Tell me you’ve been there too. It’s morning, you’re already late, and your kids are still running around in their pjs completely oblivious to your escalating statements of anxiety and frustration. Finding clothing for them is a challenge because almost every article of clothing in the entire household is dirty and to make matters worse, you have stepped on about 5 legos and a fruit loop in your quest to find their cleanest dirty outfit. Your youngest child has decided to take the middle child’s toy away and the middle child is not taking this action lying down so has retaliated by throwing pillows at the clearly guilty offender. Your oldest child is repeatedly asking you to braid her hair while simultaneously asking for assistance in getting numerous articles of clothing out of her closet and screaming that you give more attention to her two younger siblings than you do to her because you needed to step away from her for a moment to break up the altercation between the other two. Meanwhile, your husband is yelling for you to bring him toothpaste since he forgot to grab it from the drawer and he’s already in the shower. Bags are not packed, it’s library day and you have no idea where the four books that were not once looked at over the past week even are, and now your middle child is indignant because he hasn’t had breakfast yet and can’t find the mask for his catboy costume.
You are eventually able to herd your family out the door with their necessary supplies but not until you’ve yelled at each and every one of them at some point during the morning. Sound familiar? This is me on most days of the week. Adding the stress of graduate school on top of being a wife, mom, and working has only worsened mornings for me because I also struggle with significant sleepiness which in itself tends to contribute to feelings of anxiety and frustration. I do acknowledge the fact that I love to embrace challenge and have a ton of things on my plate right now. However everything on my plate is consistent with both my long and short-term goals and I am deeply committed to each. I also believe that mornings would be challenging for me even if I had fewer obligations. And so this begs the question, how does one get up and out the door every morning with their nerves and sanity intact?
Given my background as a nurse, the first logical step to any problem is assessment. In this case, assessment means an exploration of the barriers to getting out the door each morning. Spend some time brainstorming both large and small things which are contributors. My brainstorming would include a list of necessary tasks to be completed each morning before I can walk out the door as well as the tasks I am currently spending my time on and how much time each takes. I would also consider the time that I get up in the morning and the time that I must leave in order to be on time. I have found that it’s important to factor in a few extra minutes whenever your daily routine involves small children because you never know what will come up with them!
Once you’ve completed your brainstorming list, it’s time to analyze the list and figure out what’s amiss. It’s funny how when problems are in your head, it’s so tough to see a solution but once you put them on paper, the answer suddenly becomes clear. After careful consideration, it became apparent that I need to spend a few minutes every evening preparing for the next day. This could include picking out my kids’ outfits (to the extent that any mom with two extremely picky children can), my own outfit, packing lunches, and finding library books. An “evening huddle” with all family members where everyone discusses what they’re doing tomorrow and what they need to get out the door is a beneficial way nail down some of these tasks ahead of time. I’m always looking for ways to teach my kids about taking responsibility for themselves and this is a great time to incorporate that.
Analysis of my current list revealed that I am really not intentional about my morning at all and am needlessly using up time here and there. A great example of this is my alarm. I am constantly hitting snooze on my alarm and almost never get up when I intend to. Since I’m not being intentional, I underestimate the amount of time I actually have to accomplish all my tasks and get everyone out the door contributing to the current state of chaos. I have done no prepwork in the evening to help be intentional in the morning so I spend time doing unproductive things which ultimately interfere with my ability to herd everyone with their necessary supplies out the door.
Speaking of unproductive things, my beloved breakfast routine takes about 30 minutes every morning which in itself is fine however I almost never just sit down and eat. I’m usually catching up on my TLC addiction, writing a blog post, or interacting on social media. This opens a huge door for low productivity because often one thing will lead to another and when I look up at the clock, way too much time has passed and now it’s seriously go time to get out the door. Sleepiness also factors into this because if I sit down for too long, I begin to feel unfocused and go down a rabbit hole of nothingness much more easily than if I’m fully rested and able to filter the distractions.
After careful analysis comes planning. You’ve figured out the problems. What are you going to do about them? As a result of this exercise, I have a few goals I’m going to be working towards in the next few weeks. The first is a family huddle every night to prepare for the next day. This will include packing lunches, finding library books, and deciding on outfits for the next day as well as making sure shoes and outdoor gear are easily accessible by the door. I am going to plan out exactly what time I need to get up in order to get my workout in and then stick to it – no more snooze! I am also going to try an elimination diet for my sleepiness because I feel it’s at least partly related to my love affair with sugar and carbs. I’ve noticed that whenever I indulge in those two things, the next day I feel hung-over despite having had zero alcohol the day before. I do not get nearly enough protein every day and so I’m going to start replacing my breakfast with a protein packed smoothie instead. I am absolutely in love with a particular line of health and wellness products so I’m going to embark on their 30 days to healthy living challenge which involves eliminating dairy, soy, and wheat (among other things) from your diet so you can determine the impact these ingredients have upon how you feel. I’ve incorporated various products from this company into my lifestyle for the past 3 years and have seen such amazing results in other areas that I feel it is worth doing their entire program to further clarify how gluten, sugar, and dairy impact the way I feel.
The beauty of putting things out there publicly is now I am accountable for doing it! Having an accountability partner is a great way to help you stick to the goals that you set out there. I hope you use this process to analyze various areas of your life that are causing stress and anxiety as it can be adapted to basically anything. The first step is careful assessment of contributors and then comes analysis of each followed by planning potential fixes for each of the problems. Writing things down is also better than simply letting them swim around in your head because it’s tough to nail down the exact cause until it’s staring back at you in black and white. I also hope this has been beneficial for you and that it has inspired you to improve an area of your life where you may be struggling. I would love to hear about your own challenges and your plan for fixing them so feel free to leave a comment below so we can keep each other accountable! Stay tuned for my own progress on these goals.