I love fall. It’s probably my favorite season. Don't get me wrong, I love a day at the beach and the long summer nights. I love the colorful bouquets of springtime and drinking hot chocolate by the fire in winter.
But, there’s something about the fall. Maybe it’s the energy of the harvesting season. It feels like you’re being rewarded for all the planting and nourishing you’ve done over the past year. The tying up of loose ends and slowing down as our primitive bodies and brains start to prepare for hibernation as the days get shorter and the temperatures drop.
My love of fall goes back to childhood. The excitement of going back to school and seeing friends after a summer away. Shopping for new clothes and school supplies left me feeling like a new person. A new year, a fresh start. It symbolized a time of transitions and traditions.
And, as a Jewish woman, fall is also when we celebrate the New Year with a month of holidays packed in. So, this is always a time of festivities and connecting with family and traditions.
But, as I’ve gotten older and had kids of my own, fall also has an added chaoticness. Re-adjusting to new class schedules and sports practices. Blocking out time for all the back-to-school shopping, school meetings, doctor appointments. And being around a lot more people who all feel this same pressure.
And, even though we’ve had loads of time to prepare, it always seems like we’re ripping the band-aid off. Waiting until the last minute to get the kids back on an appropriate sleep schedule and meal planning.
I hear this from my clients too. “I’m so TIRED and it’s only the first week of school!” Especially this year as we’re still navigating the pandemic, uncertain of what tomorrow might look like, and trying to hold space for our own emotions and those of our kids.
It’s enough to make any busy momma yearn for another vacation!
With that in mind, this month’s Calm the Chaos activity is focused on finding more ways to care for ourselves in this transitional season and, in general. As Maya Angelou wrote:
“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”
Momcation is about creating that conscious separation between the past (summer) and the future (fall).
Since it’s not always possible to take a full day, Momcation is designed to help you plan out activities of varying lengths so that you feel ready to consciously unwind whether you have five minutes or five hours!
So, grab a pen and paper, your favorite beverage, and a quiet space, and let’s get ready to plan your Momcation! (if you’d rather have a printable workbook, you can download this one here). I’ve broken it down into 3 simple steps, I-P-A:
IMAGINE - PLAN - ACT
Step 1: Imagine
This step is all about imagining what activities you can do to feel more calm, relaxed, happy. Remember, this challenge is about YOU so, there are no right or wrong answers here.
Take some time to complete these two phrases:
When I’m on vacation, I feel…
When I’m on vacation, I like to...
Then answer this question: which of these activities can you see yourself adding into your regular routine?
Step 2: Plan
This step is all about imagining how you can incorporate these activities into your daily life. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (author of The Little Prince) said: “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” So, here’s where we plan how to achieve the goal of spending more time in Momcation Mode…
First, for each activity you imagined bringing into your regular routine in Step 1, write down:
How long it requires you to set aside?
Is there a specific time of day for doing it?
What materials do you need?
Second, look at your list and pick one or two that you’d like to add into your routine. If your workload is super busy, maybe you want to pick one of the activities that takes less time so you don’t feel pressure to carve out time in your packed schedule. Or, maybe you want to pick an activity that is longer and give yourself permission to block time on your calendar to do it. Again, there’s no right or wrong way to do this. Just the way that feels most safe, fun, and easy for you.
Third, map out when you’re going to do this activity on your calendar. Physically put it in your calendar and block out the time as soon as you can.
If this feels scary, know that it’s perfectly normal! One of the reasons that a lot of us say we’re going to start new things but never do is because of how our brains are designed. Our brain’s more primitive and primary job is to keep us safe and protected. Because of this, any change - even a good change - can feel uncomfortable and trigger our brain to come up with all the excuses that stop us from implementing the change.
There is a way you can support your brain in this process. Studies have shown that one of the best ways to help our brains adapt to the idea of adding something new into our schedule is to “anchor” the activity to something else we’re already doing. For example, brushing your teeth, eating lunch, dropping the kids off at school. If this sounds like you, give this a try: pick an anchor action that you’ll do immediately before you start your new activity and write it down. After I _____________________ (anchor activity), I’ll ____________________ (momcation activity).
Example: After I eat lunch, I’ll read a chapter in my book.
Last, I’m a big fan of celebrating action-taking. Celebrations can be big or small but they reinforce an internal validation of your worthiness. Plan out how you’ll celebrate:
To celebrate my momcation, I will:
Step 3: Act
It’s time to take action and get your momcation started! If you’re someone who likes accountability, I recommend using a habit tracker or reaching out to a friend or coach to serve as your accountability partner. I’m happy to be that person too. Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if I can help support you.
You got this!
MELLOW THE MIND: PBWM
In keeping with the acronyms, PBWM is a simple, yet powerful mantra-based activity that you can do anytime, anywhere.
The word mantra comes from the Sanskrit manas (mind) and tra (tool). As the name suggests, mantras are used as a tool for releasing your mind from the internal chatter that can keep us spinning our wheels and feeling blocked.
Studies have shown that using mantras regularly can help improve mood, reduce fatigue, and boost concentration. They can also help to improve self-compassion. Especially when you choose a mantra that reinforces a sense of love and gratitude for self.
PBWM is a mantra that was taught to me during my kids yoga teacher training. The letters represent four words which you can repeat to yourself to help ground yourself when life feels a little overwhelming.
Peace Begins With Me.
Just four short words to remember and repeat!
How often should you repeat them? That’s totally up to you!
For most mantra practices, traditional yogic teaching recommends that you repeat them in multiples of nine, up to 108 times. But, this column is all about mellowing the mind and, in my experience, trying to keep track of how many times I’ve repeated the phrase draws my brain’s attention away from concentrating on the words themselves and can feel really stressful.
You can set a timer for one, three, five, even 10 minutes, or, just repeat Peace Begins With Me as many times as you need it until you notice yourself feeling calmer and more centered. Use it as often as you need throughout the day!
And, as I say to my young students:
Say it out-loud or softly in your head,
Seated at your desk or laying in bed!
Wanna go deeper? Add some movement to the mantra!
Using Finger movements
If you’ve practiced Kundalini yoga, you probably have practiced the Kirtan Kriya, chanting sa-ta-na-ma as you move your thumb to touch your index, middle, ring, and pinky finger, in turn, with each syllable. You can do the same for Peace Begins With Me.
Adding the finger movements helps to stimulate the senses and balance the two sides of the brain. I also find that, especially when practicing with children, it helps them regulate their bodies by giving them something to focus on (their fingers movement).
Wishing you peace and joy, love and laughter, and lots of magical, mindful MOMents!
Marisa is a playful parent coach, yoga teacher, and board-certified genetic counselor who helps families create more snuggles with fewer struggles. Sign-up to receive weekly mindfulness activities for the whole family in your inbox at marisaraymond.com
Inside each issue of SOULACY, Marisa shares with us two types of mindfulness exercises: Calm the chaos tools are based on non-directive counseling theory and positive discipline philosophy. They’re a little bit longer so are designed to be practiced in a more proactive manner to create lasting changes. They’ll lead you to show up with confidence - not defensiveness - when you’re stressed but still have to engage with others.
Mellow the mind exercises are mindfulness practices designed to help you chill out in the moment when life throws a wrench at you and you need to hit the pause button for three to five minutes. Even with overflowing schedules, we all can find three to five minutes in our day!
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