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5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

5 Steps to a Calmer Evening

    Whether you work outside the house or stay at home full-time, the toughest part of the day is the same: those frantic early evening hours when there are mouths to feed, homework to do, and cranky kids to handle.  The trick is to streamline your to-do’s so you can feel calmer and focus on what counts – spending time with your family.  Here’s how.

    1) Ease into the Evening

    Instead of walking in the door after work or errands and immediately launching into another chore, allow time and space to downshift into evening mode.  It’s basically about transitioning.  In other words, giving yourself and your family that unwind time.

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    Creating a calming ambiance, by turning off the TV and playing soothing classical, jazz, or instrumental music, can instantly reset the emotional tone of the house.  Another idea is to dim the lights and light a few candles – it makes for a warm, cozy atmosphere that will relax the family.

    Another transition idea is to create a ritual.  Set vegetables and dip or cheese and bread on the counter and serve juice or water in fancy wine goblets.  This will not only take the ravenous edge off so you avoid meltdowns before dinner, but it will feel special and establish the transition time.

    2) Create a Dinner System

    Rushing to get dinner on the table is a major source of evening mayhem, but a little bit of preplanning can help you power through with a minimum of stress.  Use weekends to chart out your nightly dinners, grocery shop, and even preassemble parts of a meal when possible.  Consider writing a weekly plan and checking the calendar to see which nights are going to be particularly busy – so you know when frozen pizzas or easy-prep meals are a must.

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    3) Keep the Kids Busy

    All the shortcuts in the world won’t help if you’re constantly being interrupted, so a little creativity may be needed to get the kids out from underfoot.

    Make the time you cook be about you and let your older kids, who should be doing homework, know that you are there only to be asked a very important question.  Other than that, you are off limits.  For younger children, it might be necessary to involve them in the meal preparation or to put on an appropriate DVD.  When my son was younger I used to put him in his highchair and talk in an animated way – sort of my own version of a cooking show.  Now that he’s older, he helps put ingredients in bowls and pots and stirs just about everything!

    4) Plan Homework Time

    To avoid last-minute cries of “Mom, I haven’t done my homework yet,” having a homework routine is a must.

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    After the kids have had a healthy snack and 30 minutes down-time after school, they should begin their homework so that it is completed before dinner.

    5) Share the Work… and a Break

    Dividing tasks between you and your partner can make family time more serene for both of you.  It might be that when your husband walks in the door, it’s his turn to take the baby for 30 minutes so you can get dinner started.  Then, after 30 mins, you take the baby back and your partner has 30 minutes to change and unwind.  This way you’ll both be refreshed enough to start your evening together.

    Be flexible with this.  If your partner is stressed when walking in the house, offer a later-in-the-evening task, such as washing dishes or packing lunches for the next day.

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    All in all, evenings can be calm if routines and decisions are made ahead of time.   Decide what you and your partner truly value and then set up some systems to make it work.

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    Last Updated on November 18, 2020

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It)

    It’s okay, you can finally admit it. It’s been two months since you’ve seen the inside of the gym. Getting sick, family crisis, overtime at work and school papers that needed to get finished all kept you for exercising. Now, the question is: how do you start again?
    Once you have an exercise habit, it becomes automatic. You just go to the gym, there is no force involved. But after a month, two months or possibly a year off, it can be hard to get started again. Here are some tips to climb back on that treadmill after you’ve fallen off.

    1. Don’t Break the Habit – The easiest way to keep things going is simply not to stop. Avoid long breaks in exercising or rebuilding the habit will take some effort. This may be advice a little too late for some people. But if you have an exercise habit going, don’t drop it at the first sign of trouble.
    2. Reward Showing Up – Woody Allen once said that, “Half of life is showing up.” I’d argue that 90% of making a habit is just making the effort to get there. You can worry about your weight, amount of laps you run or the amount you can bench press later.
    3. Commit for Thirty Days – Make a commitment to go every day (even just for 20 minutes) for one month. This will solidify the exercise habit. By making a commitment you also take pressure off yourself in the first weeks back of deciding whether to go.
    4. Make it Fun – If you don’t enjoy yourself at the gym, it is going to be hard to keep it a habit. There are thousands of ways you can move your body and exercise, so don’t give up if you’ve decided lifting weights or doing crunches isn’t for you. Many large fitness centers will offer a range of programs that can suit your tastes.
    5. Schedule During Quiet Hours – Don’t put exercise time in a place where it will easily be pushed aside by something more important. Right after work or first thing in the morning are often good places to put it. Lunch-hour workouts might be too easy to skip if work demands start mounting.
    6. Get a Buddy – Grab a friend to join you. Having a social aspect to exercising can boost your commitment to the exercise habit.
    7. X Your Calendar – One person I know has the habit of drawing a red “X” through any day on the calendar he goes to the gym. The benefit of this is it quickly shows how long it has been since you’ve gone to the gym. Keeping a steady amount of X’s on your calendar is an easy way to motivate yourself.
    8. Enjoyment Before Effort – After you finish any work out, ask yourself what parts you enjoyed and what parts you did not. As a rule, the enjoyable aspects of your workout will get done and the rest will be avoided. By focusing on how you can make workouts more enjoyable, you can make sure you want to keep going to the gym.
    9. Create a Ritual – Your workout routine should become so ingrained that it becomes a ritual. This means that the time of day, place or cue automatically starts you towards grabbing your bag and heading out. If your workout times are completely random, it will be harder to benefit from the momentum of a ritual.
    10. Stress Relief – What do you do when your stressed? Chances are it isn’t running. But exercise can be a great way to relieve stress, releasing endorphin which will improve your mood. The next time you feel stressed or tired, try doing an exercise you enjoy. When stress relief is linked to exercise, it is easy to regain the habit even after a leave of absence.
    11. Measure Fitness – Weight isn’t always the best number to track. Increase in muscle can offset decreases in fat so the scale doesn’t change even if your body is. But fitness improvements are a great way to stay motivated. Recording simple numbers such as the number of push-ups, sit-ups or speed you can run can help you see that the exercise is making you stronger and faster.
    12. Habits First, Equipment Later – Fancy equipment doesn’t create a habit for exercise. Despite this, some people still believe that buying a thousand dollar machine will make up for their inactivity. It won’t. Start building the exercise habit first, only afterwards should you worry about having a personal gym.
    13. Isolate Your Weakness – If falling off the exercise wagon is a common occurrence for you, find out why. Do you not enjoy exercising? Is it a lack of time? Is it feeling self-conscious at the gym? Is it a lack of fitness know-how? As soon as you can isolate your weakness, you can make steps to improve the situation.
    14. Start Small – Trying to run fifteen miles your first workout isn’t a good way to build a habit. Work below your capacity for the first few weeks to build the habit. Otherwise you might scare yourself off after a brutal workout.
    15. Go for Yourself, Not to Impress – Going to the gym with the only goal of looking great is like starting a business with only the goal to make money. The effort can’t justify the results. But if you go to the gym to push yourself, gain energy and have a good time, then you can keep going even when results are slow.

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