I've always thought there was something invigorating about September. It's the perfect time for new starts. The school year begins, you've survived six weeks of school holidays, and it's a great time for fulfilling some of your own ambitions or making some lifestyle changes: a course, a new job, or just finding some much needed "you time".
But if like lots of parents who have devoted most of their time to looking after their kids, going back to work or even starting a course can be challenging.
But it can be as easy as A. B, C! Follow the guide for an easier transition into fulfilling your goals.
How many times have you kicked yourself for saying "yes" when you really wanted to say "no"? Whether it's baking a cake for the PTA, looking after a friend's child, or taking your partner's clothes to the dry cleaners, many of us take on too much simply because we are worried we'll upset other people. We end up resentful.
But it doesn't have to be like that. By being assertive you can regain control.
Assertiveness is a word which can conjure up images of someone shouting and controlling. Nothing could be further from the truth. Assertiveness is when you express your own needs, wants and feelings, but in a manner which is constructive and which allows others the opportunity to express their own. In other words, it's the opposite of being aggressive or passive.
The way you express yourself has a much impact as what you say. Experts believe that if you acknowledge the other person's feelings, before you state your own needs, they are more likely to be receptive to what you say. So when you can't bake that cake, or babysit, it's better to say "I am sorry. I know this is going to be a disappointment, but I can't at the moment." Another option when you are put on the spot is to ask for time. You don't have to say yes or no immediately. "I might be able to, but I need to think about it - I'll get back to you by the end of today."
Becoming more assertive takes practice, so try it out in safe situations, with your family, before you do it at work or with strangers.
What have you done today, just for you? Have you read a book? Gone for a walk? Had a long soak in the bath? Have you switched off at all from the responsibilities of parenting or work? If not - why not?
The phrase work-life balance has become a cliché, but that doesn't mean there is no truth in it. Looking after yourself, so you are fit to look after other people is essential. But too many of us put our own needs at the bottom of the list.
If this seems all too familiar try this:
• Make a list of what you enjoy doing, what you like to do to re-charge your batteries, and what you would do if only you had the time.
• Take a long, hard look at all the commitments you have and see if you can ditch just one of them - or more! You are not indispensable.
• Make a commitment to take some time out for yourself - it might be an hour a day or an hour a week. But do it. And write it in your diary or on the calendar. Stick with it as if it were a meeting with someone else.
September is the time when classes and courses start, and it can be the ideal time to go back into work if you have been at home and your child is going to full time school.
Is anything holding you back? Maybe a lack of confidence? What can you do to build confidence?
Gladeana McMahon, counsellor, psychotherapist, author and coach, suggests the following five ways:
• Stop discounting yourself. Recognise your personal qualities. Write a list of them all.
• Learn to appreciate life. Positive psychology shows that writing down three things you are pleased with each day boosts confidence and self esteem. This might include "I am lucky to have lovely children" or "I'm a good friend."
• If you look good, you'll feel good. You don't have to spend a fortune to update your style. Browse Ebay and have cheap beauty or hair treatments at your local college.
• Think about what you need. Take control of your life and start making changes. Try an assertiveness course.
• Take risks. Step outside your comfort zone and do something you find difficult. Watch how confident people behave and you can become confident by mirroring their body language, the way they speak and how they behave.
Check out our New Term, New You part of Back to School for inspiration