Self-Care Tips to Get You Through the Last Few Days of Summer Vacation

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Happy Monday, loves!

Or, as I like to call it, Happy Last Week of Summer Vacation!

There aren’t any back to school blues around here, if it’s not already evident. I know so many families struggle with that feeling, and I do empathize. It’s hard to send the kids back to school in this day and age. You worry about their safety. You worry about their well-being. You worry. That’s all that matters. I get it. I worry. I do. We both worry, but we also both work from home, and having the kids back in school is such a stress-reliever in our household.

But I digress. We’re excited about school starting next week. Addy is so excited to start the fifth grade. She’s a Safety Patrol, and she cannot wait to start her new duties. She’s also a competitive cheerleader, which means her season officially begins (this week, actually). Ava is excited about going into the second grade and finally feeling like one of the bigger kids at school.

The twins go into VPK. They’ll have the same teacher Ava had, who is the MOST amazing VPK teacher you can imagine. We love her, and they are beyond excited to be in her class this year. So, in our house, it’s exciting to go back to school. Combine that with the fact that September 1 is the first official day of the best part of the year – the “ber” months. I turn 35 in September, and all things pumpkin happen in Casa Raiford on September 1. It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

Now…back to the back to school blues, or the lack thereof in our case. Our kids love school, so they aren’t sad to go back. I love school, too, because no one is asking me for a snack every 7 seconds (at best). My husband and I both work from home, and while we do love the time we get with the kids during summer, there comes a point around mid-July when we (to borrow a famous, pointless, meaningless line from every teenager) literally cannot even.

That eight-week summer vacation mark is like the turning point. I find my patience is worn thinner than Nicole Richie after her sudden weight loss. The sound of quiet is not something I’ve heard in months, and I miss it desperately. The kids are no longer interested in doing anything fun during the day because they’re just tired of me (and vice versa). It’s hot, and it’s humid, or it’s always raining. They’re tired of going to the movies. They’re tired of swimming. They’re tired of movie nights, and card games, and trips, and being on the go.

They are tired of us. We are tired of them. We all want school to start.

Now, don’t get me wrong. The first two months of summer are magical. We have fun. And we’re still having more fun than we should probably be allowed to have, but we’re all tired. We are all ready for routine and normalcy. Those first few months are filled with vacations and travel and fun and the sun and friends.

To put that into perspective, out of the last 9 weeks, we’ve had only 1 weekend where we were home. And that probably doesn’t count because we had 7 extra kids for a sleepover. Every other weekend has been spent traveling or we’ve been home long enough to sleep and shower before the next activity. And it’s been amazing.

Which leads me to what I’m thinking could be my point (it could change…I don’t know where I’m going with this). My point is that the last two or three weeks of summer take a toll on me, and I don’t really like who I am and the control of my emotions and mood I lose. I wouldn’t trade this life we live, but I won’t pretend the last few weeks of summer vacation don’t make me cranky. In fact, I put that in my gratitude journal this morning. I’m grateful that’s my life problem.

I found myself in a situation recently where I felt very ugly. I found myself reacting to something out loud that is none of my business – at all – but it bothered me. Rather than doing what I normally do, which is talk to my husband about it and remind myself that the way other people behave is none of my business, I let it fester. I reacted to it, spoke of it, and instantly regretted it. It’s not who I am. I’m a live and let live kind of gal, but it upset me. I can’t control other people – nor do I want to – but I certainly didn’t intend to stoop to a level beneath me. I did. I’m disappointed in myself, but I’m reminding myself to have grace, forget it, and move on. It’s not who I am, and I know one moment of anger doesn’t define me.

My point is that I don’t love my mood all the time this time of year, and it takes a lot of effort to be my normally sarcastic, happy self. And that’s why I’m sharing a few of my tried and true patience-finders, mood-boosters, and self-care tips.

Or, as I like to call it, “do this before no one ever speaks to you again,” advice.

(Only 7 more days)

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Give Myself Grace

I’m imperfect, but I own it. I am nothing if not unapologetically myself. I prefer to give myself grace and allow myself to be okay with mistakes, with a bad attitude, and with my imperfections. I try to give grace to others by reminding myself that their behavior, words, and actions are a reflection of where they are in their lives, how they feel in their hearts, and their own unhappiness. And I try to do the same to myself when I’m less than graceful. I have all the respect for people who don’t make excuses or place blame when they make mistakes. I have all the respect for people who simply say, “That’s my bad, and I apologize,” and own it. I live by that rule.

Take All the Deep Breaths

It’s cliché, I know, but taking all the deep breaths is the most helpful thing imaginable. I’ve learned equal five-count breathing works best. Inhale deeply for a count of five. Hold your breath for a count of five. Exhale with an audible sigh for a count of five. While doing this, imagine all the happy thoughts you’re inhaling in the form of the color white. When you exhale, change that imagery to a red or black color to represent all the negativity. It’s silly, I know, but oh my goodness does it work. I find myself frustrated with so many things these last

Check On Myself

One thing I like to do is check in with myself. What’s bothering me? Is someone in my life bringing too much negativity to the table, and am I responding poorly to it? Have I taken on too much? Am I taking care of myself? Finding the answers to these questions often leads me to where I’m failing by either reminding me my monthly visitor is on her way and I’m a raging bitch because I’m hormonal or because I haven’t been eating well thanks to a busy schedule and not being home or because I haven’t been to the gym yet, or whatever. Checking in on myself allows me to see where I’m in need of some self-care, and it helps.

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Take A Time Out

I’m a firm believer in time-outs for myself. When I start to feel myself become snippy or short with my kids or my husband, I know it’s time for me to walk away and take a time out. I find it happens more this time of year than any other, but it’s easily cured with a run, a trip to Starbucks, sitting on the front porch to work, or sitting on the back deck with a book and strict instructions not to talk to me for a half hour. I’m better for it.

A time out can come in many forms. It can be a total social media blackout. Not answering your phone or texts for a few days. Removing toxic people from your life to the best of your ability. Removing yourself from situations that make you feel uncomfortable. It’s whatever you need it to be.

Recognize Stress and Tackle It

I think if I delved deeper into it, I’d notice that it’s the added stress of back to school stuff that makes me crazier than ever this time of year. My work schedule is interrupted 2-3 days a week with additional school-related activities for all four kids, their needs take over, we lose our easy nights and our flexibility in the evenings, and it takes a toll.

I’ve worked hard over the past 10 years cultivating my client relationships and creating a work schedule that allows me to be productive enough to run a successful business while still being a mom and wife, and this time of year it’s like taking a perfect schedule and piling 100 things for other people on top of it. It gets overwhelming, and it requires me to stop back and recognize where the stress is coming from so I can tackle it before it gets to me.

Delegate

I’m extra fortunate to be married to a man who doesn’t believe it’s the job of the wife and mom to take care of the kids. He’s hands-on all the time. He packs lunches, makes a homemade breakfast every morning, and gets the kids dressed and ready for school so I can have a few uninterrupted hours of work every morning to get my day off on a good note. He gives baths, helps with homework, cleans up after himself, and he’s a master laundry-doer.

He’s the best life partner, parent, and husband. I couldn’t do half of it without him. Even then, however, sometimes I just have to delegate. He’s just as busy as I am with his career, but we both know we just have to say, “Babe, I’m drowning, and I feel like I’m everyone’s bitch, and I’m a little crazy right now,” and the other steps up to do what needs doing to make life easier on the other. Delegating tasks is a life saver at home, at work, and anywhere else. Do it. It helps. What also helps is delegating other tasks – hire someone to clean your house, mow your lawn, detail your car, shop for you, and take back control of your life. Trust me when I say it changes your life.

Make No Excuses

If there is one thing in life that drives me nuts, it’s when people talk and talk and talk and never do. They are going to, they will, they should, they want to, they whatever. I’m a fan of conversations that sound more like I did, I accomplished, I managed, I handled, I mastered. I find it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when I make myself a lot of promises and need to back them up, and that’s my no excuses platform. I feel it’s easier to feel less stressed and better when I just do it and say, “I did it,” to myself. It’s really simple. Don’t talk about it, just do it. Like, tell me your story, not your plan. Use that motto on yourself.

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Just Choose to Be Happy

I promise it’s not nearly as hard as it sounds, but you must make the effort. I find that waking up in prayer and listening to my favorite Christian music when I work in the morning helps me set the tone for a happy day. If I find myself thinking about a problem or a situation, I give it to God and move on. I replace negative thoughts (I have so much to do today, but I have to do this and that and be there and here and I won’t get anything done) with positive thoughts (You are a badass mother and you’ve got this) and move forward.

I say it all the time – happiness is homemade, and I’m so abundantly grateful for all the blessings we have in our lives. I always feel guilty when I’m in a bad mood because I don’t feel I have a reason for it – but, I’m imperfect, and that’s okay.

5 Daily Self-Care Habits that Make Life So Much Sweeter

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Every day is different, yet it’s remarkably the same in Raiford household. We run a tight ship with schedules and routines for ourselves and the kids. It’s helpful in keeping everyone on track (and me less crazy), and it’s taught our kids some amazing habits. They know to clean up after themselves because messes make mommy twitch. They know the bedtime routine and don’t fight it, and they know our expectations of them throughout the day.

That doesn’t stop them from bickering, telling on one another, or making us crazy in general with the constant question of, “May I have a snack, please?” and the subsequent, “Oh, that big bowl of macaroni and cheese with a side of cucumbers and salad? That wasn’t my snack. That was just food,” that follows.

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They’re cute, but they’re annoying at times.

Our days are structured. It helps us run my business, it helps Craig’s job, and it helps with the kids. We call it organized chaos. But I’m sharing a smallish secret. I say smallish because anyone who knows me well knows this.

I’m a totally anal-retentive, upright, Type-A, perfectionist control freak. I can’t leave the house if there is anything out of place. I can’t handle anything being disorganized. I can’t handle any type of mess. You guys….I vacuum my SUV out the moment I pull it into the garage and get the kids out of it every single day.

The good news, it only takes me 30 seconds to keep my car spotless every day and a good 10 minutes for us to turn out home spotless at the end of the day. So, good things come from my really poor qualities.

Even with all my organization and my routines and structures, life overwhelms me sometimes. Four kids is a lot. My business takes a lot from me. Being a present wife and mom takes a lot from me. Being involved in the kid’s school lives at two different schools takes a lot out of me. I’ve learned to recognize when I’m overwhelmed and overdoing it. I start to snap at the kids and my husband without any real reason. I find myself super annoyed with everyone and everything, and I find my already very thin patience unraveling.

And I know I need to step back, chill the eff out, and regain control of my life. Since the twins were born, I’ve learned a lot about myself I didn’t know before. I’m so much more familiar with myself, my needs, my body. I know when I’m overdoing it, and I’ve learned how to rest when I need it. I’ve also learned my breakdown periods are few and far between when I practice daily self-care.

As an insane creature of habit, I’ve managed to schedule a few things into my day every single day that gives me peace, helps me stay calm, and makes me feel in control and good. I didn’t know it at first, but it’s self-care and I’m all about it. Since I get a lot of questions about how I manage to stay (and by stay, we’re talking appear, people) so calm and collected and put together with four kids, I thought I’d share what I do each day to help.

Side Note – basically my entire life is easier and more organized because my husband is 100 percent involved in everything around our house because of his own accord. Dishes, bath time, dinner time, bed time, laundry, the kids, diapers, whatever. He’s the reason my life is easy. And I appreciate the hell out of him.

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I Exercise Daily

I make time every day, even when I don’t have it, to work out. Even if can’t do more than 20 minutes on the elliptical at the YMCA, I’m there doing it. Working my body, sweating it out, and getting my heart going make me feel good. I love the energy I get, and I love how I feel. My favorite is yoga. I take two yoga classes per week and sometimes a third. I love how strong I feel, how good I feel, and how it motivates me. Exercise is so good.

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I Wake Up Early

5 am. That’s my everyday wake up call. I need it. I need it to shower, blow dry my hair, put on makeup, and enjoy a cup of coffee before I head into my office to start my workday. I need it before everyone is awake. I need the calm of being able to start my day quietly with my First 5 App, with some daily devotionals, and to just enjoy the morning in peace. It’s my favorite time of day.

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I Practice Gratitude

This is a fairly new habit I’ve included in my daily routine, but it’s good. I’ve been using a gratitude journal. I’m impatient and easily annoyed and constantly baffled by the number of people in the world who cannot do their jobs correctly, who cannot do what they say they are going to do, and who don’t seem to value the concept of hard work and customer service. And I’m really bad about letting that kind of stuff irritate me.

So I’ve been practicing gratitude by focusing every day on three things I really am grateful for. I have a long list, but I’ve been trying to focus on writing down what really touches me at the moment. The other day, for example, I was sitting at my desk working on some deadlines at 6:45 am when Craig went upstairs to get the twins out of bed to have breakfast. They came downstairs and immediately came to my desk to give me hugs and kisses and “I yuve you, mommy’s,” before they took off for the breakfast they are hungry for the second they open their eyes (am I the only person who cannot figure out how these tiny humans are starving the second they wake up?).

I realized in that moment how insanely grateful I am that no matter what I’m doing or how I’m feeling or how they are feeling, our kids are always ready to come say good morning to me before they do anything else so they can get their love in first and foremost. So, I wrote it down. And then I thought about how sweet that is all day long, and I didn’t even lose my shit when a company made a promise to me they couldn’t keep and I wanted to shake them and ask them what the hell is their problem.

If you say you can have something done in 30 minutes when I call, and then I come in and drop my stuff off and then you tell me an hour later when I come back to pick it up that you don’t even know if you can do it in the next two days, why do you say you can do it in 30 minutes? (Maybe I took my frustration to my car, lost my shit for a minute or two, and defintely ended up the topic of conversation around the dinner table of the guy parked in front of me. “You guys won’t believe this crazy psychopath I saw today. What a piece of work!”)

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I Eat Well

I love a donut or a cookie as much as the next girl, but I really love the way I feel when I make healthy eating choices. I like pizza and junk food, but I don’t like the lethargy I feel after I eat like that. I have more energy when I eat well, so it’s a favor I do myself.

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I Start My Day with Uplifting Music 

I’m easily distracted while Craig is getting the kids ready for school in the morning, but that’s also my most productive work time. I pop my headphones in and turn my music up. Most mornings I listen to a Christian Contemporary station on Pandora, but sometimes I’m in the mood for classical or my favorite Frank Sinatra station. Whatever it is, I love listening to uplifting music in the morning. Craig once said he loves when I listen to Christian music in the am because I sing (oops) and he loves that my good mood instantly makes him feel good. Who even knew?

See? It’s not all that difficult to practice happy and healthy things during the day. These little habits make such a positive difference in my mood every day. What do you do to help you focus and stay on track during the day?