The need for balance in your teaching responsibilities, personal life, and other family events in the holiday season is coming up fast! Since time “in” school (actually at the workplace) is obligatory, what we’re really talking about is how we deal with all of the rest of the time “outside” of school.
Over the next couple of months, you’ll be immersed in the “extra” things that make this time of year both memorable and…well…horribly stressful. Between family, kids, kids’ events, and significant others’ events, we often overextend ourselves in order to avoid confrontation or hurting anyone’s feelings.
I won’t pretend I have a magic method to deal with all of this, but I do have to confess: I enjoy myself during the holidays. In fact, I MAKE SURE I do because then I can come back to my students renewed, refreshed, and ready-to-go.
What’s the secret to balancing all of these aspects of your life?
Knowing that it’s not a balance.
Things aren’t even. Everything isn’t equally weighed. For example, I made my personal fun and my family’s fun the priority. We tipped the scales, and I made sure that things that restored me, personally, took the ultimate priority.
We struggle with that concept, though, putting ourselves first, particularly over the holidays. But I’m sure you’ve noticed how rejuvenating even one afternoon or one evening for yourself can be. And when YOU are feeling restored and relaxed, you can more meaningfully deal with others.
One strategy that can help you out is to use a version of Covey’s Matrix as a decision-making tool. Our focus, here, is for you to be able to prioritize yourself. Instead of Urgent and Important, we’ll think in terms of Personally Restorative things that bring us back to well-being) and Fulfilling (things that make us feel happy and satisfied).
What this matrix helps us do is deal with things that are in more of a “grey” area.
For example, if someone you love is in the hospital, you’ll obviously prioritize that situation. Though that situation is stressful, it’s a different kind of stress. One that is more concrete. The stress of other situations, those “iffy” events, are the ones that can really drain us.
Another strategy is practice effectively saying “No.” You’re going to have to practice saying this, probably, in front of the mirror. You’re going to practice saying, “No, I can’t [do whatever] because [I’ve set that time aside to__].” Give it go, right now!
What you’re NOT going to say is:
“I’d love to, but….”
“I’m sorry, I can’t….”
You’ll want to take those apologetic cushions out of your “no-ing.” Not because you aren’t sorry you can’t do whatever (maybe you are, probably, you’re not), but what that apology does is create a gap that a manipulative person can use to get you to change your mind.
Plus, know that you do NOT have to do everything that is asked of you. It is okay to say, “No.” It is okay to say, “Not now, but (next week, tomorrow, etc.)…”
I know it might feel counter-intuitive; it might feel too selfish. And you can continue to exhaust yourself year after year, trying to be all things Martha Stewart and Gandhi to all people. But at the end of the day, if you do not feel happy and at peace, then what is the quality of what have given them?
Consider how much more effectively you might be able to do for others, if you put yourself, first.
Let the holidays begin!