Not too long ago I sent out a survey to my email list asking for feedback on what topics people would like to hear more about in the Mental Skills Monthly Tips they receive – as well as what they would like to read about on my blog. I got so many amazing answers! Alas, I can only focus on one at a time and since it’s the time of year when things tend to get busy and overbooked, I thought I would choose a topic related to making sure you’re taking care of yourself over the holidays.
When asked about what topics they would like to see more of, one survey responder stated: “How to stay engaged – my biggest struggle is making the time to do that which keeps me sane and makes me the most happy (physical activity) and I know I am not alone with this.”
Absolutely true – you are definitely not alone. We have all struggled at times to make our health and fitness a priority and have made decisions in the moment that weren’t actually serving our greater goals and values. During times of stress, things like training, workouts, sleep, nutrition, and taking time for yourself are usually the first things to go.
I often work with exercisers and athletes on helping them figure out how to achieve more life balance. When this topic comes up – it usually derives from feeling like there is an area of their life that is getting more attention to the detriment of other areas; there’s an imbalance. Of all the topics I write about, I usually get the most comments and feedback on the life-balance issues. We are all trying to seek out that perfect balance when it feels like there is time to do all of the things that we both want and need to do.
Well… I hate to burst the balance bubble – but there is no such thing as having perfect balance. It’s not something that you can achieve and then once you’ve achieved it, you’re good – no more struggling with balance for the rest of your life – your ducks are in a row and each duck is getting equal amounts of everything. The reality is that sometimes one area of your life needs more attention than another, BUT that doesn’t mean that you have to drop the other areas entirely – and that is often what happens. During these times you get to test what is really important to you. Can you make your fitness a priority when you have multiple engagements pulling at your time? Here are some tips on how to get through the holidays with your sanity and fitness intact:
1. Just Say No
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to be overbooked during the holidays. It’s OK to say no. It’s OK to not try and fit in all four holiday parties you’ve been invited to that all happen to be on the same day. And it’s OK to show up late, leave early, bring something store-bought if it means you get to go to hang out with family or friends and still be able to have some down time at home or get a workout in. You don’t have to do it all. It’s also OK to say “no” to training. (“What!? She’s ridiculous and obviously out of her mind.”) When you are overly stressed, taking off a day of training might be the best decision you can make for your training. Stress is taxing on your Central Nervous System and sometimes taking a day off to compensate for the added stress means that you have prevented yourself from taking an unplanned week off because you got sick.
2. It’s Not All or Nothing
Don’t fall into the all or nothing trap. This might be a time of year when the teeter-totter is leaning more on the family side. Or for some, during this time of year the teeter-totter might be tipping towards the work side. During these times, more time and energy has to be put into those areas of your life which means there will be less time to go to others, not no time to go to others. You may have to make adjustments during those times when one area of your life needs to take precedence over another. Maybe you have to get in two short workouts instead of one long one. Maybe you workout one less day this week. Most importantly – when you are overly busy – set a goal for your fitness during each week and be realistic with your goal. What adjustments do you need to make knowing that you only have a limited amount of energy and resources to give?
3. Give Yourself a Break
Even when you are busy, you can give yourself mini breaks to ensure that you don’t feel like you’re a hamster on a wheel. Examples:
- Sit at your desk and take 5 deep breaths. Not one… FIVE. There I just did it. Wow. I actually feel pretty calm. See! If you’re not used to just sitting and breathing, it will feel like an endurance event, but it’s not… it’s just five deep breaths. You can do it.
- Take a power nap. Set your alarm for 15 – 20 minutes and go lay down. Even if you don’t sleep, just keep your eyes closed and rest. It’s more effective than coffee. Don’t freak out – you can still have coffee.
- Slow down. When you rush your movements, you feel rushed. Things feel more hectic and you’re possibly even eliciting your stress response. If you’re feeling rushed or overwhelmed, pay attention to how fast you’re moving and slow it down. The extra time it takes will actually only be accrued in seconds, but the amount of stress it relieves will be ginormous. Google it – it’s actually a word.