Anyone who knows me personally (or has even just talked to me over facebook) can probably tell you that I tend toward anxiety. I get overwhelmed, over excited, and over stimulated very easily. I am not sure how I have been like this, but I know it goes back to at least college if not high school or younger. I wish I would say it get’s better with age, but it seems to be getting more and more pronounced. The worst part? I see the same tendencies in my oldest. Abi is overwhelmed and spins out of control. In a letter I wrote to her on her 6th birthday I promised that, in order to help her learn coping techniques I would first work on finding some for myself.
One of the things that send both of us into a full blown melt down is a messy house/bedroom. She doesn’t particular care if her room is a mess but if I ask her to clean it she is a puddle, and (though she doesn’t realize it) she is far calmer and centered when her room isn’t in chaos. For both of us the problem comes when things are so out control that the thought of even starting feels insurmountable. So, I thought I would share three tricks that are working for us.
*Tea Kettle Timer: there are times when tackling the entire house just isn’t an option. It may be too late at night, or I’m not feeling well, or I am trying to fit a shower and rest time and cleaning into nap time, whatever the reason I just can’t think about trying to clean EVERYTHING! When that is the case my best course of action is to put the tea kettle on and work till it whistles. Most of the time I end up working in the kitchen doing dishes ect, but other times I will pick up the living room, or fold some laundry, or clean a bathroom. If I am almost finished with my task when the kettle whistles then I will finish it up while my tea steeps. Once my tea is steeped I’m done. I stop cleaning and sit down and enjoy my tea. It helps me stay productive with our working myself up into a major stress. Today I am battling a massive head ache for the third day in a row. I knew if I did nothing but veg all day I would feel a lot of guilt, but I also knew trying to tackle a lot was a bad idea for many reasons. So I put on the kettle, cleaned the kitchen, then sat down with my tea and started writing this post!
*15 Minutes: When my motivation is low, or I can’t figure out where to even begin, or it’s so hot the thought of cleaning all day makes me want to melt I set my timer for 15 minutes. I pick a task, any task and simply throw myself into it for 15 minutes. Some days when my brain just isn’t working I will even do this for writing. In the summer time when the heat is at it’s worst I will often stop when the timer goes off, drink a glass of cold water and let myself rest for 15 minutes while I sit in front of the fan. More often than not however once I get started I can find the gumption to keep going so the timer is set for another 15 minutes. Sometimes a friend and I will text each other, set our timers together and work for 15 minutes. At the end we check back in and share what we got done. The accountability is great! This also helps my kiddos with cleaning or really ANY task. Cleaning their entire room is tantrum inducing. Picking up for 15 minutes and then getting to read a book with Mom is a GREAT way to make a task feel manageable. Sometimes we even use this to STOP behavior. I.E. turn the TV off for 15 minutes, look at books quietly for 15 minutes, play outside for 15 minutes.
*One Task/Ten Things: The other thing that works great for me and the kiddos is the “one task” or “ten things” approach. Instead of asking them to “clean their room” I ask them each to either tackle one task “pick up all the books” or “put away all the dolls”. The other thing we do is to each pick up x number of items. Pick up and put away ten, or 15, or 6 items. It breaks it down into manageable size jobs for them and keeps it kind of fun. Truth be told I do it for myself as well some times. Before going to bed I will stop and pick up and put away ten items, or collect all the dishes or trash that have scattered across my house during the day.
I realize none of these are new ideas, and that a simple search of pinterest would probably provide this ideas and a dozen or more others. But I wanted to share what works for us because I promised Abi I would work on me, and sometimes working on ourselves means allowing for accountability and transparency.