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This time of year is so crazy. I can hardly catch my breath as I jump between school drop-offs, work, school pick-ups, multiple extracurricular after-school activities in different parts of town, extra doctors appointments, the upcoming Fall birthdays of both my kids, the Jewish high holidays, volunteer activities, and, and, and…

I tell myself things will calm down in a while; this time of year (at least pre-pandemic) has always been like this. And life eventually will. But the anticipation of soon needing to get ready for Halloween and then Thanksgiving and then packing and organizing for much-anticipated travel plans in December, and, and, and… I’m spinning again. It all has me feeling like it is going to be a long, long time until life settles down and there’s any sustained period of peace.

At times like these, I try to rely on two strategies to preserve my energy and sense of balance. First, where I can, I aim to eliminate extra, negotiable activities. There were a multitude of fun activities our family was invited to this past weekend that we declined to go to. The decision to do so wasn’t easy. I have this ongoing push to try to make up for lost time. We missed out on so much during the pandemic- and so I want to seize every social opportunity I can for my kids. On top of that- there is my wish to not disappoint others by saying no to their requests. I wonder, “If I don’t do this- who will? Will the project still get done?” And yet- the decision for my family to do less- to not squeeze in more activities- to just stay home and have a movie night with dinner on the couch together- was exactly what we needed. Saying no- intentionally- to some opportunities means more time and energy to devote to what is truly most important.

The second main strategy I use when I’m this busy is to try to remember and focus on the *why* behind the activities that fill my days. It depletes me if my days are busy but disconnected from my life’s purpose. But if I focus on my highest priorities (say- raising healthy children, creating community, & connecting with loved ones) then the activities I am engaging in are imbued with meaning. I’m no longer just running errands or chauffeuring- I’m living out my values intentionally.

I encourage you to say “no” to one ask this week. As you choose to engage in something else this week- remember the reason behind what you are doing.

Thoughtfully saying no to some activities so we have the time and energy to nurture our true values can keep us grounded and balanced in these overwhelming times.

Beth Pearson, Ph.D.