What Will You Create? How to Use Self-Care & Creativity to Survive

I don’t know what the last few months have been like for you, but if you’re like me, I’m guessing that it has been a whirlwind of emotions and feelings! One minute I feel one way and moments later it’s like I feel the exact opposite. I’m feeling good, I’m feeling bad. I’m energized, I’m tired. I’m brave, I’m fearful.

Taking on new challenges comes with a new set of circumstances. So much has changed and there is so much newness to deal with and navigate.

Through the ups and the downs, I have felt an innate desire to serve people and help myself and others rise to get through this crazy time. Sometimes it has been easier and other times it has been harder.

But tonight, on a walk I took by myself, I was able to let my mind wander… I think I found an answer for me, and I wanted to share it with you (as I imagine we all may be facing some of the same roadblocks even though our particular circumstances may be totally different.)

The answer that came to me was being CREATIVE.  To CREATE a new way.

According to Merriam-Webster here is the definition of creative & create:

 

Definition of creative

1: marked by the ability or power to create : given to creating

2: having the quality of something created rather than imitated

3: managed so as to get around legal or conventional limits

 

Definition of create

1: to bring into existence

2a: to invest with a new form, office, or rank

b: to produce or bring about by a course of action or behavior

3: CAUSE, OCCASION

4a: to produce through imaginative skill

b: DESIGN

1: to make or bring into existence something new

 

Yes, my responsibilities and roles have been altered. Yes, I am now a TK & 2nd Grade Teacher. I am a housecleaner. A chef. Yes, I am home ALL THE TIME. Yes, I did most of this stuff before, but no I did not do it alone and I did not do it ALL THE TIME!

I’m sure you can relate. Maybe you are trying to balance having two parents working from home trying to homeschool at the same time. Maybe you are trying to balance the different school workloads of your three kids, all different ages and levels. Maybe you are trying to balance caring for your elderly family members who you may or may not even be able to see right now.

Life is complicated. And it is complicated beyond complicated now as we face unprecedented times.

But let’s get back to being CREATIVE.

YES, things are hard, and things look different. But what the heck can we actually DO about it?!?!?!?! How can we make the best of it?

We can CREATE.

The idea just popped in my head and even though it didn’t make my headache go away, it did seem to offer me some much-needed SPACE and possibly a taste of potential freedom.

Then when I was listening to a podcast interview and it brought the idea home even further. They were talking about the importance of self-care right now, how the people doing well right now are the ones who are making their own self-care a priority; vs. the people who are barely holding on, they are getting swamped in the gravity of it all, neglecting their needs, and struggling.

But what really got me was when he said the people in prison war camps who survived were the ones who thought that this was going to last awhile. Those who thought it would be temporary didn’t survive.

So clearly this isn’t war camp. We are not POWs, but if we act in ways that say this is how it’s going to be for a while, then we can adapt our lives to our current situation. We can be CREATIVE and find ways to make at least some of the things we need and want to work!

Let’s create from scratch. Let’s be creative and find ways to make space for some PLAY in our day-to-day lives.

PLAY is essential and now more than ever we need to create moments of joy, love and flow in our lives. We need to show our kids that we can do that. We need to play with our partners. We need to leave the heaviness behind from time to time so we can hang out in the world of LOVE AND POSSIBILITY, even if just for a few moments.

So, I can’t wait to see what you are going to CREATE for yourself and your family! Let’s take on our self-care and sneak in some PLAY! Game On!

 

PS- I also want to take a minute to thank amazing my boys and all the wonderful people who partnered with us in our #WeWriteTheStory2020 challenge so far! They inspired me to find creativity and blew me away with all the fresh and fun ideas they came up with. Playing and sending out over 50 games so far has shown me how we all have the innate ability to be creative, we just need to allow the time and space for it. You can learn more about our challenge here and you can stay up to date on my daily posts including games, sanity hacks and more on my instagram. Thanks all!

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/creative

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/creating

The Beauty of Imperfection

Written on February 29, 2020

The drive to perfection is pervasive. It slips into every nook and cranny in my life. Kitchen counters, clothes-organized-by-color in closets, stellar achievements. It even tried to seep into my head watching my 7 year-old-son’s basketball team that I coach underperforming. Having a drive to be successful and work hard is amazing. But so often it tows (and often crosses) the line into over-competiveness and unhealthy need for perfection.

And what is the deal with perfection anyway? Live in the perfect home, have the perfect career, sculpt a perfect body, date/marry the perfect person, have the best dressed kids/win every award/achieve/achieve/achieve.

Strive. Strive. Strive.

And for what?

What are we losing? What are we giving up? And worst of all what are we missing out on as a result?

The science proves it and these days there is no lack of studies- money, success, and awesome things DO NOT CAUSE HAPPINESS!

So why do we keep on doing it? Why do we keep pushing for more? And then more and then more.

Hedonic adaptation is definitely part of it. Get something good in your life, get used to it, need more to reach that next level, then reach it, get used to that and so on.

But this is a post on wabi-sabi and see how long my ego kept me from getting to it? I could go into the research on how to beat or pare down hedonic adaptation (and I definitely can in a future post), but for now I’d rather side swipe it and skip to wabi-sabi.

According to Collins Dictionary wabi-sabi is a Japanese term loosely translated as “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay.”

What a drop dead gorgeous and completely intimidating concept for this American born and raised girl.

Find beauty in the imperfect.

That sentence could stand alone. I can imagine flipping through Instagram and just seeing that sentence show up on EVERY SINGLE POST! Maybe just that phrase with a rainbow of background colors behind it. Or maybe that phrase with an elegant and potent image unique to each poster that really drives home the POWER of celebrating the beauty of what is already there. The beauty of DROPPING all the striving, angling, positioning, wanting and wishing.

Proud but not satisfied.

I am proud of where I am. Life isn’t perfect, but I am doing the best I can. I am enjoying what I have and what life surrounds me with. And I am following my dreams and passions in a way that supports me and those around me. No one is perfect.

A perfect life is an illusion.

And if you are around people who claim to have it or claim they can teach you how to have it I call shenanigans!

Find yourself some real people who admit their life sucks sometimes but keep getting back up, holding their head high (or as high as possible that day), and give it their best try. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. You learn more from losing.

I have learned so much from wabi-sabi and am just a novice. It’s my word of the year and I still study it more and practice it more. But along my journey I want to cherish where I am. Life is fleeting. Moments slip away into memory faster than blinking and I just want to know that I’ve given it my all. I will fail. I will fumble. But I will never give up my pursuit of happiness. And wabi-sabi will be my secret tool to use along the way.

It will be my light saber guiding me in times of darkness to fight off the evil intuitions my mind sometimes pulls up. I will honor myself and those around me in celebrating the ultimate beauty in life, aka imperfection.

My soul has spilled out on this page for you and for me. I will reread this lots of times and shake my head and feel it in my heart. Tears slide down my cheeks as I type this. I just want to leave my all on the court. I want to give my all. I want to make a difference. I want that for the entire planet. I want us all to come together in love and acceptance and drop all this crap and hate and intolerance. We are the same. Let’s build each other up. Let’s work together as one team.

Think of the generations that living like that could become. Think of the love, the power, a universal team. I pray for that….

EPILOGUE: April 24, 2020

I wrote this post above on Leap Day, February 29, 2020, well before COVID-19 was running its tidal wave across the world, before it was even called COVID. It’s unreal how much has changed yet how much of the above is even more relevant now. People are sheltering in place. We are being forced to slow down and face imperfection and the cycle of life. We are realizing all we took for granted.

We are facing new challenges and stresses, and we are facing them alone due to social distancing. Each day there are new facets of this pandemic that become apparent. But I am going to do like Mr. Rogers said, and look for the hero’s. I am going to keep sharing my #WeWriteTheStory2020 games each day and posting Sanity Hacks in hopes that we can sneak in even a moment of play, joy or connection.

I’d love to hear what you have been learning about embracing the beauty of imperfection during this time so please comment below or shoot me message on my blog or my instagram @chasinghavers.

We can do this, one day at a time, one moment at a time…

Time To Pivot

Wow. If you would have told me a couple weeks ago that the world was about to go into a global lockdown and health pandemic, I never would have believed you. We are all painfully aware of our new world, the new dangers, the new fears, all the stinking newness. We’ve all already read a million articles and seen a million posts on COVID-19, how to make the best of your time, how to workout at home, how to start to cook, how to do any completely random combination of just about anything and everything. We’ve also seen a million awesome memes that thankfully make us burst out laughing.

But the one thing I see as a major context in this unique occurrence is everyone’s joint need to need to pivot. I just got off the phone with my dear friend in Toronto who said, “everything has been touched by this.” All aspects of our lives are being impacted. We are going down new roads that we never expected to face, or really even imagined we’d face as a global collective.

In times of tragedy or natural disaster, people come together. But now we are told to stay 6-feet apart. We repel from each other like two opposite sides of magnets when we get near other people. It’s bizarre. It reminds me of when my Aussie friend came to visit. We went to Vegas (obviously) and were walking down the sidewalk, yet he kept going to the wrong side. (You should’ve seen me TRYING to drive in Sydney, turning at intersections… forget about it, but that’s another story!)

But we are not outside our country; we are not outside our cultural norm. We are outside our HUMAN norm. We are forced apart in hopes that we can all come back healthy and strong together.

Which leads me to the point of this post. We are in an era of unprecedented unity in that EVERYONE is forced to pivot. Whatever you THOUGHT you were going to be doing, you’re not. Or at least not in the way you thought you were. Whatever you THOUGHT was important, you are reminded of the mighty value of your health and the simple pleasure of being alive. Whatever you THOUGHT you needed or wanted or maybe even dreamed of, you are forced to realize and vanquish your control.

But to pivot, you can think about what you DO control, what you DO value the most in your life. You know what you have to get done and what you can let slide. You can decide how much time you will spend on things (outside your necessary responsibilities), on what and when. You can choose time on social media, watching the news, sneaking into closets or garages to cry. You can choose how much time you spend reading or simply PLAYING with your kids. (Which reminds me to remind you to follow my Instagram @chasinghavers each day for a new #wewritethestory2020 game you can play with your kids, how to use it to connect with your community, and for a daily sanity tip.)

Companies can pivot and learn how to be effective and productive as employees work from home. Families with two working parents can pivot to see how they can work together to be a team and support their children in new ways. Kids can pivot to see how they can learn and play outside the traditional classroom setting. Friends can pivot by having online parties like I will be doing this Saturday (in toga by the way!)! Moms can pivot by teaching their children to help them cook, do laundry and do chores. Dads can pivot by modeling for their family how they are adapting to a new change. Entrepreneurs can pivot as they find new ways to serve their clients.

I emailed my son’s amazing TK teacher to ask her what advice she had for my son as being just home and she said the first word she teaches them as school starts is being “flexible.”

Right now, is a complete exercise in being flexible, and being present. Taking life one day at a time, one moment at a time.

Because I feel like life is flying in my face faster than ever before, I have a trillion emails to read, three meals and twenty snacks a day to prepare and clean up, a house to clean, workouts to try to sneak in, games to play, kids to teach and hang with, and on and on…. I took my priorities I had clarified (from my How to Fill Your Life With What’s Important to You post which you can read here…) and turned them into a general outline of what I want to accomplish each day. This way it keeps me intentionally focused on what I know is important to me and not slide down the rabbit hole of the craziness that is spreading all around.

My Personal Guidelines for Each Day:

  • 4 different quality times with my fam
  • 1 hard workout (4-5 days/wk)
  • 1 mild/medium workout (like bike ride with kids, playing in backyard with them, going for a walk, etc.)
  • Cook a healthy dinner for family with extras for lunch the next day
  • Take some creative time for myself
  • 1-2 meditations/prayer/gratitude journal
  • Create & post one fun family game for my #wewritethestory2020 challenge
  • Talk to at least one friend a day and reach out to someone new each day
  • (*NOTE: These are in addition to all my regular day to day responsibilities, work, kids, etc.*)

Also, be flexible with yourself on this. If I miss a hard workout one day, no biggie. It’s just a guideline. But I find having something to center myself around to be super helpful and grounding. I find it reassuring as if I can just do most of that, I can feel good about my day no matter how many ups and downs it has.

So friend, I can’t wait to celebrate MASSIVELY when we have all made it through this.  It’s my hope that when we look back we can each say, wow, we really rose up and did our best. We worked through our fears and emotions; we were leaders to our family. We were courageous in this strange time and we are proud of how we took it day by day and focused on what is most important to us along the way. We used our skills and gifts to make the world around us a better place, no matter how big or small of community we touched, we gave it our all.

Game on! Sending love, patience, and perseverance.

We can do this together.

PS- I took this photo on a run last summer in Michigan when visiting my sweet in-laws. I thought it could make a good pic for my blog in the future. Who knew it would like this… The road may end but we can pivot and blaze our new trail through the grass.

Spreading Community & Connection- Not Coronavirus #wewritethestory2020

There’s a lot going on in the world today. Things look totally different today even than they did yesterday. We are being inundated with information on coronavirus, how it spreads, how to distance ourselves, what’s happening here and around the world. And now our kids will be home for at least three weeks. We’re not quite sure what to do, where we can go, will Coronavirus come to our neighborhood? How will it affect our life today, tomorrow, next month, forever?

Stories are swirling. Group text chats are blowing up. My thoughts go wild. But in chaos and troubled times we have an opportunity to come together. Even in social distancing we can reach out and do our part to spread the feeling of love, support and connection.

Enter my new game.

#WeWriteTheStory2020

(Follow me on Instagram for free daily games & sanity hacks @chasinghavers)

When I heard that schools were getting cancelled for 3 weeks I thought of all the parents out there and how overwhelming it is to think of 3 weeks home with the kids. All activities cancelled. All sports cancelled. Parks/beaches closed. Social distancing suggested. I wanted to figure out a way to help so I came up with this idea.

For at least 20 minutes a day, we invite you to sit with your family and find a way to reach out to your community. Draw a picture to mail to grandma. Write a thank you card to volunteers in your community. Send a funny video to your friends near or far. Help send love to people around you as everyone desperately needs it right now.

We challenge you and your family to do 20 minutes a day and send 20 messages a week. Some might be a quick note or text message, others might be a more involved art project like tracing your outstretched arms and literally sending your hugs to your family members. Use your imagination. Get your kids involved. Remember, we write the story and here is our chance to show them the sky is limit when it comes to their ideas. You can share by mail, email, video, Skype, Facetime, you name it!

Let’s teach our kids to come together, to be grateful for what we have, and to send love and support to others. Let’s take time out to sit together, to color, to draw, to paint, to write a story, to put on a play.

Be creative. And let us know what is inspiring you and your family!

Post a picture or message and join us in #WeWriteTheStory2020.

Sending health and love.

PS- I want to thank Ginny from @1000hoursoutside. I love how she created a simple challenge that promotes a healthy activity and being together; it helped me come up with this. I also want to thank Abbey Gibb for prompting me & her peeps to look for ways to be compassionate leaders amidst the collective sinking energy. I also want to thank my husband, family and friends for helping me brainstorm this idea yesterday and today! You can find a new daily game posted on my Instagram so follow me there @chasinghavers. And check out my friend @liferedefinedwithjudi for more on our #WeWriteTheStory2020. Can’t wait to play together and help our community write our own stories!

Open or Closed?

I’m sure you’ve been there before. One minute you’re having fun with your family and then before you know it you’ve reached a stalemate… Here is one such tale.

I am sitting at the kitchen island finishing eating dinner with my family. My boys are laughing hysterically. I turn both my hands into the “closed” position (a fist) and knock them into each other. My two fists battle it out until they explode. Bam! More laughter erupts from the kids and this time my husband Matt and I laugh too.

I am acting out being “open” and “closed” with the new hand motions I just made up and for some reason everyone finds it amusing. But if you turned the clock back a few minutes, it was like we were in a different place. Frustration was palpable, no one was having fun. Adam had a pile of vegetables on his plate and was trying to escape the island to go play. Matt was trying to wrangle him into finishing eating and not get up until he was done. The stakes were rising as they both dug deeper into their positions.

Suddenly a thought floated into my mind about a podcast Matt had shared with me recently about being open vs. being closed. And for whatever reason my theater instincts from childhood took over, and before I knew it I was performing an almost puppet show full of hand motion characters to visually represent the different ways of being.

My hand went straight into the air to represent being open. When you’re open, you can turn, you can look around, you can pivot. You are clear.

Then I quickly clench my hand into a tight fist. I am closed. I don’t look around. I am drawn inward and mad. I can’t see the bigger picture and just want to rage, rebel and hide.

The boys are drawn in to my story and I am fueled by my interested audience, so I go on, all off the cuff. I open one hand and then close the other and describe how when one person is open they can surround the closed one in a “hug”. They can be patient, take their time and share their openness or love until they both turn into a heart.

And then I perform the two closed fists battling and exploding over and over as that is clearly their favorite part. Tonight, it was Matt and Adam battling over dinner.

It all sounds totally cheesy, and it is. But I will tell you it has been super useful in our family and we reference it anytime one of us starts to be closed. I think the visual representation of being open or closed really resonates with the kids. It’s nice to be able to show them without having to remind them or feel like nagging them. It is a nice hint.

For example, this past weekend we were getting in the car to go to the gym when Adam decided he did not want to go there and play at the kid’s club. He was mad! So, I turned back from the passenger seat and pulled out my closed fist with a silly look on my face. He got it. And even though he still didn’t really want to go, he got that he was being closed and we were able to have a conversation about it rather than having him stay stuck in his madness. He also coined a new additional hand motion for medium halfway between fist and straight, when you are not quite open but not closed.

Sometimes even just moving from closed to medium is a great place to start a conversation. No one is perfect. As adults we get upset about things. We get defensive or mad, both closed ways of being. If we can even just get to medium we can start assessing the situation from a calmer vantage and see more clearly how best to move forward. Even just admitting or realizing that you are in closed is helpful as it delineates your way of thinking and approaching the situation.

Life isn’t perfect. There will be upsets for kids, for parents, for everyone. The more you resist something the more it persists. Sometimes we need to take a step back, realize what is actually happening and work our way toward being open about it or even just being medium about it.

Anyway, I share these silly stories with you as I know how valuable it has been for our family. I have always been the peacekeeper of our family, but mostly because I try my best to stay open. I also look for where I am responsible in the situation. Like if I keep my kids up late at a fun party, the next day I need to be prepared to be extra patient with my kids if they are overtired and a bit whiney. I want to help my kids and myself be the best versions of ourselves and a lot of that starts with healthy choices which I will talk about in the next post.

In the meantime, let me know if you try out the hand motions with your kids and how it goes!

Xoxo

Happy New Decade!

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Happy New Year! 2020! I was super excited to start a new decade and here we are almost a month into it already. Like the start of a new school year, a new year and especially a brand-new decade feels like such freedom. I feel like I am opening the cover to a new book full of blank pages where I can literally write whatever I want. I can feel the excitement of leaving old ways behind and establishing new habits and patterns in my life. And although my big plans to ring in the new decade in style were crashed by the realities of a sick kid, I worked hard to stay present and enjoyed the options I had. (Aka, I stayed home and watched the Sydney fireworks and had a family dance party.)

More time at home meant more time to be introspective. Scrolling through my limited Instagram (more on that in another post) I was inspired by three posts that I wanted to share since they were very useful for me. One was by one of my favorite authors, Leeanna Tankersley, whom I’ve posted about before. You can see her full post copied below, but basically, she said to take a few minutes to look over your past year. Check your calendar or photos for reminders; but take time to take stock of all that happened for you and your family. Think about the highs and the lows. Celebrate all you have made it through. Write it down and give yourself a pat on the back for doing it and making it through to the other side.

I loved this idea and spent some time on it after I put my kids to bed one night. I hope to continue it as a yearly tradition and keep each write up as a precious memory of everything that was our life in each year. I know that times goes by (quickly) and I believe I’ll remember life the way it is, but I won’t. Even though it feels like this phase will last forever, because sometimes it certainly feels that way in the moment, I know it doesn’t.

My child’s cutest baby cheeks. The way they cuddle into me. Nursing my baby and rocking away in his super still nursery in the middle of the night. How they call for me for one more hug after I put them to bed. How they only want the blue cup when you’ve already poured their juice into the red one and it’s too early to even see a sliver of sunshine. How they are always doing puzzles and leaving their clothes on the floor.

Each magical detail. One moment an irritation, the next moment a fleeting memory laced with warmth and the feeling of tears welling in your eyes. So, I will write it down and save it. I will look at it again in the future. I will remember. I will remember what I learned, what I gave up, what I gained. And it will help me to hold strong and stay present in the current moment. It will help me to embrace the challenges and remember how I will think of these challenging moments in the future with love.

And other memories I might not remember so fondly. Other memories still hold pure sadness in my heart, like the unexpected death of my brother-in-law last year. I certainly miss him and want to hear his laugh and how he’d always say, “I’m going to slide out,” whenever he left. How he’d play with the boys and have fun conversations about science and movies with us. But in this sadness, I remember how our family came together, how we had an amazing time in Michigan honoring his life. We shared hot summer days and nights over the 4th of July telling old stories and laughing together, sending fireworks into the air, spending quiet moments sitting together on the porch watching the storm quietly roll in as lightning bugs blinked silently all around the yard. I know that we made it through hard times by taking it moment by moment and leaning on each other. And in these memories, I’ll know that I can make it through any hard moments that may come again God forbid.

I also reflected on another big milestone in 2019, our 10-year wedding anniversary. I was surprised at how much it meant to me and how proud I was at all that we had accomplished and been through together. I love my husband and it was nice to have an opportunity to stop and think about us, rather than just being us in the swirl of life that surrounds us being mom and dad to our two young kids.

The second and third posts that inspired me were from my friend and health coach Judi from @liferedefinedwithjudi. Her first post that stood out asked these two questions: “What are you going to leave behind? What are you going to take with you?” Again, the idea of leaving things behind seems so eloquent and beautiful.

As parents we’ve seen our kids leave things behind: pacifiers, baby food, diapers, cribs… As adults, what do we leave behind? Or should I say, why don’t we leave things behind? Why do we seem to take everything with us by default? We see the patterns of learning and moving on from our children. We too can choose to leave things behind.

Some things helped us when we needed them to, but now they hold us back, physically, mentally, emotionally.  Taking time to truly see ourselves and our behaviors can help us to choose what we want to leave behind. And like Marie Kondo says about donating our used items, we can thank whatever we leave behind and move on into a new future, free to create and use new or refined skills.

The third post that inspired me (more like made me cry!) asked you to think about the past decade and all your memories and accomplishments. When I thought about mine, I was jarred by the HUGE milestones that had occurred. I got married to my summer fling. I gave birth to my son and became a mom! I had another baby boy and we became a complete family! My husband started his own business and we moved into our home. We celebrated 10 years of marriage. HOLY COW those are some BIG moments!

So much happened in the last decade, and after reflecting on it I realized the possibility of all that we will experience in this next one. Therefore, I am bringing with me my desire to continue to learn about what it takes to lead a happy and fulfilled life. I am bringing with me the dear friends I have made and plan on investing time and love into these relationships. I am taking with me my dedication to health and well-being. I am taking with me resilience, patience, and grace. I am focusing on being present. I can’t wait to write the next chapter.

References & Links

“Take 10 minutes today to go back through your year month by month. You can look at your calendar/planner if you need help remembering, but some of us had the kind of year where you know exactly what happened and when it happened. Write down a few events, milestones, memories from each month. What was significant? Stream of consciousness, bullet point, words/phrases. See, on paper, what you’ve walked through, what you’ve navigated, what you’ve lost, what you’ve celebrated. It might surprise you. Give yourself a big il’ THANK YOU & HELL YA for showing up, for beginning again and again, for making it.” December 31, 2019 @lmtankersley

 

 

Two more days of 2019!! This being one of them. What are you going to leave behind? What ae you going to take with you?” December 30, 2019 @liferedefinedwithjudi

 

 

 

“It’s the last day of the year. The last day of the decade. Take a moment to reflect on the last 10 years. What were your top 10 moments or memories? What are your top 10 things that made you smile? What are your top 10 accomplishments?

These last 10 years have had their ups and downs. The best things about the downs are that you: 1. You become a stronger version of yourself. 2. Gain new perspective. 3. Its during the “downs” that growth happens. 4. You get to go back up!” December 31, 2019 @liferedefinedwithjudi

 

How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You

How to Fill Your Life with What’s Important to You & Your Family

6 Steps to Make the Most of Your Time

Time flies when you are having fun- or maybe just time flies! And if time flies, I certainly want to make sure to fill it up with the things that are important to me and my family. I don’t know about you, but I feel like we are always super busy. I feel like we have a million things to do and a million more that I would want to do if I just had more time!

Clearly there’s no way to add more time to the day. So, I started to think about what I could do to maximize my time and make sure I was using it wisely. That led me to try something new. I pinpointed our priorities and made a concerted effort to plan weekly activities to fulfill them.I call it intentional living, but I guess it is more like intentional planning. The planning is the key element as it takes the week on a whole and fills it with meaningful activities, rather than just attempting to complete a never ending to do list.

Take a minute to think about what you are already doing. Where do you spend your free time? Do those activities fill you up or leave you drained? Do you feel guilty about what you are doing (or not doing?) Do you get sad when people say things like “enjoy it while you have it” and “they grow up so fast! “ (I hope I can remember to never actually say that to anyone when I am older!)

If we choose to be intentional in how we use our time, we can look back and be proud, knowing that we filled our family’s free time with the things we value.  We can be proud that we took advantage of the time we had when our kids were at each age, because we thought about what we wanted for them and for our families and planned accordingly!

Here’s how to get started

1. FIGURE OUT YOUR FAMILY’S PRIORITIES!

First you have to figure out what your family’s priorities actually are. Some ideas include health, marriage, family time, fitness, friends, spirituality/religion, learning/personal growth, children, hobbies, volunteering, travel, community, careers, and education. There are lots of choices- so be sure to take some time to consider actually is important to you, not just what you think is supposed to be important!

2. PLAN ACTIVITIES EACH WEEK THAT FULFILL THOSE PRIORITIES

Once you know what is important to you and your family, then you can brainstorm activities that fulfill each area. Once you have some possibilities you can start planning them into your actual calendar. For example, my family values fun so I try to plan at least one playdate each week. I also try to get together with my friends at least once a week (while the kids are in school or at night). Another example for me is I try to get to the beach once a week to satisfy either peace/rest/nature time or health/fitness if I make an active trip like a run, surf, beach tennis, etc.

3. FIND WAYS TO COMBINE YOUR PRIORITIES WITH YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES

In addition to just adding activities into your free time, you can also try to find ways to sneak aspects of what you prioritize into the things you have to do. You can’t escape your responsibilities (like your job, driving kids to school, doing laundry, cleaning the house, etc.) but you can find ways to make them more enjoyable. For example, if you value education, creativity, self-growth or learning, you can clean the house while you listen to your favorite podcasts. Or if you value dance or fitness you can clean while listening to fun upbeat songs that get you dancing along to your dusting. Those can be blended with health easily too if you listen to either while you cook or exercise. You can add either of those to school drop offs as well and find some fun kids’ podcast to get your kids excited about learning too.

4. SCHEDULE THE ACTIVITIES!

Take the time to schedule your important activities into your calendar. Maybe even start a family calendar where you can write it all down for everyone to see (if you haven’t done that already.) As a bonus, once you write it on an actual calendar it’s easier to see if your schedule is balanced or not. Keep in mind, you might not be able to fit everything you want into each week. Whatever doesn’t fit is either lower on the priority list or something to start with for the next week.

5. REVISIT YOUR ORIGINAL PRIORITIES

After some time has passed it’s a good idea to revisit your original priority list and make sure it is really true to what you want. Maybe you thought you valued super fitness but realize that you actually value family time more since your kids are little and you want to soak up the time with them. It is ok to change it up. It is one thing to want a six-pack, but it is another thing to actually be willing to do what it takes to achieve one. Also, the more priorities you have the harder it may be to get them all in. Therefore, you may have to trim down your list or get real with yourself about what really is important. Use your list and scheduling to feel good and fulfilled at the end of each week and adjust as needed along the way.

6. PLAN FOR DOWNTIME

Don’t forget to plan for downtime! With the endless activities available today and the never-ending to do lists, sometimes the thing missing is rest. It was a little bit of a surprise for me, a total extrovert, when I realized something I would like more of is peace and calm, aka downtime! So, I make sure to leave some free time and I also plan a beach day or afternoon as an opportunity to slow down and connect with nature. I also like to read, write and take it easy.

But what about if you are not a planner? What if this is just too much scheduling for you? I get it, though I might challenge you by saying you do keep some kind of schedule. I suppose if you don’t like to keep a calendar just the act of thinking about your priorities and how you spend your time can be helpful and maybe it will help keep that stuff at the top of your mind where you are more apt to do things to meet them. But I would also challenge you to try this method for a month and see how it feels. Maybe the act of planning based on how you want to spend your time will feel better and more palatable.

In anticipation of the holiday season that is upon us, I challenge myself and everyone who reads this to take the time to think about what priorities you have for yourself and your family and talk to them about it too. Then keep up with scheduling in time for your priorities. Fight the hectic holiday pace with planned important activities. Hopefully by having an empowering context and choosing activities that align with your family’s priorities, we can stay more grounded and calm in end of year and into the future.

Let me know your thoughts along the way. I’d love to hear how this intentional living and planning makes a difference for you!

Planning vs Worrying

Are you a planner? Do you keep your family’s schedule organized and help juggle all the activities and responsibilities? I am obsessed with planning and feel like it totally helps me to live a happy and balanced life (more details on that to come in another post soon.) But on the flip side, I can also find myself worrying about things like my son’s ear infections or traveling alone to Chicago or really anything having to do with the safety and health of my boys…. So, when I stumbled across an article about the difference between planning and worrying I was intrigued.

It started off by saying we have evolved from the hunter gatherer life and we are programmed to be on the lookout for dangerous or compromising situations. (My husband would love that as he is always bringing it back to our human roots tied to the land and our instincts.) This innate sleuthing thus enabled and enables us to survive. Our parents trained us and now we even do it to our kids.

“We are all the products of men and women who evolved to be wary. There is nothing remarkable about this. We plan our days and our years. From the time we are children, we are told to watch out for strangers, for speeding cars, and for being caught outside in bad weather. We are instructed to eat and sleep properly and take care of ourselves. Doing the right thing becomes automatic-most of the time. We do not worry about these matters. We plan for them. We schedule them. But even as children, and forever after, we also worry about things. What distinguishes those problems we plan for from those we worry about?” 1

We can plan for all sorts of things- like what we will make for dinner this week, what to do for the next girls night out, how to make the upcoming birthday/holiday/party special, saving for retirement, etc. We can plan for big and little things just as we can worry about big and little things. Whether they are important (like the health of our parents or saving for college) or fleeting (like did I remember to start the dishwasher before I left the house or is my friend upset I had to reschedule our lunch), anything you worry about can be consuming and draining.

Here is what Fredric Neuman M.D. says distinguishes the problems we plan for versus those we worry about: “We plan every day for all those things we need to accomplish during the day. We worry about those things that are very difficult or impossible to plan for.”

In other words, we plan for things we can control, and we worry about things that we cannot control or that we can control but may be short on time for like saving money to retire once you are very close to retirement.

He continues, “To put it another way, we can plan for something important and not worry, if it seems to us we are in control. We worry about things we cannot control. So, we worry if a biopsy will come back showing an abnormal growth, we worry about our children using drugs, we worry about not having enough money to pay the mortgage, we may worry about a spouse being unfaithful. These matters seem to be out of our control. They defy our ability to plan for them. Worry is, therefore, an inevitable consequence of the inability to plan successfully. It is as if we our searching our minds for a plan to confront these problems and cannot find one. If we could find one, we would not worry!”1

So as a planner what can I do to stop worrying? Most people say just let it be, or worrying won’t help, or even less helpful some people say just stop worrying about that- as if it’s the easy! But the aha moment for me from this article is that worrying can’t be stopped on its own, you need to plan for your worry and get beyond the “what if….?” To discover the “then what?….”

“The antidote to worry is action. Chronic worriers are simply people who are not good at making plans.”1

I took a little offense to that when I read it since I consider myself a serious planner! But I can look beyond that to see where in worrying about certain areas I never got past that potential problem to get to the part where I make a plan for it.

Actually, I was just in this circumstance last Wednesday. Both of my sons had a cold, one even got an ear infection. My throat began to feel a bit scratchy and my left ear started to hurt a little bit. Normally that wouldn’t be too big of a problem (especially now that my son got tubes for his ears and he didn’t have to get antibiotics, again.) The problem was that I was about to leave for a solo trip to Chicago to visit my 92-year-old grandma and see family and friends and I didn’t want to be sick for it or have a problem flying with a sore ear.

I was worrying and worrying. What if I am coughing and sick and can’t enjoy my trip? What if I bring germs to my grandma or am too sick to see her? What if my eardrum ruptures on the flight? This went on for a while and persisted as I was already in a nervous state as I rarely leave my kids and husband! Then I did what the article talks about, I went from the “What If” to the “Then What…”

I thought ok what’s the worst scenario here, I feel sick and I can’t go visit my grandma. Well then I’ll be alone and can just stay in a hotel. What if my ear ruptures or hurts? Then I will go to the doctor and get past it! Worse case I hurt a little and miss out, not a big deal. So, I let it go with a plan in mind. I went to Chicago; my ear was fine, and I never got the cold. I got to visit my grandma, my family, and old friends. I seriously had the best trip ever and it is pretty hilarious that I even spent one minute worrying about it! But experiences like this help me to do better in the future. And now that I am equipped with the other tips from this article I hope to plan away all my worries in the future!

To wrap it up here is Neuman’s general strategy for dealing with worry:

“No matter how out of control a situation may seem to be, worrying about it can be dispelled by developing a plan of action. The trick, then, for the affected person-or his/her therapist-is to try to find some plan for dealing with that situation. Sometimes a simple exploration of the problem immediately suggests a reassuring response. I worried one time that my daughter would miss a connecting flight. She pointed out to me that the airlines have a way of dealing with that situation. “They will just put me on the next flight,” she told me.” 1

It is funny that I stumbled upon this technique just earlier this week all on my own and I look forward to applying it to any situations in the future where I would normally find myself worrying!

 

1. Neuman M.D., Fredric. “Planning vs. Worrying. The treatment of a worry.” Psychology Today. 04 Dec. 2016, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fighting-fear/201612/planning-vs-worrying. Accessed 04 June 2018.