With the start of the school year, I know many parents are already feeling overwhelmed. Here’s how I tackle the temptation to stress:
1. Claim your family values. What are the core beliefs that define your family? Once you own them, take joy in them! Delight in saying “yes” to rituals, traditions, practices, and events that match your values and fulfill your goals. Also, allow yourself the freedom to alter some values seasonally. For instance, showing God’s love through hospitality is always a core belief for us, though the expression of it can change over time. A focus on a particular person or group today may not be our focus next month or year.
2. Then, practice the delicate art of saying “no.” It’s the only way to give your most important “yes.” They say our calendars (and bank accounts) reflect our priorities, so we must schedule wisely.
In the 21st century, many of us respond to the tyranny of the urgent. One of the characteristics of a responsible adult is to recognize the difference between the important and the urgent, and then refuse to be tyrannized by the urgent; refuse to manage by crisis.
– Tsh Oxenreider, “Create a family purpose statement”
I filter my choices through the values I’ve established. Last year, for example, I stepped down from a church committee in order to devote myself more fully to another one, which presented a greater need for my passion, gifts, and skills.
What is important? What is urgent? What might be important later but not now? What is never important? What might be someone else’s “yes” that you’ve been guilted into making your own?
3. Utilize practical systems. What burdens you most? Whatever it is, tackle it with a streamlined system that will actually work for you. Don’t try to adopt someone else’s great idea if you know you won’t use it! The internet is full of great resources, but here are a few systems I like:
- Plan the week’s suppers on Sunday.
- Set up a lunch-making station or pre-make lunches for the whole week.
- Shop once. We all forget things from time to time, but if you can plan ahead and strive for one set of errands as opposed to several stops throughout the week, you’ll save yourself time, gas, and frustration.
- Develop routines for household chores. (Laundry on Mondays, shopping on Tuesdays, etc.)
- Go paperless. Use online bill pay and online apps for keeping household records. (Evernote, Mint, and Google Docs and Sheets are a few we love.)
4. Slow down. James Bryan Smith offers several suggestions for how to practice slowing down in his book The Good and Beautiful God, and I love what he says here:
Slowing down the pace of our lives means eliminating hurry and limiting the demands and activities in our lives. Then we are more likely to take delight in our lives and make room for God. (p.189)
How can you practice slowing down? Stroll through a parking lot instead of rushing to the door. (I’m the pot calling the kettle black.) Make yourself drive in the slow lane. Eat a hot breakfast. Take your time in the shower. Slow your hands as you wash your small child in the bath. Stop multi-tasking.
5. Breathe. Yes, just breathe. I don’t mean take a walk. I don’t mean turn on music. I mean sit in silence and breathe. How long do you need? 30 seconds? 5 minutes? That all depends on you, and you won’t know until you try, but I guarantee even the most thriving extrovert needs to still the noise. Our souls weren’t made for the constant onslaught of information and sensory input; they need moments of quiet.
When we sit in silence, it’s true we may not be doing anything, but we are undoing so much. The soul is made to receive. […] The soul receives input all day long from both welcome and unwelcome sources. Where is the output? When are we regularly disposing of the soul clutter we no longer need?
– Emily P. Freeman
Let me know how these ideas resonate with you. May you feel less stress and overwhelm this school year!