Having spent much of our year in lockdown desperately looking forward to summer and the possibility of freedom, summer now seems all too short. Already we are facing the usual overwhelming sense of September, and everything that it includes.
Many of us have real fears about going back to the workplace, and we are not even sure we want to return full-time. Many parents and guardians face the huge financial burden of getting children back to school and the inevitable stress of juggling school, work, and home life. Many without children have money worries of their own, after the relief of lockdown finally lifting and Christmas already on the horizon. And of course, winter is coming, with short days and dark cold nights ahead of us. Is it any wonder we feel overwhelmed at the very thought of September, and even more so while living in these times of uncertainty.
“Our daily lives are probably more full than they really should be," said Yvonne Barnes-Holmes of Perspectives Ireland. "As we say goodbye to summer and re-enter our routines in September, it is the perfect time to take a step back and ask yourself if you really need to squeeze all that stuff into each day. It’s a sobering reflection, but if it was your last day alive, is that how you would spend it?”
Ciara McEnteggart added: “In many ways, September is like another New Year - it marks the beginning of the new school year, routines resume, and many food and exercise regimes begin again after the ease of the summer months. As such, this time of year can bring with it a lot of anxieties about preparing for the winter months and the routines beginning again.”
With a combined 30 years of clinical experience under their belts, Yvonne Barnes-Holmes and Ciara McEnteggart at Perspectives Ireland show us how to deal with the anxieties that September brings:
Make a list and prioritise
Have you ever been kept awake at night because there is simply so much to do in the days and weeks ahead? Thinking things through like this often works, because it helps you prioritise what needs done first, second, third, and so on, and to think about ways you can get through each. But lying awake at night doesn’t work for all of us, because we can just as easily find ourselves going over the details again and again, with neither sequence nor solution.
So, let’s begin with the simple fact we should all accept: you cannot jump multiple hurdles at the same time, and trying to will only exhaust you. Instead, make a list of everything you need to do and form it into a sequence of priorities. Use this list to structure the days and weeks ahead and as you tick each item off your list, you will see that the big hurdles are being jumped, one by one.
Estimate the time needed
Proper timing is the key to success with a sequence of tasks, making sure that you never underestimate the length of time a given task will take. Transfer your list directly to your calendar, clearly allocating the time needed for each item, so you know where you are at with your list at any point in time. This will help keep you on track and not get stuck at any one thing, at the cost of others. For example, it takes at least a couple of days to prepare two children to go back to school, this simply cannot happen in an afternoon when you consider uniforms, shoes, books, haircuts, etc. And it will take multiple rounds of a few hours if you are going back to the office. You might need to buy new clothes, get your car serviced, renew your travel pass, or plan how you organise your daily lunches and shop for them. Each item may seem small, but together they can overwhelm you easily.
Estimate the costs
Try to estimate all of the costs associated with each item on your list, and write down the approximate date for when this cost needs to be paid. Place these costs into your calendar, so you are ready for them and they never come as a surprise. For example, it is never too early to make a budget for Christmas and write down how you plan to fulfill this budget between now and Christmas.
You do not have to do everything yourself
Look at your list and consider where you could delegate items to someone else or where you could ask for help. You might be tempted to think, “It’s easier if I do it myself,” “I would be quicker doing it,” or, “I don't want to burden other people, they have enough to do." But these thoughts will actually keep you overwhelmed and make it less likely that you will get everything done, without considerable costs to yourself.
Recharge over the winter months
The summer of 2021 has been a time for catching up on the things we missed across the previous 18 months. Undoubtedly, we have enjoyed that, but making the most of it has probably left us tired just as we begin the September rush. So, if we did not recuperate over summer, how can we get some energy back? This year, instead of dreading the autumn and winter months, use the dark evenings to recharge and get back some of that “me time” you enjoyed during the lockdown. Use this time to do the things you enjoy, the things that really recharge your batteries. For example, watch your favourite show on Netflix in the evenings, spend a little longer cooking your favourite meal, or take a long bath once a week. Whatever you do, make sure it is something that serves you and gives you the energy you need to meet all the challenges you face.
If you would like to learn more about taking time out for yourself, Perspectives Ireland will be hosting a therapeutic wellness retreat at Carton House this October, which is designed to help you recognise the person that you have become, and show you what needs to be added for you to be the best version of yourself. You can sign up for the retreat on www.perspectivesireland.ie