Self-care strategy #21: Managing moods by eliminating time wasters & doing what really matters

Quality time with my son at the Audubon

I used to waste my time watching re-runs of the same TV programs over and over again, and getting sucked into reality shows like the Real Housewives. Let me assure you, there is nothing real about them. My husband would remind me they would have a negative effect on me. After watching an episode I somehow would become more irritable and grouchy. After much convincing, I realized that the characters in these shows are not representative of real moms in America (or anywhere). I’m actually a bit embarrassed by the fact that I used to be interested in these women’s opinions. Most of the real moms I know are hard workers (whether inside the home, outside the home, or both) and really, truly care about other people in their lives, besides themselves. They are not narcissists only doing what is in their own best interest, but are able to balance self-care with care for others. These women of the Real Housewives seem to be interested in one thing only – themselves! So, one major time waster I’ve managed to eliminate is to not waste another minute watching these women flaunt their self-serving behaviors on national television. I am going to take the next step now and not mention them again.

Let me just clarify that there is a difference between self-care as I talk about on my blog, and self-serving behavior. The latter involves doing only what’s best for oneself without regard to the negative consequences or effect on others.

Moving on…I was reflecting on how the heck I have time to work two jobs, commute 10 hours a week, and do my writing, which is my passion, on top of trying to spend quality time with my husband and son. Believe me, I do have my days when I am not pleasant to be around. Last night was a good example of that. I came home after a 12-hour day, and I just wanted to be left alone! I was pretty irritable and raised my voice to the tune of “leave me alone already!” It happens. I started to feel guilty after experiencing thoughts like “I’m a bad mom and wife.” What I did make sure to do before I locked myself in my room for some peace and quiet was to kiss my son good night and let him know I love him very much but “Mommy’s tired and I will not be able to read you a story tonight.” Today, I will need to apologize to my husband for acting out the way I did. I figured he’s a grown man and can handle my mood swings from time to time. Hope I’m right!

So after a restful sleep and some reflection I’ve come up with 5 major time wasters. Once you’ve recognized these time wasters, it’s important to eliminate them from your life and instead opt to spend time and energy on what really matters to you. This is an important step towards improving mood and well being because it gives you the opportunity to focus on activities that are meaningful and add value to your life, instead of zapping it away.

  1. Watching or reading “junk” shows or magazines. I like entertainment, who doesn’t? However I’m becoming more selective of what type of material I expose myself to by questioning its impact on my life. I ask myself, is this content important or adding some type of value to my life? Is it inspirational and motivating? Is it intellectually stimulating? Is it worth my time? If the answer is no, I don’t bother wasting another minute on it.
  2. Thinking about people who are no longer a part of your life. I found myself wasting countless hours and energy reflecting on why someone is no longer a part of my life. I questioned my role in the separation. It brought me down. The reality is I’m not sure what happened, and unless someone directly communicates with me, it’s a waste of time to try to guess. It’s also a waste of time to take it personally and automatically assume you’re the one who did something wrong. The reality is that a relationship is a two way street. It takes two people interested in making it work and willing to do that work, not just one.
  3. Worrying about things that haven’t happened yet. I am infamous for this one. I’m learning to start letting go of things I have no control over. It’s a long and challenging process to learn this new behavior, when I’m accustomed to worrying about EVERYTHING. What I’ve found is that it’s a major waste of time. The reality is when bad things happen I have survived and only grown stronger from those experiences. It’s amazing what happens when you let go. Good things start happening. You also get the chance to find out who your true friends are during your most difficult times. Though I love all my friends and family, I can honestly name only a handful of people who have been there for me during my most challenging times. These are the people I trust. These are the people I choose to focus my energy and time on.
  4. Working harder than anyone else, whether at work, home or other areas of your personal or professional life. I am constantly working on balancing how much time and effort I put into something or someone, vs. how much effort they put in. Though I have a strong work ethic and really value relationships, I also value myself enough to set limits and boundaries when I need to do it. For example, I recently noticed at work that I was scheduling way more clients in one day than was doable for me or for anyone. After catching what I was doing I let my boss know what was going on and she confirmed that I was doing too much. No wonder I felt stressed and exhausted on those days. I’m lucky to have a boss who is reasonable and empathetic, and I know others who have bosses who might say to “grin and bear it.” I’m lucky to work for a reasonable and understanding person (who’s also a working Mom herself). I think that also makes a difference.
  5. Spending more time online than offline & interacting with people face to face. There is absolutely no substitute for actual, live interpersonal contact with someone you care about. I know online resources are helpful for keeping us in touch with people from a distance, but it’s taking away from the in person connections that are also important. Though it seems I’m probably online all the time, I actually take breaks from it and practice being in nature, scheduling gatherings with my friends, going to yoga, doing meditation, and putting that phone away from time to time, with the ringer set to off. It really makes a difference in my mood when I know I’ve spent quality time, face to face, with my loved ones, and with myself!

6 sanity saving items & places I can’t live without

Life is hectic. It’s also expensive. Here are some items & places that have made my life a little bit more manageable as I try to balance work, a budget, and life on the go with toddler.

  1. Who has time to prepare elaborate meals? Not this working Mom. I absolutely love my slow cooker. My family can have a delicious, nutritious meal (without me feeling guilty) any day of the week. It makes for great leftovers as lunch or dinner the next day. We’ll throw in ingredients for a stew or roast in the morning, hit the button, and come home to a mouth-watering aroma as soon as we enter the house. Throw on some water to boil for pasta or add rice to the rice cooker and if you’ve got dinner, with veggies and all, in 15 minutes tops -Yes!
  2. Ditch the diaper bag and opt for a sturdy backpack instead. Why didn’t I think of this from the beginning? I only recently realized how much more convenient it is to carry a backpack around when a toddler’s in tow because it keeps both my arms and hands free! With the diaper bag it kept sliding off my shoulder and causing strain on one side of my body. They’re also expensive, and not very versatile. We use our backpack to store diapers, wipes, clothes, snacks (you can find one with a stay cool pocket, I’m sure) and other necessary items. It’s great for day or out of town trips, picnics, hiking and everything in between.
  3. When picking out strollers, opt for one with an aluminum frame. The first stroller we owned was a beast. If I could go back I would skip purchasing the travel system (waste of money) that comes with a monstrous sized stroller, and opt for a lighter, portable stroller instead. Plus it doesn’t take up all that space in my trunk and it comes with a travel bag, since it’s light enough to carry.
  4. I always bring my sneakers with me wherever I go. I can put them on anytime of day and any day of the week to get free exercise. There’s no more excuse not to exercise. Who needs to pay monthly membership fees that go unused when you can exercise for free? I love to take a walk during my lunch break. It gives me a chance to stretch, get some fresh air and clear my head any time of year.  When you’re ready you can graduate to jogging to really build up your energy and stamina, and tone those muscles.
  5. I’m at the library at least one time each week. We’ve saved so much money by borrowing books instead of buying them. The library book sales are fantastic. We’ve managed to snag some great reads so cheaply. $5 is all it takes to get a big bag full of good reads. We also use the library to sign out passes that give us reduced or free admission to many fun local attractions.
  6. Our state parks have been a lifesaver this summer. We purchased a season pass for $35 and have been discovering and exploring conservation land all around Massachusetts. There are so many amazing areas to explore right in your own state. This summer we’re saving money and time by staying close to home and acting like tourists in our own state.  Who knew there was so much to do right in our own backyard?

I’d love to hear from you. What are your sanity saving items and places?