There are an abundance of monthly or yearly challenges out there for improving your home, your health, or your life in general. Some of them are pretty hard-core. Some are even a little scary. What I’m proposing is a new kind of challenge; The Kinder, Gentler Challenge. The idea is to help you get things done, but in a more peaceful way that doesn’t completely disrupt your whole life. It’s going to be here every month and here’s how you can join in.
- Think of 5 things you want to do in the next month. These can be specific projects or habits you want to work on or changes you want to make. But try to have a variety, and don’t make all of them monstrous projects that would each take a month to do. That’s not kind or gentle. Think of things that will make life more peaceful for you, more fulfilling, or just run more smoothly.
- Write them down somewhere. This can be a sticky note, an index card, a document on your computer, or a note on your phone. You can even post your list here. Whatever works for you!
- Leave a comment and let me know you’re going the challenge this month.
- When the first of the month rolls around, start working on your list.
- Come back at the end of the month (or anything you like during the month) and check in. And don’t forget to sign up for the next month’s challenge!
That’s it. Simple, right? I like to mix and match with a household project, a healthy habit I want to work on, a book or books I plan to read or finish, and then whatever else is on my radar that month. This month, my plan looks like this:
- Household: I want to create a rotating menu for the autumn months for everyday meals. We have several birthdays and holidays coming up, but those tend to take care of themselves. I really need something for every day. I want to have a menu and shopping list made by the end of the month.
- Health: I plan to drink a quart of green tea each day. It’s hot right now, so I’ll be drinking this cold. I put 4 teabags in a quart jar with a bag of some strong-flavored herb tea, like mint or Celestial Seasonings Wild Berry Zinger, fill the jar with water, put on the lid, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. It brews beautifully with no bitterness.
- Books: I currently have 2 books checked out on my Kindle as well as a couple of writing books I would like to read this coming month.
- Education: I’m taking an online class that I need to finish during the month. Now that the homeschooling is up and running again, I can get back to work on my own education.
- Writing: One of my daughters has challenged me to finish one of my novels in the month of September, at least to first draft stage. Challenge accepted!
That’s my list. What are you going to commit to this month?
1. Take a deep breath (or two or three)
When you feel yourself tensing up, take a moment and breathe. Take in a deep, slow breath through your nose, then let it out slowly blowing through your lips. Repeat as necessary.
2. Stay well nourished
Stress takes a toll on the body. It is known that it consumes B vitamins, which are vital for your mental well being. Stress can also trigger inflammation. You need antioxidants to combat the effects of that. When stressed, we tend to reach for junk food, which only makes the problem worse. If you are going through a particularly stressful time, be sure to pay special attention to eating a nutrient dense diet.
3. Eat some chocolate
I know. I know. I just told you to eat healthy food. But I believe in balance in all things. AFTER you have put some good vital food into you, then enjoy a luscious piece of chocolate or a frosty dish of ice cream or whatever speaks comfort to you.
4. Put on your comfy clothes
Find the most comfortable thing you can wear for the situation you’re in. Obviously, if you have an important meeting or appointment, you might not be able to get away with yoga pants and an oversize t-shirt. But don’t put on the heels that always pinch and the skirt you fuss with every time you wear it and the shirt with the collar that won’t lay flat. It will only aggravate your mood.
5. Give yourself some margin
In Richard Swenson’s book Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, he talks about leaving some space in your life. Don’t schedule every minute, every dollar, and every brain cell. Leave some room for deep breaths and to deal with things that go awry.
6. Stay off Facebook
Facebook can be a lot of fun. But it can also be stressful. Between the news feed and the normal human drama, some days it’s just not worth it. If you are especially stressed or feeling fragile, you might want to avoid Facebook for a while. If someone really wants to reach you, they will private message, text, or call.
7. Don’t read the comments
You click to read an article about a controversial topic and at the bottom, you can’t help but read the first couple of comments. Soon you are knee-deep in the comment section, outraged that people could be so stupid, and your blood pressure is escalating by the minute. You know you’ve done it. But you don’t have to. It’s not necessary to know what every crank on the planet thinks about the topic. Sometimes you just have to walk away.
8. Drop back to minimums
When things are crazy (or maybe just crazier than normal), consider simplifying your routine. In my house, the minimums are dishes, laundry, meals and quick pick ups of the main areas. Unless cleaning closets or scrubbing floors relieves stress for you, just say no.
9. Take a walk
A little exercise, some sunshine, and a breath of fresh air can do wonders. Triple bonus points if you do it someplace pretty like a park or nature area.
10. Surround yourself with beauty
Never underestimate the power of little touches of beauty in your life. Treat yourself to an inexpensive bouquet while you’re out shopping. Buy yourself a new pen in a color you love. Pick up a scented candle or an extravagantly scented bar of soap.
11. Don”t be afraid to ask for help.
Sometimes an issue is driving you crazy and you don’t know what to do. Ask someone for help. Can’t figure out that sticky computer issue or mechanical snafu or tax problem? Find someone who can help you.
12. Become a purveyor of peace yourself.
Let’s face it. Sometimes the yuck that people are dishing out to us is a result of the harsh tone or words we have used toward them. Soften the tone, back down from inflammatory words, and smile.
13. To thine own self be true
What is it that always calms you down? Is it a fragrance-filled soak in the tub or a dripping-with-sweat full-out run? Whatever it is that brings you a sense of calm and well-being, make sure you make time for that thing.
Hopefully, if you follow even a few of these your life will be more peaceful. Try different things until you discover the combination that works best for you! What’s your favorite ways to restore a sense of calm?