Less Decisions, Less Stress
There have been so many decisions to make this summer.
Which medicine should we try first?
Is there a physical therapy facility that is best for a child who also has autism, but will still take our insurance?
Do we continue with the other therapies in the meantime? Can we even afford it?
Do we need to look at outside help with my son’s daily dyslexia tutoring?
What can we cut in the budget to make room for all of this?
And while we are on the subject of budget, how should we be financially planning for a future that will involve long-term care for my boy?
Living with all of this, day in and day out – I am done with decisions. So much so that I found myself texting this to my friends when they were trying to plan a girls night out.
“Please just don’t ask me to decide where we should go and eat or anything.” I pleaded. “I cannot make anymore decisions. Not one.”
They are gracious girls, and just let me show up without doing any of the work (which is more of a blessing than they will ever really know). But when I sent that message to them, it got me thinking.
What other decisions are weighing me down unnecessarily? Are there ways I can streamline my days so that my brain isn’t in a constant state of having to figure out the next and the next and the next decision to be made?
I read an article recently about a gal who wears essentially the same thing to work every day. White blouse, back pants – no muss, no fuss. It sounded heavenly to me (although, we all know my work uniform these days is more like yoga pants, a t-shirt and a cup of coffee).
I decided to try to streamline the decisions I am making everyday in just two categories. These two are the ones that complicate my days in ways that bring subtle, yet consistent stress. And let me just understate it and say that I don’t need anymore subtle yet consistent stress.
I began eliminating decisions pertaining to clothing and food at the beginning of June. Now, more than six weeks in, here is what it looks like –
To begin, I did a little research and came across Project 333. The gal that started it basically recommends that you chose 33 total wardrobe items for 3 months. You can read all about it on her site, but essentially the idea is you pack away anything that is not in your 33 selected items, thereby eliminating the unnecessary decisions and mental clutter, associated with an overflowing closet.
Here is the thing – I am not sure I am the girl who would try this in any other life. I do not keep clothing that I don’t wear. I am pretty good about not overshopping and overspending on clothes. I am not sure I would’ve thought this was for me, if it wasn’t for the circumstances I find myself in with my son’s daily care, and all the decision fatigue that it brings.
Guess what? After trying it for six weeks now, I can tell you that I freaking love it. I find myself actually wearing something other than yoga pants most days (because I chose items for my 33 that were cute, but still very functional for my life). I find myself spending no time at all figuring out what to wear to my son’s doctor’s office, so that I will look pulled together and be taken seriously. I find myself enjoying getting dressed in the morning.
This has not been the case for years.
There is something about the absence of choice that makes me calmer, slower, and more joyful. I cannot explain it, but I can tell you that it has worked, and been so very helpful in a time where I desperately need all the help I can get.
Eliminating choices in clothing has made a daily difference for me.
Eliminating choices in food has made an hourly difference. Because we all eat, all day long, every single day, without fail.
And yet prior to this, in my quest to overcome some of my son’s food sensitivities and sensory issues, I found myself over-buying as many options as possible in an attempt to find something that the child would eat.
And he still didn’t eat any of it!
Instead of complicating our entire family’s eating routine, I decided to just create a very basic meal plan that I knew my husband, my youngest son and I would eat. Very basic. Like chicken breasts, salad and fruit every single Thursday for the entire foreseeable future. Spaghetti once a week, no matter what. That kind of thing.
Now, instead of complicating the decisions I need to make for every single meal, I simply fix whatever simple meal is planned, and worry instead about how to best help the one member of our family who can’t eat regularly right now. (Although eating related sensory issues have always been a part of his life, his autoimmune disease is causing trouble swallowing and a decrease in saliva, making eating anything at all a struggle for him these days.)
The impact has been significant. I used to feel defeated every single time I made a meal. I haven’t felt that way in six weeks.
I make what I make, and it is always simple, uncomplicated, and hopefully yummy. Those of us that can eat it, do. Then, I focus on trying to help my son get down whatever he can tolerate.
This has completely changed my attitude and my stress level around meals in our home.
I am sure that for some of you, this sounds insane. I am so very OK with that. Every family and every momma is different.
But here is what I will go out on a limb and say is true for all of us. If you find you are overwhelmed with the decisions needing to be made, over and over again in your life, it makes sense to try to eliminate some of those decisions.
Maybe it’s not your wardrobe, or your meal plan. Maybe it’s your schedule, or how you are spending your time at work.
No matter what the stressor, parenting a child with special needs is a very complicated life – where simple is hard to come by, and life is not as straight forward as we thought it might be.
Trying to eliminate the stress entirely is not an option.
But perhaps eliminating some of the decisions we make, even about the most mundane things, can help.
My experience has been less really is more.
Shawna Wingert is a special education teacher turned educational consultant, and mom of two brilliant boys who have learning differences and special needs.
Shawna has also written four books: Everyday Autism, Special Education at Home, Parenting Chaos, and Homeschooling Your Child With Special Needs. A passionate advocate for individualized education, Shawna is frequently featured on Today.com, Simple Homeschool, Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers and The Mighty. She can also be found supporting parents online at her own site, DifferentByDesignLearning.com.