I was just saying (ok, maybe complaining) to my mom that in the past two plus months, every single time I have had a day to catch up on work projects there has been a sick kid or snow day. And today was no exception. Waking up this morning to discover that we had delayed openings for school was frustrating enough and by 8am school had been closed. Boy, did I get grumpy. As I sulkily sat down to figure out a plan for the day, though, I noticed that something interesting happened: when I took a deep breath and accepted the unexpected, I was then able to come up with a plan that would allow me to do some work but would primarily be focused on getting other obligations taken care of, tasks it would be easier for me to do with kids around, which would then free up time on other days. In other words, I was being flexible.
When our lives get super busy, remembering to remain flexible can be really challenging. We come up with a set idea of how things are going to go and then oftentimes convince ourselves that the approach we have come up with is the only option that will work. The reality, though, is that there is almost always another way. It may not always be the preferred way or the smoothest way, but there is usually another way.
Here are some of the things that I try to do in order to remain flexible (which is kind of against my nature) in these moments of unexpected curve balls:
1) Take a deep breath (or ten). I try to just slow my panicking brain down and remember that this is not a real crisis. Everyone is safe and healthy. This is just a bump in the road.
2) Make a master list. I try to come up with a list, either written or in my head, of all of the tasks that are eating at me. Then I try to do two things: prioritize and reorganize. What are the things that truly need to happen today and what can wait? Are there things on others days that could be done today to make room on other days?
3) Get some self-care in. When things change unexpectedly, I think it is important to try to make room for self-care. This one is hard for me, but I have learned that if I don’t, the stress in these unexpected moments can lead me to make not-so-good decisions like stress eating or picking fights with my loved ones. So I try to carve out some time that can still be mine. This morning, for instance, I made sure to get a workout and shower in so that the day could start off somewhat right.
4) Accept that this is a day for fewer rules. Did my kids get more video today that I would have ideally liked? Yes. Did they get to buy a special treat at the grocery store I usually wouldn’t have gotten? Yes. But in letting go of the control a little, I made some space for other things, and that was worth it.
5) Take a moment for gratitude. I try to notice the things that did go well and acknowledge why—what did I do to make that possible and who else played a role? I find that seeing the good helps to take the edge off the bad.
I’d love to hear your thoughts! What do you do to keep your sanity when life throws you a curve ball?