Thursday, 4 September 2014

Life is not an emergency


The summer holidays have come to an end. The kids got off to a good start at school on Monday and we're all settling back into a pleasant routine. The picture above is a nostalgic reminder of lazy days in the summer heat; of M chasing the kids, who were dressed only in underpants and squealing with delight, around the garden with a hose on full blast.  Days we are now leaving behind, but that is just fine. One of the things I love about the summer holidays is that it allows us to step back, slow down to the speed of life* together and gather new energy and enthusiasm for the new school year.  In that respect, the long summer holidays are a necessity.  School life - both as a teacher or pupil - is like a hectic train journey: lots of fun and learning and new sights to see, but also exhausting. We often can't wait to get off at the Summer Holidays stop, but enjoy getting back on that train six weeks later just the same.

That's not to say that I don't feel panic in the last week of summer at the very thought of school, because I do. In fact, it is something that plagues me every year. This anxiety is always accompanied by the same thoughts: How will I manage to juggle everything? How on earth will I cope with a full school diary plus family life? Will I still know how everything works at school? Heck, will I still know how to teach?! On top of that, there are the birthday jitters. Both kids celebrate their birthdays in September. Next week in fact. Yes, both of them. This means: buying gifts, decorating the living room, organising and hosting parties, and so on. The very thought of all this is enough to have me hyperventilating. And I guess that's precisely where the problem lies: the very thought. Because before all this has even happened - school, birthdays - I'm already exhausted and slightly overwhelmed. Whenever that realisation sets in (yes - *sigh* - every year: you'd think I'd know better by now) I always pick up a strengthening little book I have lying next to my bed for moments of panic: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's all small stuff) by the late dr. Richard Carlson. It is divided into one hundred chapters of only a few pages each, perfect for reading in bed at night before heading off to dreamland. In it, dr. Carlson asks us to repeat to ourselves the phrase "Life isn't an emergency" whenever we are feeling stressed. And I can tell you: it works. In fact, it is a mantra I swear by. Whenever I'm feeling rushed or pressured, I repeat this phrase and, like magic, immediately feel calmer. In fact, my breathing goes from the top of my chest straight down to my abdomen in a matter of seconds, followed by a tremendous feeling of relief. Let me leave you with a quote from the book:

"I've never met anyone (myself included) who hasn't turned little things into great big emergencies. We take our own goals so seriously that we forget to have fun along the way, and we forget to cut ourselves some slack. We take simple preferences and turn them into conditions for our own happiness. Or, we beat ourselves up if we can't meet our self-created deadlines. The first step in becoming a more peaceful person is to have the humility to admit that, in most cases, you're creating your own emergencies. Life will usually go on even if things don't go according to plan. (p.62)"

* the title of another of dr. Carlson's books: Slowing Down to the Speed of Life

                                                                                            
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Now that school has started, I'm having to think about lunch boxes again. Well, snack boxes to be precise; M is on the sandwich station. This week I baked a banana cake; same recipe, different tin. I have been giving a slice of this, along with some fresh berries for fruit, as a mid-morning snack. Coming week I'll be making muesli bars, so will be sharing that recipe with you soon.






30 comments:

  1. Thank you for this post. It is a good reminder that most of the things we are up against are not emergencies and we will get through them just fine :)

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    1. Yes, don't we always seem to get through stuff just fine? I guess we just forget sometimes, and then need gentle reminders.

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  2. I'm glad to hear I'm not the only person who gets these mild feelings or panic and being overwhelmed by what needs to be done. Thanks for sharing how you deal with it.

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    1. It's always good to know us humans all deal with the same stuff. I'm definitely no stranger to feeling overwhelmed and am constantly finding ways to deal with a 'finely tuned nervous system', so to speak.

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  3. What a really good way to look at things, we put so much pressure on ourselves and expect too much from ourselves, we lose sight of things. I am doing it now! Thinking i must get well and get back to work as soon as possible because I don't want to let people down. I have set myself an impossible deadline. Thank you so much for posting this x

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    1. I try to think: what would I tell my child if he or she were ill in bed: "Hurry up and get better, they need you at work"? Don't think so. When we are ill or exhausted we need to nurture ourselves the way we would nurture a child, I think.

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  4. I can remember reading that book and I agree, life is not an emergency. Having said that, I can also remember the nightmares I always had before the beginning of a new school year, I always worried and frequently had what I called the class from h**l dream where nothing I did worked and they would all disappear.
    Hope you have a lovely class, I usually did despite my many worries.

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    1. Hey, I've had those dreams too!
      I'm meeting my classes next week (I teach high school) so fingers crossed.

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  5. It's good to have a personal mantra, sounds like you have found one that works for you. Usually the thought of something challenging is worse than the reality. X

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    1. So true. I once read somewhere: 'the anticipation is worse than the event' and I've often found myself thinking back to that piece of wisdom.

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  6. How funny, both of my kids were due on the 3rd October but both ended up September babies. There is nine years between them and the youngest is 18 at the end of the month. Expensive times here x

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    1. Oh definitely expensive! Would you believe my son's birthday is on the 9th and my daughter's on the 10th?!? How did we manage THAT, I wonder!

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  7. You're not the only one with those stress-issues... and strangely, the smaller the "stuff", the bigger the stress gets...
    I think I'm going to buy that book as well ;-)....

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    1. Highly, highly recommended, that book. It's wonderful. I keep it on my bedside table and whenever I flip through it, I find exactly the wisdom I need.

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  8. Needed that advice last night as I created a pointless emergency looking for a form which I thought I had but couldn't find. Rushed around and made a mess and it turned out I's already sent it back. Think I am just winding myself up as term is about to start and i haven't done as much preparation as I'd like. That cake looks lovely.

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    1. Oh, I haven't done much preperation either. Every year I vow to start the year thoroughly prepared, but never do. But in the end, it works out okay. Things that need to be done, get done. So I suppose that isn't really an emergency either :-)

      Good luck getting started, Doris - would love to know how your classes are; I'm meeting mine Monday.

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  9. I look forward to the muesli bar recipe. I baked a banana loaf on Tuesday. It was yummy! My Mum always says 'don't sweat the small stuff.' She's right of course, but I still do ;)
    Leanne xx

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    1. Isn't banana loaf just wonderful? We love it in this house. Lucky you to have such a wise mum :-)

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  10. I am the worst for self imposed deadlines, I have to do this today, in the next hour, and so on. You are so right, there are some things are emergencies, but living isn't one of them! xx

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    1. Yes, what's up with all these self-imposed deadlines?! Who's keeping tabs on what we do? It's so good to stop and question ourselves about this kind of thing, because our health can really suffer from all that stress.

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  11. Life is not an emergency - what a lovely way of looking at it! I have to slow myself down at times, wanting everything to happen now - definitely doesn't work that way with kids!!

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    1. No, in that respect children are a wonderful grounding tool for grown-ups!

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  12. I have so enjoyed catching up here. I will try to remember that mantra. That and the oft repeated 'and breathe'! When did I become a breath holder? I suspect it was longer ago than I recognised.

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    1. Thanks, Lucille! I'm a habitual breath holder too, particularly when I'm working on the computer, I've found. It's something I really need to watch. Glad you stopped by!

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  13. Love that photo, loved reading this post, love the brilliant advice - and would love to finally get around to emailing you one of these days! Thanks for your kind notes and comments. :)

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    1. You're very welcome, Susan; and thank you for your kind comments!

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  14. My husband always says not to worry about stuff I have no control over... easier said than done! Today I have been breathing in saying to myself that life is not an emergency and the same again whilst breathing out. Then I went to the library to borrow a some books. Just because. Thanks for reminding me to slow down. Cx

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    1. Good for you, Christina! We really need to keep reminding ourselves to slow down and stop turning on the emergency alarm in our minds and bodies.

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