I looked at the title as I sat to write this article and realised for many a restoration of sanity could be a step too far. The ability to restore our sanity comes because we’ve preserved our sanity in the hardships, in the chaos, in the darkest hours that come when we are on this adventure called life, especially when we add in the responsibility of raising children or running a business. Which means how to restore your sanity doesn’t start with a restoration process, it starts with a preservation strategy.
When I started my process of restoration 3 of my 4 children were at school. There was a calmness, a break in the intensity at home. Initially though as we added in children to our lives, I noticed that my sanity and its preservation was increasingly at risk.
With my first child, came a new sense of responsibility, masked as obligations, with an overwhelming surge of guilt popping up regularly which meant (for me) putting myself lower on my todo list. This built when I fell pregnant with our second child. I was terrified of what would happen when I had two children under 2.
I was barely holding onto my sanity with one child. Again, this intensified when we added in our third child. At this point my sanity was really looking like it was at breaking point. Thanks to the preservation strategies I was using, unconsciously at the time, my sanity was preserved, waiting for the time at which I could emerge from the chaos and then restore my sanity, my identity and start moving towards achieving more consistent success.
At the point where my daughter was born, it simply couldn’t be about restoration, yet. This was survival mode, this was chaos. I had the two older boys, and by older they were 4 and 3, as well as a tiny baby who was waking up and screaming every 2 hours overnight and if someone had of told me that to preserve my sanity, to get through these early years, simply stand on your head for 45 minutes a day, that will do it. I’d have tried it!!
This was when I started looking more deeply and widely for something, anything that could give me a glimmer of hope. I thought I had some pretty good foundations, I had a housework cleaning chart that had systems and structures. I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, small children don’t tend to comply with that. Three children under 5 and they weren’t following my systemised routines and so I started to look outside of structure, outside of systems and started to look for something else.
Over the years I’ve tried many things in my physical world, diets, other routines, research, medications and many I probably don’t even remember. Sleep deprivation has an interesting impact on memory and perceptions.
What I discovered though was it wasn’t the world outside that needed to change, it wasn’t in following someone else’s ‘steps’ that I could reclaim me, it gave me a sense of certainty, security and something like stability, but they didn’t fill my inner world, my desire to feel like I was making progress, having an impact was completely ignored, mostly because I had no idea that was one of my needs. To feel I made a difference. To know I was making progress. And so the day in day out routine of lists written and never completed slowly etched into my self-esteem. Leaving me with a sense of emptiness I could never have put words around.
What I discovered was that my needs didn’t include more rules more guidelines, more structure or timetables I wasn’t able to live up to or follow. What I needed was sensible frameworks that not only met the external world needs, but also filled my inner world.
It was in this moment I looked at the systems, the structures the guidelines I’d been using and instead of trying to do them perfectly, attempting to live up to an impossible standard and started to pick what worked for me. I didn’t know it at the time, I was filtering through and keeping the things that not only matched the external demands and needs, but also filled my internal bucket.
The framework meant more flexibility. The routines said on Monday vacuum the loungeroom. Of course, Monday comes, and the floor is covered in Lego, I’d look at the children, happy and content and I ain’t touching that. In the beginning I’d then beat myself up for not ticking of the task. The gift of the framework was the fluidity, the ability to flex and flow around what needs doing, at the time that made the most sense. Enabling me to focus on what was most important. Which, generally speaking, was my children’s happiness over a cleaning schedule.
Since then others have asked me how I do it, what is my secret, they can see I no longer follow the same systems we started with. It took me a while to work it out, I thought everybody would be able to figure it out, I wasn’t special. Over time I started, very slowly to share my frameworks. 3 simple frameworks to saving sanity. Not rules. Not definitive tasks that leave you feeling worthless when you don’t check them off, 3 simple guides to allow you to start feeling like
- you are making progress,
- celebrating what you have accomplished, and
- the guide to restore your focus and stability in moments of overwhelm.
That last framework does come with steps, and I always teach the underlying thinking so that if those steps don’t fit, the thinking underneath is replicable to design your own framework.
A single article of course can barely skim the surface around the frameworks but let me unpack the first one for you. It’s really simple.
Keep a TADA list.
For most of us we are familiar with the todo list, that never-ending list of jobs or tasks that are waiting to be done. I love todo lists. I love writing everything down and clearing my head. What I found though when I wrote down everything to do, I never got to the end of it. Never allowed myself to celebrate, there was always something else to add.
And so, I now keep a TADA list as well. These are the things I accomplish in a day (or an hour, or a week, my time frames are flexible). It’s the moments where I say to myself “TADA! I did it”
What I’ve also discovered on this journey is that it’s much more fun, effective and sustainable when done with friends. Knowing we have a group of people on a similar path, speaking the same kind of language, bringing support to each other has been amazing.
Sharing TADA lists (or those from the other two frameworks) in a group, all on the same mission really lifts the energy. Celebrating with people, getting like or a love from someone else amplifies the celebratory feeling.
We’ve now formed a really supportive network of people all attempting to find a way to utilise these frameworks. We make them our own and adapt them to fit into our busy and diverse lifestyles.
Forming this group of women has been so uplifting to me, one on one, where I started, was wonderful but there’s a lot of pressure in that relationship. The amazingness of the community is there is many of us holding each other up, if one person needs to take a break, step back there’s another still in there ready to support.
Stepping outside of my house and finding a community that met face to face was an overwhelming prospect for me in the early days and that is why we’ve chosen to develop an online community.
No need to get dressed, put on makeup or get organised to leave the house, we can simply show up where we are, when it suits us and connect in a way that suits us.
My experience in online forums lets me know that there will be deep friendships and connections formed. I am still in contact with many of the ladies I have met over the years while finding my feet and using different systems out there.
Whether you join us in the group, or share with a friend, starting to use the TADA list framework could be the beginnings of your journey. For now, perhaps its preserving your sanity, allowing yourself the little wins, so you can restore your sanity down the track, or perhaps, like me, you are already in the process of restoring your sanity, reclaiming your identity and TADA’s will be a way to do that more deeply. Whatever it is for you, I wish you well. I wish you many mini celebrations each day. ANYTHING can be added to a Tada list.
Mine today includes writing this article. Washing my face with my special cloth. Attending a party with friends. Tidying up my 7yo’s shoes. Washing sheets. Brushing my hair. And so much more.
If you would like to join us, you will find the group here: https://tinyurl.com/frog27
In the everyday world, Amy Taylor is a wife, a mother, and small business owner.
She has been on an amazing journey through this thing called life. Down into the depths of darkness, back into the light. At one point she had 4 kids under 6 and lost sight of herself.
In her own mind, she is a tightrope walker, a fluffy cat with attitude, a princess, and a transformational wizard.
With many life lessons learned including how to preserve and protect her sanity while living in chaos. As her life changed, and she embraced being calm, developed more capabilities and became more resourceful, she restored her sanity, reclaimed her identity and built her own inner team of champions to spur her on. The journey is ever evolving.
With a love of adventure, exploration and Ohh look, shiny thing… Now coupled with an ability to see clearly and hold a focus. She not only starts many projects she follows them through to completion.
She has a knack for absorbing information from multiple sources, overlaying them, adding in her own flavour, discarding what doesn’t work and creating new frameworks on which to build success.