You create your weekly meal plans (we pre-plan ours regularly) and outline the weeks must dos and stay on track for managing your finances. You work to stay organized and even have a strategy in place for self-care. But life throws you a couple of curve-balls and you miss some sleep and someone unexpectedly needs your help as the week begins to spiral out of your desired control. The tension mounts.
Here are a few strategies for staying focused on The who, what and how of your days:
Sleep Matters – When life gets a little more hectic than usual there might, in fact, be a clear reason that you cannot sleep as much as normal. We should understand the significant impact of losing sleep on our physical and emotional health and genuinely do our best. It is during sleep that our bodies and minds repair and rejuvenate. Perhaps we can take a 20-minute nap in the afternoon or before supper even if it means the floor remains unvacuumed. Perhaps we can cut out evening news or a favorite TV show and climb into bed an hour earlier. Adequate sleep is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to manage your health and well-being.
Practice Gratitude – Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of Psychology at the University of California, tells us that gratitude boosts happiness by helping people cope with stress and trauma (among its NUMEROUS other benefits). Robert Emmons, another happiness researcher, and writer defines gratitude as “a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” There are, of course, many ways to practice gratitude but my favorite is to bookend my days with bringing to mind three things that I am grateful for when I wake up and as I lay down to sleep at night. I feel that this practice sets me up for success by regularly drawing my attention back to all that is beautiful and positive in my life.
Move your body – Exercise is a fabulous stress-reliever and mood-booster. Depending on your personality and current life situation you may need to modify your typical exercise; rather than your usual hard-core workouts, for instance, this might be the time to do more gentle stretching or yoga or to take long walks outside. On the other hand, some people simply feel best and experience stress-reduction only when they really work up a sweat. The important thing is to listen to your body as you move through different seasons of life and adjust your movement accordingly. In general, it is also best to avoid living a sedentary lifestyle and then trying to compensate with a couple of intense workouts each week.
Three things – This is an offshoot of the previous point regarding eliminating the non-essential. Take a hard look at what remains and consciously choose the three things that if you do this day, will have the biggest positive impact on your life. At the end of the day, if you have done these three things, you will feel satisfied. Your Top-3 will depend on your specific situation and responsibilities, of course. It will vary each day and might include items such as: spend time cuddling and reading with your children; complete two hours work on my client’s Program Plan; brush my teeth and shower (new baby, anyone?); make a double batch of healthy muffins for kids’ snacks; pay online bills; or move my body! Living very purposefully in this way (as opposed to running around frantically) can increase a sense of control over life which can, in turn, decrease stress.
Stay inspired – Some people love to listen to music as they find it supports them in mood balance. Not a music fan? Instead, listen to podcasts or to read to stay inspired. It is so easy to get off track when life feels busy or stressful, and to start behaving in ways that do not align with how we envision our ‘best life’ or ‘best self’; I find that through the storms, it is incredibly helpful to keep before me models of health, resilience, and strength. Like most of you, I am not rolling in buckets of free time to read at leisure. But I can listen to podcasts as I work in my home, exercise, or in the vehicle. I can bring a book with me (or just leave it in the car) for those little stretches of time when I am waiting to pick up someone, waiting for an appointment, or at a doctors visit. Finally, when I find articles/blog posts online that I want to read, I save them to an app called Pocket; then when I have a ‘pocket of time’ to read but am without a book, a queue of articles is ready and waiting for me.
I hope you find a few calming nuggets of inspiration here to support you this week and I encourage everyone to take a moment and develop your own plan in your own way. Don’t forget to carve out some time for meditation it can truly help you with all of this!
Peace and Love, Jim