Apparently September is second only to December on the list of the most stressful months. Why? Because it is a month of reorganization, a new schedule, and change. For me personally, September is a period of “adjustment” as the routines of the summer (or lack thereof) dissolve, and new patterns emerge.
I always start with the best intentions. I make and post signs to cue my kids to my expectations of them in the morning and after school. Alarms are set to make sure that people are getting up, dressed, and to the bus without skipping breakfast. A lunch chart is made (by them, with parameters of course) so that I can shop for the food they will eat, and know that most of the stuff I send won’t return uneaten. Closets are cleaned and organized, and their clothes have been inventoried, shuffled, and replenished as needed. The fall and winter gear have been surveyed to see what is needed before the first cold-front strikes. My husband and I have had “the talk” about who is doing what, who is working when, and who will get the girls here, there and everywhere. Everyone has been registered for all their fall activities, after checking our calendar and determining that we, as two parents with four kids, can manage the organized chaos that is extracurricular activity. Okay, I see why September is stressful.
There are many ways to try and manage the stress that is created during this period of transition. Personally, my planning for September starts in July. Yes, it’s true…our kids are barely out of school and I am planning for their return. Similar to planning for Christmas I suppose, being ahead of the crowd can go a long way. For example, stress can be reduced when a list of “to dos” is created, and time is set aside, week by week, to accomplish each task. Involving the kids in the planning is not only a valuable way to delegate some of the responsibility, but also a way for them to learn the skills of organization, and to be part of the return to school process. For example, our kids clean their own closets and inventory their own clothes, they sort through the school supplies from last year, and they always come shopping with us for back to school items as this reduces the returns.
But like joining a gym, these new routines will be difficult to maintain and it will take perseverance, dedication and effort to try and develop and sustain the new schedule and any accompanying mental, emotional, and physical anguish that comes from change. It will take at least four weeks for the stress of the new schedule to subside, and for everyone to find their groove. This is the part I call “adjusting” and is defined as the time when I get quiet, more focused, and need some extra sleep.
But even more important than planning and organizing early, is knowing what you are capable of handling, and making sure you do not bite off more than you can chew. Everyone varies in their ability to plan, organize, look ahead, and tackle change. If these are struggles for you, then take it slow, reduce the demands, start early, and ask for help. After all, soon after we survive stress-tember we be engulfed in the most stressful month of all – dread-cember: my personal nemesis.