Before the school holidays started, I shared my tips on how to survive the school holidays without your stress levels rising.
My girls went back today and I thought it would be useful for me to reflect back and see how I coped. Are there lessons for me to learn? Could I do things differently?
As a mum running a business from home, it’s important to balance the five elements of your life: work, wellness, contribution, family, and the feminine. Sometimes these elements get out of kilter during the school holidays.
My strategy was to:
1 – Plan ahead
As much as possible, I planned ahead all aspects of my life. Yes I am one of those organised structured people who likes a plan. And my clients who aren’t organised love me for it because I keep them focussed and on track. My clients who are structured love me for it too because it fits in so well with their way of thinking.
However honestly planning does make life easier. During the school holidays, I get up earlier than everybody else and focus on the work that is absolutely essential. I plan my client work so that I am realistic about my commitments. My BIG goal in life is for children to have happy memories of family life. This is what really makes me tick. This underlies everything I do for my clients but also what I do for my family too. I want to have fun and laughter. I want my children to have a happy life. I want my children to enjoy the summer holidays and to take happy memories forward when they become parents. As a family, we planned ahead when we would take a holiday (this year we visited Germany) but also we had a family discussion to come up with ideas for different days out during the school holidays. Some of the days out were simple things for example a picnic in the local park, a trip to the cinema or a walk on the South Downs. Others required a bit more planning e.g. our trip to Woburn Safari Park and the visit to Camber Sands. Every week we planned at least one trip as a family. I give myself 5/5.
2 – Automate and systemise
With a background in technology, you’d expect me to automate and systemise as much as I can in my business. For me that’s about scheduling tweets and Facebook posts in advance; it’s inviting guest bloggers to post on my blog; it’s planning the topics for my weekly newsletter in advance; it’s giving every month a theme. For September, it’s all about transition. Transition for the mums going back to work; for the children moving from primary to secondary school; for those starting pre-school; maybe for me when I win the NCT President election!
In previous years I have asked my virtual assistant to manage my email while I’m away. I didn’t this year because we were away for less time, and I had been much better at setting expectations for my clients, and running my online programmes so that my input was minimal during August. I give myself 4/5.
3 – Be fully present with my children
Hmmm … I’m sure I’m not the only business mum who’s guilty of checking her Facebook feed when she’s supposed to be playing a board game. Or sending out late night tweets instead of reminding the girls it’s time to get ready for bed. However on all our day trips and half day trips, I left work behind. During our 8 days in Germany, I had a complete digital detox. Every time a work or business thought came into mind, I noticed it and allowed it to drift out again. I give myself 4/5.
4 – Identify and manage the stress triggers
I am absolutely clear on what triggers my stress levels to rise: when I’m trying to write a blog post or newsletter under a tight time pressure; when I’m double-checking figures; when I’m getting my receipts and invoices ready for my accountant; when there’s noise and activity around me while I’m working. This makes it easier for me to ask my husband to NOT put the dishwasher and the washing machine on just as I’m about to start recording a podcast. I feel comfortable to tell him when I am doing my accounts, what the deadline is and also to warn him (and my children), that I can feel my stress levels rising and apologise in advance that I might get snappy. It makes sense for the whole family if I also ask my husband to take the girls to the park or to the library for a couple of hours so that I can concentrate.
I know that going for a run or reading a non-fiction book will make me feel loads better. I know that getting 8 hours sleep every night helps. I know that I need to nurture both my physical and mental wellness in order to be the confident mother that I aspire to be.
Have you identified your stress triggers? Notice what you notice when you experience the stress levels rising. What are the triggers? Who else is involved? What is happening (or not happening)? Is it a specific time of day or day in the week? Identify the stress triggers and you can make changes to anticipate those situations and handle them differently, or avoid them altogether. I give myself 4/5
5 – Self-love
There are always times during the school holidays when my children are bickering, there’s a client who needs to talk to me urgently, there’s no bread in the house, and stress levels are rising! On those days, you need self-love.
Show yourself compassion in your thoughts, feelings and actions. It is OK to take “me” time; it is more than OK, it is essential.
Stress drains your energy.
Identify what helps you to relax: a good cup of tea, a walk in the woods, a hard session at the gym or just hiding in the bathroom for five minutes!
I give myself 4/5.
Overall then, my strategy to survive the school holidays has worked really well for me. I planned ahead, systemised as much as possible, was fully present with my children, identified the stress triggers so that I can anticipate and avoid stressful situations, and showed myself self-love for those times when it didn’t quite work out.
I’ve enjoyed the school holidays and my children have some fabulous memories to take back to school. Overall 4 out of 5. I always like to give myself room for improvement.
What about you?