Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Under Pressure - 5 Ways to Find a Relief Valve Before an Explosion

It was a dark and stormy night, and as I sat there typing, I heard the sounds of footsteps in my attic.  I thought about screaming...but didn't want to scare the beejeezus out of the repairman. 

If truth be told, it was actually a bright and sunny day, and I never considered screaming, (but that really didn't make an interesting introduction).  The footsteps I heard were from the A/C guys installing a duct system to equalize the pressure in my house.  Who knew my house was under pressure?  But, I should have guessed...

Anyone who knows me will tell you I frequently walk around under pressure.  The tasks I am responsible for sometimes (read: most times) overwhelm even my best efforts.  As I fall more behind and end up doing less than my best, I start to build up pressure from stress.

Anyone who knows me will also tell you it isn't pretty when I blow up.  It is a run for cover, shield your eyes, protect the innocent, and sign up for therapy kind of moment.  I have made grown men cry, and that isn't an exaggeration.  The pressure from stress is not a good thing for me, but then again, I doubt many people really enjoy it.

As I sit here listening to the pressure equalizing work being done overhead, I realize I need to install a similar relief system on my life.  I need a way for areas of high pressure to be vented off and areas of low pressure to be combined into my daily productivity.  I need to bring down the extremes and become more functional in the middle.

What I really need is a clone.  But I am afraid that is a subject for another post...

Thinking about installing a pressure equalizing system is all well and good, but how to go about it is a tougher nut to crack.  Here are a few of my ideas.  I'm curious to know if you have any other suggestions.
  1. Do Something Calm to Balance Something Stressful.  I wish I could do this in a 1:1 ratio, but let's be honest, I would have to move to a beach hut and hire someone to convince my kids to clean their rooms if I wanted to only do one stressful thing for ever calm thing I could do.  Right now, in my life, getting my kids to bathe is a stressful event.  I think a 1:5 ratio may make more sense.  One calming activity for every 5 stressful things may work a bit better.  Somedays it may be 1:10, or 1:3, but I have to start somewhere!
  2. Chill on the Caring.  Don't get me wrong, I don't plan to tune out life, but maybe tune out little things.  I really hate watching other people make lame choices, but as I cannot be in charge of correcting every lame decision I need to back off the amount of attention I give it.  Getting all riled up over things I have no control over does nothing but increase my stress and my pressure level.  If I want to improve my equalization, I need to let other people own their personal choices.
  3. Smile and Laugh.  It is amazing how quickly laughing can relieve pressure.  One good laugh can set all sorts of things right.  When my kids dump chips on the floor, I can either giggle or get angry.  The same chip is on the floor, but I will either be stressed or not.  I must practice impromptu laughing.
  4. Delegate.  This one must be obvious, but I will explain it anyway.  I am not Super Woman.  No matter how many times I show up at the grocery store in shiny boots and a cape, I really don't have super powers.  I need to stop acting like I do!  Only taking on the tasks I have the time and brain power to handle is a good thing, but getting help when I need it is even better.  Nothing builds up stress faster than being given a problem I can't solve.  Asking for help is a quick pressure release valve that everyone should know how to access.
  5. Say No.  I have posted about this concept before, and I have been laughed at before too.  Saying no in the first place really eliminates the need to delegate later.  I am getting better.  My calendar is clearing up, and my ability to be calm is returning.  "No," really is a beautiful word.
Okay, so there is my quick and dirty list of ways to equalize the pressure in my life.  I want to hear from you.  How do you restore the balance?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Motivational Monday #81 - Routines Are The Spice Of Life

Some people say variety is the spice of life, but I have to say sometimes variety makes things a little too spicy for me.   I am a person of routine.  I thrive on routine...really, I do.  I like to do my laundry on certain days, and do my chores in a certain order.  I always brush my hair before my teeth, and I wear specific socks to sleep in.  I just like the routine.

I'm afraid I just heard a few of you yawn.  I know routine can seem really boring, and for some people, it is.  For me, routines allow me to check items off my to do list in the most efficient manner, leaving more time for fun.  Routines help me stay on top of things and eliminate as many "emergencies" as possible.

For the record, I am not a fan of emergencies!

If you saw my weekly to do list you would either gasp or laugh.  Either way, you would think I am crazy.  Just because you are right, doesn't mean I don't get a lot done every week.  Let's be realistic, I own a business, I volunteer at the school, I parent one special needs child and another high energy one, I take care of my home, and I even throw in a little time to be a wife to my amazing hubby.  Who wouldn't need a routine to complete their to do list?

The key to having routines is for those routines to help streamline the process instead of complicating it.  A good example is that I schedule grocery shopping trips every two weeks when I will already be out and about at other appointments.  This forces me to plan ahead, figure out a meal plan, buy groceries and cook the food I bought.  This saves me the time of multiple trips to the store, the expense of last minute fast food, and the panic of not knowing what is for dinner.  Overall, making my shopping part of a routine smooths the path of food for two weeks at a time.  To me, that is a bonus.

So what things make it into your routine?  Here are a few of mine:
  1. Laundry - I split it up so that I never feel attached to the laundry room very long.  Knowing what days I wash things keeps the kids from whining about if their favorite shirt is clean yet.  Always a fan of reduced whining!
  2. Shopping - As mentioned, shopping every few weeks saves time, money and daily planning.  The more time I stay out of the store, the less tempted I am to buy myself sweets, and the happier my waistline is. BONUS!
  3. Blogging - I try and blog once a week, on Mondays.  If that doesn't happen, then I cut myself a break and blog when I can.  Having the routine smooths the process, but being flexible keeps away the guilt.
  4. Cleaning - I know what parts of my house I clean on each day.  If I want to be really honest, I know which parts of the house I assign my kids to clean each day.  Knowing what is getting cleaned and when allows me to ignore the items not assigned to that day.  Not feeling the pressure to clean all of the house every day gives me permission to relax every now and then.
  5. Personal Development - Right now I am taking piano lessons for the first time in my life.  By putting practice time into my routine I make sure it is a priority.  I have to admit, I really look forward to each day's practice time as a moment for just myself.  Making "take care of me" time a part of the daily routine keeps my needs met, makes me a happier person, and thus makes my whole life a lot happier.
So what routines do you have?  Do you find they are intentional habits, or just accidentally the way you do things?  Do you find value in your routines? I really am curious, so let me know!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sliding Into Grown Up Fun

Ahhhh, the joys of childhood...  Today my children played on a slip 'n slide for the first time.  For those of you unfamiliar with this childhood torture device, it is a long sheet of plastic that you place on the grass and hook up to a hose to wet it down.  You then get a running start and throw your body down the line of plastic and glide through the water, grass chunks and eventually mud, all the while squealing in delight.
Now in an effort to be honest, I must admit I had a similar slip 'n slide when I was a kid.  Even though I am wildly allergic to grass, and wet grass is even worse, I spent hours launching my body down the slide in the hot summer sun.

As my husband and I watched our kids getting soaked and laughing as they splashed in the muddy grass, I realized some fun loses its luster as we age.  The idea of repeatedly throwing myself on the wet ground in the hopes that I will slide sounds more like torture than enjoyment.  Don't tell my kids, but I may have winced a few times as I watched them play.

Kids seem to find fun in the most interesting places.  An empty cardboard box is an exciting castle to defend from dragons, a shoe box is a treasure chest for pirate's gold, and a blanket can easily be mistaken for am awesome fort in the living room.  For a child, these are new adventures just waiting to happen.  For an adult, it can easily be seen as one more mess to clean up.

So here's the rub, kids have more fun that we do, but we need more fun than we're having.  How exactly do we go about enjoying cardboard box castles, blanket tents and plastic water slides?

Maybe we don't.   Maybe we find new things to enjoy.  Maybe we learn how to smile and giggle at the moments we have every day.  I have to admit when I accidentally showered myself with the faucet while doing dishes this morning, I grinned.  When I realized my hair was standing on end, I laughed, and when I saw how happy my kids were as they slid through the water, I giggled.

Boxes, blankets and slides are normal and readily accessible items for a child.  They find joy in what they have around them.  As adults, we need to do the same thing.  We need to find smiles, giggles and laughter in our daily activities.  We don't need to throw ourselves on the wet ground to be happy, but we do need to find the joy in our surroundings.

So go ahead, you can do it.  Find something to smile about today!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Motivational Monday #80 - Remembering The Not So Obvious

I once had a coworker who would answer most every question with "It is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer."  I have to admit I got a good giggle out of that, especially when we would ask him a deeply technical question.
Another Bad Hair Day

Sometimes life is intuitively obvious...but then again, sometimes it is not.  Some obvious things include:
  • My kids are always hungry
  • My kids are always making messes
  • I will never finish my to do list
  • Sleep is an elusive creature
  • Bad hair days are just part of life

Some things that aren't so obvious (at least at the time) include:
  • My Prom dress was a bad fashion choice
  • There is a reason they give you a suggested serving size on a tub of ice cream
  • High heals were originally designed as a torture device
  • No amount of mental telepathy (or nasty looks) will enable my husband to read my mind
  • You don't actually go to school to learn things you will use every day, but you go to school to learn how to learn

Unfortunately, the "not so obvious" stuff is usually the stuff that bites us in the backside. (For example, there is a very distinct reason I don't wear my prom dress anymore...)  We don't see a wall of water headed our way, so we forget to think about flood insurance.  We don't travel very often, so we don't keep our passport up to date.  We don't spend weekends with our insurance agent, so we forget our life insurance policy is about to expire.  I could go on, but I am sure you get the picture.

Spending a little time with the "Not So Obvious" is a great way to get yourself prepared.  If you are having trouble figuring out what it is that you can't remember, I suggest getting your hands on a copy of Prepared Binder.  No one like to be caught unawares, especially if what catches you could have been prevented.  Taking the time now is the best prevention...and I can promise you, THAT is intuitively obvious to the most casual observer!