For many of us, there’s a busy season coming up. For parents, that may be the run-up to the summer or the end of the academic year. For professionals, it might be your company’s busiest quarter. Perhaps you are approaching both, or, simply looking to tackle some Spring cleaning! Regardless, we all find ourselves in stressful situations from time to time. And while there isn't always anything we can do to completely avoid stress (because life happens!), taking a moment to slow down and think about how we're feeling — mentally and physically — can help us to keep stress in check and create space for the things that relieve and energize you.
As we celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month, here are a few ways you can do that today…
Break It Down.
So often when we're feeling stressed, it's because we have a long list of to-do's and feel overwhelmed by them. As you schedule your tasks throughout the week, you might find yourself adding things to your calendar that still seem overwhelming. The good news is that, with the right planner, you can break these tasks down into smaller pieces and tackle them one at a time.
Making sure you schedule realistic amounts of work for each day or hour will go a long way toward reducing stress and building resilience. And breaking up large projects over multiple days or weeks can also help make them less daunting.
It’s important to be realistic about how much you can actually accomplish. You may have to get really intentional about what’s most important to you or prioritize what you want to do within a certain time period. When you do that, you’ll be much less likely to put pressure on yourself and feel stressed out by the extra work during a busy season.
Try not to overcommit when it comes to your time and energy. By being too generous with these resources, you take away from your ability to focus on the most important tasks at hand. Learning to say no is an incredibly helpful skill—even if it means saying no during a busy season!
Make Space For Joy.
One of the best ways to cope with stress is by creating space for activities that you love and bring you joy. I know, I know—it sounds like a waste of time. Especially when it's crunch time. But hear me out: It's actually the exact opposite because it gives you the fuel you need to keep going with your other priorities. The key here is that it's not an escape from stress; rather, it's a choice to invest in your health so that you can be more productive in your other roles without burning yourself out. Just make sure not to fill up your schedule with unnecessary commitments either!
There are two specific types of activities that have worked well for me—one being a morning alone at the farmer’s market and another being spending down time with my children. For me, these activities create space for reflection, deep breathes and truly being in the moment. They reset my mental state so that I can be more present, especially during busy seasons.
Yours may look different than mine: Maybe reading or grabbing a coffee with a friend helps reduce your stress levels; maybe running or grabbing a 10 minute daily meditation clears your mind; maybe taking long walks alone does the trick for you. The important thing is finding some sort of activity (or several!) that work for you.
One of the most proven ways to reduce stress and curb overwhelm is by getting outside and going on walks or hikes. Seek out moments to spend time in nature, or simply breathe in some fresh air.
Outdoor activities like walking, running, hiking and swimming will not only give you a relaxation break but will also boost your mood. Time spent in nature is a great way to clear your head and get your creative juices flowing again.
On top of that, studies have shown that being out in the sun helps produce vitamin D which is essential for our health. It also improves bone strength and muscle function; boosts our immune system and helps keep depression at bay. If those aren’t reasons enough, I don’t know what are!
Even when you know what you want to achieve, your day-to-day choices still become more important. This is especially true if you are juggling multiple projects and commitments.
If one of your goals is to make time for yourself during this busy season, it's important to prioritize the things that will fuel and rejuvenate you every day. Besides our relationships with family members and friends, the two things that most clearly support our mental health and well being are eating well and exercising regularly. They may seem obvious, but these two essentials can often feel like a distant memory when busyness sets in.
The key here is being honest with yourself about which activities are most important to do every day — meeting project deadlines or making time for yourself? There is no right answer here, but the more honest you can be with yourself about what you need, the more balanced your life will be during a hectic time.
I used to think meeting industry deadlines and getting ahead on work meant working more. I thought if I pushed hard, I'd get more accomplished. I was wrong, but it wasn't until I began planning intentionally that I discovered how meaningful my days could be, while still accomplishing what matters most to me. By getting clear on those few things and eliminating unhelpful thoughts, I noticed a big difference in my mood, energy levels and productivity.
I got serious about planning a life that reflects my deepest values. If you’re curious about what this could look like for you, and building a schedule that actually supports the life you want, I invite you to join me for one of my upcoming workshop: The Art & Science of Intentional Planning.