Picture that beautiful, clean notebook, that unblemished calendar, that uncluttered desk. Ahhh…beginnings. Nothing beats a clean slate. The summer is now behind us, and we are teetering on the cusp of the fall season. So, before we get immersed back to school supplies, permission slips and extol the virtues of pumpkin lattes, let’s take a breath and honour the possibilities of September.
Many of us are ready to slide back into the routine that September brings, and this year, that new routine has a whole new meaning. Parents and students have endured two Septembers clouded with the possibility of lockdowns and far-from- routine school years. Dare we embrace the optimism of a new academic year for fear of what’s ahead? I vote YES, but with an asterisk.
This year, let’s focus on embracing September as the new shiny, fresh, clean-slate of January 2.0 BUT, all the while being intentional on how we use our time and energy, and spending some time thinking about how we want to incorporate the lessons Covid has taught us.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that that frenzied, frantic pace of life pre-2020 was kind of overwhelming. We are learning to appreciate health, personal boundaries and what is really important to us. We have also learned that life can throw some pretty wicked curve balls, but we can still get a hit…sometimes it is a single and other times, we hit that damn curve ball over the fence.
Here are some mindset tips to remind yourself that you can come as you are, love who you are RIGHT NOW and still embrace the clean slate that September brings, while removing some of the pressure that accompanies it.
- Embrace Rejection
Reject the notion of achieving balance and kick perfectionism to the curb, once and for all. Balance is a myth and perfectionism will kick your butt every time it rears its ugly head. Here’s a novel idea: let’s propose that we don’t have to achieve balance to be content, to reduce overwhelm and achieve the elusive happiness. To do that, let’s agree that:
- You don’t have to be good at all of the things, all of the time
- You don’t need to have boundless energy, patience, drive and perpetual happiness
- Leaning into tough stuff is good for you, but on your own terms
- The scale of life rarely achieves the balance to keep both sides equal
Do what you’ve gotta do! Write these points down on your white board, your phone, your fridge…anywhere where you can see it. We need constant reminders that we are enough, especially with the avalanche of asks that come with that September blank slate. Choose what you need and want to do first and know whatever you decide, the choice needs to work for YOU first.
- Do What You Do Best (and just some of what you do best…not ALL of what you do best)
Stay in your lane. You have gifts. You know, things you are good at. Do more of that, and less of the things you aren’t so good at when it comes to giving your time and energy to the many activities that ramp up in September. Think school activities, sports teams, dance and music lessons, church groups…the list goes on.
Take a hard look at the people in your world. The above-mentioned activities require a group of people to make them successful. And each person in that group can play a small role in making the activity great. Maybe your friend is a master organizer. Let her head up the PTA. You don’t have to join if you don’t want to. You. Just. Don’t.
It takes a village to raise a child, and run a PTA, or a hockey team, and to organize a dance recital or a fundraiser. Yes, you can do your part without sacrificing yourself. Take on tasks that come easy to you (or you have done before with success). If you are creative, volunteer to help with the costumes (NOT make all of the costumes). If you are a numbers wiz, volunteer to help with the books (again, NOT do the books!). If you love herding cats and seeing young minds develop, co-lead (not lead) that youth group! Pick the gift you want to use and use it.
- Repeat after me: No. No thank you. Nope. Not today.
Practice saying no. I mean it. Look at yourself in the mirror and say NO (just so you believe it is possible). For some of us, when we are asked to do something the word YES comes out of our mouth before we know what just happened! Now is the time to check that automatic response.
When someone approaches you with a request for help, or to commit to something to help the greater good, remember that there is nothing wrong with asking for some time to think about it (“Umm, I know I have a few other things on the go. Let me check my schedule and get back to you”). Or, just saying NO THANKS if you are sure that the task won’t enhance your life and will ultimately take too much of the finite energy you want to save for other things.
It may look something like this:
“I appreciate the offer, but I have a lot going on right now. I think it’s great that you are committed to the (recital, fundraiser committee, etc.). I can’t wait to see what you do!” And then, STOP TALKING. You don’t owe anyone an explanation of exactly what you have on the go and why. Set the boundary and stick to it. Walk away with confidence. If they don’t like it, it’s on them!
In today’s world, many of us are hard on ourselves. We over-commit, spread ourselves thin, and push for perfection. What if we could abandon this way of thinking and actually be ok with doing things just ok, or maybe not doing things at all?! Think about it. September is the new January. This year, prioritize yourself on that blank slate.
Our therapists can help you set priorities, turn down the volume on external noise and unapologetically stop chasing the balance and put yourself first so you can be your best self. Reach out! Quite often, learning these lessons only takes a few therapy sessions where you feel heard, supported, and encouraged to move toward doing things just a little differently.