Handling overwhelm at crazy times of the year (like this one)

Happy Wednesday!

This is the second in an in-depth, 4-part series, on how to start the school year off right.
(Click here for part one, about the first thing you can do when confronting any challenge.)

When I talk with parents about the starting of the school year, they often share their frustrations with just how CRAZY this time of year can feel.

There are so many little boxes to check:

  • The list of items your child’s teacher needs for the classroom
  • The schedule-changes that must be figured out
  • The new routines that kids can sometimes have a hard time getting into
  • The struggle of wrapping our brains around not just all these new challenges, but how we feel about our children, our worries for them, how quickly time is slipping away… How they’re changing right before our very eyes.
Lots to think about, and (if we allow it) lots to feel overwhelmed by.

In my daily life, when I am Mom-Karen (as opposed to Podcast-Karen, who understands that everything is going to be just fine and has solid ideas for handling every challenge), I often feel swamped by anxiety and overwhelm.Today I want to share with you the method I have found to beat the overwhelm and actually accomplish what I need and want to.

This is what I really do, how I manage my family’s schedule, how I know everyone is getting what they need, and getting where they need to be.

It lessens the overwhelm, and in fact makes me feel like I have positive energy to accomplish tasks and connect with my family.

This is how I “be the brain.”
As a woman with a tendon disorder, my limbs don’t work in the same way as yours. On a good day I have about 60% use of my arms and hands.
When my youngest was about ten, one day he said to me “okay, you be the brains, and let me be the hands. What do you want for lunch?”
And then, taking direction from me, he pulled everything out of the fridge, and put my lunch together.
That’s when this expression was born.

So I guess I’m showing you how to “be the brains” with this newsletter today!

It starts with thinking about priorities.

Not just thinking about them, but writing them down, in a special way, using multicolored Post-it notes. (Not that you must use multicolored Post-it notes. This is what works for me! Please adapt it for yourself : )

First, figure out what your most important priorities are.

I know from my own life that, with everything going on, it can feel practically impossible to come up with “the most important” priority.
It feels like everything is hugely important.

Something that has really worked for me is the following:

Write them down.

I find it most helpful to write each competing priority down on its own individual, color-coded Post-it note.

At this time of year my Post-its include the following:
– Get Jay new boots (pink = family stuff)
– Strengthen my legs to make the grueling drive 4 days a week, to Jay’s school starting the week after Labor Day (pink)
– Make soup for tonight’s dinner (pink)
– Take down easy-up shelter and put away chairs from this past weekend’s graduation party, before it rains (pink)
– Attend parent orientation at Max’s community college (pink)
– Revise Educating Happy Kids (blue = books and writing)
– Create a survey of potential covers for Educating Happy Kids (blue)
– Release Educating Happy Kids, so that it is available for parents (blue)
– Food shop for the coming week (pink)
– Get peaches, tomatoes, and lettuce at farm stand (pink)
– Write script for a future We Turned Out Okay podcast guest (yellow = podcast)

Looking at this list, without the color coding, it would make me feel totally paralyzed.

That’s why I put my priorities on the color-coded Post-its.
This simple act gives me the power to determine what’s most important.

What I like best about it is that I can arrange the notes in different ways.
I can play with them.

As I decide “which of these is most important for us to get done first?” I can put that one above the others on a flat surface, so I can still see them all. (I hang ours up on the fridge, along with this week’s schedule and weekly shopping list.)

Or I can stack them, so that I only see the top note, the top priority.

Each day I take post-its, and put them on the to-do list for that day. Today’s include “Wednesday newsletter” and “Revise Educating Happy Kids,” the one about making soup for dinner, and the one about taking down the easy up shelter and putting away the chairs.
As we go through our day, completing tasks, I just pull off the Post-it and set it aside.

Sometimes I use the same Post-it tomorrow or next week, sometimes they get discarded. And sometimes I put them in a separate “Finished!” notebook, so I can plan better for this time next year, when will be back to “get ready for school” and I can see what I did this year regarding that.

So the to-do list gets smaller as I accomplish each priority.

Other things, such as getting Jay new boots to start the school year, can wait a bit. I would keep that Post-it for next week.

The way I am preparing to make that grueling drive starting in about 4 weeks, is by doing strength training and other exercise with my legs.
So when I look at my Post-its tonight, preparing for tomorrow, perhaps “Strengthen my legs” would be the top card. My first priority tomorrow.

That’s how I handle overwhelm at this time of year.

In fact it’s how I schedule our lives, all year. It’s useful at other times too!

I try really hard to understand my priorities, sort them, and make a plan for when I will accomplish each one.

EVERYTHING gets thrown into upheaval at this time of year.

What can you control?

Just one thing: your choices.

You get to choose how you respond to the upheaval.

Choose wisely.

I hope that some version of the Post-it note activity will be helpful as you do so!

Keep reading below for What’s up on the podcast/In the Facebook group…

Wishing you a wonderful parenting week!

PS I am largely off-line for the month of August, as I finish up with Educating Happy Kids and enjoy some family downtime!
I will have only sporadic access to email, so if you write to me please be patient, I will get back to you ASAP, though it may be several days.
I will still be in our private coaching community (Ninja Parenting Community) forums every single day! So if you are a member, click the link below to join in the fun: )

What’s up on the podcast this week:
I invite you to help me wreck this podcast!
Click the link below to listen:

What’s up in the We Turned Out Okay Facebook group this week:
Magic Words for Parents is off for the month of August, as I wrap up my book and get some family downtime.
Click here to join the Facebook group, because I am still popping in there and would love to say hi!

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