Monday, August 31, 2015

If It's Late August, I Must Be In the Throes of a Panic Attack

It's late August, isn't it?  Yeah, I could tell because I'm kind of hyperventilating.  

It happens every year at this time, and yet I never think to head it off and it always takes me by surprise.  It's funny how I can be smack in the middle of my August anxiety episode, sure that the universe is caving in around me and I will not be able to claw my way out of the debris alive, before I remember, "Ohhhhh, right....  I know what this is.  It's the beginning on a new school year and I'm suffering from my annual all-the-syllabuses-all-at-once panic attack." 

I've always put pressure on myself to do well in academic related pursuits, but I don't think my performance anxiety (academic performance anxiety, that is) didn't start until high school.  It was in high school when teachers started giving you lots of paperwork at the beginning of the year telling you what's expected of you throughout the entire rest of the year.  So you have an entire year's worth of assignments and expectations in front of you and you feel a pit begin to rapidly form in your stomach, your throat starts to close up, your hands get sweaty, and your heartbeat quickens, and you start to shake.  The fear is real.  I will fail.  I cannot possibly do all of this.  

And by the time you get on the subway to go home after the first day of high school, pretending like you're reading a book so that the rowdy public school kids don't see that you're crying... 

...or by the time you call your mom on the Friday afternoon of the first week of your freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior years of college and start hyperventilating into the phone... 

...or by the time you freak out in front of your husband for the fourth year in a row that this is going to be the hardest homeschooling year yet -- our children will never learn anything because we have babies or toddlers or preschoolers whose primary purpose in life is to sideline homeschooling...'s too late.  You're deep, deep, deep into the beginning-of-the-school-year panic attack that will only begin to dissipate when you recall, through the weight of fear and anxiety and overwhelmed-ness, that this happens every year.  This is nothing new.  It feels very familiar and awful at the same time.  It's ok to indulge in a little panic because it helps to set me on course and then it will pass.  

It's part of who I am and how I operate to have academic performance anxiety episodes periodically throughout the year.  They keep me from getting too nonchalant about the schedules and assignments and expectations.  They force me to plot and plan and problem solve.

Even though the kids and I homeschool year round (though with a significantly lighter load in the summer) I still suffer from the panic attacks of my youth.  It happens when the second half of August inevitably takes me by surprise.   The older kids will start at their study center soon and our work load will increase.  A lot.  Every year, after the initial freak out event, I harness my panick-y energy and make lists and plans and plot out all the changes we'll implement so that we can just get through the year.  Some of them stick. (like this and this)  Some of them don't.  Some of them are just therapeutic - like last week I realized that a cluttered pantry door was going to be the downfall of our school year and I applied my creative problem solving solutions and some 3M hooks to create a system that would allow my kids to retrieve and put away their own lunch bags.  I have no idea if this will actually streamline anything on the days we have to be out the door at 8 AM, but it was a very therapeutic project ;)  

This year I'm also trying to streamline food prep with a pre-determined lunch schedule for the first time.  Until now we've just eaten whatever I can come up with at noon.  But the next month or so I'm going to try a lunch plan - we'll have the same thing every Monday, same thing every Tues, etc... and I'm borrowing Gina's great idea of having my older kids take responsibility for making the lunches on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We're going to try it and see how it goes...  

I've also sat down with the boys to chat with them about why I think this year will be so tricky and to ask them to help me brainstorm creative ways to get all our work done.  Locking Sweet Baby James in his room is not an option...  but since he's not napping in the morning anymore we're going to try a plan where each boy will take a 10 - 20 minute time slot with James.  They'll play together upstairs while I work with the other boy.  Maybe I'll add a baby gate on the door so they can leave the door open.......   maybe a CD player for music up there....... 

It's all still in the plotting and planning phase, but thankfully I've gotten past the "Oh my Zeus, there is no way I'm going to get through this year!  I might as well quit now because failure is inevitable" phase.  It wouldn't be a new school year without the panic attack, and it's like an old friend come to visit when it does hit, but it's nice that I'm wise enough now to recognize it for what it is, pat it on the back, and say Yep, this year will be hard, but I've got the brains to sort through it, the determination to make it work, and the skills to tackle it.

Just as soon as I stop hyperventilating. 

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  1. OK #1, I am copying your lunch box idea RIGHT NOW. That's so cute!!! Something about low hooks at kiddie height makes me all gooey inside. I actually got nauseaus last year when I realized we'll have to raise our coat hooks soon because Anna's winter coat nearly hits the ground right now. Nooooo stop growing!!!

  2. And #2, if you weren't homeschooling, you might be avoiding these panic attacks. Instead, YOUR CHILDREN would be having them. Or at the very least, you'd all be sharing one. So YAY for you keeping school awesome and panic-attack free for your kids. :)

  3. I love how you put a positive spin on it. Channeling all that energy into something good. If anything I feel TOO relaxed (read: unmotivated) this year!

  4. Oh I have a #3! I'm so chatty today. :). Clara danced with a homeschoolingg family of eight... The Mom totally scheduled "toddler time" in the mornings for the older kids, to rotate through 20 mins of playing with the baby each. Worked!! Nurturing and baby care are valuable life skills! :)


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