By Danit Schusterman for COLlive Magazine
Shternie Wuensch is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who works with individuals and couples in Miami, Florida, and via Skype with clients around the world. She runs therapy groups, workshops and retreats.
Rivka Caroline is a mother, rabbi’s wife, and professional time-management consultant in Miami, Florida. She holds a Master’s degree in psychology and is in the process of getting her second.
Rus Devorah Wallen, LCSW, ACSW is a social worker and psychotherapist, administrative consultant, lecturer and community leader. She and her husband Eliyohu live in Amherst, New York.
Raizel Schusterman is a certified positive psychology practitioner who works with both teens and adults. She is the program director at Chabad of Peabody in Massachusetts with almost 20 years of professional experience.
Here are their helpful and practical tips to a calmer and more enjoyable Pesach:
1. Pesach isn’t spring cleaning
Rivkah: Pesach is about having a home and kitchen kosher for Pesach and nurturing the family, so let’s be clear: It has nothing to do with spring cleaning. This can become problematic because if we spend all our time throwing out junk, we are not spending time actually ridding our house of chametz and preparing it for Pesach. Instead, we may be left trying to catch up on what actually has to get done. Another reason: Cleaning for Pesach is a sacred activity and should not be confused with anything else.
2. Don’t compare yourself to others
Raizel: Don’t compare yourself to others – ever. This is not fun for any players. Stop judging yourself compared to someone else. Don’t look at someone who is eating Pesach food three weeks early and have all their juices squeezed and frozen. Do what works for you, what brings you joy, do what works for your family.
2. List it
Raizel: When we are overwhelmed, it is very effective to make lists. Write everything that is on your mind down on paper. By writing things down, it helps the brain by doing something practical with these thoughts.
Shternie: To-do lists, calendar planning, menus, and job charts. Write down tasks, break them down in order of priority, make a calendar grid, and plan out your weeks and days. Stay realistic. Don’t overreach. Start each morning with your list, and stay focused. And when you are tackling your tasks, stay focused on them, be present, breathe. You get to be mindful and intentional in your preparation.
3. Make false deadlines
Rivka: Employ Parkinson’s paradox- a task will expand to the time allotted. Give yourself false deadlines. Don’t leave things to the last minute.
4. Delegate (whatever is possible)
Shternie: Be direct and clear with the help you need. Family meetings and job lists help everyone feel included and involved.
Raizel: Know your character strengths and the strengths of those around you. Divide and conquer. Give out jobs according to ability and interest, make a timeline and date. This will automatically calm your brain, it tells your brain, ‘I’ve got this, I’m on top of this.’
5. Don’t overdo it
Rivkah: Don’t be frumer than the Rav. Don’t assume you need to do things. The rav answers YOU, not the questions. A Rav wants to save Yiddishe time and energy so check that you’re not wasting your precious time.
Raizel: There is no mitzvah in making 8 different kugels and 12 different salads. Nowhere does it say that we need to make fancy delectable desserts that take hours of preparation. Be practical, keep your menu simple.
6. Make it meaningful
Shternie: Find the magic. Think about what feeds you and fills you up most – family time, enjoying relationships, spiritual ritual and meaning. Ask yourself what you are looking forward to most. Don’t miss those moments. This yomtov gets to be enjoyable too. Allow yourself those moments. Create them. Pause there. and enjoy them.
7. Make it fun
Raizel: Pesach should be joyful, not stressful. Practice Yiddishkeit and Chassidishkeit with joy, not ‘oy.’ Play music in the house, get the kids involved, make challenges, give out treats when tasks are completed or plan an outing. Make it fun and happy.
8. Don’t forget about yourself
Rus Devorah: Take a break from Pesach cleaning. It sounds counter-intuitive. But, believe it or not, taking short, meaningful breaks that are intended for relaxation and gaining composure can actually make the whole Passover prepping process more pleasant and less of an ordeal. Such brief breaks can even optimize your experience and help you arrive at the Seder table with more “freedom” than you imagined.
Shternie: When you are resourced, a happier and more filled up you is able to face the responsibilities and tasks ahead. Whatever helps you feel tended to, include that, get the sleep you need, eat nourishing meals, take time for quiet, fitness or movement practices, or being in nature. A quiet walk around the neighborhood in the morning before everyone wakes up is a great way to get all three of those in a 20 minutes block. Positive self-talk can be really helpful too, focusing on what went well each day, jotting those things down, and being mindful for what you are grateful for.
9. And… breathe
Rus Devorah: Dr. Victor Frankl, so aptly put it: “Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Through meditation and relaxation techniques, we can create a longer “space” so we have the power to choose our response. This is what I call, the ability to respond, or “ResponsAbility.” It is the “responsible” thing to carefully choose our response to all situations especially during this busy and somewhat stressful time.
Wishing you all a kosher and happy Pesach!
This article was first published in the COLlive Magazine – Pesach Magazine for 5780, distributed free in Crown Heights grocery stores and online.