I should have seen it coming. After all, there is no better way to ruin plans than to share them with the world.
Last month, I confidently posted about how April would be different than March. There would be no last minute, up-‘til-midnight writing marathon to wrap up assignments before their deadline. Instead, I would be diligently pacing myself to ensure a more leisurely finish to the month.
Then April happened.
It started with a planned week off to accompany the high school band to Disney. Then, I came back to a few productive days before I became sick with what seems to the traditional first-warm-weather-of-the-year illness. I recuperated only to have my laptop die. Then, my beloved aunt, whom has no other family than mine, became was quite ill. Her two trips to the ER and eventual hospitalization meant an entire week of lost work time. And that left this past week for me to get almost an entire month’s worth of work done.
Guess who was up until midnight on Friday?
4 Ways to Respond When Everything Goes Wrong
While I still ended the month on an exhausted note, I have to pat myself on the back and say I handled all the unexpected events better than I have in the past. Previously, I may have floated along until my deadlines loomed and crisis mode hit. However, this time around, I realized early on in April that I would need to make adjustments.
Here’s what worked for me.
1. Eliminate whatever obligations you can
When life throws you curveballs, I think it’s crucial to change your expectations. If you’re sick, experience tragedy or simply wake up to the car not starting, your life will be better if stop expecting everything to go on as normal.
During this recent bout of life being life, I did the following, among other things:
- Opted not to participate in a school forum I had been planning to attend.
- Took a friend up on her offer to pick up my aunt’s mail.
- Emailed an editor to say I couldn’t make a guest post happen as planned.
- Limited my participation in a local, civic initiative even though I really wanted to play a bigger role.
These might not seem like much, but they represented a big step forward for me. The school forum, for example, was on a night where I didn’t have anything else planned. In the past, I would have insisted on going – if for no other reason than to prove life wasn’t as out of control as it felt. But this time around, I saw the opportunity to have a night off without letting anyone down and took it. As a result, I got some much needed breathing space in the midst of a crazy month.
What can you make disappear from your schedule?
2. Simplify meals
When life feels overwhelming, I head straight to the fast food lane. I swear, for a year straight, it seemed like we lived off rotating nights of McDonalds, pizza and Meijer deli fried chicken. It was so bad my big kids even started asking if we could NOT have McDonalds because they were sick of it.
Fortunately, I have been cooking more from scratch lately, but when unexpected events happen, you can’t be beholden to your meal plan. Instead, look for simple meals that can be cooked quickly or, better yet, ones your kids might be able to prepare for themselves.
In my case, that involved stocking up on a lot of frozen meals like Birds Eye Voila and Zatarain’s frozen meals. Were they as healthy as cooking from scratch? Probably not. Were they better than eating fast food? You bet.
In the spirit of full disclosure, we still had fast food but not nearly as much as we would have had otherwise.
How can you make mealtime less stressful in your house?
3. Go to bed at a reasonable time
A classic Maryalene mistake is thinking that since my schedule is out of whack I should stay up extra late to make up for everything I missed doing earlier in the day.
No, scratch that. I actually often think that I should stay up late because after a hectic day, I deserve it. I deserve to stay up late watching Jimmy Fallon clips on YouTube or scrolling through Facebook or catching up on the latest celebrity Twitter meltdown.
That all sounds good, at least until I wake up bleary eyed and miserable at 5am the next morning. So this past month, I promised to stop trying to convince myself I’m productive after 8pm. I made it a priority to be in bed with lights out by 10pm every night, and I was largely successful. The bonus was that I was super productive the next day. When I’m well-rested, I’ve discovered one morning hour is all it takes to get done what might take three half-hearted evening hours.
Operating on limited sleep can be disastrous to your ability to think through and cope with a stressful situation. I realize it’s easier said than done sometimes but make rest a priority. It may seem counterproductive, but it will help you be more efficient and get more done overall.
What routines can you set up to ensure you get a full night’s sleep?
4. Trust everything will work out
Finally, I remind myself no matter what is happening in my life, it will eventually work out.
Of course, that doesn’t mean it will work out how you hope. Your husband may die of cancer. Your child may be in a car accident. Your house might burn down. But then you’ll pick yourself up, brush yourself off and move forward the best you can.
You will never be stuck in this awful situation forever. It will pass.
There’s no promise that life will be rainbows and unicorns all the time, and I find that accepting that truth has made it easier to weather storms. I don’t feel like tragedy is a personal affront to me. Knowing others have experienced and worked through similar (or worse) awful situations provides me comfort and hope that I too can get through whatever challenge I’m facing.
I also find it helps to think about the worst case scenario and have a plan in mind for that situation. For example, if I miss an assignment, what is the worst that can happen? I could lose that client. Then what? I find a new client. What if I can’t find a new client? Then maybe I need to find a job outside the home. What if I can’t find a job? Then maybe we’ll need to move. And so on and so forth.
When I follow things to their worst possible conclusion, I discover there are always options. I am never completely helpless.
How can you reassure yourself that a challenge is only a temporary part of life?