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How to Avoid Back-to-School Overwhelm

As the slower pace of summer fades and the school year begins, life can quickly take on a frantic and overwhelming vibe. Here is a brief exercise to prioritize what is most important, creating welcome bits of space in the day for a breather:

Life as Pie Exercise

On a piece of paper pencil two large, same-sized circles side by side. In the first circle, divide up the general areas of your life into pie pieces according to how much time you currently spend with each over the course of a week. Areas might include parenting/children, partners, family, friends/socializing, exercise, recreation/play/creativity, community, spirituality, education, work/career. In the second circle, divide up the areas into your ideal pie. If doubt arises about the impossibility of your ideal, set it aside for the moment. This is a time to brainstorm, simply going with your gut.

Take a look at the two side by side. What surprises you? What stands out? If your two pies are somewhat similar, you may require only tweaking in a few areas. If your current and ideal pies look quite different, it may seem overwhelming to consider how to get from current to ideal. However, one or two small adjustments at a time will get you to where you would like to be eventually.

For example, you may recognize and reduce what I call time suckers, such as social media, TV, and surfing the Internet. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these. They become problematic when we spend more time on them than we intend. Keep your ideal pie in mind. Be deliberate in the amount of time you devote to electronics. Set a timer if needed. Remember where we place our attention now affects the next moment, in a sort of domino effect. What would you like to add with that bit of new-found time? Exercise, reading, spending with friends, or some restful downtime?

The ideal pie is a visual guide focusing on those areas we would like to adjust. Note that this is an ideal and some pieces may not be immediately (or ever) adjustable. If that is the case, acknowledgment and acceptance allows us to expend energy on what is currently changeable.

Take care to not overwhelm yourself. Start with one pie piece and choose two aspects on which to focus. Take your time. Consider it an experiment and a challenge. Congratulate yourself when you have fine-tuned one area. Each mindful, positive change is steering you in the direction fitting for you. Above all, be sure to create some space in your day to just breathe…


Breathe, Mama, Breathe: A shared mom and kids workshop for more calm, gratitude, and mindfulness. The Yoga Loft. Bethlehem, PA. September 30, 2017. 12:30-2pm. Joint event with Kira Willey. Space is limited. Register today!


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