It’s September, post Labor Day, back to school time is here in much of the Northeast. Personally – and please hear me out before you judge me for sounding too Pollyanna-ish, but I truly love this time of year, always have! This turning of the weather as the nights become cooler, feeling the fall breathing its crisp air over summers dissolution to me cues a building anticipation for September. For me, it is the time when we are perched upon the crest of a new wave of possibility, so much learning, growth, new experiences and personal evolution await. Yet, the excitement and anticipation of what is to come this fall, curiosity over what is before me can and at times has shifted into a simmering stew of anxieties. Anxiety over what will be required of me looking ahead at curriculums and syllabuses, worries over not being able to juggle it all or fit it all in and concerns over not being able to manage what I want to do with my time while juggling what will be required of me in coming months can also become overwhelming and cut into the excitement.
Over the past few decades, and more so over the past few years with my children now having their own school and social lives with their own lists of homework, classes, extracurricular events and etc, managing this excitement, anticipation and budding mix of anxiety (will just call it the “mix” from now on) has become ever more important and necessary – not just for my personal sense peace and competence, but for their sense of balance and the overall sanity of our family. So when I feel this mix building, actually before it even begins to build, when I feel the anticipation begin to morph into the anxiety – you know that little pull or rumbling of energy in your gut or the tightening and constricting in your chest, neck or shoulder, that time when your body is sort of saying, “WAIT, Stop the bus, I want to get off!” that’s my cue to remember to do the following:
1 – Take a long deep breath! First and foremost, always take a breath! In fact, don’t do or think or plan to do or even commit to doing anything before taking a big breath. Long, slow, intentional and deep inhales and exhales can be instantly grounding and will slow down the engine that drives anxiety. Breathing allows me to catch a beat, take time to tune in and sense what I’m actually feeling and helps me to gain a bigger perspective on what’s before me which leads to step 2…
2 – Make Space! Step back and lay it all out before you in order to take a look at what’s there. When responsibilities and commitments increase they can begin to feel like a big tumbleweed rolling by especially if you’re holding it all in your head. Get a calendar and put it all down there, visually spacing out what’s coming can also show you where you need to find and make more space for yourself. Between the assignments, games and social events, there is space even if it feels like schedules and plans are colliding – not everything may be possible, but less will be possible and less enjoyable if it feels all clumped together and you don’t have any time to catch your breath.
3 – Prioritize. Yeah, this word and activity is sort of inevitable and can be hard to decipher. What we prioritize comes down to what we value, and when we have many people and many goals that we value greatly, prioritizing becomes a little trickier and more wrought with discomfort especially because we can’t be in two places at once. But when things are shaping up in a way that they do collide or overlap, for example, family birthdays, auditions, games and a looming school project all coinciding on the same day prioritizing where you go can be disappointing for a few but it’s not brain surgery and something you will need to do. Bringing clarity and graceful communication to how you prioritize can help the process.
4 – Put a plan in place with some flexible edges…after you do step 1-3, and you have it all the assignments, games, auditions, appointments, social events and etc prioritized and plotted out, know that live is dynamic and things can change rather abruptly sometimes, so turn to step 5 now…
5 – Keep breathing, cultivate some trust and acceptance and don’t forget to smile – trust that even with all the handling and prioritizing and planning, things will inevitably fall into a sort of place and flow despite your plans. Even when you map it out, real life can and will come in and knock your plan sideways. Kids illnesses, power outages, car troubles or traffic jams, life is fluid and dynamic, things happen, and so being able to adjust and adapt to the idiosyncrasies that will emerge in life is key. Don’t forget that life is what happens when your busy planning for it – so take it all in stride and enjoy the ride.
Be well everyone and wishing a smooth transition to back to school….