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Episode 16: Creating Household Systems for Stress Reduction


[00:00:00] Good morning, friends. Today I want to talk to you about something that I have been thinking about a lot, Oddly, as much as I strongly believe in this subject, my family has let this slide during the pandemic. I want to talk about creating systems in your family that reduce your stress.

[00:00:23] A lot of people ask me how they can help a friend who's going through something difficult, whether it's a cancer diagnosis or divorce . . . or whatever the case may be. What can I do to help somebody who's going through a really difficult time? And my answer is almost *always* about reducing their stress by reducing the number of things they have to think about each day, just to keep the business of their family running. So many things need to be done - and when you're going through something stressful, your brain is going in all different directions, and it's really, really hard to focus on what needs to be done.

[00:01:09] So I'm suggesting things like,"give them gift cards for meals so they don't need to be thinking about what they're going to make for dinner each night, hire them house cleaner, or just show up and do their dishes," that sort of thing.

[00:01:27] But sometimes you might not have people in your life who are able or willing to show up and do those things for you. You might not have somebody who is googling, "how do I help my friend through a divorce?" And so it's up to you and your family to figure out how you're going to reduce your stress so that everybody is able to cope better.

[00:01:54] When I talk to other parents about they can do, I am always talking to them about what they can do to reduce the number of things that they need to think about today. And starting that always begins with making an honest list of the things that you need to do each day. And that means *literally everything* that you are doing . . . and then figuring out ways to delegate those things. So, for example, if we're talking about waking the kids up: If you're the one that goes in there and wakes them up in the morning, delegate that to an alarm clock. If you're talking about making breakfast, teach the kids how to do that. So the first thing you do is you go through your day to day and figure out what needs to be done.

[00:02:47] And then the second part of it is going through and saying, "do *I* actually need to be the one to do this or is there another creative way I can get this done?" That doesn't mean that you're going to delegate every bit of your day, but you want to create options for yourself so that you're not lying awake at night worrying about what you're going to do if you're exhausted in the morning. You've already figured it out. Even if you aren't executing on it right away (or you never execute on it), it just reduces your stress level.

[00:03:27] The second thing to do is, if you do not have one, set up a routine for yourself and your kids that you do every single day. That means there's designated times for things and designated days of the week for various activities. So when school is over, that's always chore time. And these are the days for laundry. These are the days for, you know, dusting baseboards (as if you care about that in the middle of a crisis, ha). But just an example. So each day you have your morning routine where all of the things that need to get done get done in the same order each day. And then you have rhythms where because it's a Tuesday, it's laundry day, because it's a Wednesday, it's whatever day it is for chores. And then each evening at the same time, the routine starts for bedtime. The more routines that we have, the less we need to think about things. They are just set in a structure, a system that is set. And you don't need to think about or argue about it, because this is the way things go in your family.

[00:04:42] The next thing to think about with regard to routines as a standard operating procedure. This is just an overview, by the way - I can teach you how to each one of these things. A standard operating procedure, is basically, "this is what 'done' looks like." We say to our kids, "this is how you do the dishes. You don't just like, eat your meal and then throw all the dishes in the dishwasher and close it and consider it done. First you rinse your dish so there's no pieces of noodles stuck to the bowls. And the reason we do that is because the dishwasher gets clogged if there are noodles that are on the bottom of it. So first, we're rinsing off our all the extra food, and we're setting the dishes in there in a way that the jets can actually get the dishes clean. And then we're closing the dishwasher, we're setting the timer. This is how this is done."

[00:05:41] This way, you're educating your kids about the reason *why* things need to be done the way that they are. And that gives them the power to actually be helping with things. The more that you can write these things down, the better - for your older kids, or for your partner or for anybody that you're delegating to who's going to come in and help you. It sets everybody up for success.

[00:06:06] Next would be simplifying your meals. Meals for me during my divorce were a really tough one. I was very stressed about the fact that I thought I needed to be giving everybody organic meals every day. And I just couldn't cope with a full time job and creating this amazing meal. So I relied a lot on Trader Joe's frozen meals. And as much as that wasn't the *healthiest* choice, the stress that it took off of me made it the healthiest choice for me.

[00:06:41] There are a lot of really simple ways that you can reduce the amount of stress around your meals. You can create a rhythm that because it's Friday, it's spaghetti night, because it's Tuesday, it's lasagna night. Create rhythms that make it so that you don't have to plan, you don't have to think about it. It is just done.

[00:07:05] Also, meal delivery services, if you can afford them. . . whether it's Blue Apron or it's even just from your local grocery store, just having those things delivered so that you don't need to figure out how you are going to get it done. Again, the less things you have to think about, the better.

[00:07:25] Keeping a list of the things that you know that your kids will eat. . . this is good for not only you, but for anybody who is available to help you: what are their favorite things? The things that they absolutely will not eat?

[00:07:43] You can also make your meals ahead of time. So if you are making enchiladas, making three times as many as you need and freeze the rest. Better yet, if you have a local community that you're a part of, like if you have a group of single parent friends or friends that have cancer also, or just a group of friends who maybe *aren't* going through something difficult, you can trade meals, where you make extra of what you're making, freeze it and then you give that to your friend and they trade you something that they've made. That way you have variety and you don't have to think about a meal.

[00:08:22] And lastly, set up a rhythm to help with activities specifically. So if your kids have soccer on Tuesdays and Thursdays, you're delegating for help depending on what day of the week it is. So, for example, Tuesdays are soccer days and Jane is going to take the kids to soccer practice. Thursdays are soccer days where *Jim* is going to take the kids to soccer practice. So you're not relying on the same person all the time, and you don't start to feel guilty because they are going out of their way constantly. You're divvying up the help that you're asking for, based on the day of the week. This structure helps your kids know what to expect out of each day, and it reduces the number of things that you need to think about because, you know: "OK, Thursday is soccer, and Jim's taking care of this. And I don't need to worry about it". And say you're free on Saturday - that's your carpool day. Jane does Tuesday, Jim does Thursday and I can do Saturday. So you are contributing also, but you're splitting the work among multiple people.

[00:09:45] So I hope that this helps you think a little bit more creatively about ways that you can create systems in your household to reduce your stress. You put in some upfront work to plan things out and create these systems and put them in place, but now people understand what is expected of them and what they can expect - and the less stress everybody in the family has.

[00:10:09] So if you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach out to me on Instagram @mightyandbrightco or on the website at Thank you so much, and I hope that you have a wonderful week.