September is always tiring. But this year there is an added element, writes Amanda Cassidy
Summer has come and gone in a blur. Suddenly we are back to the flurry of activities we swore we’d never sign up for again. After 15 months of a pause in activities like swimming, gymnastics, football, the FOMO that our children will be left behind unless they are exposed to every hobby under the sun, has come back to haunt us. It’s a lot of pressure – and not only financially.
Our new normal often means working from home while juggling the children. Added school runs, emptying lunchboxes, racing to extracurricular activities and the exhaustion that comes from new transitions and you have a recipe for Netflix and Drool by 10pm every night.
After a period of inactivity when it comes to the admin of life, reopening is quite simply a shock to the system.
If you used to work in the office, the “fun” part of being out and about like lunches with colleagues or simply a few minutes peaceful walk around the block is no more. Working from the kitchen table means blurring the lines between work and home life and that wash won’t put on itself.
Covid paused everything. We got used to limiting our social interactions and the bustling weekly timetable got dramatically pared back. We shouldn’t underestimate the effects of reopening society. Small talk is tiring at the best of times, but when you are out of the habit, it can often be draining. After a period of inactivity when it comes to the admin of life, reopening is quite simply a shock to the system.
This week we had a lot of transition in our house – new jobs, new schools, new teachers, new school routes to consider. Speaking to other parents and friends without children, the first week ‘back to normal’ has been particularly tiring.
How we are facing the usual overwhelming sense of September, but with the added layer of having been used to a slower pace of life. New decisions have to be made too – about whether or not to return to the workplace, childcare, new challenges the pandemic placed in our paths.
There is often the huge financial burden of getting children back to school and the inevitable stress of juggling school, work and home life. In addition, and you will hate me for this, but Christmas is already on the horizon. And of course, we are all too aware of the short days and dark cold nights ahead. In such uncertain times, it is important not to minimise the effects of all we are trying to juggle.
With a combined 30 years of clinical experience under their belts, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes and Ciara McEnteggart at Perspectives Ireland explain some techniques to keep our heads clear. “Our daily lives are probably more full than they really should be. As we say goodbye to Summer and re-enter our routines in September, it’s the perfect time to take a step back and ask yourself if you really need to squeeze all that stuff into each day. It’s a sobering reflection, but if it was your last day alive, is that how you would spend it?”
Ciara McEnteggart agrees: “In many ways, September is like another New Year – it marks the beginning of the new school year, routines resume, and many food and exercise regimes begin again after the ease of the summer months. As such, this time of year can bring with it a lot of anxieties about preparing for the winter months and the routines beginning again”.
Make a List and Prioritise
Have you ever been kept awake at night because there is simply so much to do in the days and weeks ahead? Thinking things through like this often works, because it helps you prioritise what needs done first, second, third and so on, and to think about ways you can get through each. But lying awake at night doesn’t work for all of us, because we can just as easily find ourselves going over the details again and again, with neither sequence nor solution.
So, let’s begin with the simple fact we should all accept: you cannot jump multiple hurdles at the same time, and trying to will only exhaust you. Instead, make a list of everything you need to do and form it into a sequence that prioritises what needs done first, second, third and so on. Use this list to structure the days and weeks ahead and as you tick each item off your list, you’ll see that the big hurdles are being jumped, one by one.
Estimate the Time Needed
Proper timing is the key to success with a sequence of tasks, making sure that you never underestimate the length of time a given task will take. Transfer your list directly to your calendar, clearly allocating the time needed for each item, so you know where you’re at with your list at any point in time. This will help keep you on track and not get stuck at any one thing, at the cost of others. For example, it takes at least a couple of days to prepare two children to go back to school, this simply can’t happen in an afternoon when you consider uniforms, shoes, books, haircuts, etc. And it will take multiple rounds of a few hours if you’re going back to the office. You might need to buy new clothes, get your car serviced, renew your travel pass, or plan how you organise your daily lunches and shop for them. Each item may seem small but together they can overwhelm you easily.
Estimate the Costs
Try to estimate all of the costs associated with each item on your list and write down the approximate date for when this cost needs to be paid and place these costs into your calendar, so you’re ready for them and they never come as a surprise. For example, it’s never too early to make a budget for Christmas and write down how you plan to fulfill this budget between now and Christmas.
You don’t have to do everything yourself
Look at your list and consider where you could delegate items to someone else or where you could ask for help. You might be tempted to think “It’s easier if I do it myself”, “I would be quicker doing it”, or “I don’t want to burden other people, they have enough to do”. But these thoughts will actually keep you overwhelmed and make it less likely that you will get everything done, without considerable costs to yourself.
Recharge over the Winter Months
The summer of 2021 has been a time for catching up on the things we missed across the previous 18 months. Undoubtedly, we’ve enjoyed that, but making the most of it has probably left us tired just as we begin the September rush. So, if we didn’t recuperate over Summer, how can we get some energy back?
This year, instead of dreading the autumn and winter months, use the dark evenings to recharge and get back some of that “me time” you enjoyed during the lockdown. Use this time to do the things you enjoy, the things that really recharge your batteries.
For example, watch your favourite show on Netflix in the evenings, spend a little longer cooking your favourite meal, or take a long bath once a week. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that serves you and gives you the energy you need to meet all the challenges you face.