“Brain Strain: What We Can Unload to Upload”

By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler

Stock photo credit of dreamstime.com

Stock photo credit of dreamstime.com

I’m on overload right now … although my son’s first year of preschool has come to an end, I am now shuffling him between summer camps, play dates, and various other community happenings. Since the latter part of this school year I have been coordinating the discernment, enrollment, and admission process for private preschool where my son will attend through 12th grade. Then there’s the organizing and packing for our summer travel and vacation plans…running our household…squeezing in a hair cut for myself…and on and on.

Something’s gotta give and soon – I simply need to unload! However, I have found this isn’t easily done. I can’t let go of any of these responsibilities, and I don’t have time to make any big changes in my life right now or incorporate “strategies” I read in magazines that are supposed to make things simpler and slow things down. So I need easy and fast ways to unload so I can upload with immediate results! How about you? It seems as though many of us speed along through our days with barely enough time to catch our breath. It is becoming more commonplace among my circle of friends for us to text each other to say – I’ll have to catch you later; I’m crazy-busy right now. Then, we don’t get back in touch for another week or two!

Rather than offer you suggestions for letting go of the things you do now that keep you so busy, I have something else in mind. Just check out the few simple ideas below that you can easily incorporate into your daily life and routine. They might just help you catch your breath – before going on to the next thing!

Battle That Brain Strain!

* Begin your day with a few simple stretches and a hot shower. Now, if I can do this with a busy 4 year old who is more than enthusiastic to start the day (and who seems to think he is my morning rooster), so can you. When I hear my son crawl out of bed and use the potty, I take that time to slowly awaken while he pads (okay – stomps) his way to my bedside. I have “trained” him to play next door in our master suite’s living area while I do a few simple, quick stretches – right from my bed! I concentrate on my upper and lower back so I can get mobile enough to find my way into the shower. There, I let the hot water and steam do its work with a few additional standing stretches so I don’t start off my day feeling stiff. It makes a big difference most days to be loosened up before jumping into all I have to accomplish!

* Stretch throughout the day. I call this “Stop, Drop, and Stretch!” As we go through our day, we tend to lose our posture and proper walking stance. We begin to hunch our shoulders forward and round our backs, and continue to stiffen up as the day goes on due to our often busy, stressed lives. Taking just a few moments to loosen your tightened muscles offers a quick break and is surprisingly refreshing after sitting at your computer too long or handling several tasks in a row.

* Take a break during the day to exercise if you can. My life has changed so much since having a child that I find I usually don’t have the time for an elaborate workout routine. However, research coming from the fitness world tells us that exercising in “spurts” can be just as effective at relieving stress; loosing weight; and keeping our bodies strong, minds sound, and emotions in check. And, any form of exercise counts, no matter how brief. Just 10 minutes 3 times a day can still make a difference. You don’t even need a structured or regimented exercise program. A simple stroll around your neighborhood or backyard, or a brief walk on your treadmill will do the trick!

* Eat well and drink plenty of water. I will spare a lecture on the health benefits of this one – especially since I find it difficult to do! However, it is so much better for our bodies and minds to eat nutritious foods and stay hydrated. And, a healthy body is a far happier and less stressed body!

* Set specific times to check email and return telephone calls. So many aspects of technology really can make things easier and us more productive when applied well to our lives. It is important to set boundaries for how you want to handle your technological devices before you begin using them for professional or personal use. Adhere to the times you set during the day to use those devices for checking email, voice or text messages, and returning telephone calls. It doesn’t take long for people to figure out that you are “glued” to your iphone, or to learn what times of day (or night!) you are likely “online.” Set precedence up front that your technological devices are turned off and put away during dinner, family time, and before bedtime. Keep them out of your bedroom or anywhere else that is designated for sleeping or resting. Many studies suggest that having electronics on continuously disrupts sleep patterns, and some experts recommend you dim lamps and avoid checking your e-mail or watching late-night TV at least an hour before bedtime.

Decide when you will plug-in and when you will unplug!

Decide when you will plug-in and when you will unplug!

* Choose not to answer the telephone sometimes. The “I’m on my deathbed” call is likely not the one coming in.

* Say ‘no’ sometimes. The world will not come to an end if you decline to lead a project for your child’s scout troop, make your homemade chili for the church cook-off fundraiser, serve as president of your home association, or anything else. Change the thought pattern that says the project, event, or meeting will fall apart without you! This is not to say that you don’t make valuable and worthy contributions to your workplace, home life, church, and community. It’s just that the show will go on. Choose your activities carefully and don’t allow them to overwhelm your life.

* Avoid stressful situations and toxic people as much as possible. These two things can be a real drain on your life. Instead, embrace positive energy and uplifting people! Set your emotional boundaries and stick with them.

* Make excuses. Look for periods throughout the day when you can snatch a moment of quiet time for yourself. Even if it means telling your family you simply must go to the laundry room for awhile to catch up. There’s your solitude and an item crossed off your to-do list in one!

* Take “me time” any way you can claim it. Whether you splurge on a spa service or hide in your closet to finish the next chapter in your book, time for you is important! You can’t help your colleagues, family, or community if you don’t take care of yourself first.

One summer I used the excuse that our deck could use a few pretty flowers and fresh potted plants to snatch some quiet gardening time to myself.

One summer I used the excuse that our deck could use a few pretty flowers and freshly potted plants to snatch some quiet gardening time to myself.

Do you have another idea to help us regain our sanity? Let us know what you do to unload!

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11 thoughts on ““Brain Strain: What We Can Unload to Upload”

  1. Instead of always being crazy busy for friends, schedule time for a walk with them — gets that exercise you need fit into the crazy busy schedule, and allows time to catch up and keep in touch with friends. Some days/weeks it may not be possible, but so important to regularly do!

    • Great idea, Kat! This is a tip I have used in the past too, and one which takes care of two things at once – exercise and time with friends!

  2. I enjoyed this article, covers a lot of ground on the routines of life, good advice to put into practice! My kids are older, and I struggled thru it, but I really enjoy knowing how each person/household handles day to day activities, even now, seeing others make the best of it, as the human race pushes forward.

    • Thank you, Becky – I too have found it helpful to talk with other parents/families (just as we do here on Off the Merry-Go-Round!) for ideas on how to make life easier.

  3. Jennifer, I appreciate all of your strategies and advice. I especially love your idea of stretching to start each day! I try to do this as well, and agree that it makes a HUGE difference in beginning your day “on the right foot.” Yoga and pilates are also wonderful ways to stretch, tone and reflect on your upcoming day’s activities. I find myself more focused and ready to tackle the day.

    • Yes…I have always said I am not a “yoga person,” yet am going to give it a try this summer because stretching has helped so much!

  4. Great article! Going for a quick walk around lunch time or a family walk after dinner AND drinking more water are easy, yet I neglect them all the time…and then wonder why I’m stressed or tired. It’s time to take back control! Thanks for the reminder that it’s essential to put yourself first in order to care for everyone else. And just so you know, work is not allowed while hiding in the closet–leave the writing to another moment and pour a glass of wine. LOL!

  5. GREAT suggestions! It seems that canines know the secret to starting their day…every morning when I let my dog out of his crate, he stretches for at least 5 minutes before heading out the door to do his business. That is such great advice! AND the shower idea is GREAT too. This may be too much information, but it is 5:30 p.m., and I have not had a shower today. I have had so much to accomplish (and much of it “dirty work”) that I haven’t showered yet. May I say that I feel horrible!!! Thanks for your insight, Jennifer!!!!

  6. Oh, dear Mary Ann, please don’t ever think you are alone in the “it’s almost dinnertime and I haven’t had a shower yet” department. I’m right there with you! 🙂

  7. Pingback: Work it out… Finding Time for Mom | Off the Merry-Go-Round

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