Summer is over and fall, while not official until September 23rd, is here. I love the trappings of fall, but dang it’s a busy season. Sports, music, volunteer requests, mountains of paperwork, school projects, and oh yes, your own separate list of goals you hope to accomplish while the kids are in school. AND THEN THERE’S WORK. How do we keep it all together? Let’s talk about the state of our minds in relation to our schedules.
Shifting seasons, particularly from summer into fall then onto winter can alter our brain chemistry. Aside from nutrition and exercise, what are your coping skills? I’m going to list a few of mine to get the ball rolling.
TOOLS (we all need them) Disclaimer: these are from a 2015 post. I noted my updates. Tried and true, many of them still work great.
Flow: This is my favorite new tool. Flow Magazine released a special edition of Flow Mindfulness. It covers the practice of mindfulness and is full of wonderful perforated cards, journals, and exercises. You can find it in the magazine section of major book stores or online at flowmagazine.com under special editions. Update: To be honest, I don’t have a lot of time for Flow anymore. I’ve replace it with my new EVO planner, which I love. You can find it at projectevo.com
Gratitude Jar: I was prompted to start this practice again while flipping through Flow. I already had the jars from a bible study I participated in. The idea is to fill the jar with beautiful moments. I actually have three jars: one filled with beautiful scraps of paper I can write on, one for gratitudes and praises, and one for prayers and petitions. Update: I still like these. I do it about once a month.
*Oil Diffuser: Diffusing essential oils can positively affect your mind and emotions. We use the Now Solutions Diffuser and oils from Edens Garden. Update: Still a big fan!
*Energy Lamp: Full spectrum lighting can improve energy and boost your mood. We use the Verilux HappyLight. Update: One of my best buys. The newer versions are super cool. I might need to upgrade this tool.
Headspace: I’m trying this apps’ ten day trial. I don’t know if I will subscribe, but the trial is proving valuable. They offer wonderfully animated video instruction on meditation and ten minute daily meditations. After the trial, you can sign up for shorter meditation packs if you need them, but there is a monthly fee. I think meditation will help me settle my mind long enough to be still and listen to God instead of prattling through my prayers. Update: I’ve moved onto Aura. I like the life coaching sessions and the prompts to take a mindful minute in the morning and at night.
Forest: I find myself mindlessly turning to my phone to scroll Facebook, check email, or google – whatever – several times a day. I found an app called Forest that helps you stay focused by disabling your phone for a set amount of time. The typical timer is twenty five minutes and the app plants a tree for you during the time. If you interrupt it, the tree dies. The more you use it, the more trees you grow to build your forest. I actually found Forest when I was looking for an app to keep my kids from being distracted by texts during homework. It definitely helps me when I’m writing. Update: Yep. I still need this! Especially since I work with social media professionally.
Relax Melodies: I LOVE Pandora, but this is pretty cool too. The Relax Melodies app offers sounds like river, ocean, rain, winds, cavern, etc. I find it really helps set the mood when I’m writing a scene. Sometimes I layer it with Pandora when I’m writing or use it alone to reduce stress. You can set Relax Music before you set Forest and grow a tree in the rain while you’re de-stressing or trying to focus. Update: I still love this app too. I use it when I’m working and writing (which is usually work related).
Cozi: OK, so I’ll throw in one organization tip. We all have our own scheduling tricks, but I’m partial to Cozi. It allows multiple family members to synch schedules and I enjoy the interface and lists options. Update: Nope. I’ve moved onto EVO and I use a weekly schedule board in my kitchen to keep track of my kid’s schedule. What can I say, I love working with paper tools.
What’s in your toolbox?
TEAM (we’re more productive when we don’t try to go it alone) Update: 100% still agree with the following.
General Practitioner: If you’re struggling and you don’t have a therapist or list of resources to go to, start by making an appt. with your GP. Even if you don’t want to make an appt., call and ask for a list of resources and references. They can usually point you in the right direction and/or give you a referral. It can’t help to check in with your physical health as well, it’s all connected.
Therapist: I’m a firm believer in therapy. If you don’t want to go on a regular basis or can’t afford it, some therapists offer free introductory meetings and sometimes one meeting is all it takes. State up front that you may not want to proceed on a regular schedule, but would like the option of making ‘tune up’ appointments when you find you need them. Call your insurance company to find out what your behavioral health benefits are and where to find in-network providers. Psychology Today has a wonderful list by region.
House Cleaner: Maybe it’s just me, but sometimes a clean house is better than therapy. If cost is a concern, perhaps you can barter with a friend or let go of something else for a while if you feel it’s worth it. I’ll put this out there, especially for Moms, this is not a frivolous service if you find it makes you more available physically and mentally to your husband and your children. Even once a month can help. There is the added benefit of employing someone who really needs the income.
Peer Groups: Book clubs, bible studies, mommy groups, and other affinity groups can help you connect with your peers. Most of us are pretty good at this, but everyone once in a while we need to mix it up. If you need to recharge, don’t feel bad about trying something new. Sometimes an infusion of new energy shifts your perspective.
Babysitter: Date night? Mom’s night out? Mental health break? Need I say more?
Who else is on your team?
TRASH (what to let go of) Update: Yes to this, too.
A perfect house: I love a clean house, I’m a bit of a neat freak and I don’t feel like I can relax unless everything is in its place, but I never would have finished writing my book or started the next one if I held myself to that standard every day. I keep a space in the house that is my work/retreat space. If this space is in order, I’m better at tuning out the rest when I need to. When I know my cleaning crew is coming, I schedule time the day before to get the house in order, then I can enjoy a clean house for at least a few days until the cycle of chaos creeps in all over again. Knowing relief will come again helps immensely.
Nightly organic meals from scratch: I’m a divorced single mom with two kids trying to launch my writing career while keeping a toe in the grant writing game until I pick it up full time again. I used to cook. I used to enjoy it. I don’t anymore. Grocery stores are getting so much better at offering wonderful healthy fresh food options and I’m taking full advantage. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate.
Baking: Bake sales, parties, classroom rewards? Nope. I’ve let go of concocting adorable treats that kids and parents alike will ooh and ah over. If I sign up to bring something, please understand it will be unapologetically store bought for the sake of my mental health.
Volunteering: This is a tricky one. I BELIEVE in volunteering, but for now, I am pulling back and learning to say no. I still do the occasional stint, but I’m getting much better at knowing when I have space in my life to say yes and when I don’t. I have so much more to give my family when I’m not pulled in a million different directions. That said, there are seasons in life and the time to volunteer will come again. Disclaimer: I’m an executive director for a nonprofit now. We NEED volunteers. Don’t listen to me when I talk about pulling back. Volunteer. We need you ;-> Hopefully you just came out of a season of rest and your ready to dive back in. Any takers?
What are you willing to ditch?
I’m amazed at how productive and at peace I am when I make time to clear and nurture my mind. It really does create more space for what matters most.
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. – Ecclesiastes 3:1