Things have been crazy around here lately.
And by “around here” I mean MY BRAIN.
Swirling thoughts and endless mental checklists. Busy extracurricular activities, meetings, and appointments. Household chores and meal planning. A nasty cold that has circulated its way through my house.
My poor little brain is on the fritz.
It feels like I’m running on empty.
Does any of this sound familiar?
No doubt you’ve had seasons like this too.
Maybe you’re in one now?
One of those seasons where you’re running on empty.
I’ve heard it said that homeschooling is like parenting on steroids.
And believe me, there are definitely days when this rings true.
I also know that when I feel like I’m running on empty, my self-care is the first thing to go. And from that point on it’s just a huge downward spiral.
Look, we’re going to have these seasons where we feel overwhelmed.
Those times when we’re running on empty. But I also know that there are tried-and-true tips and tricks that we can use to help us get through these nutty times.
Quick Sidenote: See the “Insert Battery” sign on my phone in the picture above? I snapped this pic during another season of running on empty because I wanted a reminder of what complete exhaustion and overwhelm look like sometimes. I was so exhausted that it took WEEKS for me to replace these batteries! WEEKS!
And guess what else needed new batteries? Our smoke detector. Now did I replace those batteries immediately? No. No, I did not. I was simply too overwhelmed. Again, it took WEEKS for me to replace those too. Have I learned nothing from watching “This is Us”!?! Apparently not, friends, apparently not.
Now let’s refocus on what we can actually do to help ourselves during these rocky times.
What to do When You’re Running on Empty:
Let’s start with CODE RED. This is when you are completely RUNNING ON FUMES.
These are things to do immediately and do not require any planning ahead.
- Drink a glass of water – That’s it. Just a glass of water. There is so much power in using water as a tool for self-care.
- Step outside – Even if it’s just for two minutes. Even when the weather is terrible and you don’t want to go outside. Stand on your front porch and take a deep breath. Sometimes just a little fresh air can help us regain some strength and perspective.
- Take a 10 min time-out – Retreat to your bedroom. Sit in your car. Lock the bathroom door. Insert earplugs. Do whatever you need to do to give yourself this break to get your bearings.
- Do a braindump – Grab a piece of paper or a dry erase board and jot down EVERYTHING that comes to mind. Your grocery list, a friend’s birthday, your son’s next math assignment, the library books that are on hold, tonight’s dinner, calling about the dentist appointment… get it all down so it’s out of your head.
- Phone a friend – Or text them. Just reach out and let them know you’re struggling. Vent, confide, listen to how they’re doing, cry, laugh, and support each other.
Do one simple thing that brings you joy – Keep it simple. Make yourself a cup of tea. Do some stretching. Read a chapter of a book you like. Light a candle. And ignore that voice in your head tell you that you don’t have time to waste on this. It’s lying to you.
Next is CODE YELLOW. You’re not on fumes yet but you’re getting close. You’re nearing empty and need to find a gas station ASAP.
These are things to incorporate once you’re out of the danger zone. They will help immensely in the long term but do require a bit of planning and organization.
- Sleep – Be honest with yourself about your sleep needs. I know some people who seem to function perfectly fine on 6-7 hours. But that person is not me. I’m an 8 hours a night, gal, thank-you-very-much and while I don’t always get these 8 hours, I feel MUCH better when I make this a priority.
- Cut yourself some slack – What you are doing is HARD. Beyond hard, actually. The sooner you can let go of perfectionism and guilt, the happier and healthier your homeschooling and family life will be. You’re human. This means you’re worthy of cutting yourself some slack.
- Outsource – Don’t try to do it all. Because doing it all is a big fat myth. You will crash and burn and be no good for yourself or your people. So get any help you need through outsourcing.
- Keep meals as ridiculously simple as possible – Frozen pizza. Soup and sandwiches. Trader Joe’s orange chicken and rice. Perhaps this is not the season in your life of gourmet meals and hours in the kitchen. There is no shame in this! Embrace the ready to go, easy-peasy, super simple meals.
- Take a day off – The beauty of homeschooling is the flexibility it provides. I promise you that taking a day off is no big deal. Taking a day off, (or more or less) is a wonderful way to get some perspective and clarity. The result might be that you are able to identify ways you more effectively manage your current responsibilities and lifestyle.
- Purge and organize – This one can feel overwhelming. Believe me, I get it. And it’s ongoing, for sure. But when we start to feel frazzled and overwhelmed, we can often relieve so much stress by de-cluttering our environment. With less “stuff” around to clutter our spaces, we often find our mental spaces clear up as well.
You are human.
You cannot do it all.
When you are in CODE RED territory: Water. Outside. 10-min time-out. Braindump. Phone a Friend. Something that brings you joy.
When you are in CODE YELLOW territory: Sleep. Cut yourself some slack. Outsource. Simple Meals. Take a day off. Purge and organize.
Max, (my beloved pooch and resident couch snoozer) is the master of the “10-min time out”. Although for the sake of full disclosure, he admits that his time out usually lasts for hours on end. He would like to encourage all of us to take this critical break when needed. He highly suggests a snuggly blanket and a cozy place to sit or snooze.
Do you have any other tips for getting through seasons of running on empty? I’d love to know what they are!