It’s day thirteen of school. (Not that I am counting.)
We’ve now been in Wisconsin for six months, and now these past three and a half weeks we have finally started doing (full time) what we came for: teaching and writing and caring for family.
To be completely honest, it’s a bit more intense than I anticipated. The stars aligned so that the six-week period where I’m caring for my infant niece 5-days a week (instead of the usual 2 or 3) exactly corresponded to the start of Evan’s teaching 10th and 11th grade history. Also, first year teaching, it turns out, is a lot of work.
We’re making it though. I’ve been able to help. I’m putting that masters in history to use to help plan lessons on the Columbian Exchange and the Renaissance in Europe for Evan in the afternoon while bouncing my niece in the ergo carrier and typing at my standing desk.
The essentials are being covered—everybody (4 month old baby included) is eating and sleeping and burping (ok only a concern for the 4 month old)—but not much beyond the essentials is getting done.
Intense seasons always seem to sneak up on me. I have some vague idea that in a month or two there will be “more” to do, but then I arrive and “more” has transformed into something much bigger than I imaged. It’s like sticky, heavy molasses spreading out slowly and coating everything.
The first week passed with adrenaline and grace. But the second week I started to feel snarky and weepy and generally impatient—in other words, a bit anxious. Week three I am seeing signs of progress and movement; maybe we won’t be in survival mode forever.
Most of these aren’t permanent stresses, but they are here long enough that I’ve got to make some changes so I’m considerably more pleasant to be with. So here are some of the tools I have to manage a stressful season.
1. MINIMIZE: extra responsibilities.
This means no taking on extra week night projects, and cutting back on current responsibilities as much as I can. So, as you guys have seen, it’s been and will continue to be a little quiet in this space. (Unless of course you want me to blog about the shift from Feudalism to Merchant Capitalism or Medieval African Kingdoms. Because I could be all over that.)
I’m still getting a couple of hours of writing on the novel done in the mornings, so that is also a big help in feeling good about this time.
2. EAT: Minimize caffeine, chocolate, sugar, and alcohol.
When we’re stressed and tired we crave quick hits of energy, i.e. sugar and fat. But if I eat something sweet, I find that my blood sugar plummets afterward, and I’m worse off than when I started. So prioritizing real meals, or high fat and protein snacks works better for me. Also, I find that caffeine and alcohol tend to amplify whatever I’m feeling. So they’re not the greatest choice when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I am not totally cutting them out, but I’m trying to keep the servings small and have them only after I have a real meal. (But totally cutting them out is a more drastic tool that I do have if the anxiety lingers for more than a day at time.)
3. MOVE: Transition to short exercise sessions throughout the day, and take long walks when possible.
One of the things that is hardest about this time is that my exercise time is getting scrunched. I don’t have as large of blocks of high energy time to devote to the workouts I prefer, which of course in turn is contributing to the twitchy feeling of overwhelm. I’m trying to fit shorter exercise blocks in, using the T-Tapp basic 15 minute workout routine when my niece is hanging out on her blanket, or doing some basic ballet barre routines using the side of her crib as my barre, or doing a 20 minute daily yoga in that 25 minute period after my brother and sister-in-law are home before Evan gets home and we go on a walk together and unpack our day.
4. CONNECT: Journal or email or call a friend.
Doing a dump of emotions onto a blank page, or reflecting with a friend who finds humor in my frustrations, is a lot better than just emotionally vomiting on Evan at the end of a hard day about how I feel like there isn’t enough time. I struggle with feeling guilty that I’m not doing one—journaling or emailing or calling friends (or all 3!)—of these each day everyday, but I’m trying to give myself permission that (see #1 minimize extra responsibilities) I don’t have to add a new daily practice. I can just know that journaling or calling a friend is time well spent, and I have permission to do them when I feel like I can.
5. PRAY: Liturgical prayer & savasana
Similar to journaling, stopping and praying with the liturgy or silently resting (20 minutes of savasana pose) is something that I know is good for me. I’m trying to choose to give myself permission to take time to dwell in the silent holy space of prayer and rest, without falling into that guilt pit that I’m not doing enough in terms of Spiritual Practices.
6. READ: peaceful books
One of the main ways that I can remember that there is peace and enough space for me in this season, is to read some good books that preach grace to me in a gentle way. I’m really enjoying Sacred Rhythms by Ruth Haley Barton. (Reminds me of Henri Nouwen, Kathleen Norris, or Ester de Waal) Ending my day with her kind words, or good fiction, helps me stop and remember that I’m part of a big world that God is caring for and has invited me to rest in, even now, perhaps especially now.
7. REST: Go to bed early
The biggest practical exercise is simply to refuse to stay up late. Sleeping well, along with eating well and taking walks when we can, is probably at the core of how we’re surviving this time. It’s one of the biggest lessons of our 20s: you’ll get more done by going to bed at 9 and getting up at 5:30, than you will working until midnight.
8. DO NOTHING TIME: 20 minute mini-dates
I am a big fan of RIE and their idea of having time where you simply are with children not asking them to do anything, hence do-thing time. (Although confession, sometimes I use that time with my niece to stretch.) But it’s also a good practice with Evan. We call them mini-dates, 20 minutes of simply sitting together having a cup of tea or lingering over breakfast on Saturday with the intent purpose of simply being with the other person. Would actual dinner dates or mornings spent hiking be better? Yes! But just because we don’t have hours and hours right now to do that doesn’t mean that we can’t find 10 or 20 minutes to stop and connect.
So those are my tools to surviving this time. I’m hoping that the days are going to open up more at the end of this six weeks, but until then, happy Fall friends!
*Note* This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means if you were to buy a book, I’d get a tiny commission at no cost to you. Thanks for supporting Stories & Thyme!*
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