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Dear Dr. Debra


I loved your column from last January and implemented some of your suggestions for reaching my goals.  I feel I have accomplished so much by following the steps you suggested.  But there are times I am so overwhelmed by everything I have to do that I still don’t feel I’m reaching my full potential.  I work full time, have two preteen kids, a busy husband, and I’m also trying to write.  How can I fit it all in? And not just fit it all in, but do it in a way that makes me calm and not stressed out?


An overworked mother


Dear Mother,


Thank you so much for the compliment on my column.  I’m glad you found the information useful. 


Most of us are so busy with life that it’s hard to focus on our long-term goals.  To reach long-term goals, we need to be taking steps toward them almost every day, and often we don’t have the extra time or energy.  For example, if one of our goals is to lose weight, we have to eat wisely and exercise several times a week.  If we don’t do these two things, we will have a difficult time losing weight and maintaining our weight loss.  Or, in order to buy a new car, you need to cut expenses and save money.  In order to save money, you need to make choices every day about not spending money and finding more inexpensive ways to do things.


The thought of achieving a big goal can be overwhelming.  A good way to avoid being overwhelmed is to borrow the “Just for today” concept from Alcoholics Anonymous.  For a newcomer to the AA program, the concept of never taking another drink seems impossible.  But the idea of not drinking for one day is achievable.  Sometimes the recovering alcoholic needs to amend the “just for today” concept to “just for the next hour” or “just for the next ten minutes.”  By remaining sober for ten minutes, then another ten minutes, then another … a whole, alcohol-free day is achieved.  Therefore, one day at a time, a recovering alcoholic lives a sober life.


If you use the “just for today” concept for an eating plan, then it’s easier to make healthy food choices.  Sometimes, you might need to change the phrase to “Just for this meal, I can eat healthfully.”  That way you always feel you have a future choice to overeat or eat carbs and sweets.  This makes you less likely to rebel and sabotage your diet.  And as long as the sweets are in the future, they aren’t in your stomach.


Let’s say you are the typical working mother who is a writer.  I don’t know your specific goals, but I’m going to guess your goals may be (among others) to:

Be a good mother

Lose 10 (or more) pounds

Exercise three (or more) times a week

Write a book in the next year

Have a loving relationship with your husband


The “just for today” slogan will work for these (and other) areas of your life.  Every morning, you start by saying your “just for today” mantras:

“Just for today, I am a loving and patient mother.”

“Just for today, I eat healthfully.”

“Just for today, I exercise for 30 minutes.”

“Just for today, I write two pages.”

“Just for today, I spend quality time with my husband.”


This is a lot to pack into one day, especially with everything else you have to do.  But if you were to only do it for one day, then you’d manage. The idea is to get creative.  Everyone can be creative for one day.  You might have to work out or write during your lunch hour.  You might need to write while watching your son’s baseball game.  Or you might get in your exercise by walking laps around the baseball diamond while you watch his game.  By planning and using the “just for today” concept, you can make it happen.


Here’s how to put the mantra into effect throughout your day:


You start by eating a nutritious breakfast, and later you have a good lunch.  (Just for today, I eat healthfully.) 


If your goal is to be a more patient mother, then say to yourself, “Just for today, I am a patient mother.”  When your kids challenge you to the point you want to yell, smack them, tear your hair out, give them up for adoption, or murder them, then you might need to take up the mantra, “Just for the next five minutes.”  “Just for the next five minutes, I will take deep breaths, speak calmly, and act lovingly.  I won’t call the adoption agency until five minutes have passed.”  Then five minutes later, you do it again.  You take another deep breath and say to yourself, “Just for the next five minutes, I can be a patient mother...”  You keep doing this throughout the day until your children are tucked in bed sleeping.  After your children are asleep, you congratulate yourself on remaining patient throughout the day.  You have accomplished something wonderful.  You’ve been your best self, even when challenged.  Feel the jolt of self-esteem you receive from overcoming your difficulties. 


Then move on to the next “Just for today” that you haven’t yet accomplished.  If your goal is exercise, then get on the treadmill or get out the exercise video.  (Just for today, I work out for 30 minutes.) If your goal is writing, then sit down at the computer.  (Just for today, I’ll write two pages.)  If your goal is quality time with your husband, you make the time for him.  (Just for today, I set other priorities aside to spend an uninterrupted half hour with my husband.)


I hope by this time next year, you’ve accomplished your goals in a healthy and (relatively) stress-free manner. 


Happy New Year,

Dr. Debra


Feel free to write me with your questions

Debra Holland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychotherapist who specializes in relationships and communication techniques.

To read previous 'Ask Dr. Debra' articles, please visit www.wetnoodleposse.com, where Dr. Debra is a regular contributor, or click here to view the archives.





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