Parents of college-bound kids have had move in day circled in red on their calendars for months. To-do lists for our darling sons and daughters are pages long yet, in the midst of the hustle-bustle over our kids’ new lives, how are we preparing ourselves for this major change about to happen to us? In From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life, author Melissa T. Shultz has written a guidebook filled with inspiration from launching her two sons along with research from experts and other parents.
Shultz offers suggestions and stories of role models for women looking to redefine themselves when they no longer have kids under roof. With her insight and good humor, this is a perfect book to give to a mom with a high school student in any grade – the sooner, the better!
She has graciously allowed us to print the following excerpt:
From Mom to Me Again
For years, we’ve told our children to pay attention, to tune in. Now, we need to remind ourselves to do the same.
One of the basic tenets of psychology is that what you focus on grows in significance. So if you’re focusing on something negative, it can cloud all your thoughts. To bring about change, especially during times of change, such as when your children are leaving home, begin by shifting your focus away from how difficult you think it will be to adapt to their leaving to more positive and productive thoughts.
What do you want to change about your life? What are you curious about? The experts say if you can shut out the negative noise, envision what you want, and pursue an interest, you’re well on your way—intentionally moving toward something instead of intentionally staying still.
I’ve been guilty of wallowing in the very thing that is bringing me down: buying into it, over analyzing, staying so absorbed in whatever it is (the wrong kind of focusing) that days and weeks pass, and I’ve wasted a ridiculous amount of time and accomplished nothing.
That said, I’m not always receptive to people who make copious suggestions about thinking on the brighter side and who start singing that song from Frozen: “Let it go, let it go…” You know what I mean. You respond to every one of their well-meaning suggestions with, “Yes, but…” thinking they have no idea what you’re going through and how nothing they’re saying applies to you or your situation. This is because you’re in the groove of being bummed and cannot accept that there is anything you can possibly do to affect change. Especially if there are other forces at work that you don’t have a say in or control over.
The truth is, in most cases, there is something you can do. Here are some approaches to giving yourself a boost—they’ve worked for me and others—from the more traditional to the slightly less so:
Any kind of exercise. The point is to tune in to your movement, the music you listen to while exercising, whatever rings your bell so you stop thinking about the junk that doesn’t. Besides yoga, I walk. I’ve even been known to walk up and down the steps in my house repeatedly when I don’t have time to go outside for a longer trek.
2. Do something artful.
Take photographs. Get lost in it. Draw, paint, hammer, bake, cook. Focus on the joy of it, and tune everything else out.
3. Practice gratitude.
I don’t mean to sound like a greeting card here, but when you think things are awful, say exactly how they’re awful, out loud, without anyone around. Use all the bad words you want. Nobody is listening. Then do the opposite: say out loud what’s good about your life. What things you appreciate—and by appreciate, I mean the people, the love, the objects (yes, the shoes), good health, humor, knowledge, pets, family, music, beauty. Sometimes you have to dump what’s making you blue to see what’s true. Okay, maybe that’s a greeting card.
4. Eat something you loved to eat as a child.
Rice pudding, for example. It works for me. Not massive quantities, of course, because then you’ll have other issues. Just eat enough to make you remember a time in your life, or people in your life, who brought you joy. Reconnect.
5. Go to a museum.
Lose yourself in the object, the history, the stories.
6. Hang out with the funniest person you know.
If you can’t, rent a movie that makes you laugh and fast-forward to your favorite lines. Or open a favorite book and read the lines that make you laugh out loud. There are scenes in the movie Mother that still make me laugh, and I’ve watched it more times than I should probably admit.
7. Take a shower.
It’s soothing and quieting and the best place I know to shut out the noise without leaving home.
8. If you still can’t shift your focus, then counter it.
Ask yourself what you’re most worried about, then how likely the scenarios are to come true. Then take it even further: if they did come true, how would you approach solutions? Imagine the worst-case scenario, and solve it. By doing this, you remember that whatever life zings you with, you can zing it back, regain a sense of control, and get your confidence back besides.
Melissa T. Shultz is the acquisitions editor for Jim Donovan Literary. She’s written about health and parenting for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek, Readers’ Digest, The Huffington Post, Next Avenue, Scary Mommy, Babble, and many other publications and blogs. Find her on her blog, on Facebook or Twitter.
Note: We receive a small amount of compensation from some of the links in this post.