Hello My Friends —
For many women, back-to-school means back-to-me time. And hooray for that! I relish these days when I’ve clocked out of my summer job as my kids’ social chair and entertainment manager. However, I don’t always get such a smooth transition into freer days and more time alone when school starts. My daughter, Marlie, suffers from school anxiety, so everyday is different for me. I’m doing all I can to stay in the present moment and take it each day as it comes. (Some days are better than others.)
Also, fall is a naturally busy time — team sports, after school activities and therapy sessions get cranked up. And, let’s not even mention the damn homework! It seems to get more frequent and tougher as the years progress. These kids young mind’s are stretched to the max with academic and social pressures. (High school seems to be a lot more competitive than I remember and I’m not so sure this is a good thing. HELP!)
So how does one stay present and mindful and not get caught up in all the busyness and the doing? Try some of the tips below for yourself and expose them to your kids too. But I have found the best way to learn is to model healthy habits and behaviors to those around you. If your kids refuse to read this or engage in some of these tips, then YOU can just BE it! They will pick up on all of the below just by seeing you do it.
This reminds me — I recently added a weekly family yoga session into our lives. I announced it to my kids and told them I was having a wondeful woman come to our house on Saturday mornings to do an hour-long gentle yoga session for us, but I was very clear in my words that if they did not want to do it, they did not have to, but it was available to them if they are interested. Well, sure enough, about twenty minutes into our session, my daughter walked in and showed us all her yoga moves. We all got to giggling and having so much fun doing yoga together as a family. So by taking the pressure off and allowing it to be up to them, they succumbed just out of pure curiosity I think! Yay me. (BTW — my strategies rarely work but this time it did!)
So let’s get calm now, why don’t we?
Slow down. First step, breathe. You’ve heard it before and trust me, it works because it forces you to stop the doing and focus. Last spring on the blog we featured Henry Richardson of Define body and mind who explained a simple breathing exercise and my good friend, Elizabeth Irvine shared some great tips with us last fall on how to remain mindful too. These are my go-to exercises when I feel the pressure mounting. And the great news is these exercises can be done anywhere. Promise yourself you’ll try it now, or at least once a day.
Take a technology break. Our devices are a blessing in terms of productivity, but a real curse in terms of human interaction. Challenge yourself to keep your device in your handbag when engaging with friends, kids or on date night with your husband. (Of course checking the phone periodically for urgent messages is allowed.) There’s no better gift you can give a person than absolute attention, especially in this day and age.
Limit the social media. Nothing is more anxiety inducing than scrolling. Social media has its benefits – there are a couple of people in my feed that post amazing, thought-provoking articles and it’s nice to catch up with an old friend who lives across the globe. But then there are the acquaintances who take too many selfies, the over-politicals, the over-sharers, and the constant complainers. Really, most of it is garbage and negativity that I don’t need in my life and it is an enormous time suck anyway. I’ve found that taking some social channels off my phone has helped tremendously. When my phone cratered recently, I noticed a distinct shift in attitude toward the positive while unable to log into my social apps. It was quite freeing really. Maybe being connected 24/7 isn’t all that its cracked up to be?
Be still. Turn off your phone and take 5 minutes, even 30 seconds if that is all you have. Take a deep breath and close your eyes. How do you feel? Are you overwhelmed, happy or sad? If the feeling is of the negative sort, acknowledge it and let it go. If positive, savor it, embrace it and be grateful for it. Then start at the top of your head scanning down. How does your body feel? Do you have a neck ache? Are you hungry? Are your muscles sore from working out? Just simply acknowledging these feelings puts you in the present moment and reigns “you” back in.
Focus and simplify. Really analyze your to-do list. How important are the tasks? Eliminate what’s not critical. Be realistic about what you can do without super-human powers. Then delegate some tasks. Strive to check off three items in a day, and no more. And if zero tasks get accomplished, forgive yourself. We all have days like that every now and then.
Stop the overwhelm. If your to do list is still weighing you down, try the small bites strategy. Big projects can be stressful, but breaking them down and dedicating time every day to them gets things done. And I am not talking about a lot of time. Based on the project, allow 20-30 minutes per day. Schedule it in your calendar. Just doing a little bit everyday goes a long way toward eliminating the ruminating and resulting paralysis.
Finally, no matter who you are engaging with or what you are doing ask yourself, am I really present? Simply acknowledging it with the question brings you back to center. Utilizing the strategies presented here will help make living mindfully a habit. I have a feeling you will notice a welcomed change in attitude as well. Good luck!
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