LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates Smart Behavior


Am I the only one who believes merchandisers are pushing the limits for heralding the holiday season? I saw holiday decorations in store aisles before Halloween candy went on sale at the end of October.

I enjoy the lights, good will and the belief we can have "peace on earth; good will to men" as this season unfolds. However, I also know that the next two months will force many of us to juggle more than we do the rest of the year. This is a good time to focus on balance-the proper measure of what we (and our families-near and far away) need to do to survive without shortened tempers that flair when we feel out of control.

How do we begin? Consider taking the time to reflect on the quality of life as you know it now vs. how you want it to be as the season unfolds using a few of these suggestions.

Define goals for the holiday season. How we choose to live our life ultimately defines who we are. Prioritizing tasks can make the difference between feeling personally fulfilled or out of sorts. What brings you (and your family) a sense of well being? Thoughts are powerful so consider visualizing a mental picture of exactly what you want the holidays to look like. Use this as your "roadmap." Decide what you need to manage to stay on your path and let go of the rest.

Decide how to manage demands of the season. Holidays can pull us in many directions. When frenzy becomes your modus operandi, the only course of action is to slow down. Ask yourself "what will be most enjoyable and rewarding for me and my family?" "What are the realistic expectations I should have on myself and others?" "What is really important?" Avoid wasting precious time on activities that are meaningless to you and those you love.

Respond, don't react to inevitable pressures. It is impossible and even undesirable to eliminate all stress from our lives. When properly managed, stress can actually enrich and motivate us. What are your stressors? Begin to take notice of times that you are feeling overwhelmed. Can you eliminate repeatable stress-producers from your life? If not, it is possible to change your response and reaction to them? If you do, you'll discover you'll feel more in control.

Take charge of your life. Keep a journal, tracking the time you spend on your daily rounds. Most of our waking hours are spent in regular, day-to-day activities. Decide which of these routines are important then do them well. Let the others go. Have a plan to plan ahead. Pay attention to your energy peaks and slumps. Follow your body's rhythm, working with and maximizing your body's natural cycles. Before you go to bed, take just a few minutes to think about the day that has just passed including mentally or physically recording what you did well and what you have to be grateful for. Focusing on the positive is a powerful reminder of how much is going well in your life.

Simplify. Focus on priorities. You don't need to be busy every minute of the day. In reality, studies show that taking "time out" makes us more efficient in the long run. Don't make a commitment unless it is important to you. Get in the habit of saying "no" to activities you don't want to or don't have time to do (and don't feel guilty about it.) If it's an option, consider asking for or hiring help to get things done. Don't be a slave to your Email or the phone. Time management in business often includes skills for structuring time to respond to phone messages and Emails. Imagine how much time you could save if you simply deleted every Email that begins with "Fwd."

Play. One of the first signs that we're not playing enough is that relationships begin to suffer. When grandchildren visit, make time to read to them. Get down on the floor to share an activity. Build physical activity into your day. Watch a movie with visiting family and friends. The best bonding experience with older grandchildren can be sharing good conversation-including being an attentive listener. Show your family with one-on-one time how important they are to you.

Share the load. Spouses, partners, children and grandchildren need to know there's a load to be shared. In fact, assigning age-appropriate duties helps younger family members and friends to develop self-reliance. Decide where priorities lie and assign responsibilities. Is it really important if your blinds haven't been dusted in a month? Your goal should be a peaceful environment within your home.

Don't neglect yourself. A body that is well taken care of is much more easily able to deal with the stresses of everyday life. Eat a nutritious and well-balanced diet, exercise regularly, and get the rest your body needs.

Finding life balance is an ongoing process-a work in progress. Allow yourself the time to regularly reassess the direction you are heading as you steadfastly work toward your goals. And remember, the stores may want you to believe the holidays are about giving presents. It's not. It's about giving. In November, set the stage for the six-week season to come. You won't regret it.

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LIFESTYLES by Ronda Gates
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Phone: 503-481-8182
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