I more often than not let daily stress and anxieties build up to the point where I lash out when I can’t take it anymore. Most of the time, my patience wears thin and I start spiraling out of control. One negative thought leads to another negative thought and then I start looking for negativity.
Can you relate? Yes, as you guessed, since I’m home at the end of the day, my family takes the brunt of the beating during these times. With my wife, I start making snarky remarks, which turns into back and forth comments, which then turns into a contest of who can play the silent game the longest. With my kids, it seems like I have no patience whatsoever and completely forget that they’re just toddlers.
To be honest, they’re saints for putting up with my bullshit during these times and they truly deserve better. Knowing that others have the same issues, I’m putting my thoughts down here so that everyone can learn from my mistakes.
Parenting - Uh duhhh! Lack of sleep, crying/whining kids, sick kids, hungry kids, dirty kids, complete disruption of normal routines, constantly trying to be the protector and provider, worrying about how to raise good kids, not getting to hang with the friends as much or do my hobbies, blow out diapers (I hate those…).
Finances - How am I going to pay for this, or that? We need to plan for college and retirement…and we need to put new tires on the car, but I want a new gun, and, and, and.
Home ownership – There’s dust on the fans, windows are dirty, the lawn needs to be cut, the dog shit on the floor, and every night needing to do a Battle Damage Assessment because the kids made the house look like World War 3.
Work – Is this project going to launch on time? We need more people, staying engaged is difficult, the expectations aren’t being met, the customer isn’t happy, and they changed the brand of coffee they serve us – bastards.
Life in general – Staying physically fit, living a fulfilled life, what do I want to do when I grow up – I’m almost 35, WTF??? Spouses – Honey do lists, social media addiction leading to ignoring each other, keeping the romance alive (ass grabs and missionary only go so far). These are just a few of the things, more close to home, that lead to stress and put tension on relationships and families.
I could dish out all the normal suggestions about deep breathing, going to your happy place, meditation, listening to music, exercising regularly, eating healthy, or limiting alcohol and caffeine (I’m not saying stop them altogether, just drink in moderation. Trust me, I love me my gin and tonics, coffee and pre-workout.) The fact of the matter is you should be doing all these things already if you want to feel healthier mentally and physically. So here’s a list of suggestions that you could follow tactically to help make things easier on you and your family.
1. Embrace the suck. If you’re a new or expecting parent, just go into it knowing that your sleep patterns are going to get jacked up for a while and there’s nothing you can do about it. Some kids sleep better than others. Even when they get older and into toddler stage, it’ll turn into them coming into your room in the middle of the night to wake you up because they have “boogies”.
2. Whatever time you plan on getting up in the morning, set your alarm clock 15-20 minutes earlier. If you have plenty of time in the morning to get things done, you won’t be stressed about meeting a time hack, or rushing around forgetting stuff on the way out the door - “Where’s the kids’ lunch? We didn’t make it yet, CRAP!”
3. If you suck at waking up early, get over it and do it anyways. Orrrrr, just do whatever you have to do the night before. Make lunches, pack your work bag and your gym bag, prep the coffee, and so on. See #2.
4. Set auto reminders in your phone/tablet calendars, or just write down action item lists. Don’t try to memorize everything; you’ll never remember it all. Some say the brain has an endless capacity, but that’s bullshit. We don’t have to get all scientific – you just get to a point in your life that you have so much going on that when one thing goes into your head something else falls out. Write it down, set it up in your phone calendar, and that’s one less thing you have to worry about. My wife is awesome about this, I suck at it.
5. Have patience. With others, with work, with money, with LIFE. Everything doesn’t have to happen immediately all the time. Sometimes it’s better to wait a while and see how things play out.
6. Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can get done today. I’m sure everyone has heard this before, but who actually practices it? I’ve got 20+ projects that are 90% complete in my house that I constantly stress about. So what do I do about it? Take action. As Nike says, “Just Do It.” I start knocking them off the list one by one as I can. Eventually, the list will go away.
7. Proper preparation prevents piss poor performance. Don’t wait until the last minute to get things done. Don’t rely on Amazon Prime to save you 2 days before Christmas because you didn’t start shopping yet. Or keep a small emergency $20 or $50 tucked in the back of your wallet/purse. Have the intestinal fortitude to not use it except for when you’re at lunch and your credit card gets denied. CRAP….oh wait, I have the emergency cash on me—crisis averted. Plan for tomorrow, live for today.
8. GOTWA(where I’m going, who’s going with me, time I’ll be back, what to do if I don’t come back, actions on contact) – or 5 point contingency plan. Doesn’t have to be exactly that…but just have a backup plan for most circumstances. 2 is 1 and 1 is none.
9. Plan to arrive places 15 minutes early. 15 minutes early is on time in the military world. This gives you a buffer for emergencies, or things you can’t plan for. Extra traffic, need to stop for gas, pulled over for being too High Speed. This prevents you from stressing about constantly being late.
10. Utilize the KISS method. No, not the Gene Simmons one. Keep It Simple Stupid. Don’t overcomplicate things. Most of the time, it’s just your perception of the situation and it’s much easier to accomplish than you think.
11. Put it back where it belongs. Dress right, DRESS! – A military command to find dress and alignment in a formation. Another way of putting it, an order to find neatness and organization. You won’t waste time and stress over losing things if you always put them back in the same spot you got them from. If applied from my other career in industrial engineering – 5S methodology Give every item a home, and it won’t get lost.
12. Talk, talk, talk. Communication is key to many things in life. Don’t keep things inside and let them build up. Be vocal and express your concerns. Got a problem? Talk it out with someone. It doesn’t even have to be with the person that the problem relates to. It’s good to just bounce things off of each other and see other points of view.
13. While it may seem a little contradictory to #11, not everything needs to be perfect 100% of the time. It’s good to want everything to work out or be completely organized, but we do not live in a perfect world. Let up on certain things and accept situations for what they are. Relax, it’ll be ok. The same can be said for your perception of people, spouses, and loved ones. Stop looking for perfection – you’ll never find it.
14. Don’t freak out about large or complex issues. Break them down to smaller individual tasks. Ex: We have to eat that elephant…ok, let’s take it one bite at a time. Oh, we need to ruck 12 miles in 3 hours…ok, well that’s 15 minutes per mile, and let’s concentrate on the first mile by putting one foot in front of the other, mixing in some ruck runs to bank time, etc..(Air Assault or EIB guys—wink wink).
15. Be an all-around good person. Do nice things for people – open doors for others, help the elderly, show empathy, be a protector, be a provider, be a go-giver. Just always try to do the right thing, and you’ll feel good about it afterwards.
Disclaimer – I am by no means a therapist, psychologist, or whatever else you want to label me as. Actually, if you read into the list more, some of the items are fairly inconsistent – see what works for you. I’m not “holier than thou” and am far from perfect. I need to reference these probably more than the normal person – my wife can attest to that. The fact of the matter is, I wrote this as much for me, as I did for you. I’m just a married father of 2, who owns a house, has 2 dogs, holds a full time job as an engineer, is a grunt in the military, that’s trying to hustle on the side while trying to find my place in the world.
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A family trip can be so magical. As you start making plans, you can picture all the special memories you will make. Sometimes, however, the actual travel part can be less than magical. In fact, it can be downright stressful.
So how do you have stress-free travel with kids? We have some simple tips to help you keep the magic in your family trip.
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