Updated: Oct 24, 2019
Ever found yourself having one of those weeks when your best laid plans just fly out the window? Can't get ANYTHING achieved and feel like you're running on empty?
If you're a working parent, chances are you have a pretty delicate work / life / home balance happening, and you know waaaay too well how easy it is for that balance to disturbed. It only takes someone getting sick, injured, or an extra heavy workload to throw everything out of alignment.
These things can arise and quickly tip the scales in the direction of chaos rather than a delicate order.
Before you tailspin, I’m dedicating this blog post to tips and strategies you can use to cope when life throws you curveballs - because it ALWAYS does, ammiright?!
1. Forget the To Do list momentarily
Only do the shit that's super important and urgent. If it's not both of these things, surely it can wait?
Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking everything is super urgent and important. We get hundreds of emails a week asking us to sign up to something or to do something or to be somewhere. We book ourselves into webinars, training sessions, meetings, workshops, filling up every spare moment of our time equating being busy and having a full schedule with being successful.
When we break it down, we often DON'T have to do many things rather urgently, we just think we do because of modern society's push to have us be perenially busy and snowed under. Fuck that. Peel back the layers, and do what's only high priority. You'll catch up on the rest, or you won't. Does it matter?
2. Have a toolkit of things that get you by and get you through
I have one of these lists and I refer back to it often. It's the stuff I keep in my back pocket for when things start to unravel. It's the stuff I know that will keep me on an even kilter and able to handle the ensuing chaos.
My list includes stuff like; cutting back on coffee, not diving into the nearest bottle of pinot and drowning in it; taking my vitamin B and iron supplements; listening to music to help lift my mood; making time to get a daily dose of fresh air and sunshine, drinking water at every opportunity. Basic stuff right? I like to think of it as my toolkit for stressful times, when I'm so busy I can't even focus.
3. Call in the reinforcements - or outsource help!
Got grandparents/ aunties/ uncles/ friends around who can help share the burden for a couple of hours? Don't feel bad to lean on them. If you don't (and I know many of us don't), see if you can get an extra day of casual care at your daycare, or book in some after school care. Or a sleepover. And if you can afford it, get a cleaner to do a quick clean up. Anything that will free up some of your time so you can rest or unwind or whatever you need to do.
4. Don’t forget to breathe
Sounds obvious right?! But mindful breathing can help us when the steam is about to escape from our ears. Practice breathing in for 5, holding for 5, breathing out for 5. You know the deal. Oxygen really does help.
5. Look after YOU
Be sure to carve out time for self-care; it's so very important! Make sure you still have time to get to the gym, have a bath if you need to, have ten minutes to journal / do yoga / meditate- whatever you need to do this week, make it happen. Taking care of yourself can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself. You can't give from an empty cup!
6. Get creative with your schedule
If you work for yourself, see if you can shuffle your schedule around so that you can catch up on work when everyone finally goes to sleep and you can get some peace. Sometimes you just gotta give up on trying to get anything done, and sit with your kid and do nothing when they're having a day.
7. Steal five minutes for yourself
You need some time for yourself to reconnect with you, to unwind and just get away from the crazy. Even if it’s just to go sit in a corner and rock and chant to yourself 'what have I done with my life?'
8. Scream if you have to
Screaming, sobbing, or even hitting a safe object such as a punching bag can help us connect with the negative emotion, feel it, and release it.
If I’m feeling particularly stressed I like to put on some 80s hair metal and have a good wail along. My neighbours might hate me, but trust me, it helps.
Try cranking anything loud and angsty and scream your little heart out.
9. Reassess priorities and don't be afraid to say no
Sweep bigger projects to the side for now and forget about them momentarily (and don’t feel guilty!) You can always get back to Marie Kondo'ing your wardrobe and selling all your excess shit on eBay another time. Pack it away out of sight, and conserve your energy for what you need to get through right now.
Social obligations? Things popped up in the calendar? Coffee meeting you don’t really need to go to? Don't feel bad to politely decline if you think it's going to put you under extra pressure.
10. Focus on sleep and nutrition to keep your engine running well
Amongst a whirlwind of chaos, it’s easy to succumb to temptation and simple pleasures like Uber Eats, wine in abundance and eating all the cheese. But we know that too much of a good thing is going to unravel us, so try and keep healthy and get enough zzzzzs.
Eat right, order a box of Hello Fresh or local fruit and veg to be home delivered, so you've got healthy food in front of you. As much as it's tempting to order a huge, greasy pizza with extra everything, I know that ultimately it's whole grains, greens and protein that's going to supply the fuel and stamina to keep me going without having to rely on fast food, sugar and caffeine to get me out of a slump.
Rather than crumbling under the weight a crazy, upside down schedule, why not try adopting some of these strategies to cope with the chaos?
You CAN restore order to the labyrinth of your busy life and maintain a sense of self-control by taking a step back, looking after yourself and considering what will make you feel better in the long-run, instead of in the next five minutes.
You got this!