There’s so much talk about “living in the moment.” If you’re like me, you probably have a hard time wrapping your head around that one. It sounds great in theory, but how can anyone just live in the moment when there’s so much on our plates? There are forms to be filled out, lunches to be made, and vacations to be planned. And those are just the immediate concerns! We also have to consider retirement funds, applying to colleges, staying on top of medical appointments, and much more. Being present in every moment just isn’t realistic for most of us who can’t quit our jobs and move to a monastery. So, I propose a more realistic approach to living in the moment. One that doesn’t require an all-or-nothing, time-isn’t-real, the-future-doesn’t-exist kind of outlook. I offer an approach that prioritizes creating moments to live in instead of attempting to live in every moment. Let’s break down exactly how to create more moments to live in.
Come into the moments fulfilled in yourself.
I used to believe that unless I was exhausted, unfulfilled, or sacrificing, I wasn’t the best mom I could be. So I would walk into these experiences with my family where we were supposed to have a great time, and I’d just be so out of it. I was either too tired to really engage, too frustrated with everything I had on my to-do list to set it aside, or too busy making sure everyone noticed what a faithful martyr to their happiness I was to let myself enjoy anything. It wasn’t until I decided to make a change and prioritize myself that I began to have moments in which I was truly present. I found that after I spent time with friends, worked toward a personal goal, or just relaxed for a bit, I could show up for my family with a clear head and really live in the moment. Instead of spending all my time with them but not really there, I shifted from spending quality time with them instead. The minutes were fewer, but they were meaningful.
Practice responding instead of reacting
Is there anything that ruins a moment quite like an outburst of anger? When we carry so much on our shoulders, we often feel like we are one annoyance away from imploding. That ready-to-rip anger means that we are primed to react instead of responding when something happens. And our reactions are usually not ideal. They pull us from the moment because we are so on edge about anticipating them, and then we feel guilty and ashamed at how we handled things. We need to shift our focus to accepting that frustrating, annoying, and angering things will happen. But instead of allowing ourselves to react immediately, we can choose instead to respond. We can take a few deep breaths, count to ten, say a mantra, or do whatever it is we need to do so that when we respond to the situation, it reflects our true intentions, not just our anger. Of course, one of the best ways to ensure we can respond instead of reacting is not to allow our anger to build to the point of explosion in the first place.
“You can’t pour from an empty cup.” “Secure your own oxygen mask before helping others.” Whatever your preferred idiom is, the message is the same: You must care for yourself first. We’ve heard this enough for it to be common knowledge, yet self-care is still the first thing we abandon when our time, resources, or energy dip. There are a few psychological reasons behind this tied to that old flight-or-fight instinct, but there are ways we can overcome it. One is to keep a list of self-care activities handy and use it when you start to feel stressed. Make sure it contains things that actually make you feel better. Yes, that is different from something you like. I like watching TikTok videos, but it’s too easy to end up doom-scrolling and emerging hours later feeling like the world is on fire. Instead, stick to things like taking walks, calling a friend, having a hot shower, or taking a quick nap.
Outsource Things that Pull You from the Moment
If you have things on your plate that are occupying your mind and keeping you from enjoying your time with your family, look for ways to outsource or delegate tasks. Automate systems like grocery pick up or delivery, meal kits, and pet food delivery. Sit with your partner to ensure the division of labor is equal in your home. Assign your children their own responsibilities. And if you have the privilege of expendable income, consider hiring people to do the tasks you dislike, such as cleaning, lawn care, or repairs. There are services available to tackle just about any job you can think of- laundry folding, furniture assembly, and pet walking. There are even apps that make stressful events like car buying and booking airfare significantly less stressful. Front-loading by researching how you can outsource, delegate, and streamline your way to fewer tasks can really pay off in terms of reduced stress. You might be surprised at how much easier it becomes to create moments to really live in when you don’t have a long list of chores hanging over your head.
None of these tips on their own, or even altogether, are going to create a picture-perfect life where you spend every moment fully engrossed with your family. But they can certainly help you ease stress, care for yourself, find fulfillment, and eliminate distractions that make living in the moment, at least some of the time, a bit easier. We cannot control the stress and attitudes of everyone within our families, but we can create the best versions of ourselves. And that, like everything else we put out into the world, can create a ripple effect through our families.