. Get plenty of sleep.
When things get busy, sleep is often the first sacrifice. While getting adequate sleep is vital all the time because it plays a significant role in keeping us healthy, it is especially crucial when life is hectic and demanding.
I don’t know about you, but I do not deal well with stress when I am tired. Things tend to fall apart only because I feel like a ticking time bomb that might explode at the smallest provocation. Enough sleep is like magic for my mood, my patience, and my ability to manage under pressure.
When talking about priorities, sleep is one that should always make the cut.
4. Plan time to refuel.
Just like a car will not get very far on an empty tank of gas, our bodies are not designed to run on empty. We must take the time to refuel.
I have found that when I do not take time for myself, I start to feel not only frazzled but also resentful. That is not a good combination; I assure you. If I set aside a little time to do something that energizes me, however, I am better able to deal with the challenges and frustrations that arise.
It does not have to be a large chunk of time to be effective, and it need not cost any money. An hour alone often does the trick for me, as I have learned that my stomach feels like it is tied in a thousand knots when I do not have any time to myself.
Perhaps you need time with people to be at your best and a lunch date with a friend makes you feel like you can tackle the world. Maybe taking a walk, going to the library, or watching a baseball game fills your bucket.
Whatever it is, make it a priority and do it. I can almost guarantee that it will feel like a breath of fresh air and give you more energy to face the other commitments that loom overhead.
While busy seasons can sometimes be stressful, mindfully prioritizing, saying no when needful and taking adequate time to rest and refuel can lessen the overwhelm and make them feel doable. When clearing your schedule is not a viable option, you may find it helpful to give them a try.
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