I’ve become more understanding, because these events happen to everyone, not only undergraduate students in large classes. Sometimes Real Life interferes with real life. You get the flu. Your kid(s) get the flu. THEN you get the flu. The babysitter gets the flu. Schools are closed and suddenly you have no childcare on your busiest teaching day. Your pipes burst. Real life happens.
There can be a tendency during these times to feel guilty about all of the things you aren’t doing. You were supposed to hand back graded papers this week. You owe your adviser a draft of your thesis. You haven’t called your best friend. You didn’t eat enough vegetables. Or exercise. You ate a whole pint of Ben and Jerry’s.
Give yourself a break. Focus on the things that must get done right now. If you’re a parent, you must get your kids to and from school (if they’re healthy), feed them, and get them to sleep. What can you let slide this week on the family front given other pressures? Can you order takeout? Can you convince your kids to buy lunch at school? Can laundry wait another day? Or two? What work things can go this week? Are there non-mandatory meetings you can postpone or send someone to in your place? Are there work things that you would have loved to get done, but you can delay? Do you really have to reply to all of those emails tonight?
What can you fit in to improve your mental health right now? Are you getting a functional amount of sleep? If you feel better after exercise, can you squeeze that in?
And give yourself a mental break. Don’t beat yourself up for not accomplishing everything you intended this week. Go into survival mode. Lower your expectations for yourself. Remind yourself that there are things in your life more important than getting a manuscript drafted this week or writing the most perfect class paper ever.
And, so, it’s that kind of week at my house. With <2 weeks left in Boston, there was a long to do list. The work to do list of manuscripts to finish, a syllabus to draft, chapters to edit etc., etc., before moving back to State College. I had scheduled some final get togethers with good friends who live in the area. There is also the “pinky promise” list of things we’ve promised the kids we would do before we move back.
And Real Life struck. My husband unexpectedly had to leave town on Sunday. The kids are battling colds and the mood swings that seem to accompany yet another upcoming transition. Sunday night was a revolving bed (well, not so revolving – once someone entered they never left, so more like the Hotel California) of kids arriving at 12:30 AM and 3:30 AM and waking each other up and whining about stolen covers, leg pain, sniffles, bad dreams, coughs, thirst, and trouble sleeping. Monday I cancelled social plans and work plans. Monday night unexpected work plans arose. Tuesday I attended teacher conferences solo. Tonight I cancelled social plans to bring my kids to swim lessons and make pancakes for dinner. I’m unexpectedly doing the morning routine, lunch prep, the walk to school, school pick up, after school activities, dinner prep, bed prep, and clean up solo – and we have no childcare or large support system here. While watching snow fall. Shoveling. I’m cancelling and rescheduling work things that can be. I rescheduled Thursday’s department head candidate phone call to be at 11:00 PM my time. Kids are crabby. I’m crabby. And worried about what’s going on out of town. There are dishes in the sink. And I may have sent a child to school today with pen on her forehead left over from an unknown event yesterday.
This morning I woke up in a panic. I am late on a manuscript review. I was supposed to revise my book chapter yesterday. I have a manuscript I wanted to finish this week. My goal was to draft my syllabus this week. The good bye dinners are falling off the schedule. The pinky promise list is in jeopardy. I have to start packing. The list goes on. Not to mention my husband, who is also feeling guilty about his work to do list and my current family load while dealing with Real Life issues away from us.
But I need to give myself a break (as does he). The kids are fed. They are getting (some) sleep. I am getting them to and from school. I’ve gotten some work done, including sending someone feedback on a thesis. I’m replying to emails as I can.
At 4:00 AM, my child crawled into my bed. I was feeling exasperated and exhausted. Then he said, “Mama, you know what the definition of security is? Snuggling with you and Daddy.” So we both went back to sleep. I’m giving someone security, and some days, that’s enough.
“The post Give yourself a mental break first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on December 11, 2013.”