Have you ever met a woman who did not have to work at living with balance? Neither have I. Anyone involved in ministry, (whether full time, part time or as a lay person) has probably learned that most of what we do is not 9-5. Life happens and it usually does not fit into our schedule. My January was planned without knowledge that I would be taking a week off for a funeral. My children got sick with the flu. My husband got the flu. I got the flu. I could not manage that time and I’ve yet to find a step by step formula that will. What I have found to be most helpful are a few questions to help me get me back on track when I feel like I’ve fallen off. So these are just some thoughts and suggestions that might be useful to someone else when they are feeling the tension and stress that comes with life.
1. Have I set my priorities? It will be impossible for me to make good choices if I don’t know what is most important.
2. Have I embraced the tension? As long as I am a leader I will never escape the tension. I need to know that it is part of leadership and yet deal with it in healthy ways. Eating right and exercise is one of the most powerful ways to deal with stress.
3. Can I identify the specific areas in which I am experiencing imbalance? Where do I feel the most pressure?
4. What is the reason for the imbalance? Is this just a season due to a deadline, special project, Christmas, Easter, etc? When will the season be over? Having an end date in mind and a break scheduled right after helps to get me through.
5. What three specific steps can I take to correct the imbalance I feel today? What can be delegated? Is there anything in my life I need to stop doing? Is there anything in my life I need to start doing?
The week before Easter I began to feel pressure. In additon to the added ministry at this time of year I have always cooked a huge meal on Sunday. A few days before Easter I identified this as a major stress point. After talking to the family we agreed that I would change the menu to chicken parmigiana, pasta and fresh fruit salad. This freed up several hours for me shopping and cooking. Our family time was more relaxed and enjoyable and the food was great.
6. Am I managing my energy? Am I giving my best energy to my highest priority? There was a time in my life when I realized that I was giving my husband and children the leftovers. Now I am motivated to give them the best of me vs. the worst.
7. How can I create margin? I know this is often difficult to do but it is important. Margin allows me to breathe. Without margin I have nothing for those unexpected emergencies. Margin also allows the Holy Spirit to work.
One of my highest family priorities is building great family memories. We have a lot of traditions in the Seeley household. A favorite is celebrating birthdays for 3 days. This does not mean that Todd is always available to take 3 days off but if possible he will. My husband has taken the children out for a one on one birthday breakfast since they were 2. Last Monday was Aaron’s 10th birthday and we went to Lancaster for 3 days. Neither one of us took a computer along and we did not take any ministry calls unless an emergency came up (which it did not).
These are the few things that help me when I begin to feel stress. What have you learned about balance that might help other readers?