I was sitting at my desk the other day when I looked at my to-do list, and it magically doubled in size. I soon realized a busy season was approaching, and I softly whispered to myself, “you got this.”
Busy seasons can happen any time of the year and in any field — whether you work in PR, marketing or another fast-paced career. Busy seasons often occur when work picks up, you land a new client or project, or while preparing for a big event. These seasons can last 10 days, two weeks or two months, and sometimes it’s just hard to tell.
To figure out if you’re entering a busy season, it usually starts with adding tasks to your to-do list as quickly as you check other items off. Work-related stress tends to become heightened and feelings of overwhelm start to sink in. You may even find yourself turning down happy hours or date nights to stay late at the office to meet deadlines.
Working in PR and communications, I’ve found myself in several busy seasons that tend to ebb and flow throughout the year. With some experience, I’ve now been able to predict times of the year when they pick up and slow down. However, with every busy season, I always turn to some habits and mindsets that help minimize stress.
If you feel like you’re juggling all the things right now, here are some ideas for how to overcome stress during the temporary hustle to avoid burning out:
Recognize that it’s just a season
As Socrates said, everything is temporary — both the good and bad. Like seasons that happen throughout the year, busy seasons are often brief. Perhaps you’re feeling swamped leading up to a work event or maybe you’re trying to get ahead before you leave for a vacation. Take a few deep breaths and kindly remind yourself this busy season will pass.
Reflect on busy seasons of the past
After you’ve recognized you’re in a busy season, reflect on other times you had a lot on your plate and ways you tackled your to-do list, including habits and routines that worked and didn’t work.
For example, maybe you find you’re most productive when you turn off your notifications and focus on one task at a time. This could be a habit you incorporate going forward in this new busy season.
On the other hand, if you know you tend to burn the midnight oil when you’re overwhelmed, try to stick to a realistic bedtime so you get enough rest to feel energized for the next day.
Embrace the middle
In my experience, “the middle” is often like seeing the light spilling through a crack, but there’s still a giant boulder blocking the exit. If you find yourself in this space, remember that it’s OK to feel a little messy and try to do your best to chip away at whatever project is on your plate. Sometimes everything just feels stressful and overwhelming, and you have a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. According to Brené Brown, this is “the middle.” She says the middle is messy, but it’s also where the magic happens.
Remember, your productivity is not your worth
Brené Brown also reminds us that our worth is not defined by what we cross off our to-do lists. When we do that, research shows it contributes to chronic stress, which can lead to anxiety or depression if left unaddressed. That’s why it’s crucial to have self-awareness when life gets busy and remember that even if we can’t get through our entire to-do lists, we’re still making progress toward a bigger goal.
Follow routines with grace
Research shows routines help minimize stress. But what happens when life is so busy you can’t stick to your routine? That’s when you have to build grace and self-forgiveness into your routine.
While you may have every intention of waking up early before work to exercise and make a healthy breakfast, sometimes it’s not possible every morning during a busy season. Instead, maybe all you can do is take your dog on a walk and reach for a healthy to-go breakfast.
When you are overwhelmed, remember you don’t have to do it all. Whatever pressure you are putting on yourself during this busy time, try to let go of those expectations. Sometimes “done is better than perfect” and when we dwell too much on the task at hand, it’s easy to spin our wheels and even fall behind. Just show up and do your best every day, and give yourself grace when things don’t go as planned.
Let it go and try your best
Busy seasons happen to many of us and it’s easy to get pulled in a dozen different directions. The next you start to feel “busy” creep up or your to-do lists doubles in size, try one of these ideas to help stay calm and focused on what matters most.