The summer is half over and I have been hearing from parents all over town that everyone is burned out.
But wait, isn’t summer supposed to be fun and carefree?
In the beginning of the summer when being home was new and exciting, it was relaxing and fun. But we’re 8 weeks in and my three kids have been home most of the day that whole time. As you can imagine, we have been together A LOT, which comes with joy and challenges. I’ve been thinking about why I might be feeling stressed and burned out in a time that’s supposed to be relaxing and I’ve come to a couple of revelations:
- I am saying “no” to my kids all of the time (about treats, screen time, etc.) and it’s really exhausting.
- I am making tons of decisions all day – about our daily plans, what food we are going to eat and when, how much TV to watch, what activities to do, what to spend our money on, how many desserts and candy are too much, etc.
- I am feeling a new set of challenging emotions like guilt, irritation, burnout, and overwhelm that I didn’t feel as much in the beginning of the summer when a sense of excitement and energy was more prevalent.
But we have 4 more weeks of summer or so, and we all want to enjoy them and get in some good R&R!
So, let’s look 5 ways to feel less burned out so that you can enjoy the rest of your time with your kids this summer and be refreshed for the start of the school year.
- Remove “should” from your vocabulary: I wrote about this in a blog post a few weeks ago, but “should”s create unnecessary stress. Start to pay attention to when you say it or think it, and if you can, remove the word all together. When we use shoulds we are putting expectations on ourselves and our loved ones for what our life “should” look like. When we have thoughts about how our house should look like, how our kids should behave, how we should act as a parent, how our vacations should be, we get into trouble. How do you feel when you think that your husband should be taking out the trash? Or your kids should clean up after themselves? Or you should have been more patient with your kids? These thoughts create unnecessary and optional stress and drama. Then how do you act when you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Possibly less patient with your kids, short with your husband, and frustrated with yourself for not cleaning enough? Your thoughts of shoulds are creating this results, whether it be how you react to your family or how you talk to yourself. Notice these thoughts and see how much your relationships with others and yourself will benefit from removing the shoulds.
- Find “perfect” and “pause” moments: Take a few moments in your day to find something that is “perfect” – the way your baby touches your hair while you nurse, the sweet connection between siblings, the slight touch of your spouse’s hand on yours, and just breathe in the moment and recognize it as perfect just as it is. Another great way to relieve stress is to do a technique called a “1, 2, 3 pause”. All you have to do is when you remember (or do it on the hour) take three deep breaths while you look up and pause life for a bit. You can do this as many times as you want. Just letting your brain take a break and wander is where we are our most creative and self reflective. Usually we fill our days so full, that we don’t even allow ourselves a moment to pause. Bring yourself back to the present moment and breathe. This technique can slow down time and reduce your stress level.
- Set clear rules and expectations for your family and then be consistent. This works for sweets, chores, screen time, play dates, activities, grades, friends, etc. When you establish clear expectations ahead of time, the amount of decision making you will have to do daily will reduce significantly. For example, I have rules for how many sweet things the kids get each day, rules for how they earn screen time, expectations for what chores need to be completed each morning, and all of these have been discussed and agreed upon by my kids ahead of time. Then if my kid asks me if they can have a treat, I can just say, “have you had something sweet today?”, and then I can say “It’s a bummer but you’ll have to wait until tomorrow”, and no stress, no guilt, no frustration has to happen. It was already agreed upon, planned, and accepted. If my kids get upset, I get to just be confused because they were in on the rule planning. If it’s overwhelming for you to set expectations in every area, just choose just a few areas and let the rest go. You can always add more expectations as the kids get older or you feel comfortable. Then, make the rest not matter. Another way to decide what and how to set limits and rules is write a family mission. This also helps with long term planning in your family and priorities for where and when to spend your money.
- Schedule your day. I know this may seem silly during the summer, but it is the key to combating burnout and overwhelm. Most people don’t make a schedule because they don’t want to be disappointed when they don’t accomplish everything on their list. But if there’s no schedule, nothing gets done. You can even schedule down time or time with your spouse and then reduce guilt about it when you know you completed your other priorities. Planning creates freedom. It can be a loose time frame, but just pencil in something for every hour of the day. It doesn’t have to be in an official planner, just on paper or a notepad or in your phone. Notice why your brain is telling you that you can’t do it. It wants to be efficient and do what’s easy, which is to blow off writing and doing your list and just watch TV. Know that’s par for the course, and follow your schedule the best you can anyway. Don’t wait to want to. We don’t always want to. Just do it.
- Define the real problem. Why are we really feeling stressed and burned out? Is it really our kids that are making us feel this way? If you have read my previous blog posts, you know that our circumstances do not create our feelings, our thoughts do. When we think we have “so many decisions to make” or that “it’s really hard to enforce limits”, then we feel stress. The key is to notice when those thoughts are creating stress and to change them. For example, if my kids don’t clean their room when they ask, instead of thinking “they should have cleaned their room” and then feeling irritated, I can instead think “this is where I get to do my job as a parent”, and then I can feel confident and calmly reinforce my expectations and limits that I had planned before.
The great thing about these techniques is that not only will they help you enjoy your summer now, but they carry over nicely into the beginning of the school year. Stay tuned for my next blog post about getting ready to go back to school, logistically and emotionally.
BONUS: Get my free guide to learning what questions you can ask yourself to stay calm in the moment and be more present with your kids!