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How do you feel most days? Calm, focused and purposeful? Stressed, scattered and distracted? Or something in between? Many women yearn for calm but feel stressed, as if they’re being pulled in a dozen directions. They aspire to a peaceful home, an organized office, a manageable schedule and a little time to relax with their families, but instead find that they’re running on empty, trying to do entirely too many tasks each day. If that’s the way you feel, here are some ideas for reducing stress and living more calmly.
- Infuse your day with prayer. If you’re like me, you frequently forget this obvious and important step! I tend to charge through my days, tackling my to-do list without asking God what He wants me to do. Ask Him for guidance each day. Ask what He wants you to accomplish today/this week/this month and for the strength to accomplish those things. He won’t ask us to do things He doesn’t equip us (spiritually, physically, emotionally or intellectually) to do. Yes, we’ll experience times when our resources are put to the test, but I think we often create difficult times we weren’t meant to face. We drive ourselves crazy, because we’re doing things He hasn’t called us to do. They may be very good things, but they may not be “our” things.
- Set priorities. Work with your husband to set realistic priorities for your family. What is most important to the two of you? What is God calling you to do? What do you want to focus on over the next year? You may need to limit your priorities to just a few, especially if you have children at home. I like to think of it as “framing” your family’s life, then keeping the things you do inside the “frame” you have established.
- Calibrate your expectations. Once you’ve identified your priorities, set realistic expectations. For example, if homeschooling is a priority, you’ll probably need to say no to some commitments and accept that your house won’t stay neat and clean most of the time. If spending more time together as a couple is a priority, you may need to let go of some activities, even some that are very worthwhile. Or if you’ve started to work outside your home, then you’ll have to let go of some things you did when you stayed home. Set realistic expectations so you don’t end up disappointing yourself continually. You just can’t do it all – no one can.
- Manage your family’s schedule. In many families, mom and dad are not controlling the schedule. Some families are allowing the children to determine how the family’s time, energy and money are spent. In others, no one is deciding – family members just commit to activities without any plan for best using the family’s resources. The most obvious culprit is children’s activities – sports, lessons, and social activities can absorb every moment of free time and then some! But parents can overcommit too, allowing their church, community and social activities to suck up inordinate amounts of time. If you want to maintain any kind of calm and sanity, you and your husband must manage your family’s schedule.
- Organize the things that create stress in your life. You know those little things that drive you crazy on a regular basis – the missing school papers, bills lost in piles of mail, closets crammed with clothes nobody wears, children’s rooms strewn with toys? They seem small, but they cause major stress for many women. Do you have any of those (or similar) disorganized messes at your house? (I do!) If so, pick just one and organize it this week. Next week, maintain it and begin to work on one more. Over a month or two, you’ll reduce significant sources of stress in your life. Think you don’t have time to tackle even one? Then pick one and work on it for 15 minutes a day until you have it under control. Then start on another one.
- Practice health habits that reduce stress and increase calm. The way you treat your body influences your stress level. If you treat your body poorly, you’re more likely to feel stressed and worn out. And your risk of getting sick increases. So take care of the body God gave you! Exercise regularly – walking 30 minutes a day improves your fitness and reduces your stress. Eat more real foods – processed and fast foods don’t provide all the nutrients your body needs, and they introduce chemicals and preservatives it definitely doesn’t need. And get enough sleep. Almost everyone needs 7-8 hours each night. Try these health habits for several weeks – I think you’ll feel more relaxed and energetic.