Certain times of year are just busier than others. The holidays, for example. And also, spring. You can feel the unspoken urge to get as much planned and executed as possible before summer comes and slows down the pace. If you’ve got kids, there are seemingly endless end-of-year functions (I’ve already attended two this week, and it’s only Wednesday morning as I write this) and camp schedules to figure out. And if you are a gardener of any sort (I’m a novice but eager planter of things), spring is definitely go-time on the chores front—mulch, anyone?
I know how tempting it is to think that when you’re busy, you don’t have time to do things that help you stay sane. Anything self-care related can feel frivolous when your daily agenda is jam-packed. The irony here is that the busier you are; the more important downtime becomes. (I wrote more about this here.)
Because if you just give in to the “I’m so busy I don’t have time to do anything that’s not vitally important” story that’s playing in your head, you’re making this intense season harder than it has to be. I mean, maybe you enjoy the pressure of feeling like there’s not a moment to spare for anything that’s not “productive”. Maybe it helps you actually get more done, and that feels really good. Own it then, and good on you for finding a strategy that works for you.
If, however, you are starting to feel that you’re a little more frazzled and reactive than you’d generally like to be, here are 9 simple but mighty ways to build a little more care and space in to the go-go-go-ness of spring. May they help you enjoy—and not just endure—the busy season:
- Let downtime be downtime. There are going to be scheduling snafus—the client cancels, your hair stylist is running way behind, what you thought was going to be an hour between appointments (enough time to get something done) turns out to be 15 minutes. These are not disasters, or even unfortunate events. They are gifts. They are the Universe saying, “Take a chill pill, on me.” Let yourself do something that feels good in that moment. The other day, I arrived early at my son’s school for his play that started at 4:45. Except it didn’t start until 5—meaning I had 20 minutes on my hands that I hadn’t anticipated. My ego kicked in and tried to tell me I should have stayed on my computer at home for longer, that this was now wasted time. But I chose to walk 5 minutes to the nearest park, take my shoes off, and sit my butt on the grass while soaking up some sun. I showed up to the play in a way better place, mentally, than if I’d been irritated that I had somehow lost precious time.
- Delegate. No one does this enough. But you cannot do everything on your list and be a happy person. Find at least one thing each week that you can ask someone else to do. Or rather, allow someone else to do. I know, they may not do it exactly like you would, and that’s OK. You get a little more space in your schedule. And the person you delegate to benefits as well—they get to feel like they’re helping out, which is a mighty fine feeling.
- Change the station. This time of year I only listen to classical or country in the car—they soothe my soul in a way that flipping between top 40 radio stations absolutely does not. Or, don’t turn the radio on at all—let your time in the car be your quiet time.
- Beditate. This is my practice for busy times—it’s excuse-proof: As soon as you wake up (OK, you may have to get up and pee first), sit up on your pillow in bed. Count your exhales, starting again when you get to 10, for 5 rounds. Boom, done. It’s not the world’s most perfect meditation practice, but if you never do the perfect meditation practice because you don’t know how or you’re stressed or your too busy, it won’t help you much, will it? Done is better than perfect. (Plus, you may decide to stick with it longer, in which case, boo-ya!)
- Get outside. Get outside as much as you can. Read outside. Walk outside. Eat outside. Let the kids do their homework outside. After the winter, we’re starved for fresh air and vitamin D. Drink it in. (And if you have problems with allergies, definitely take your shoes off at the door, change into inside clothes as soon as you can and even run a wet brush through your hair to get any pollen that might be clinging to it off.)
- Put relaxation in your path. At this moment I’ve got a jigsaw puzzle covering half of our dining table and a tennis ball near my desk. Puzzles help my brain waves settle down, and the tennis ball is a great foot massager. Get out your things that help you relax and put them where you will see them, and you will be way more likely to actually use them.
- Check your ego. Your inner taskmaster is going to tell you that you have to buckle down and work harder to get all the things on your list done. It is going to try to tell you that you are crazy to even think about lying in the hammock for 15 minutes before you get dinner started. Remember, your ego is just trying to feel powerful. You don’t have to take its bait. Tell yourself in those moment, “This is just my ego trying to pull a fast one on me.” It gives you enough perspective to choose what you truly want to do instead of following some mean old voice’s marching orders unthinkingly.
- Do things that feel good that don’t take a lot of time. It doesn’t take long to write a check to your favorite charity, or to slow down and let a pedestrian cross the street, or to walk over to the customer service desk at the grocery store and tell them how friendly your cashier was. The more you do things that give you a surge of positive emotions, the higher your overall feeling state is going to be. Meaning, the less agitated and likely to over-react you’ll be, which will make everything flow more smoothly.
- Keep track. What you focus on grows, and so, what you track improves. It’s the FitBit phenomenon—just knowing that your every step is being recorded inspires you to take more steps. To that end, start making a note of each thing you do that helps you feel calmer—that could be just something you make a note of in your calendar or notebook, or you can download a pretty, handdrawn Calm Tracker here that you can hang up on your wall. Seeing those peace-promoting activities accumulate will help assure you that you are actually taking good care of yourself and will motivate you to keep going.