Children, Food, Friends, Health, Home & Garden, Self-care, Work

How to cope when it’s all a bit much

In case you haven’t noticed, we have a lot of life going on at the moment. We have turmoil, the horrors of year 6, the preparation for building work, lots of training at work for me and travel for himself, plus large boy’s unmentionable leg (post to follow later when it’s hopefully resolved), running frustrations, and now the actual building work (for updates, see my Instagram).

Himself and I have both had weeks where we’ve felt like we’re barely holding it together. In amongst all that, somehow there are these little pieces of life that have got more complicated on top. School closing the back gate in the morning so that the kids have to walk 5 minutes further to get in at the front for breakfast club, adding 10 minutes to himself’s commute might sound small but the impact is that the traffic is worse when he gets close to work and he actually arrives 30 minutes later and thus loses his quiet time to get through emails before the meetings begin. They think it’s a little change, but the impact on our routine and life can be quite big.

In coping with all these things, we’ve definitely learned some strategies for getting by and it seemed like a good idea to share them in case someone else might benefits.

Say no, and yes

I learned this one as a general approach from a great post on Unwanted Life about overcoming imposter syndrome a few years ago.

You have to learn how to say no when someone asks you to do a little bit more.

Will I help with interviews during my evening? no

Will someone provide extra help at Scouts this week? sorry, not this time

Can you assist with organising the year 6 prom? nope

Could you give my child a lift? errr, no, I can’t get my own child there

But also, say yes when someone offers to lend a hand, you don’t have to do it all by yourself and you’ll return the favour some other time.

Would you like me to bring large boy back from a Scouting event, so you can get off early? Oh, yes please

Can I have small boy after school for you? That would be lovely, thanks

Let’s go for coffee and gossip for an hour… amazing!

You don’t have to do it all, and you don’t have to do it by yourself.

Accept less

See what I just said? You don’t have to do it all. You don’t need to have it all. Less is OK.

Eat crappy food if that’s easier. Put aside all the frills and extras in life, you can have them back when this period of craziness is over.

Not learning their spellings this week is not going to kill your children, it won’t significantly delay their learning. Saying “sod it” to literacy homework is not the end of the world.

Failing to make the lunch date with all the people will be a shame, they’ll miss you, but they won’t stop being your friends because of it. Stopping wearing make up (not that I do that anyway) and doing your hair nicely every day won’t stop you from doing what you need to do. Buying cakes instead of making them for the PTA bake sale is perfectly acceptable.

Simplify

Maybe you’re having to downsize, maybe building work has reduced your living space like us. It’s remarkable how much stuff you don’t need on a daily basis. We’ve put away about 12 boxes of kitchen stuff. It’s just stuff that we use occasionally and we don’t need it often. We can get by perfectly well without all those things.

We can cut out all those extra bits and the impact will be minimal. Michelle at Boomer Ecocrusader has some great thoughts and tips on this too.

Except the potato masher – that should not be in a box at the bottom of a pile on the day that you’re making cottage pie for dinner.

Don’t cut out all the luxuries

Yeah, so I’ve just been going on about dropping activities and putting away stuff. But that doesn’t mean getting rid of all the things that give you some pleasure.

If you’re lucky enough to have a cleaner, don’t stop them coming just because the floor area of your house is cut in half. Warn them, be aware that you won’t need them for as many hours maybe. But if finances allow, keep them employed and let them take the burden of all the vacuuming and dusting that you hate.

Put away all the kitchen gadgets, but if you have something that really make life better keep it out. I love my gravity coffee filter, it’s relatively faffy but oh the coffee is so good. That little luxury is so worth it and makes my non-work days just that little bit better, an easy win. Or maybe it’s just a glass of prosecco and elderberry gin.

Use the slow cooker to its full potential

When you’re really limited with your kitchen equipment, the air fryer and the slow cooker are your friends. One pot meals that you can prepare at lunchtime and a wonderful way of making the evenings simpler and mealtimes generally less complicated.

Our favourites are: chilli plus rice in another pan, stew and dumplings all in one pot, curry plus rice, reheated chilli in a pan and sweet potato fries in the air fryer, Spanish chicken and rice, biryani.

Appreciate what you’ve got

So there we are, sitting in the playroom, all squeezed onto a 2 seater sofa and a beanbag. In that moment, in the first week of renovations, I realised how very lucky we are. Many people might have their entire living space in the size of the room we feel squashed into. We’re cooking in the garage, with a microwave, plug in mini-oven, camping stove, and Foodi Ninja – that’s already plenty for many folks. I’m not gloating here, honestly. I’m just remembering how much we have got. Just look!

We have all of us sharing the ensuite to our bedroom, but that’s totally normal for most people. I’m kind of looking forward to going camping in a few weeks, we’ll have a toilet block so no queues for our morning ablutions.

Remember to stop

Yes, your “to do” list is enormous. Yes, you could be doing 3 million things in the evenings. But this is a long haul, you mustn’t burn yourselves out. So when it’s 8pm and you can say “manana”, say it and climb into bed to watch junk TV (yeah, my long standing TV in the bedroom ban has been lifted, temporarily). When the choice is between a run or a hug with the kids, hold those children tight. Take the easy path, the comfortable and comforting path, keep it simple and make sure you have some time to turn of and be at peace.

Support each other

This one is really important.

Himself had a week where work was super busy, traffic was awful, school made everything more difficult, and we had lots of stuff in the evening that he had to handle. He was almost running on empty, so that week I did some of the normal routine stuff he does. I made sure he had lunch and snacks in his work bag, I did the school run to let him get off a bit earlier, I did more of the cooking (we usually do about 50/50). Then I’ve had weeks where I’ve just felt really tired and ended up having to care for sicky kids on my Fridays off instead of do all the jobs I normally would get done. Those times, himself has done more stuff, he’s done all the after school activity taxiing, he’s made sure the homework gets done, monitored large boy’s painkiller routine.

The key is to be aware of each other’s stress levels and how you’re both coping. When you notice that the other person is on the edge, take some of their load. Of course, that means that in the worst case you’re both on the edge at the same time – then, I’d say, go back through the things that you can stop, cut out, put aside and just keep simplifying until you’re back to feeling able to cope.

Any more?

What other things could we, or any one else, be doing to make things easier during a time of stress and heavy load?

Love from Smell xxx

14 thoughts on “How to cope when it’s all a bit much”

  1. All excellent ideas. I know that scheduling some me-alone time always restores my soul. Something as simple as a 15-minute walk alone helps me. Also, my mantra at times of stress is, this too shall pass.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve given myself a lazy day once a month. One day where there’s no housework, no cooking, no work, nothing. We’re just couch potatoes. It isn’t a set day either, it can be any day. This has done wonders for me when it comes to balancing life.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Gratitude and appreciation really changes the game for me. I have a problem with self-comparison. If left unchecked I let my mind run riot with where I should be and what I should have in life compared to my peers from back home. But I find it easier to distance myself and remind myself that I’ve come through some sh*t. I don’t need to follow the path once set out for me anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post. So much good advice here. I think just stopping is really important. Sometimes, once I’m in from work I just sneak upstairs and read for a little bit, just to stop the day. Other times, as you say, it’s good to share. I’m so lucky with my wife who is just an enormous support to me.
    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for linking to my post, Smell. The potato masher comment made me laugh out loud. Last month, I went to spend the day with my older daughter when she had her wisdom teeth removed. She had specifically asked me if I could make her some creamy whipped mashed potatoes. When I went to make the potatoes, I couldn’t find her potato masher. She said “Oh…I don’t have one.” LOL Luckily, one of her roommates was at Walmart so she texted him and he brought one home with him.

    These are all excellent tips. My only additional words of wisdom is that the craziness will end at some point. Now that my girls are grown, I have all kinds of time on my hands. It’s one of the reasons this blog exists. Keep the faith, my friend. All will be well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. All will be well indeed. I’m actually quite sanguine punctuated by moments of deep anxiety (mostly about the fact that half of the upstairs is held up by just a bunch of props). The destruction is pretty much over now and real construction is starting. So far, no problems that can’t be solved with money. While money is not infinite and the size of loan required will be more or less crippling according to how things go, nevertheless I’d rather face that than a problem that can’t be fixed that way.

      Liked by 1 person

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