To-Do List Takeover: Preventing Stress During Tough Transitions
There are some things in life that bring stress. There’s no way around it. I am extremely skeptical of products that offer stress-free solutions.
I’ve found the most stressful times are times of transition when we are moving from one chapter of our lives to another. Whether it’s changing jobs, moving to a new home, or adding a new member to our family, transitions make us uncomfortable when fear, uncertainty, and doubt start bubbling up to the surface.
How you manage these transitions, diffuse the tension and stress, and ride the waves that change brings, can influence not only your own experiences but the experiences of your whole family.
When our family moved to a new city in a different state, the stress levels were high for a lot of different reasons. Our house was off the market and then back on, finally selling to buyers who required a lot of hand holding. My husband commuted long-distance for the first three months of his new job leaving us behind during the week without him. We had issues with our moving company that cost us a lot of money and anguish.
It was a stressful time. And while we did our best to protect our kids from that stress, there is no way we could have kept them insulated entirely when our life was being turned upside down.
I remember sitting at bedtime with my boys, six and seven at the time, and listening to their questions about our move, comforting them because they missed their dad, and just being with them until they could settle into sleep.
But I also remember that as I sat with them, my own anxiety of everything that had to get done would make my mind wander and I would feel utterly impatient with their neediness. More than once I snapped, “Can you please just go to bed?”
Although I knew in my heart the emotional stability of my children was more important than how neatly our boxes were labeled, it wasn’t always easy to remember when the to-do list was taking over.
It’s fundamentally easier to tackle things on a list than to be emotionally available. With the list, you get to cross things off, feel accomplished, and like you’re working toward a goal. There’s a sense of progress.
In comparison, being emotionally available doesn’t give us that checklist satisfaction. Often it leaves us drained and it takes so much time. Time we are convinced we don’t have. Because the list isn’t going to take care of itself, it spills over into places we don’t want–like tucking our kids into bed.
In the weeks and days leading up to our move, when the to-do list was growing exponentially, it was easy to lose our kids in the shuffle of packing, cleaning, and preparations. It was easy to plug them in to a show or an iPad, and say, Look at them, they’re fine…
Now I look back and wonder from a child’s perspective, what does it feel like to have your home dismantled and packed away? To have your parents strained and sleepless and ready to snap?
I don’t think there was irreparable damage caused during those frantic days. But I do wish that I had been better at preventing the to-do list from taking over, that we had been better about diffusing the growing tension and stress, that we had been more tuned in on an emotional level, and that we had been more prepared for dealing with the things that went wrong.
If I was forced to go back and live through our transition again, there are things I would approach differently. I would…
1. Loosen the grip on how things got done and focus more on the fact that they do. Instead of being critical and controlling of every task, embrace imperfection for the sake of harmony.
2. Ask for help more. There’s no award for being the most competent, self-sufficient spouse or parent.
3. Be present with my children even when I’m tempted to tune them out. Do not let the tactics of the to-do list takeover my emotional availability.
4. Do not to freak out about things that just don’t matter in the grand scheme of life. What may seem apocalyptic at the time, is probably not that big of a deal.
5. Be prepared that things don’t always go as planned. And then laugh. Because at the end of the day, what else can you do?
The good news is that managing a transition that impacts your entire family, even when it’s stressful and difficult, is full of lessons that you can carry over into your everyday life. Preventing the to-do list from taking over is a good place to start when it comes to staying connected to what it really important.
There are dozens of moving check lists out there, but sometimes you need more than a check list.
With Good Move, you can mindfully design a move for your family that overcomes the uncertainty, the overwhelm, and the unfamiliar that moving brings. You get:
Strategy for designing a move that works for your family
The real experiences of families that have relocated
Practical insight into the physical and emotional transitions you’re facing
The assurance that you’re well-informed and prepared
Good Move is available in paperback and ebook at…
When Kaly doesn’t have her nose in a book, she wrangles and referees two elementary age boys and blogs about her humorous efforts to lead a mindful, connected life. She’s the author of Good Move: Strategy and Advice for Your Family’s Relocation, a book about the craziness of moving with kids. Her writing has been featured on sites such as Mamalode, The Mid, In The Powder Room, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and Scary Mommy to name a few. You can find her on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.