Hello and thank you for joining us for the final post on this topic of carving out time for yourself, setting boundaries and reducing the guilt. For this final post, I want to dig into busy schedules and how that can keep us feeling stuck and spinning, and also how staying present with a bit of mindfulness can help us maintain healthy coping.
For anyone who has another schedule to consider besides their own, life is busy; sometimes much busier than we would prefer. In my prior post I talked about taking inventory of your schedule and making a solid, thoughtful decision about whether you can commit to adding something additional to your schedule. This process works well when you are fully aware of all obligations...but sometimes children can surprise you with things like tomorrow is a bake sale, or Monday is bring your parent to school day. We have all been there, scrambling and sometimes wondering how we are going to squeeze another unexpected activity into the day on short notice.
Breathe. Release the anxiety, frustration and any judgement you are anticipating. I know it's hard sometimes to say "no", as outlined in my prior post; we can all get caught up in that. However, when we talk about being busy, sometimes I have found myself pulled into the swirling vortex of chatter with other parents about how busy we all are, and it is true. My challenge here is figuring out how we can still maintain busy schedules, but not feel like we are just being pushed all the way and don't have a choice or chance to breathe. Sound crazy? Yep. However, let's give it a try.
We all have a need for some sense of control, and when our lives get so busy that we feel that we are no longer in control, that is when anxiety and feeling stressed can feel overwhelming. My routine in the morning is to do my workout first thing - this not only checks exercise off my list, but there are also a multitude of benefits that cascade through my day; endorphins afterwards which can help my mood, decrease stress, and aid sleep. Finally, a few minutes of mindfulness can also help us focus on the present. Sounds silly, but when things get really hectic, and we practice mindfulness, we don't leap into hyperspace and we can look at what is ahead and calmly make decisions. Mindfulness doesn't mean meditating for hours at a time, even starting with 3-5 minutes per day can have a huge impact.
Prioritize instead of procrastinate. Sometimes we create the stress ourselves by leaving something until the 11th hour....sound familiar?; we have all done it. There is often something more fun or interesting for us to spend our time doing. Prioritize your day or your week so this doesn't happen to you. Easier said than done; well, something I often look at is what is the cost of me leaving something for later compared to the benefit of doing it now. Doing a Cost-Benefit Analysis can be great, but you also need to be honest with yourself about what is a priority. With this process comes the ability to be mindful of the choices you are making and then being present and focused instead of feeling pushed or rushed.
What does it feel like for you to think about being more in control of your day? Still busy, but feeling like you made choices on how to spend your time? I know sometimes things spin out of control and we need to just hang on for the ride; those days happen, but when they happen every day, it’s really stressful and hard to manage. If you are finding that happening frequently, stop and take a look at what is a priority and what could shift so you and everyone else can feel a deeper sense of calm.
Sometimes we have become so accustomed to that pace that we just continue to do it to ourselves, it's not a right of passage to be stressed all the time; but would it feel strange to admit that to other people - that you are not stressed? Conquering your schedule and feeling like you can be present with whatever you are doing may seem like a distant goal, but with just a few steps you can get there and feel so much more control. And as always, I am going to point out that when your kids see you feeling in control they will also feel more in control.
One of my favourite mindfulness books is Sitting Still Like a Frog by Eline Snel; it is a book for children, but many of the exercises are great for adults too. Remember to breathe, and remember everything doesn't have to be perfect. The other morning during one of my workouts the trainer said focus on progress and not perfection, and that is exactly what we need to do with our lives. Be kind to yourself, have compassion for your busy life and celebrate all that you have accomplished.
Thanks everyone - stay tuned for a new topic coming soon!