A Survival Tip For Those Exhilirating, But Exhausting “Back To School” Weeks.
No matter how old we are, I bet we all remember what the first couple of weeks of a new school year feel like. The nerves! The excitement! The enthusiasm! The new stuff – notebooks, pens, clothes, shoes! The start of a new school year is a serious, annual milestone. Long after I stopped getting on a big, yellow bus in the morning, I continued to experience the echoes of those mid-September feelings of promise, a clean slate and a fresh start. No other time of year feels quite like it.
When you’re the one putting people on those big, yellow buses, however, there is an added dimension to those September feelings — exhaustion. No doubt, parents also relish the fresh start of the new school year. Parents also feel enthusiastic about the promise a brand new year holds. When offered a clean slate each September, parents also set intentions and resolutions for themselves as individuals and as parents. But, for parents, all of this promise and excitement is tempered with a shocking dose of exhaustion.
Shifting gears from summer vacation to the school year is akin to being shot out of a cannon. Quiet evening walks to get ice cream are replaced with endless Back to School Nights, parent meetings and homework supervision. A tank of gas that lasted two or three weeks in the summer is now barely lasting one week as a result of afternoons spent endlessly circling town picking up and dropping off kids. Calendar pages are once again more ink than empty, white space. The pile-up on my “To Do” list looks a lot like Mt. Everest.
Annually, I struggle valiantly to prevent the mountainous demands of mid-September from overwhelming me. This year is no different. Or it wasn’t — until I had a yoga-induced epiphany.
As I unrolled my mat that September day, I thought, “I really don’t have time to get through the whole series.” As I stood there taking some opening breaths, I tried to let that thought drift away. It turns out that the emotions around it (stress, panic, general busy-ness) were a little sticky, so the thought kept ricocheting back to me. As I started to move, I decided that each time I thought, “I don’t have time,” I’d replace that thought with “I do have time for five breaths in this asana.”
By the time I got to the seated postures — about 45 minutes into my practice, I was beginning to feel less and less squeezed for time. By the time I arrived in savasana at the end of my practice, I felt decidedly less panicked. In fact, I didn’t have to work at all to stay put in my rest. I laid there on my mat until I felt ready to roll over and sit up. It’s worth pointing out (again) that it took almost 45 minutes for me to begin to free myself of the pressured feelings with which I arrived on my mat. It’s also worth mentioning that I never decided to do the whole series. I just kept repeating to myself, “I do have time for five breaths here.”
What I did on my mat was break the mountain of my practice into manageable rocks. Then I took my time focusing on each rock, one at a time. And it worked. Actually, it worked marvelously. So I decided to break my off-my-mat mountain into manageable rocks as well. Instead of looking at the day ahead as a whole (a great way to induce hyperventilation – the opposite of the soothing breaths I take on my mat), I decided to consider one item at a time. While I do that one thing, whether it’s a trip to Staples, a soccer drop-off, or writing this essay, I focus on that one thing. If I start to panic, I say to myself (sometimes out loud), “I do have time for this one thing right now.”
I’m only a week into this practice, but it hasn’t yet made rubble of my responsibilities. In fact, it seems to be working. Deliberately not looking at my list as a whole is helping me to avoid some of the stress and overwhelmed feelings that I typically experience this time of year. Taking things one thing at a time is allowing me to settle into each activity – whether it’s a 10 minute carpooling run or an hour working on math with my daughter. Best yet? This more focused, methodical mindset is allowing me to get the same amount done each day as I was when racing around in a tizzy.
The next time you feel overwhelmed by your “To Do” list, try it. You may actually start to believe that you can move mountains – one “rock” at a time!
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