It is expected that Southeast Alaska will get a short summer compared to its’ closest neighboring states in the contingent US. This year however, it seems summer never really showed up at all and it’s already over! I was in Juneau for an always too brief visit, so while the weather didn’t bother me (I almost found it a relief from the heat and forest fires we are dealing with here in the Pacific Northwest) I kept hearing from friends and family about just how gray this summer had been. Berries were even noticeably absent on my hikes. By the time you are reading this in print, kids in most Southeast communities will have started back to school for the fall. Here in Washington, my little ones won’t return to the classroom until after Labor Day. Still, I already feel behind in preparations. So if you were unable to make the time to examine what worked and what did not work last year to make getting kids to school on time, homework done (if they have any), planning good nutrition, before/after school care or activities and transportation, weekend commitments, and, and , and…… deep breath. You should still do it. Do it now so that you can implement changes right away to ensure home is not more stressful this year.
I’m finding that in almost all areas of life, including keeping the home running smoothly so that it is predominantly a sanctuary, requires systems and routines.
Here is my 1 tip for ensuring our school year is success:
Organized Schedule: I love having a couple of large wall calendars hung so that I can easily see at least two months at a time. Fill out the entire year as completely as possible. This calendar should include all dates given you from the school for everything from half days and holidays to special events. The calendar should include your work schedule, any planned travel, doctor appointments, afterschool activities, deadlines, dates your child care provider is unavailable, special events you want to attend, birthdays, community events, etc. I love to color code, doodle little pictures or use stickers that catch my eye. As things change you can cover these events with blank label stickers and write over them, or simply cross them off. Make sure to add all new commitments. Hang it so that it is easily available to everyone, so no one has an excuse to not know what is planned and provide as much time as possible to manage conflicts. Your children should be involved in checking the calendar too. I hang it in our “transition zone”…. the place where we have hanging wire baskets labeled for each member of the family to easily drop paperwork and mail.
This is where the hooks are for the kids backpacks and near their shoes and coats. The idea is that whenever coming or going, there is a designated space for every member of the family to have the things they need to grab on their way out the door. This is also the space where these things should be placed when coming in the house. Nothing makes for a stressful morning like frantically searching for something you are supposed to send to school or take to work.
BEFORE you start filling in those calendar days, I suggest that you consider choosing regular days and times for fun and self-care and write those into the calendar first. Be so bold as to select days to keep clear of commitments. These blank days can be a breath of fresh air in an otherwise extremely busy life. They also build flexibility into your week or month so that you can respond to impromptu opportunities. Plan a vacation – even if it ends up being a “staycation”. I strongly believe that one of the reasons parents burn out and have little time or patience to really be available to meet their kids needs is because we have not committed to taking care of ourselves. I’m as guilty as anyone else. The more I work with patients the more I realize that the root cause of most of their health concerns is stress and a lack of commitment to self-care. They have not consistently made the time for regular exercise, activities or classes they enjoy, time with friends and family that is playful and relaxing, maybe a massage or even menu planning and meal prep so their nutrition is supportive of health and not just convenient. They haven’t mastered the art of saying “no” to most things so that they can fully say “yes” to the most important things. Motivational speaker, Lisa Nichols, often shares something her grandmother would say: “Conviction and Convenience do not live on the same block.” If you are resolute in your belief that lifestyle is important to your health and wellbeing, you may have to forgo some conveniences because they simply do not support your conviction. In time, the pay off in vitality makes those habits that were once a nuisance a welcome routine. The more you do anything, the easier it becomes. This is because of the way the brain lays down neural networks. The more you do anything the neurons involved in that pathway become thicker and fire faster and more efficiently. We shouldn’t say practice makes perfect, but instead that practice makes permanent. So repeatedly do things that move you toward your goals, not away from them.
Will this task of active reflection take time? Yes. Will it be difficult to make your self-care difficult if it’s not part of your normal schedule already? Yes. Do you really have to write it down on a calendar and hang it on your wall? Yes. Why? Because research proves you are much more likely to succeed if you write it down. Just one small study (267 participants) study by psychology professor Dr. Gail Matthews found those who wrote down their goals were 42% more likely to achieve them. That’s almost half more likely! Do this scheduling exercise of planned selfishness and schedule maintenance for just even the first half of the year – that’s only 4 more months, and at the beginning of the New Year I am confident you will have seen enough positive emotional, mental and physical impact that you will want to continue this sort of discipline.
Welcome Back to School!
Dr. Summer Beattie,ND was born and grew up in Southeawst Alaska – it will always be home. A 2004 graduate of Bastyr University, she served two terms on the board of directors for the Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, and has worked in a variety of primary and specialty care settings. This has given her a broad wealth of experience that she now uses in a unique clinical practice with a focus on rejuvenative physical and aesthetic medicine. Dr. Beattie,ND offers comprehensive care as it relates to physical rehabilitation from a Naturopathic Orthopedic perspective. You can find her and on-line patient programs at www.onehealingmedical.com