In this episode
The summer holidays can put enormous stress on us as parents when we’re trying to juggle everything and still do our best and be our best.
In this episode, I share 5 tips to help you prepare in the lead up to the holidays as well as rebalance, rejuvenate and re-energise yourself when everything is going on around you.
Tip 1: Figure out what REALLY matters
You’re not going to be able to do everything over the summer.
More often than not, when we get stressed, we spend time on whatever is ‘biggest’ in our minds, whatever feels most urgent. The trouble is, that’s rarely what’s most important to us so living this way often leaves us feeling unfulfilled and disappointed in ourselves.
When I work with clients, one of the first things I encourage them to do is think about how they want life to feel – who they want to be, how they want to show up and what they value. Having the answers to these questions makes choices easier to make in the moment.
As an example, earlier this evening, I was stressed out. I’m running a course tomorrow, have the podcast to publish and I’m still writing the show notes and I have two coaching clients I’m seeing on Thursday so I wanted to be well prepared for their sessions. Plus, I’m trying to do a load of different things in preparation for having very little time next week and the weeks after that while the kids are on holiday. Without setting my intentions, I’d have worked flat out to get as much done as possible but I know that work is second on my list. My family comes first. So I stopped what I was doing and went to play with my kids. It means I’m working late tonight – but even then, sleep is important to me and when the time comes between choosing to keep going and ruin my chances of sleep or stop and risk not publishing this show notes page tomorrow, I’ll choose sleep.
Very few things that take us away from our true priories are really that important in the end. I make an effort to remember that as much as possible and it helps me make choices I’m happy with rather than choices I later regret.
Tip 2: Plan to stay committed
Writing goals isn’t always enough. We tend to be at our most motivated when writing goals and figuring out what we value. It’s fun imagining your ideal life but making it happen in reality can be enormously challenging.
Having a plan can help when it’s crunch time.
Take some time to consider:
1. What are the patterns that always emerge during the holidays – the inevitable situations that arise and cause me stress?
2. How do I want to handle these decisions and situations, knowing what I know about my values and priorities?
3. How do I need to think and act so I stay in line with the things that are important to me?
4. How will I stay on track with this plan or hold myself accountable?
Tip 3: Talk to your team
Your team can include anyone you have an impact on and anyone who has an impact on you. This could include family members, friends, colleagues, neighbours, parents etc.
Instead of trying to do everything and be everything for everyone, give people the chance to take greater ownership of their own stuff and allow them the opportunity to help you. At first, you may balk at this – “my kids won’t even pick their dirty underwear up off the floor” or “my husband works even longer hours than me” or whatever.
It’s easy to think there’s no leeway but that feeling is created by the current patterns. Change the patterns and you’ll change the result. One of the best ways to do that is to let those around you help you solve the problems you face with balancing everything.
Let them tell you what they’re happy for you to let go of – and then let go of it. Ask them to help and explain how valuable it would be to you and why. (More often than not, we ask for help in ways that make the other person feel ‘wrong’ – “If you would just help out more, I wouldn’t be so stressed” versus, “Would you be able to help with the dishes in the evening? It would make a huge difference to me and would mean we could have some time together after I’ve put the kids to bed.”
Tip 4: Carve out time for yourself
This doesn’t mean time to watch Netflix and eat chocolate – although that can be good too.
It means finding time to do things that revitalise you, make you feel good about yourself, give you energy and contribute positively to your mental and physical health.
My favourites are:
- Meditation or any other stillness practice
- Movement – I like yoga and HIIT workouts
- Writing/ Reflecting – having a chance to think about what’s working for you, how you’re feeling and how well reality is shaping up against your intentions.
- Read – specifically, read books that give you useful ideas and new perspectives. Below is a list of my current favourites:
Philosophical / Happiness / Life / Psychology
- A Radical Awakening – Dr Shefali. A great book for women who feel they’ve been living their lives on someone else’s terms.
- The Journey into Yourself – Eckhart Tolle. A fantastic book for anyone looking to be more present and let go of the mind chatter that can drive so many of us crazy. I’ve listened to this book at least 5 times so far and will likely listen again.
- Happiness: A Guide to developing life’s most important skill – Matthieu Richard. This wonderful book helps you think about what it means to be happy and how our modern goals can often cause conflict with the things that truly bring happiness.
- The Chimp Paradox – Dr Steve Peters. This book offers a really practical and easy way to think about emotional reactions and situations where we behave at our worst. It’s full of useful advice and suggestions.
- The Thriving Child – Dr William Stixrud. Such a useful book to help parents understand child development and relax the pressure of expectations we place on our children.
- Listen – Patty Wipfler and Tasha Shore. This book was a game changer in our house. It teaches techniques for being present with your child in ways that foster connection, honesty and joy. After reading this book, I mastered the art of handling my son’s tantrums and the number he experienced dropped dramatically as a result.
- No-Drama Discipline – Tina Payne Bryson PhD and Daniel J. Siegel MD. An absolute must-read for any parents interested in understanding their children’s brains. This book is practical, informative and helpful on so many levels. Another game changer for me.
Tip 5: Be Mindful of your Intentions
We’re all taught to write goals and intentions because research shows this makes a difference when it comes to making those goals and intentions a reality.
Writing them down is a great first step – that’s why it’s part of Tip 1 – but I’ve found the best way to make my intentions a reality is to keep them top-of-mind somehow.
In the past, I’ve used two techniques to help with this:
- Hair bands on my wrist – I’d wear 5 bands on my left wrist. As long as I lived by my intentions, they stayed there. If I acted contrary to my intentions, I’d move one of the bands to my right wrist, where it would stay until I had made amends. Once that happened, I’d move the band back to my left wrist. My goal was to finish the day with all the bands on my left wrist. Doing this helped me realise that I was actually doing a lot right. It helped me let go of the constant criticism and guilt I felt and it also made me focus on making amends when things went wrong, rather than stewing about why they’d gone wrong.
- Other visual cues – post-it notes, phone alarms etc. I use these when I know I’m at risk of letting everyday things overwhelm me. These are not permanent fixtures because permanent fixtures become easy to ignore. They are visual cues I employ only when I need them. To use these, simply figure out when and why you might need a reminder of your intentions. Then choose a format and place for that reminder that will work for you. There’s also an app called, “Alarmed” which will ‘pester’ you with a reminder until you mark it as done. I use that app when I need it and set questions like, “Am I doing everything I can to enjoy the time with my kids?” Then set it to ping every hour or two, depending on how often I need ‘recalibrating’.
Taking a Break
I’m taking a break from recording during the summer holidays so I can give my children more of my undivided attention.
The next episode will be with you on 25 August.
In the meantime, check out the links below for the most downloaded episodes over the past two series.
I hope you enjoy listening to the ones that capture your interest and I look forward to welcoming you back in 6 weeks. Thank you for listening! You are wonderful and you help me feel like I make a small difference.
If you have questions or would like me to talk about specific things when the podcast returns, leave a comment below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Lots of love to you and your family xx