01 May 3 Ways to Avoid the Zombie Apocalypse This Summer
By Jeremy “Ferg” Ferguson, LMFT
Ah, May. What a wonderful month to behold. Spring is saying its last farewells as we venture forth into summer, a season of awe, promising excitement and adventure. I have fond memories of Summer growing up. The smell of the hot air. The yellow sunlight. The days of playing in the sprinkler in our front lawn. Drinking the ice cold lemonade that Mrs. Finch offered from her back porch. Playing trading card games on my friend’s front porch, then chasing after the cards after the wind blew them away. The family trips. Vacation bible school. Summer camps. The transition from the hot outside, to the air conditioned indoors. Scarfing down lunch so that I could rush back to help my friends defeat the super villain that was hiding out in my dad’s red 1986 Ford Ranger (HQ). Summer was so…free…alive.
Is it just me, or has that life become hard to find? Where did that sense of awe and adventure go?
I am a go-getter. I strive to achieve goals and to maximize my productivity. But in doing so, I have noticed that I have become busy. And not in the exciting busy like running the lemonade stand at the neighborhood yard sale. Like distracted busy. There is always one more email to write, more research to be done, and more expectations to meet. I don’t know about you, by sometimes I feel like a productivity zombie, running on pure instinct, not even aware of some of the things going on around me.
Or the people around me…
How has your busyness affected your family? How has it affected your relationship with your spouse? How about your relationship with yourself? “Put your head down, the weekend will be here soon. You can connect with your family on Saturday,” we tell ourselves….Then Saturday was suddenly yesterday, and you spent it catching up on paperwork, finishing a work project, or calling clients. “Crap!” Personally, I have a problem with allowing my distractions to infect my relationship with my wife. But sometimes I don’t see that there is an infection until I notice that I have zombified her as well!
Yes, its contagious!
You know what it is? My priorities are out of whack! I make my busyness a priority…not my wife. Before you know it, I am off searching for brains to devour. Head down. Instinct.
Now, I am not saying that we should never go through busy seasons…We will, and it would be unreasonable for us to expect a busy-seasonless life. However, your busy season should come to an end and not last for years. You know what I am talking about.
“When did you do that to your hair?”
“…About six months ago, honey…”
We have to be vigilant and intentional about not allowing our busyness to take control of our lives. Don’t worry! I am here to help you. Below are three symptoms that I have noticed that will help you know when you might be infected with this zombie virus accompanied by some helpful rules of thumb so that you and your family can use fend off the inner zombie horde.
You get overly angry at interruptions:
Okay. Now, I get angry when I am in the middle of something and I get interrupted. And anger is normal. It tells us that someone crossed a boundary. So it makes sense. It’s when we get unreasonably angry, when it ruins our whole night, that it becomes a problem. So you’re writing up an expense report and your child walks in the room…don’t flip your lid. Take a deep breath, and remember that they are a higher priority in the grand scheme of life than the flow you’ve got working for you. Interruptions suck. They really do. But so does the fallout after having a yelling fit. Let’s not callous the hearts of your family for the sake of being productive.
Great rule of thumb: Bond before boundary.
“My relationship with you is more important than my feelings right now. I love you. Now let’s set some ground rules for when I have the door closed….”
You and your partner are reporting more than relating:
I AM SO GUILTY OF THIS! I get home after a long day and start taking care of house-hold business or will tell my wife all the things that I need to get done.
“I went by the store and picked up some groceries.”
“Did you get the stuff I asked for.”
“Yeah, I got it. They were out of spinach, though. I’ll have to go back later this week.”
Not even a “hello.” Straight to business. Like two ships passing each other on the sea. “Well, it was good to see you. May you have fair waters ahead!”
While this is important, a prioritized spousal relationship does not orbit around all the to-dos that have to be done to run a household. Orbit around a friendship connection. Relate. Pursue.
Another rule of thumb: Connect first. Then report.
My wife and I are working at this one. We practice this almost daily, and we are getting better at it. The first thing we do when we get home after work is walk to the other and make a connection. Sometimes, this is a lingering kiss. Other times is a quick cuddle. Then on occasions it’s a fun dance in the kitchen to some Pogo music. (Check him out on YouTube™!) However you choose to connect with your spouse, make sure it more of a face to face connection. This will help keep the infection at bay.
You feel like you can’t rest until you have everything on your checklist complete:
Guys! This one hits home…SO HARD! I have a hard time relaxing when I have things looming over my head. I will stay awake at night thinking about all the things I have to do tomorrow. Or I’ll be sitting down to watch a movie with my wife for the weekend and I’ll find myself mentally drifting off into the void of task management.
“I need to do that when we are finished with this movie, and then I’ll need to finish the report I am working on after that….wait…is that Mel Gibson? Crap. I missed that last half hour…what is happening?”
Rule of thumb: Make time to rest. You will always have to-do’s to do.
When I realized that there will always be stuff to do, I was able to allow myself to disengage from my mental task master. “It’s okay, this will be here again tomorrow. I’ll just crush it then.” Having a boundary for myself gives me more mental space, and when I have more mental space, I find that I am able to re-engage that part of me from summers gone by and stave off the emotional rigor mortis that I feel tugging at my inner person.
Now this wouldn’t be a Ferg blog unless I gave you some intentional action steps…because…you know…PRACTICALITY! (HUZZAH!)
Action Steps: Be intentional. Have a sit down conversation with your family, with your spouse, and most importantly…yourself. Ask your partner how your can prioritize him/her. Ask your kids about how they like to connect with you. (I would suggest without screens, but this is not a must) Then ask yourself, truly ask, “Am I too busy to be intentional with my own internal world? How am I being distracted right now? What are some things I can say no to?”
Being aware of these things and taking these action steps can go a long way in preventing or even ending the Zombie Apocalypse this summer. I realize that there are several more symptoms of busyness-zombification that I could have mentioned. These were just some that resonated with me. You have probably noticed some of your own while reading this blog. That’s great! POST THEM IN THE COMMENTS! Help the rest of us out by sharing your insights as well. Together we can not just survive, we can truly thrive in a world full of zombies.
Now if you excuse me, my summer is just getting started. I gotta get back to HQ. My friends are waiting.