In theory, this is the time of year when we all get to kick back. Various traditions around the world celebrate holidays, we welcome the start of a new calendar year, offices slow down or close for a little while, and we’re supposed to quietly retreat into quality time with family and friends.
Does that sound like an accurate depiction of your life right now?
I pretty much know the answer, but I thought I’d ask anyway.
If you’re applying for Round 2 deadlines at MBA programs, the only reason you even know it’s the holiday season is because your deadlines are shortly after New Year’s Day, and you know that. Other than that, any celebrations you’re in for are happening in between essay drafts and recommender stalking. If you applied for Round 1, you’re either bathing in champagne right now OR scrambling (tearfully) to get some Round 2 applications together. (Note to you: you are going to be FINE. Promise. Big hug, though.)
If you’re in b-school, you’re coasting into winter break, a beautiful stretch of nothing-ness you get to have for two years in a row. And then, never again. Soak it up, friends. #studentlife
Also, though, let’s be real. As much as you’re going to love all that sleep and travel and no assignments and home-cooked food, there’s also all those people around. You know, the ones you’re related to. They have questions, such as: “Why did you quit your job again?” “How are you paying for this trip you’re taking?” and “When are you going to be making money again?” They’re the best, and soooooo helpful for your sanity. Really…
Then there are the rest of us. Out here in the post-MBA and no-MBA world, just trying to “get through” this “hectic” season of festivities so we can…well…go back to work in January? We’re running all over town – buying, mailing, returning, cooking, delivering, and trying to fit 4 weeks of work in 3 weeks or fewer.
It’s enough to make you want to take the GMAT again, just to escape it all. Kidding, kidding.
It’s no way to live, though, especially when it comes around – in some shape or form – every year. While you won’t be applying for, or pursuing, your MBA for all of the years to come, there will always be a list of things you “have” to do to make the season “perfect.”
First, let me offer my opinion that perfect is boring, and also usually an illusion. Aside from that, there are ways to not just survive but thrive during these seasons of life – and this is just one of them – when it’s all just too much, and you were over it before it even started.
Before you short circuit faster than an overloaded light display, check these strategies.
Catch your breath. Just one intentional, focused inhale and exhale can begin to shift your body out of your stress response and into a calmer space. It’s simple, but it’s also science. If you can, set a timer for a minute, or five. When your mind tries to run away, don’t wrestle with it. Just come back. Breathe in, breathe out.
Get grounded. You know those moments when things are so dialed up that taking a deep breath is not an option? Then don’t. Instead, look around you. Name three things you see, two things you hear, one thing you smell, or can touch with your hands. Use your senses to “ground” you out of the cluster in your mind (not real) and into the physical space around you (is real).
Break it down. Take a peek at your to-do list. Does it say things like “Do holiday shopping”? “Plan New Year’s Eve party”? If so, I’ll be honest, that seems like a lot to do in one day. How about “Buy sweater for sis” or “Make playlist for NYE party”? You know how to make a SMART goal for work, sooooo how about making them for the rest of your life? You know you love checking those things off as much as I do. ;)
Make a date. If you haven’t heard the term “self-care” 100 times this year, you’ve been living under a rock. Or, a pile of GMAT prep books. Fine, I get it. But, ok, it’s time. With all of this WERK you’re doing, even if it’s “fun” holiday prep, you need some time with your #1, aka YOU. Schedule it in, and do. not. delete. Everything works better after you unplug it for a while, including you.
This time of year is always hectic, no matter where you are in the MBA life span, or just your life’s span. Sometimes, “getting through” is the best you can do, and that’s ok. But, if you live your life always taking that approach to challenging times, you’re likely to spend more time holding your breath than living in it.
You know why champagne has bubbles, right? Because it’s been breathing. Take a cue. Then, take a few minutes to catch your breath, and unleash your potential.