Dr. Amber running
Dr. Amber running

It’s that time of year again–back to school. And if you are like me, it means re-figuring out how my family’s life will run on a different schedule.

Pick-ups, drop-offs, after school activities, homework, making lunches AND trying to figure out how in the world to find some time for me.

It’s easy to let my work-outs and quiet time be the first thing to slip off my list of ‘things to do’.

At first, I think it’s no big deal:

  •  A missed work out here and there, no biggie!
  • No time to cook dinner? Let’s eat out–again.
  • Skipped my morning meditation–I’ll just ‘wind down’ with TV (or wine) tonight instead.

But then the downward spiral happens….my pants are a little tighter, I’m more tired in the morning, my motivation for little things vanishes, my mood a little snappier.

Next thing you know, months have gone by and I’m back to where I started-tired, overweight and grumpy-all because of a schedule change.

I was determined to not let the back to school transitions ruin my efforts at taking care of myself (like they have every other year so far!).  I have worked hard to get where I am and don’t want to be de-railed. I refuse to be a victim to my schedule!

After all, this is life-there will be changes-with work, in kids schedules, things will come up and I need to learn how to role with it WITHOUT losing myself in the process.

And if Momma ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy!

This year I was prepared.  I used a new strategy. And it’s working!

It really struck me this morning that things are going well. Dare I say,  this morning was even stress-free?

Even though this is the same schedule change that happened last year ( my circumstances are the same), I am handling it differently. I’m happy, focused and have the energy I need to get life done. My work out schedule is solid, we are eating good food and I have even managed some guilt-free relaxation time to balance my work.

Now, I know you have heard it a million times before that we need to take care of ourselves first, so that we can take care of others.  Yada, yada, yada. I’m not going to bore you with that lecture again!

Instead let’s focus on solutions.

How do we make time for ourselves when our lives are busy? How do I manage to keep myself on the priority list when my whole world is rocked?

Have no fear, my dear!

Here is the method I used this year.  These are 3 Ways Not To Lose Yourself in the Back to School Shuffle.

1) Plan your work and work your plan. At the beginning of each week, schedule YOUR time in the calender. Write it down, block it out, put pen to paper (or finger to touchscreen?). Just as you enter PTA meetings, oil changes, lunch dates with friends, enter your appointments for you-time.  If it’s working out, prepping food or even meditating, put it on the schedule.  I do this on week-by-week basis.

Once you have planned your work, now you must work your plan. You wouldn’t decide last minute to be a ‘no-show’ to a friend! Don’t be a no-show to yourself.  The word you keep to yourself is just as important, if not more, than the word we keep to others.

2) Create an “If-then” statement. This is a powerful and proven way to increase the likelihood of reaching your goals.  The “if” part of your statement creates a situational clue, and the “then” part creates your planned response to that clue.

For example, instead of saying “I’m going to work out more this week”, create a very specific scenario “If it’s Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday at 8am, then I am going to the gym for an hour”.

This is called Implementation Intentions (you can google to learn more, I like this) but the take home message is that these strategies WORK by helping prime your brain for success.

Write down your IF-THEN statement and review it daily to help you create new habits.

3) Say No.  This can be SOOO hard sometimes!  Around every corner is an opportunity to fill our time. Whether it’s helping out at school, going to a social event, or volunteering for a cause our world is full of distractions.  Pick the ONE or TWO things that really matter to you and say no to everything else. A honest “no” is better (for everyone) than a grudgingly given and instantly regretted ‘yes’.

This year I have said no to

  • a speaking opportunity,
  • to head a committee for a non-profit event,
  • and did not sign up for a million ways to volunteer at my daughters school.

Instead I have picked two events I love to help out at school and have scheduled that time in.  I have even said “no” to answering emails all day long, and “no” to checking facebook a million times a day and try to limit myself to two browsing sessions a day. Now that’s hard! 🙂

The result of saying no is that I have more time to focus on 1) taking care of me and 2) the things that really matter-my family and my work.  Making the time to take care of my physical and my mental/emotional/spiritual self helps me stay charged and focused so I can be my best me.

I hope these three secrets help you keep hold of yourself so you can be your best you!

I’d love to hear from you so in the comments below please let me know how you hold onto yourself when things get busy!

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3 Ways Not to Lose Yourself in the Back-to-School Shuffle