For those of you who haven’t heard, the past two weeks have been challenging ones for us sisters. Our Grannie (one of our biggest Red Tent Sisters’ supporters) went into hospital on the fourth of this month with a fractured hip. On Wednesday she had hip surgery and has not been recovering well. When you’re an entrepreneur, keeping all the balls in the air when something unexpected and emotionally distressing happens can be quite difficult. But we have both observed that so far (knock wood!) we’re actually handling the whole thing with more grace than we would have a few years ago. There are six major changes in our approach that seem to be enabling us to avoid burn-out and stay fully present. We thought it might be helpful to share these with you, our community.
Here are our top tips for staying sane when life throws you a curve ball:
- You don’t have to be a superhero. We live in a culture that glorifies busyness and it often seems like it’s a competition to see who can cram the most into a week (“I work 90 hours and I’m a Mom and I’m training for a marathon!) But the reward for overextending yourself isn’t a shiny trophy, it’s burnout. And when you’re burnt out, you’re not any good to anyone. So, we can’t stress this enough – you need to recognize your limits. Last week we both had moments where we totally hit a wall. Our instinct was to stay at the hospital (we’re both over-givers by nature), but we knew in our gut that we just couldn’t do it. So we listened and headed home for some serious self-care – hot bath, home cooked meal, journaling. Those few hours made it possible for us to recharge our battery, fight off the colds we could feel creeping up, and return to the hospital feeling calmer and more present. While setting limits on our giving (especially when someone else is suffering) can feel “selfish,” the truth is that taking care of ourselves is one of the best ways to ensure we can continue caring for others.
- Accept help. We’re fortunate to have a truly phenomenal support network of friends and family. When they heard about our Grannie, we received a flurry of beautiful messages with loving words and offers to help in any way possible. On Saturday, a close friend of ours was getting married. We were all invited, but we didn’t see how we would be able to go without someone available to watch our Grannie. So, we called a family friend who happens to be a retired nurse to see if there was any chance she could cover us for a few hours. Her response? “I’m so glad you called! I really wanted to help, but I didn’t know how. Just tell me the time and I’ll be there!” It can be difficult to speak up and ask for what you need, but you might be surprised how often people want to help. Rather than being an inconvenience, you’re actually making it easier by taking away the guesswork and letting them know the best way to support you.
- Fast food sucks. We’ve both made huge changes to our diet in the last few years in an attempt to feel better, both physically and emotionally. It’s become pretty obvious that wheat, sugar, and overly processed foods make us feel bloated, lethargic and generally icky. Knowing that, it didn’t seem like a great plan to be chowing down on the Wonder Bread sandwiches and pop being offered up at the local cafeteria (especially when we were there for three meals a day). Although it can be hard to think about food when you’ve got a million other things to worry about, we highly recommend making it a priority to eat food that will make you feel better, not worse. Whether it’s packing some veggies in your purse, or taking a few extra minutes to find somewhere else to eat other than a fast food joint, try to resist the urge to choose convenience over health. Better yet, refer to point #2 and ask a friend to drop off some dinner – it’ll save you thinking about what to bring and will give them something tangible to do to be helpful.
- Be quick to cancel things that’ll drain you and make time for those that will replenish you. When we realized we would be spending most of our time at the hospital we had to make some pretty big changes to our schedule. It was tempting to cancel all the fun stuff and just force ourselves to make it through the “must do” list. But it was clear that would quickly lead to burn out (good old Point #1). So, we listened to our intuition about what really had to get done. It’s amazing how much shorter that list is when you’re brutally honest about what constitutes a ‘necessity.’ And then we thought about what things would help keep up our energy. Kim had signed up for a “Self Marriage” workshop with our good friend Danette that she’d been looking forward to for weeks and Amy’s husband was visiting from England and had planned a lovely birthday dinner. So, while there were lots of things that we did cancel, we made sure to honour the commitments that were the most nourishing to our spirits, and found a way to make them happen.
- Make your own sanctuary (even if the rest of the house falls apart). When you’ve suddenly got way less time on your hands and you’re dealing with lots of emotional stuff, cleaning feels pretty far down the list of priorities. That said, when your whole life feels upside down, it’s important to have somewhere that feels calm and “put together.” While no one’s going to fault you if there are dishes in the sink, it can be helpful to make sure that at least one room in your house feels like a mini sanctuary. In our family, meals and food preparation have always played an important role so we made sure to keep our kitchen clean so that when we went to make ourselves a cup of tea, the room felt peaceful and inviting.
We would love to hear from you, our community, about your own wisdom and experience of thriving during difficult times.