Day 23: 5 Ways to Take Care of Yourself During a Difficult Season of School & Life

31 days final big button

Yesterday I wrote about the bossy-ness of difficult days and how a string of them can lead us to doubt, despair, and rash decisions.

Today I offer practical tips toward taking care of yourself as your persevere along your educational path during draining seasons. Maybe you’re adjusting to life with a recently diagnosed learning disability. Or you’re mired in the negativity and angst known as middle school. Perhaps you’re teaching multiple ages at home with a baby in tow or dealing with personal crisis as your manage your kids’ education.

Real life happens. And it’s important to take care of ourselves when our “normal” veers off onto a path that’s much more wearisome.

Do not confuse this with advice to “stay the course no matter what.” My own story doesn’t testify to that approach. But I did have days turned weeks of tough days as a homeschool mom and I experience them now as a public school mom too. That’s because there’s no perfect, problem-free way of doing school. Each approach has its vulnerabilities and every family throws its own variables into the mix.

While each day brings its own stress, there are times when it feels like we can’t get a break. I’m talking about those times. As I wrote yesterday,

Sometimes just one of these stressors hangs around day after day after day. And other times it’s a perfect storm of all the bad things, all at once. Negativity can wrap itself around you until you’re swaddled in a blanket of doubt and failure. You imagine that no one else is flailing and failing like you are.

Whether your kids do school at home or in a private or public school, here are ideas for sustainability during draining times.

1. Fight for rest.

Some of you are laughing already. Marian, you’ve got to be kidding me. There is no room for rest in my life, sister. You don’t know my circumstances. You’re right. I don’t. But I do know that there are ways to lighten your load. Takeout for dinner. Getting a babysitter so you can have a nap or have a Venti cup of reassurance from Starbucks. {Extra whip. Full fat.} Getting help with the housework — from your spouse, from your kids, from a professional. Or all of the above. {Yes please.}

2. Lower your standards.

It’s hard, but you may have to let go of certain expectations for a season. You can choose grace and rest or resentment and anxiety. Sometimes this means allowing your kids more screen time than you “should” for the sake of your own mental health and ability to care for them. It might mean choosing to be okay with undone laundry, a messy house, and convenience foods. Perhaps it means you stop obsessing about their grades and performance, especially if it’s only causing you stress. Always it means real prioritization and acceptance. Which brings us to the next point.

3. Prioritize. Prioritize. And repeat.

Every season won’t be like this one, whether it’s a 5-week window or a 5-year window. There are certain non-negotiables, though the world around you screams that everything is important and also that you’re indispensable. It’s not and you’re not. You are finite. Your years with your kids in this stage is not forever. Your life doesn’t have to look like anyone else’s.

Put all of this together and what do you have? The permission and courage to say no and to ruthlessly prune the extras in your life that are only adding to your stress. It might mean you let go of their music lessons or sport for a time. You may disappoint your kids, yourself, and others by saying no for now. {Not forever.} Just last week I did this and it hurt a little. It’s not easy in the short-run, but it’s fruitful in the long-run.

4. Find perspective.

A wise friend who understands. Your spouse. Prayer and time alone. A counselor. An episode of Hoarders.

Left to ourselves, we’ll suffocate under the load and subjectivity of a draining season. We’ll imagine we’re the only ones struggling in this way. We’ll sink into a pit of shame and discouragement. Let truth and community pull you out and pour you a cup of coffee instead.

Mlo & CJ

A couple of years ago I was in the trenches of exhaustion and emotional recovery. I had a weekly date with a wise and older friend and she poured life-giving Gospel truth into my soul week after week. It was a means of grace, one that kept me out of the pit and moving forward.

5. Compensate.

This is really an umbrella for all the other points. If it looks like things may remain difficult for an extended time, adjust your life accordingly. I can’t say what that will look like for you but we can’t run on adrenaline forever. We’re not machines, we’re people. And we need to care for ourselves and our primary relationships in ways that are wise and gentle.

You might think this is too complicated and indulgent. But I’m not talking about days at the spa or hiring a cook and a nanny. {Full disclosure: I long for all of the above.} I’m talking about real-life ways that we can make it through tough times with intention, strength, and realistic expectations. It’s possible. But you have to start thinking outside the box of your own idealism. If this feels impossible, enlist your spouse, a counselor, or a close and honest friend — people who will tell you the truth and have your best interests in mind.

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Friday and Saturday we’ll talk about a complicated subject : Switching educational paths. How do we know when it’s a valid consideration?

What are some ways you’ve learned to compensate and care for yourself and your family during difficult seasons?

For all the posts in this 31-day series, go here.

I’m linking up with The Nester and her tribe of 31 Dayers.

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