Waving good bye to Spring Break's visit, we now eye the relentless march to the oh, so distant summer break. A glance at the school calendar confirms that there will be no days off, no blessed three day weekends, between now and final exam week. Even Good Friday has been replaced with snow day make up. Upcoming track meets, orthodontist visits, birthday parties, graduations, recitals, research papers, and meetings pepper the calendar and threaten to topple the fragile balance of family life. When students are stressed and parents are frazzled, these seven tips for survival can be lifesavers!
1. Keep Family and Personal Health First Priority
Prioritizing means that sometimes not everything on the to-do list will get done. And that's OK. The first tip to surviving the end of the school year is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. As busy schedules eat away our time, we stay up a little too late, get up a little too early, grab a bite of junk food on the way out the door, skimp on our daily workout, and grumble at our family before showing the happy face at church. All of this eats away at our health. The three keys to optimal physical health include maintaining a healthy diet, getting enough sleep each night, and exercising.
Input equals output. Food is fuel, and we need to fuel our bodies with the nutrients we need in order to function at our peak. Regardless of what the labels say, there isn't much we need that comes from a chemist's workshop. Manufactured food is of lesser quality overall than whole food. Whenever possible, opt for fresh, organic whole foods. Processed foods and hidden sugars are often full of empty calories that do not provide the nutrients our bodies need, leading to feelings of sluggishness. Finger food fruits and vegetables are the best fast foods, and it doesn't take any longer to grab an apple than it takes to grab a bag of chips while heading out the door.
To function at our best, we need to aim for 8 hours of sleep per night. Young children and teenagers may need 10! During sleep, we process the day's events and prepare for the next. Sleep rejuvenates us and keeps our reaction time and memory functioning at peak performance.
Exercise gets the heart pumping and the blood flowing, increasing cardiovascular health and improving muscle tone. Moderate daily exercise can contribute to overall feelings of wellness, can provide a much needed energy boost, and can offer us an opportunity to de-stress.
While adequate sleep, nutrition, and exercise can de-stress our physical bodies, our mental, emotional, and spiritual sides need TLC as well. One of the best methods for de-stressing is to spend some quiet time each day in prayer and in meditation on God's word. It's remarkably comforting to meet daily with our Creator.
3. Plan Meals in Advance
With one eye on healthy meals, and the other eye on the calendar, plan meals in advance. When will you be home each night? How much time will you have to cook? Are you headed out again after dinner? Are there nights when you need to eat on the road? Organization and advanced planning are the key to weeks of worry-free dinners.
For busy evenings, make use of crock pots and rice makers. Recipes don't have to be complex. Toss a roast in the crock pot with some carrots, onions, potatoes, and tomatoes, and set it on low. Dinner's ready when you get home! Or, brown some hamburger and plop it into the rice maker with your rice and chopped vegetables. Set the timer for it to be ready when you are. Fish is also a great option for busy nights, as it doesn't take long to bake. Sprinkle it with your favorite seasonings, and bake it surrounded by Brussels sprouts drizzled with coconut oil for 15 minutes at 425 degrees. You could also make your own healthy pizzas in advance (healthy for our family means no gluten, no sugar, and no GMO ingredients), cover them with foil, and freeze until you are ready to cook. If you have to take dinner with you on the road, stock your cooler with water bottles, fruit or vegetable salads, cold pasta dishes, or sandwich supplies.
4. Plan Logistics in Advance
Carry your calendar with you and check it every day. A calendar that shows the full month at a glance is preferable to daily or weekly views; frequent glances at the month's events increase our recall of important events and give us more time to prepare. If you use a phone calendar, set reminders for yourself for important dates. Especially for larger families, make sure to keep one master calendar with everyone's events listed to avoid double booking or logistics issues.
5. Make Lists
Writing down the things we need to remember helps us in two ways. First, the very act of writing it down helps us remember it better; and second, keeping a list on paper means that we don't have to remember every little thing, so our brains can take a break. Just don't lose your list . . .
6. Restock Your Children's School Supplies
By this time in the school year, your children's binders may be a bit ragged, and unbeknownst to you, they may have been borrowing paper and pencils from their classmates or teacher for quite some time now. Restocking your children's supplies not only provides the obvious, but the acquisition of anything new also carries the added benefit of novelty. New stuff is fun!
7. It's All about the Attitude
Children cue off of us. If we start Monday morning with a grumble, chances are that they will, too. Sometimes, we just need a change in perspective. When I start feeling stressed at this time of year, I like to go outside and smell the blossoms on the trees. Spring is a time for new life and new growth - may we all experience new life and new growth this season as well!