This week’s Body Love Tip is for those of you who may be struggling to keep your energy high over the holiday season:
Shift your self-care to the “urgent and important” priority list!
What do I mean by “urgent” and “important”?
You may or may not have heard of Stephen Covey’s Time Management Matrix – it’s a useful tool for time management in business, but also for life in general – and especially for our health, which is why I’m sharing it with you during this particularly “time-crunched” time of year.
I’ve illustrated this matrix for you in my video this week, but here is a brief description of the four quadrants, with examples that you may be dealing with during the holiday season:
Urgent and Important
These are tasks that are important to your personal goals, and they are urgent because there will be consequences if not done now (e.g. getting work completed before your holidays.)
Not Urgent and Important
These are tasks that are important to your personal goals, but there are no consequences for not completing them right away (e.g. a meaningful side-project that you want to complete.) This is where most people would put their self-care.
Urgent and Not Important
These are the tasks that typically consume a lot of our time, especially this time of year: they aren’t necessarily important to our personal goals, but we treat them as urgent because of the holiday season (e.g. Christmas parties, baking, shopping, etc.) They take up a lot of our time and energy, leaving little, if any, left for our self-care.
Not Urgent and Not Important
These aren’t even “tasks” as they typically don’t end up on “to-do” lists. They aren’t important to our goals, nor are there any consequences if we don’t spend any time on them. They are typically activities that we do out of exhaustion, for relief or for an “escape” (e.g. playing video games, watching TV, scrolling social media for hours, etc.) I would say that spending time on these activities is a result of spending too much time on the activities that fall into the above urgent/not important quadrant.
(On a personal note, my weekly Body Love Tips fall into my “Not Urgent and Important” category, so, although they’re an extremely important part of connecting with my community, I had to put them on hold for the past couple of weeks…this happens from time to time, but never for very long!)
Where are you spending most of your time during the holiday season?
For some people, “seasonal tasks” like shopping, baking and Christmas parties may bring joy, and therefore could be considered important. But unfortunately for many others, they would not all fall into the important category because they’re being done out of obligation. And trying to do everything – especially the urgent/not important activities – can lead to the “side-effects” of the holiday season such as moodiness, exhaustion, weight gain, or even worse, depression (Seasonal Affective Disorder, aka SAD, is very common around the holiday season). I believe that we can avoid most of these side-effects by taking some time to really evaluate and prioritize our activities this time of year.
This year, I put my theory to the test, and the results have been amazing.
I’ve had more energy this holiday season than in any previous years, despite the fact that it’s also been my busiest one yet because I’ve been working on completing and editing my upcoming book so that it’s ready for launch in the new year. In fact, I’ve only just begun to prepare for Christmas and have been enjoying every moment. Here’s why: I put my self-care in the urgent and important quadrant.
Why self-care needs to be urgent and important
Where most people put self-care is in the important and not urgent quadrant. And although it may seem like there are no immediate consequences for skipping workouts, or staying up late, or overindulging in alcohol and unsupportive foods, there are indeed consequences to all of these.
Sleep, good nutrition, and exercise (movement) are all vital to our health and vitality – physically, mentally and emotionally. When we don’t have our health, we can’t do anything else.
So self-care needs to move into the urgent and important quadrant. And now, not on January 1st – by that time, we’re usually trying to recover our health. When we’re in recovery mode, it’s the worst possible time to take on new, giant health goals like most people do. Probably why only 8% of people are actually successful at achieving their New Year’s Resolutions. If you want a better chance at taking your health to new heights next year, start now by prioritizing your self-care this holiday season.
How to make time for self-care this holiday season
We aren’t given more hours to work with just because it’s a busier time of year. And as I’ve just demonstrated, it’s not in our best interests to try and do everything that’s thrown at us.
For the sake of our health, we can’t accept every invite, we can’t say yes to every request, and we can’t put our self-care on hold until the new year. So how do we choose where we spend our time so that we can still make self-care a priority?
Using my personal example, here’s how I recommend you do this:
1) Identify your most important values
And say ‘yes’ only to the activities that honor them! For example, if you value friendship and social time, you would absolutely want to get the most of every Christmas party you’re invited to; however, if creativity tops your list, you may choose to say ‘no’ to the parties in favor of spending time at the craft table or in the kitchen with your favorite cookie recipes. Living in alignment with your values boosts, rather than depletes, your energy.
In my case, I value personal growth and family time, so this year my time has been divided primarily between my book and my family. I even skipped a social Christmas party so I’d be rested the next day for a day full of writing, followed by hosting a family dinner.
2) Identify your top 3 self-care “non-negotiables”
These are the supportive habits that make you feel fantastic when you do them, and when you abandon them, you feel crappy – so make sure that you’re leaving enough time for and/or that you’re remembering to do them, even when you’re busy. Though it may be tough to stick to your “ideal” health regimen (I’m not suggesting you be so rigid that it steals the joy from your holidays!), you can still enjoy the indulgences of the holiday season by establishing and sticking to a few of your own non-negotiable habits.
For example, if you’re not functional with less than 7-8 hours of sleep, you may want to avoid situations that would have you staying up too late without being able to sleep in. Maybe you also feel much less energetic when you skip a specific nutritional supplement or supportive food. In this case, you will want to do everything possible to ensure you’re remembering to take it every day – like putting it somewhere you can’t miss it.
Everyone’s top 3 will be different. In my case, if I don’t do yoga on a regular basis, I become stiff, cranky, and lethargic – but even if I get as little as 15-20 minutes of yoga in my living room every day, it’s almost the equivalent of a brisk walk or run or a whole pot of coffee for the energy it gives me. This holiday season, it’s become a non-negotiable daily self-care activity – along with my quality sleep and nutritional supplements.
3) Ask for – and offer – help to maximize your strengths and those of others
This is also the time of year when community comes together even more than usual, and it’s a great time to be connecting with circles of friends and family members to help each other out. We don’t have to do anything alone, or figure everything out by ourselves – and in fact, it’s so much more fun when we can do things together and keep a beautiful balance of giving and receiving, and not just in the form of gifts. We can ask for help, and offer to help out, using our strengths and those of others as the gifts that we give and receive.
For example, if you hate shopping but love to bake, consider a doing an exchange of services with a friend (or even your partner) who has the opposite passions and strengths. When we’re doing the things that use our strengths, and we’re helping others in the process, this can give us an amazing surge of energy. And if you need to fill a “gap” (i.e. where you aren’t so strong or passionate), seek the support of friends and family members who can benefit from giving with their own strength. You also don’t always need to do a direct exchange – using a pay-it-forward mentality will ensure that you’re keeping a balanced universal flow of giving and receiving.
In my case – and it may be a weird one – one of my strengths is driving, especially when the weather isn’t great, so I’m happy to help out friends and family who don’t like to or can’t drive when the roads are slippery and snowy. I’m a great errand-runner and chauffeur in inclement weather, and I offer help whenever I can with this. Christmas baking, on the other hand, is best handled by my kitchen-loving family members (and I will gladly make a run to the grocery store for healthy ingredients!)
P.S. Perhaps this tip is coming a little late in the season, as we’ve only 5 days left until Christmas – but it’s important to keep in mind all throughout the year too! I’ve been busy keeping my self-care a priority, so my article took a bit of time to finally materialize 🙂
May this tip serve you well for the rest of 2016 and well into the New Year and beyond.
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Have a Be-YOU-tiful Holiday Season!