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Nobody would or could have predicted in January what all of us have experienced the last six months. For many of us, the past six months have been an unpredictable time. The government mandates to quarantine in our homes stopped our lives right in their tracks. We were unable to go to work, to school, or to attend events. In the beginning, we didn’t know what to do or how to react. We were juggling work and school and family and everything… at home. Eventually, we created a new normal; we slowed down due to a mandated lifestyle change. We didn’t have the pressure to go everywhere and to say “yes” to every invitation because no one was going anywhere or extending invitations.

Many of us discovered that our marriages and families actually benefited from the forced break in the chaos. We ate meals together. We had movie nights and game nights. And we sat and talked. We also discovered that we didn’t miss the hectic schedules we’d been keeping—always in a rush to get to the next thing.

Now things have opened back up, including schools, restaurants, amusement parks, and entertainment centers. Our kids have school events, practices, and games for little league football or soccer. We now find ourselves back on the hamster wheel of busyness. Why? 

Why are we…

Choosing to say yes when we really want to say no?

Overloading our schedules and those of our children?

No longer having family dinner nights, family movie nights, and participating in fun family activities?

What is driving us back to the busyness? 

Getting back to “Normal”

For many of us, continuing to deal with the pandemic into the fall was not on our minds. We naively said, “When things get back to normal,” and never took the time to look at what our “normal’” was. We just wanted out of quarantine and wanted “our lives back.” Now, you have the opportunity to choose what “normal” looks like for your family. You can prioritize what is most important to your family. Yes, your children can participate in sporting, community, or artistic activities. But do they have to do them ALL AT THE SAME TIME? Maybe your normal can incorporate some of the family activities you did during the shutdown like family meals together or family movie night.

Opportunities For Children 

Your child being involved in activities does teach them skills like accountability, responsibility, teamwork, and patience. I’ve experienced the pressure of making sure my children are exposed to and experience a variety of opportunities to assist them with their future. However, you get to decide how much is enough and what is too much for your family. Additionally, you can discuss with your child the activities that hold the most importance to them. In our case, my sons chose to focus on music rather than athletics. As a result, we were able to be more intentional in how we invested our time, energy, and resources. Having that conversation and respecting their decision has served them and our family well

Full Schedule Means Value

You have heard that old saying, “Idle hands are…” For many, the desire to prevent idleness has created an environment of busyness. We may feel important when we have a busy schedule. Internally, we feel valued as a resource for our community. However, the trade-off for saying “yes” may include: disconnecting from family, exhaustion from keeping up with the schedule, or even a lackluster job because you really didn’t want to do it. Is it worth it?

Let Go And Move Forward

It may seem to many that we’ve missed out on a lot during this pandemic. Birthday celebrations, summer trips, family gatherings are just a few examples. Now that things have opened up, you and your family are making an effort to make up for what you all missed. Unfortunately, you can’t get that time back. What you can do is make a conscious choice to do what’s in the best interest of your family. You can move forward and think strategically about your family and the activities that best serve you.

Before you get all the way back to the ultra-busyness that was your life pre-COVID, now’s the time for you to have a family meeting so you can create a plan that reflects your family’s priorities

Photo by Caleb Oquendo from Pexels

B.C. (Before COVID) plenty of us lived life at a frenetic pace and had resigned ourselves that it would always be that way. Fast forward to COVID lockdown and a forced stop. We actually had room to breathe in our lives whether we liked it or not. Being forced to taste the simple life for a few months reminded a lot of us how much we actually longed for a less frenzied existence. With things opening back up, some folks are trying to figure out how to keep a little bit of that margin in their life.

Maybe right now you’re already missing your quarantine life. Perhaps you’re finding that, once again, you don’t have time to do the things you want to do. If this is true for you, you don’t have to settle. 

Here are five simple things that can help you reclaim or keep margin in your life moving forward.

1. Decide what you don’t want to pick back up.

Make a list of all the things you and your family were participating in B.C. Decide now what you’re not willing to add back into your schedule. Making the decision ahead of time will make it easier to say no as opportunities arise. Think of it as being proactive instead of reactive when it comes to knowing what your priorities are and sticking to them even under pressure. This will require you to keep your guard up so you can recognize when something is encroaching on the boundaries you’ve set.

2. Schedule quiet time just like you would schedule any other appointment.

It’s that important. Living life in a whirlwind leaves you feeling empty and exhausted, not to mention a hot mess when it comes to relating with the ones you love. Whether it’s early in the morning, the middle of your day or right before you go to bed, taking a few minutes to reflect can make a world of difference in how you go through your day. It can also impact how you rest at night. 

3. Intentionally insert 15-30 minute breaks throughout the day to breathe and be mindful.

Avoid the temptation to schedule yourself back to back in order to make the most of every waking minute. Take a walk, do some deep breathing or light a candle. Enjoy a cup of tea or coffee, listen to calming music, read, or do something else that will allow you to take a break from the chaos. Inserting buffer zones into your day will actually give you energy and help you be more creative. Plus, it’ll make you more effective and present with the ones you love. 

You might find it helpful to literally block out times on your schedule for this. Blocking the time off can lessen the temptation to put something in that time period because it isn’t available. If you are a high energy person who likes to be productive, this may feel like time wasted. Here’s a challenge for you, though. Try this for a whole month. Then assess your energy level, what you have been able to accomplish and the state of your relationships. You might be pleasantly surprised at the results. Just sayin’.

4. Limit your social media intake.

This is a time vacuum and we all know it. It robs us of time with our kids, spouse and friends. If you don’t believe it, the next time you jump on social media “for just a minute,” time yourself. See how long you end up scrolling to see what everybody else is doing. Limiting your time on social media will give you some margin to live your own life and pay attention to the ones you love and your own needs. (And if others have your full attention, you won’t be distracted and miss something important!)

5. Create transitions and hard stops.

There is something to be said for the impact of routines and rituals when it comes to incorporating margin into our lives. Intentional transitions help your brain know the difference between work, play and rest. If possible, have set start and stop times for work, time with family and friends, and time to take care of yourself. 

It can be helpful to prepare for the next day before you go to bed each night, too. Go over your to-do list, decide what you will wear for work (even if you are working from home) and other activities, take a look at the schedule, plan meals, etc. For example, the act of preparing to be in work mode helps your brain know you are making a transition. At the end of your work day, changing into “play” clothes is another transition that tells your brain it is doing something different. It’s a physical exercise that mentally prepares you for being fully present.

As one who has struggled with margin in life, I can tell you it’s very easy to fall back into old habits. Don’t beat yourself up. It happens. The best way forward is to remind yourself of your goal, identify where the breach happened and keep moving ahead.

Photo by Thought Catalog from Pexels

Businesses are opening. Restaurants, gyms, retail, places of worship—all opening or communicating plans to open. You can feel the shift in the air. Are you ready for life after quarantine?

Family and friends are politely gauging my interest in social gatherings. 

Updates from little league coaches are hitting my notifications. 

People are having discussions about going back to the office. 

Lots of people are tentatively planning birthday parties. 

The kid’s scout troop is considering one last event.

My small group is toying with the idea of moving from virtual meetings to in-person.

It’s not official yet, but just realizing “life” is looking to restart is making my head spin. 

This quarantine has some advantages. We’re not eating out so much since we’re not going from work to whatever activity is on the schedule next. My wife and I are not having to “divide and conquer” to get everyone to their respective destinations. Instead of saying, “Everybody out of the car, get a snack, brush your teeth, put on your pajamas and go to bed!after we get home from another late night engagement, our evening and bedtime routines are more peaceful. I actually know my kids better now, and I’ve taken the time to connect more deeply with my wife. 

I am genuinely afraid of losing all that positive momentum we’ve gained. I’m afraid that we’ll become too busy again. Is not entering the rat race an option? Why do we do it year after year? Do we have to?

We do this for noble reasons:

  • Wanting to make significant contributions to our community.
  • Wanting our children to be well-rounded and wanting to expose them to individuals who were set up to succeed in anything they chose. 
  • Sitting at home is not as fun or engaging as going to event after event. 
  • It seems to be the right thing to do for ourselves, our marriage and our kids.

But, I like the nighttime pillow talk with my wife that I’m not too tired to have anymore, the spontaneous fun with my kids, and the extended conversations with my mom who lives by herself. I’ve had more meaningful conversations with some of my closest friends than I’ve had in years. I’m afraid of losing all that.

As you prepare for your world to open back up, intentionally reflect on how the quarantine affected your life.

Instead of busting out of your home as soon as you can, consider any lessons you’ve learned about yourself, your spouse, and your family. What did you learn during quarantine? Bring the growth you’ve experienced into your post-quarantined life. As afraid as we may be of becoming too busy again, we should be more afraid of wasting this moment in time. 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

Image from Pexels.com

The holidays can make your marriage feel like it may not survive. One year, Jayne Griffin looked at her calendar and realized she didn’t have a free weekend until after January 1st. She was hosting the family Thanksgiving meal and taking her grandbaby to see Santa. Then there was the staff party at her house, her husband’s office party and another Christmas gathering. Plus, she planned a trip to see friends and committed to working two of the weekends.

While commitments are great, it’s easy to stress about what to do when you have little downtime. And the most likely person to experience the brunt of that stress? The husband.

“For many years I refused to start planning too far ahead of time for the holidays because I felt like I was giving in to the commercialism of it all,” says Griffin. “So I would end up doing things at the last minute when I was already exhausted. If my husband wasn’t doing what I thought he should be doing to help out, things could escalate pretty quickly between the two of us.”

While everybody’s “to-do list” may look a bit different, most probably have one thing in common – it’s the big fight. It’s not the one on television, but the one between you and your spouse as a result of poor planning, running at breakneck speed and communicating in shorthand.

“For too long I put off the secular in order to enjoy the sacred, but I actually ended up squelching the joy of the sacred and the secular celebration, and it definitely took a toll on my marriage,” says Griffin. “Over many years of marriage I think I have finally learned that I can plan ahead without giving into the commercialization of the holiday.”

Now, the Griffins sit down and discuss the schedule for November and December. Together they decide how they want things to go. They highlight the especially crazy times that would require extra finesse to keep the lines of communication open and attack problems instead of each other.

“I am not dreading the holidays,” Griffin says. “In previous years I would wait until the week of a party to plan my menu. I now spend a couple of hours making my plan including menus for various parties, my gift list and other miscellaneous items, and I have already purchased some gifts. I don’t get overwhelmed thinking about what’s left on my list. It’s amazing how different I feel. And, most importantly I am not at odds with my husband!”

These tips can help you conquer the holidays. They can also help you enjoy them and keep your marriage healthy at the same time:

  • Consider fine-tuning your communication and conflict management skills by taking a marriage enrichment class. That can help prevent you from making mountains out of molehills.
  • Keep your attitude in check.
  • Plan out the next seven weeks together so the chaotic pace doesn’t blindside you.
  • Make decisions based on what is best for your family.
  • Remember, you do have control over how you choose to spend your holidays.

Be mindful of the things that hinder your joy and keep your marriage from surviving during the holidays. They don’t make for very happy holidays.

 

***If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, contact the National Hotline for Domestic Abuse. At this link, you can access a private chat with someone who can help you 24/7. If you fear your computer or device is being monitored, call the hotline 24/7 at: 1−800−799−7233. For a clear understanding of what defines an abusive relationship, click here.***

AFTER I DO | THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO NEWLYWED LIFE

SEX. CONFLICT. IN-LAWS. OH MY.

Tired of no one talking about how hard those first years can be? Well, buckle your seatbelt. We’re here to embrace the awkward (sex!), talk through the hard stuff (in-laws!), and give you everything you need to ace your newlywed years and beyond.

After I Do is a COMPLETE guide for those first 5 years of marriage, when everything is new and sweet… and freaking difficult. Even if you’ve dated for years, going from ME to WE is a huge transition and sometimes you just need a little (or a lot) of sage wisdom so that you don’t completely go off on your spouse. (But if you already have, no judgment. We’re here to help.)

Our relationship experts will guide you and your spouse through 12 modules covering all the hot topics like communication, conflict, sex, in-laws, money, etc. Get practical solutions you can put into practice! So if you wanna turn up the passion and connect with your spouse on a whole new level, get this marriage course, stat.