When transitions overwhelm your life with anxiety-inducing change, it’s time to simplify things and take steps to make your life easier.
By Margaret Lanning
When I was 28, I injured my lower left leg and ankle and spent six weeks relearning how to walk. It was my first intimate relationship with crutches and I got really good at swinging myself through the house on two sticks, even navigating stairs. The crutches enabled me to get up and move toward health and healing. Without them, my injuries would have healed slower and made getting back into life more difficult.
I see routines like crutches. They help me to move into and out of my day with more ease. Chunking my day and my week into routines tempers the anxiety that always has to do with how to best spend my time chasing the snowballing to-do list.
So I set up systems to help me navigate. My routines in the morning include making my bed, emptying the dishwasher, feeding the dogs. At night, I straighten the first floor, clear the table, and check my calendar.
It’s the in-between times that are trickier. Transitions from one time of the year to another throw off my routines and overwhelm me with change. What I do depends on what time of year it is. Winter is different from summer is different from fall. Christmas is different from Father’s day is different from Easter.
I once heard the comedian Jim Gaffigan depict his overwhelming transitions in life by describing what it was like for him to have a fourth child. He said, “Imagine you’re drowning, then someone hands you a baby.”
The first time I heard this I laughed a long time! He explained exactly how I feel when I’m limping along on my tried and true routine and then a transition occurs that mixes everything up and presses me for MORE. Don’t they know I’m almost sinking here?
I don’t think I’ll ever completely avoid the blue that surrounds me when transitions come, but I’ve learned a thing or two over the years that help me hobble through it. Firstly, I take my emotional temperature to figure out what is going on. The worst thing I can do is let a dark cloud hang around without a challenge. I don’t know how many times I’ve realized how close we are to the winter season or to Christmas when the blahs up their ante. Then I know to talk to someone who knows me and cares, and how to direct my prayers.
Secondly, I’ve discovered that planning ahead is a huge help. I’ve mentioned the Flylady before—she is an organizational guru who suggests having what she calls a control journal. In this notebook, she advises putting lists and templates of responsibilities. For busy seasons, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, she has lists and reminders and ways to prepare for the holidays in advance. I have adapted her ideas to my family and traditions. It helps me take baby steps toward the main event. It’s all about dividing and conquering.
Next is simplifying: small trips, small gatherings, potlucks instead of dinner parties, fewer clothes to sort, asking for help, taking breaks, doling out responsibilities, pausing from technology. These are some of the ways I’ve made my life easier over the years.
And lastly, and the very hardest thing, if I’m crumbling and I can’t, I don’t. I communicate clearly. I go off the beaten path to do what I need to do to get back to me. God and me. Just like my crutches held me up until I could stand on my own, my routines and decisions to simplify move me into transitions a little easier, so I can spend my time walking through them rather than being immobilized by them.
Printed as “Navigating transitions”, Fall 2018
via Esperanza – Hope To Cope
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