Positive Changes I've Made This Year

Positive Changes to Reduce Stress and Increase Contentment

Today is my birthday (thank you; 38 - no, 37 - no, 38 - 39? - 38, definitely; thanks!) and that means a certain amount of taking stock: what have I done with the past year?

If you've been reading my blog for a while, you'll know that I've got no interest in torturing myself into the THE IDEAL ME or in counting up my calories; for me, this year has been a successful one because I've reached the end of it calmer and more contented than I was twelve months ago.

Partly, that's because my twenty month old toddler sleeps better and plays more engrossing games than my eight month old baby did. But there are also things I've consciously done which have led to a more relaxed life.

I have:

Forged Friendships
With my parent friends heading back to work and some of my pre-baby friends having either moved or drifted away, I knew I needed to sort out a new lease of social life. Somehow, I found the courage to exchange more than just awkward smiles with other parents in the park; blogger meets have led to some strong friendships; and I've been braver about making plans with casual acquaintances I'd like to know better. I've also joined a book group as a guarantee that at least once every six weeks I'll get to sit down with a bunch of grown ups and chat about something other than children's TV (I'm under no illusions that this will be the book).

Prioritised Couple Time
By the time Steve and I have done MM's bedtime (one of us, turn about) and washed the dishes (the other one of us, turn about), the evening's half over; it's all too easy for the remaining couple of hours to vanish into separate internet voids. So we've scheduled weekly "Sarah-and-Stevenings" (that's what it says in the calendar; Steve can't quite bring himself to speak the words out loud for fear of - I don't know - turning into Zooey Deschanel or something). Quite often we just sit next to each other on the sofa and watch Grimm. But we're consciously doing it together. And not logging into Facebook.

Scheduled Admin Time
The first Monday night of every month is set aside for transferring photos from my camera and phone onto my laptop and for backing up my files; a little time every Sunday evening is spent organising my to do list for the week ahead. Having these basic tasks in the calendar is helping me keep on top of them (and the to do lists are proving invaluable).

Accepted Help and Favours
Whether that be our neighbour taking MM to the park for a few hours or a friend driving me to The Big Shops Down The Beach, I've ditched the "oh, I'm being such a nuisance" mindset. If they've offered, they don't mind doing me the favour. Or, if they do mind, they'll soon learn not to make such ill-thought-out suggestions in the future. Not only are these kind acts helpful but there's comfort in feeling like part of a community.

Started Online Grocery Shopping
It's a bit of a parenting cliche to talk about your toddler having a meltdown in the supermarket. I've never been through that. Because I don't take my toddler to the supermarket. Steve and I spend ten minutes on a Sunday evening ordering our weekly shop; the money we save on impulse bought cakes cancels out the £1 we spend on delivery; and it saves either of us having to waste an hour of our lives traipsing to and around the supermarket with a bored toddler in the buggy and lugging the shopping back home. This was a tiny change to our routine which had a huge, positive impact on our lives.

Bought a King Size Duvet 
Another tiny change. We have a double bed and we're keeping our double bed - but we've switched to a king size duvet so we don't have to do the cold night tug of war any more. I'm still mourning my beautiful vintage double duvet covers but at least we're both sleeping better.

Developed A Loose Social Schedule
MM and I tend to see the same people on the same days each week/month and to not see each other for a couple of hours at the weekend. It's reassuring to have enough loose plans in the calendar that I'm not fretting about finding something - anything - to do, pleasant to have a bit a routine to our week, and a comfort to feel like our lives have jigsawed with those of people we like. I also cherish the tiny bit of time to myself (which I refuse to spend folding laundry).

Ditched the Structured Toddler Activities
On the other hand, MM and I have ditched the carefully structured toddler classes. She's at an age when she doesn't want to be handed a toy, told how to play with it for three minutes, then have it taken away from her; she wants to be free to roam the room and experiment however and with whatever she sees fit. And that's fine by me because I'm at a stage when I no longer need somebody else to tell me how to entertain my child.

Accepted That My Blog Is Just For Fun
I've written about this before - about rejecting the pressure to write the perfect blog and striving just to enjoy this space instead. As part of that, I've axed the affiliate links and found myself refusing a lot more product offers and event invites; I've noticed that I've naturally stopped checking my stats, worrying if I don't post for a couple of weeks and giving too much thought to how my posts are going to go down with my readers. I've also lost interest in using social media as a networking and blog promotion tool; I still scroll through Instagram a lot and pin like crazy but I seem to have utterly lost my love of Twitter.

So today I turn 38 with a calmer, more organised and more fulfilling life than when I turned 37.

And my hopes for this year? Connecting with more like minded parents locally; less concern about our finances (Steve's up for redundancy again); and... well... actually... things are pretty good as they are.

Slice of [hypothetical] cake, anybody?