When Chaos Meets Autopilot- What to Do When Life Throws Curveballs

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There have been a few times in our family journey when I can say things have been so hectic; so crazy; so unbelievably bananas, that I if I listen hard enough I can hear a roar in the back of my head. Now obviously, you don’t want to stay in those “life spaces,” but sometimes it happens and you feel like you can’t hold your head above water. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, be so thankful. If you do, there’s hope. I’ve discovered a few ways to keep paddling against the waves that I would love to share.

  1. Make everything as easy as possible. Get rid of (temporarily) all obligations. Even a simple email expressing that you are going off the radar for a bit, and you will pick up again when you can, is all that’s needed. Or- have a friend do it for you. Feel free to give specifics (sometimes reaching out is very appropriate) or don’t, but you don’t need to be dealing with the hubris of affairs that just aren’t important at the moment. It’s also unfair for your absence to be hurting others, if they are waiting for you to make decisions or fulfill commitments. Drop as many bags as you can, with as much notice as you can. Depending on the situation, add a week or two to your leave of absence. You can always come back full force earlier.
  2. Take three deep breaths as often as you can. I am in the habit of doing this at very weird times. In stressful situations, even going to the restroom provides enough time to make sure you’re breathing properly and your brain is getting enough oxygen. If possible, have a glass or bottle of water at all times, and try to drink from it occasionally. Survival is key.
  3. No. More. Decisions. Our family is in the middle of a pretty chaotic time. It’s probably the busiest I’ve ever been in my whole life. It won’t end anytime soon, but it’s also not an emergency, so I’ve had to make things as easy as I can. When I hang up my clothes, I hang them in outfits so I can easily throw one on in the morning- no rummaging or trying to choose. For especially chaotic mornings, I do it the night before for the kids, too. All our meals (and one snack) are on a weekly plan- same thing every Monday, Tuesday, etc. This has helped to make sure we’re still eating pretty well, and helped me plan and purchase groceries super quickly. If you are having a hard time with decisions, just start saying “No” to most things (except for #7) until the feeling passes.
  4. Use the services offered. Bring bills along to set up online banking from your phone while you’re sitting in a waiting room. Figure out how to use Click and Collect from any grocery store nearby. Even driving a few minutes out of your way will help save time in the store, and decision fatigue while you’re there. I cannot count how many times I’ve frozen in a grocery store aisle, panicking that I may need something, and should get it- but it would put my budget over. Nothing is more pathetic than losing it next to the canned pineapple. Email, email, email anything you can to save time from texts and phone conversations. These can be done in the middle of the night, when it comes to mind. If you have the budget, hire people to do the things they specialize in- house cleaning, babysitting, etc. This is not the time to save money, this is the time to be where you need to be, and do what you need to do. If you can replace yourself in an area, do it.
  5. Plan ahead, as much as you can. If you know you’re leaving the next day to go back to the hospital, or anything- put everything you can in the car. Even if it’s just snacks, water bottles or diapers, it’s one less thing to carry or remember. Load the stroller, grab some books for the kids. Keep phones and electronics on chargers if you possibly have to dash out. We now keep our van completely stocked with necessities, (I think we could survive a whole weekend just in the van) but it’s still helpful to have extra supplies on hand. We do this with our extra curriculars- as soon as we’re done school, all ballet bags and Kids Club stuff goes in the car before anyone gets lunch. It helps so much when you’re leaving and taking several trips to load up babies.
  6. Use all appliances. Do not leave the house without switching a load or running the dishwasher, if needed. Even three or four year olds can do this (as long as there isn’t anything dangerous.) It doesn’t have to be perfect- maybe some plates will be in the same slot. You’ll be okay, and most of your dishes will be clean when you get home. Maybe- just give it a double glance before you turn it on. I don’t know what the worst thing that could happen would be, but my beautiful insurance agent does. Maybe God’s just been gracious to me in this area. As for your laundry, it will not fold itself yet, but at least it will be clean. For folding or putting away, see the next two tips.
  7. Ask for help. Wave the white flag. Ask your people, or any people, for specific things to be done. Most of your friends and family would love to help if you’d ask, ya big dummy. Even little things like chopping up veggies for snacks, or packing a PBJ lunch and dropping off wherever you are is super helpful. Obviously meals, babysitting or help alongside is priceless. I remember when my mom was in ICU in the city, and a family friend took my two babies to a park nearby for an hour. It changed my whole day. Not too long ago, I appealed in desperation on Facebook, and two ladies came to my rescue. A lot of people will say in times of crisis “to let them know how they can help.” So, you know, do it. It doesn’t have to be earth shattering.
  8. Enlist the kids. They can do so much: way more than people give them credit for. Ask them. Share how you’re feeling, so that they can see how to ask for help when they need it and know the words to say to express themselves.
  9. Don’t forget your husband. I so hope he’s your best friend. Give him the situations that he can fix- and even those he can’t- and trust his judgement. Sometimes their eyes are exactly what you need to see the whole picture. Let him support you or love you how he does it best.
  10. Pray, pray, pray. Pray in the Spirit. There have been so many situations that I didn’t know how they would work out, but He is faithful and with us in all of them no matter what. Ask people to pray for and with you.
  11. Fall on grace. The panic will fade. You won’t stay running on adrenaline forever. Try and know in your heart that the Tim Horton’s dude is not trying to ruin your life. Your toddler is still toddling. Deep breaths. This, too, shall pass. It doesn’t mean there won’t be scars, but let’s try not to leave them everywhere we go. It’s when we’re at our weakest that He’s at His strongest. Find a few safe places to vent or cry, and don’t waste your emotions or panic on those who will not understand or empathize.

I will write soon about how to prepare for the times of emergency family-mode, but I would LOVE to hear your tips about how to deal with things when they’re thrown at you unexpectedly!

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