Everyone else was in high speed, high energy, go go go. And it felt like all I could do was sit there and watch. Like I was in slow-mo and everyone else was in fast forward.
Living with anxiety means that some days are much harder than others. Some days I feel anxious, and shaky, and scatterbrained. But the worst of the worst days? The low energy days. The days where I feel like the most simple, mundane tasks take Herculean strength. Where all I can do is sit there and watch the world zoom around me.
But you guys, I'm a homeschool mama.
I can't just sit - all - day.
I can't let the days pass me by, because then they pass my kids by also. So what do I do?
On the low energy days, with high energy kids, a home to run, and a homeschool day to facilitate — I have had to figure out ways to manage.
When I started out writing this post, I thought I would focus on being a homeschooling parent who struggles with anxiety disorder. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what makes homeschooling hard when you're an anxious mom are the low-energy days. Those stretches of time when it feels like you're moving in quicksand.
Then, I considered that the same things that work for ME on those low-energy homeschool days will work for other moms who have days (or weeks or months) where their energy has bottomed out and they're just trying to keep their heads above water.
Low Energy Days :: Survival Guide
Self Care Can Be Simple:
I know when we first hear the term self-care, we envision beautifully restful days of sitting at your favorite spa, or taking yourself on a night away at a hotel, or maybe a lunch out at your favorite restaurant. For some people, however, those types of self-care can feel more exhausting than helpful.
When you are having a low-energy day (or week? Month?), sometimes the very simplest acts of self-care can be deeply helpful. Sit for 5 blissful minutes on a lawn chair in the sun, keep a stash of dark chocolate in the back of the fridge and grab a piece when you need a treat, say no to an outing, take a nap. You don't have to spend a lot or go very far — but you DO need to put yourself first and take good care of you.
Have a backup school plan:
I have recently been taking part in Pam Barnhill's "Homeschool Consistency Boot Camp", and it's been a total game changer. On days when normally I would have felt low and unable to 'do school' with the kids, I am now getting it done. How? Well, one of the things we've had to do as part of that course is to create what WE consider a "Minimum Viable Day" — meaning, the very basics of what needs to be done to satisfy OUR idea of a good enough homeschool. Doing this has allowed me to see what two to four things I CAN do and still feel like we had a good day. And it's been a lifesaver for us so far in this school year.
Plan for Success - But Keep It Realistic:
Look, I am not a good planner. I mean, I love to PLAN. But not often would those plans come to much actual DOING. This past summer, I took a lot of time to think about not just who my kids are, but who I am also. This year, my focus is on making sure that THEIR school work does not suffer for MY low-energy.
So, how did I plan for success? I did the following steps, slowly and with a lot of careful thought:
- Decided what our year would look like — mark off big holidays, field trips I knew about, and I decided this year to once again use a 3-term school year. I chose three terms of 12 weeks each, with a one week break in the middle of each term. December, the whole month, is a short term in its own in addition to the three full terms — just holiday prep, maybe drop the other school work and pick a unit study. It'll be a laid back breather before we kick it back up again after the holidays.
- Chose how many days a week will we 'do school.’ based on outside commitments.
- Looked at MY OWN BOOKSHELVES first — before I got overwhelmed with curriculum shopping!
- Decided with the kids which subjects THEY wanted and which were ones that I felt were really important this year.
- Decide which subjects would happen how many times a week, and slot those into my planner. No specifics, just "Monday: Science, Reading, Math, etc.”
- I did NOT schedule which pages or lessons. Not yet. I want to see how our first half-term goes, and in our week break I can reassess and see if we're ready to plan specific lessons.
- Make your minimum viable day list — for me, it was "morning basket, science, and independent reading time." For you, it can be whatever you want.
- I only write in my planner in two week spurts — what we will do each day together, and what each child will do in their own lessons (with or without me).
This is just a rough overview — but in each step, I was putting my kids' needs/abilities into consideration. I was also thinking about what I can ACTUALLY do. Not what I wished I could do, or daydreamed I could do. What was I actually capable of. Most importantly, I crafted a plan for our school days that could go on auto-pilot on the days I didn't have the energy to think — it's listed out for me, for two weeks at a time in my planner, and on the bad days I can just look at the list and do the next thing.
Fake It Til You Make It
I know, this is the last thing you want me to say, right? Well. It does work — most of the time.
If you have a bad day, that's okay. If you have a couple of not-so-great days, that's okay too. But one of the things I have noticed in my own struggles through anxiety and some other health issues? If I have a bad day, and I sit in that for too long, it becomes a bad week and then a bad month.
If you just acknowledge the struggle, acknowledge the low-energy day, and then just put your shoes on, put your hair up in a ponytail, and walk outside. Just go do the thing — a walk, a hike, a trip to a park, or a play date with friends. Just do it. If you get yourself out the door, most times you MIGHT just find that it gets a bit easier. Plus, getting out into the fresh air will help lift your energy a bit.
Let Go of The Guilt!
Having a bad day/week/month? Can't quite get a grasp on the schedule or get outside to shake it off? It's going to be fine. Your kids will be fine. We can beat ourselves up and drown in guilt (ask me how I know), but at the end of the day — we have a lot of time with our kids. Going through a rough patch is not going to damage your kids or destroy their education.
Some days are high-energy, we-get-it-all-done, days. Other days are not so much. And in planning my school year, I really had to keep both of those extremes in mind. I crafted the first term of our school year to be a little on the light side, with lots of time each day to actually DO the things we want/need to do.
My homeschool may not always look like other families' homeschools. We may not go to all the places, do all the things — but I am still able to give my kids a great education and many, many lessons in self-care and compassion for the struggles other people go through.
If you find yourself having low energy days — hang in there, mama, you are doing a WONDERFUL job and your homeschool really is going to be just fine. And if you need a little reminder, come find me — I'll always have your back.