On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

Last week we hit a new milestone.    

A new adventure awaits!

We loaded the minivan and moved my stepdaughter into the dorm.  Even after a week, I can’t even begin to write the words of how that day, the whole experience felt; but, if you’ve already passed this milestone, you know.

We are now practically empty nesters. A quick Google search for empty nester always mentions freedom!  Celebrate it!  

Serendiptiously, I had binged Gretchen Rubin’s Happier podcasts while flying back from Belgium and one her quotes lept into my brain:

“Secret of Adulthood:  Make sure the things we do to make ourselves feel better don’t make us feel worse.” -Gretchen Rubin

Admittedly, when you’re an adult, there’s lots of things that can make you feel better in the moment but later on will definitely make you feel worse. 

During the college’s move in weekend, my husband stop by the grocery store near the campus and commented to the checkout cashier that soon the students would be back. The cashier agreed and commented, “This week, it will be all the moms coming through buying ice cream because they’ve left their babies at school!”

Hmmm…many of us adults seek comfort in food, staying up too late or other vices and eventually pay the price.  

Empty nest isn’t an excuse to be careless.  It’s time to be the adult. 

As if this quote didn’t wake me up to the pitfalls of extra time on my hands, we also got the message from the school!

We went to the parent meeting and this was one of the handouts: 

Nothing like facing reality head on!

Sitting there in the college’s auditorium, flipping through this homesickness brochure, I quickly realized that although it was meant to be a resource for the parents… a roadmap on monitoring their student’s homesickness, I realized it was also for the parents on how to navigate their   homesickness away from their student. 

Contained within the trifold paper, the seasoned counseling professor had this gem Pillars of Good Health. Again, written for the parent monitoring their student but also good advice for the parents as well.  

Here are the Pillars of Good Health:

  • Proper Sleep 8-10 hours a night
  • Exercise At least 3 times per week
  • Eating Small healthy meals more often
  • Thinking Correctly Positive self-esteem
  • Proper Hygiene Use those showers…brush those teeth!

Given hygiene is normally not a problem for adults, the rest of the list looks like pretty sound advice.  How often do adults follow the first 4 pillars of good health?  

This new season motivates me to get more sleep, exercise more, and thoughtfully plan healthy meals.

Empty nest can also bring about negative emotions as well.  Parents can fall into depression or even lose their sense of purpose because she was Living. For/Through. The. Child. 

Adults need to self manage their own health.

I’ve been flying some lately and was reminded of the safety instruction to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before assisting others.  

Perspective is everything!

Self care combats against depression or loss of purpose.Heck, self care is needed for every parent of kids out there, whether at home or at college! 

Practicing self care is blogged about almost daily, but how many of us in real life actually practice it?
Of course, I must take care of myself first. But when my agenda is interrupted by a phone call to pick up a child because the plans have changed, self care pretty much gets shoved aside. 

Empty nest is the perfect time to begin the habit of self care. And guess what?  I’m actually doing it because I do have that extra time in my days to take care of myself!

Intentionally, I finally drew that Epsom salt bath (after buying the salts over a year ago)!  My husband and I biked the entire Mammoth Cave bike trail!  We are getting 8-10 hours of sleep now! Yippee!! 

If your nest isn’t at the empty stage yet but the kids are headed back to school, I feel you too. 

Embrace the new {school} routine.

 Sit down with pen and paper and analyze how your day/week is divided up.  Use Gretchin Rubin’s quote as a jumping off point. Ask yourself “are these activities making myself/my spouse/my child feel better or feel worse?”  Eliminate one activity that makes you feel worse. If you are in the mix, with no empty nest in sight, also eliminate one activity that makes your spouse/kid feel worse. 

Review the 5 Pillars of Health and honestly ask yourself how you can improve in at least one area and one concrete step towards that improvement. 

Above all, give yourself some grace. Nobody’s life is lived perfectly, so embrace the messiness and let go of your outcomes of what it all is supposed to look like! 

I’d love to hear your strategies in coping/thriving through empty nest!  Comment below and let’s keep the conversation going!

    8 thoughts on “On Being the Adult, Experiencing Empty Nest & Strategies to Thrive

    • August 26, 2015 at 1:00 pm

      Very well written and apt! Thank you!!!

      Personally, I’ve learned that making baby steps towards parental independence even a year or two before they fly away is helpful (more time away from your child doing things YOU want to do). It may sound paradoxical, but it avoids ‘cold turkey’ syndrome. They’re more ready, and you’re more ready. It’s truly a very exciting time for everyone. It is okay to be tearful and wistful, but the positive mindset you referred to is so very helpful.

      • August 26, 2015 at 1:05 pm

        Oh…I like that Jazz…because empty nest can hit ha like a ton of bricks. Thanks for sharing that advice…it’s truly an exciting time with the right mindset!!

    • August 27, 2015 at 5:16 pm

      Ok, Bethann, I would really love to get to know you better! We just dropped our middle child 8 hours from home at college last week as well. Your post was good medicine for me as we struggle to discover a new normal. We only have one left in the nest now and everything just seems out of sorts. Great words!…I wish we lived close and knew each other because apparantly we enjoy and appreciate ALOT of the same authors (my stack right now has Emily, Brene, and Jen waiting), I’m an IF:local leader and live in the country. Here’s to kindred spirits!

      • August 27, 2015 at 5:31 pm

        Kelli, hugs about the drop off and I’m glad my post could help some! Yes! It definitely seems we are kindred spirits!!

    • August 28, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      Bethann, we just made the same journey, and i wrote about it, too! we had the added adventure of four younger siblings who took the parting even harder than we did. but God has been so gracious to encourage us through messages and calls from our guy, and through encouraging words from those who are sharing this new season of his life! you shared some great tips – thank you!

      • August 29, 2015 at 8:07 am

        Awww…hugs for the empty nest. I’ll hop over to see your post about your experience! We all have to get through this together, right?!

    • September 1, 2015 at 8:55 am

      What perfect timing and reminders of the need, i.e. ‘opportunity’, for self care, etc. I’m in 2nd year of empty nest, and I’ve been blessed by a growth spurt of time with my hubby – a sweetness amidst some loss. Hope you find even more sweet places in your journey!

      • September 1, 2015 at 5:04 pm

        Thanks For the encouragement Sandra! We’re looking for the sweetness too!


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