How Do You Deal With the Post-holiday Crush?

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Dear Miriam,

For weeks, I’ve been saying I would get to things “after the holidays.” Now that it’s actually after the holidays, I am completely overwhelmed and not sure how even to begin tackling my to-do list. Any suggestions?

Signed,

Post-holiday Stress

Dear Stress,

Selichot, the Saturday night before Rosh Hashanah, was one month ago today. The reason you feel unsettled and out of practice managing your daily tasks is that you’ve been operating in a kind of alternate reality for a full month.

The holidays are a truly special moment in time — how we, as Jews, mark time — but they’re also utterly disruptive to any semblance of normal life, and it’s OK to admit that level of inconvenience. If you’re wondering, “What holidays?” that’s also OK, because you probably still know what it’s like to have a lot of stuff to do and to be overwhelmed.

Start small. Make lists. Give yourself reasonable tasks to get to this week that are tangible and able to be accomplished. Look at your calendar for today. Be realistic about how much time it will take just to dig out from your flooded inbox. Don’t plan more than you can do because then you’ll continue to have the same digging out problem the rest of the week, and it will spill over into next week and beyond.

If you have big projects that are due, map out the individual tasks along the way and when you expect to get to those. Try not to be sidetracked during time you’ll set aside for that work. Set yourself up in two- to three-hour blocks so you can see your own progress and also get up to stretch once in a while and look at the big picture. Be honest with yourself and with co-workers, family members, etc. Say, “It’s on my list for Thursday. Thanks for your patience.”

Of course, this is all abstract, not knowing your work or what you need to get to or what other life circumstances could get in your way. You probably also have a lot of dishes to get to, or some other comparable personal goal that similarly got neglected during the holidays. Don’t beat yourself up over how far behind you are or how stressed you are because those emotions will definitely get in the way of productivity.

The holidays ought to have given us new perspective and a clean slate and all that from which to move forth into the rest of the year. Don’t squander all the joy and contemplation of the last month by worrying about tasks in front of you. Take them one at a time, and you’ll get through.

Be well,

Miriam