Margin.

Defined by Dictionary.com as

  • the space around the printed or written matter on a page.
  • an amount allowed or available beyond what is actually necessary.
  • a border or edge.

margin

We don’t think much about a margin until we are updating our resume. We decrease the margin as far as possible to fit as much information as possible about ourselves on one page. We also think about margin when we are in school writing a paper, we may increase the margins (and font size) to help us reach our page requirement.  But we don’t tend to think about the concept of margin as it pertains to how we live our life. Life margin is the space that we leave beyond all of the stuff we have to get done. It’s the space we leave beyond all of the things that are necessary. From my time listening to crazy, busy individuals, I hear that there is very little margin left in our days and in our lives in general, but it is incredibly important.

Margin allows space for the unexpected. Something I am trying to work on in my life is to keep a good attitude even when the unexpected happens. I am a planner. When I make a plan, I want things to go just as planned. Well, we all know that is not how life works. I have found that because this is the way I think, I get easily frustrated and I do not want to live a life of frustration. What I am trying to start is to create my plan, but create it with more margin to allow for those inevitable, unexpected challenges in life.

Margin allows space for our mind to recover. This past week and the upcoming week, my co-worker is on a much needed vacation. Therefore, I not only had to make sure my work is getting done, but her workload as well. This is a common situation that we all deal with on a regular basis, especially when a co-worker leaves the company. Not only do you have to cover their work, but you also have to take on the load of training the new person. These situations take away much of the mental margin we have. I know I felt brain fried at the end of each day and had very little to give to the rest of my life. I did not do well with margin last week, so I am going to try to do better this week because my mind, and your mind need a break in order for us to live our best. Yes, there are times we have to push through with little mental margin, but we don’t want to make it an ongoing habit.

Margin allows space for our body to recover. What tends to happen when we go, go, go and go some more? What I see so often is our immune system gets weak and we get sick. Do you realize that wearing ourselves down affects our bodies and our immune system? What breaks my heart even more is when I see wonderful people who are sick still pushing forward because they “should be there” or “can’t miss it” or “it has to get done”. We are not taking care of ourselves and our bodies if we cannot take a break. Building margin into our lives is good for our health.

Margin allows space for calm and intentionality. What is calm and intentionality, right? Calm and intentionality should be listed on the endangered species list because they are almost extinct in our lives today. When we build margin into our lives there is time to sit in the sunshine and take some deep breaths. Margin creates time to get out of reactionary mode and think intentionally about our lives, our relationships, and our future. Calm and intentionality are components of living our best life, but they are likely found in the area of margin in our lives.

If you were me, I would be thinking, “This is great Jen, but how do I do this? How do I create margin in my life?” Well, I am still working on figuring that out myself, but I am going to jump into the “how” in next week’s blog post. In the meantime, your assignment for this week is to think about this concept of margin each day and increase your awareness of it in your life.

Until next week, here’s to keeping some “white space” in our lives, taking some much needed deep breaths and continue to strive to live our best!

What’s the Big Deal About “Keeping Things Simple” These Days?

Think of some of the sweetest moments in your life. It might be a time with a loved one, or it might be a time all by yourself. As you think back to a special occasion, was it filled with busyness and chaos? Even if your special moment was in Times Square at midnight on New Year’s Eve surrounded by people, noise and celebration, I would venture to say that the special moment you had was very sweet, and simple. In most cases, the simplest times in life are the most precious.

simple and importantI go through times in my life where my mind is filled with so many things. There is absolutely nothing wrong with thinking about numerous things, but I have found that my mind can get consumed and start to spiral out of control. Just recently I noticed the mental clutter that was starting to accumulate in my mind. As I traveled through my day I felt weighed down by all of this “stuff” I was carrying around with me. I realized it was time, once again, to do some mental and physical housekeeping.

Here are some of the benefits I have found for keeping my life simple.

 

  • I can focus better. Our minds are very capable to working fast and furious, but they do not work well for long periods of time in that state. I find my mind spinning at times,  jumping from one area of my life to the next. I have found that I need to be very intentional about keeping the clutter out of my mind, and as I do, I am able to focus and think clearer. I have a number of friends and loved ones who have started the process of meditation to clear their minds. Every single one of them have reported positive results. I have not personally studied the practice of meditation, but I have learned techniques to clear my mind of the clutter and keep things simple. Find what works for you, but be intentional about calming your mind and you will find yourself able to focus better.

 

  • I can stay focused on the most important things. There are so many “good” things in our lives, but we want to have time and energy to focus on the “best” things. In addition, we want those “best” things to receive our best, not just our leftovers. I don’t know about you, but I do not have much leftover at the end of my day. Keeping our minds and our lives simple allows us to give our most important things the focus, time, and attention  that they deserve.

 

  • I can focus on generosity and say goodbye to some Rubbermaid totes. A few years back, I read some interesting books on the concept of minimalism. Minimalism, to me, is about getting rid of the clutter in all areas of our lives. One of  topics I learned about, that struck a chord with me, was that there are people in our community and world who cannot afford the simplest things, the things that I take for granted on a daily basis. The benefits of minimalism are numerous, but I love the fact that I can give away or donate the things that I have stashed away in Rubbermaid totes and impact lives right here and now. One example was that I had a portable room heater that was sitting in my closet not being used. When I got into this mindset of being generous to others, I decided to ask someone I knew who lived on a very low-income, if she could use the heater. To find out, she desperately needed that heater to heat part of her trailer. We simply never know how we can help others until we look at the things we are not using through a different pair of glasses. Ask yourself, could someone else benefit from this stuff that I have stored and am not using? Focusing on generosity in our lives has so many benefits.

 

  • My focus lightens my load and brings silliness back into my life. When I am bogged down with mental and physical clutter, I find myself with an intense mindset. I have to stay serious and focused to make sure I am on top of everything. When I an intentional about lightening my load in all areas of my life, I suddenly find myself more light-hearted, silly and able to have more fun. During my most recent job search, I found myself in this intense serious mindset, but at various time when I was able to chill out and let things go, I found myself more relaxed and goofy. I know it is hard in our busy lives, but life is so much more fun when our load is lifted and we can be a little silly.

There are so many benefits to keeping life simple. Our loved ones, coworkers, and even our own health will benefit from simplicity. You are needed and I know you want to be your best and give your best. Take some time today to think about one small baby step you can take to bring simplicity into your life.

Here’s to bringing some silliness into your day today!

Job update: I have been offered a job and have accepted it! I am super excited! But don’t you worry, encouraging you to Live Your Best is one of my “most important” things in life!  My “Weekly Encouragement” and blog posts will continue to be delivered to you each week!

The Secret to Bringing Order, Clarity and Calm to Your Life

We are just a few days away from the New Year! With the new year comes the feeling of a fresh start as well as one of my favorite things, getting back into a routine! The Holidays are so much fun, but for me, there is nothing routine about them.

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I love routine and I live my best life when I can work within a routine. Here is what routine provides for me.

  • Routine bring order to my mind and life. When my routine is established, I try to keep the same things on the same days, at the same times, each week. Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules, but the more I can establish this, the more order it brings to my mind and life. You know, I do not even recognize that the feeling of order is there, until I have a week where my routine is completely thrown off. It is then that I realize how clear minded I was with my routine and then I work hard to re-establish it.
  • Routine brings clarity to my mind and life. When I am running around with my head cut off with no routine in sight, it takes all of my mental power to juggle all the balls and try not to drop them. When I am working within my routine, my mind is freed up to think about other important things. It is freed up to give that word of encouragement to someone who needs it. It is freed up to touch base with family and friends that come to my mind. Routine frees my mind up to dream a little and think about great possibilities.
  • Routine brings calm and peace to my mind and life. Think about the past few weeks. Think about the moment that was the most chaotic and had the least amount of routine for you and your loved ones. If you had to rate your level of calm and peace at that moment anywhere from a 1 to 10, how would you rate it? Can I answer .5? Establishing a routine brings a certain calm and peace that we all desire in our lives.

There is one question with regards to routine that I would love to get your feedback on. How do you establish a routine while still being spontaneous in your life? Spontaneity is not a strength of mine, so I would love to hear your thoughts and I know my other reader would too. Just reply below this blog post so everyone can join in.

Routine is a great thing in our lives, and quite frankly, we are the ones to make it happen. Do you realize that you hold the power to establish a routine for you and your loved ones, providing them with much-needed order, clarity and calm?  That is pretty amazing!
Here’s to order, clarity, calm and a fresh start!

Cherish Every Moment

We are smack dab right in the middle of the Holiday Season! Family is starting to come into town, final preparations are being made for all of the yummy meals we are about to partake in, and those last few trips out to the stores are taking place for last-minute gifts and goodies. All of the preparation of the past few months were made so that the next few weeks are the best they can possibly be. Now it’s time to cherish every moment!
cherish-the-moment-croppedLast night I enjoyed an amazing night with friends. We grabbed dinner at a local restaurant, enjoy glorious ribs with all of the fixings, shared stories around the table, then walked to the park next door to enjoy a walk through Christmas Lights Display. One thing made the night magical. That one things was my choice to make it magical.

You see, I can forget to have fun. I can focus in on the large crowd, and the baby screaming. I can focus on the blog post that I need to write the next day. I can focus on how cold I am or allow my mind to get wrapped up on so many things, that I miss the magical moments right in front of me.

This blog post is scheduled for Thursday, December 22nd. The next week and a half are going to be filled with amazing moments. Here are a few things to help us all cherish every moment.

  • Cherishing every moment requires us to take a deep breath and slow down. When we are rushing around with our heads cut off, we will rush right past these special moments. Today, I took a little bit of time to sit in my favorite chair by my Christmas tree with my puppy on my lap. I had a lot to get done, but I took some time for a breather and cherished that sweet moment. Remind yourself in the next few days to take a deep breath, slow down and enjoy!
  • Cherishing every moment requires us to recognize and savor the experience. I remember the exact moment last night that I did things. The group I was with had stopped to get some hot chocolate. I was off to the side waiting for them when I realized how absolutely beautiful the night was. It was around 30 degrees, chilly, but not too cold. The cold air felt refreshing on my face because that was the only skin showing since I tend to bundle up pretty good in the winter. I suddenly got a waft of the small hot chocolate and it brought great memories to my mind. There were people all around waiting in anticipation for a fireworks display that ended up being spectacular. I was thankful I took the time to savor the moment. Regardless of where you are at; in the kitchen cooking, outside shoveling snow, or even in line at the grocery store, find something to savor.
  • Cherishing every moment requires us to stay in the moment. It can be challenging to stay in the moment when we have numerous places to go and many events to attend. I don’t know about you, but my brain is trying to think about all of the things I have to make sure I don’t forget. I have to keep an eye on the clock to make sure I put the potato dish in the oven on time. Then we have to make sure we are out the door no later than ‘rush-o’clock’ to get to the next location for round two, then round three, and then round… well you get the idea. This can be reality, I know. The question is how, then, can we stay in and enjoy every moment. I’m sure there are a lot of tips and tricks that you all may have and if you do, leave them in the comment section to help us all out. What I try to do is utilize some tools. I use lists. They allow me to take all of the things that are in my brain, get them off my brain and onto paper. Then my brain is freed up to enjoy the moment at hand. I also utilize the alarm on my phone. If I know I need to do something at a certain time, Instead of focusing on the clock, I set my alarm and enjoy my moment at hand. When the alarm goes off, I know it’s time for whatever is next. Do whatever you need to do to stay in the moment.

Merry Christmas Everyone! I can’t wait to see pictures of your cherishing moments if you share them on social media! It makes my heart warm just thinking about them.

You have worked so hard for this to be your Best Holiday Season Ever! It’s time to enjoy it! Cherish every moment. You deserve it!

Two Options for Navigating Obligations and Expectations this Holiday Season

How is everyone doing the day after Thanksgiving? The topic of obligations and expectations may be fresh in your mind. Obligations and expectations during the Holiday Season can be a good thing or a bad thing. There are wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend and there are the not so wonderful events that we feel obligated to attend. The same goes for expectations. Some are healthy, some are not. So how do we navigate these obligations and expectations this Holiday Season so that we can have our best Holiday Season ever?

Mother and daughter baking together

I just recently started reading a book that came highly recommended called Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. Through the years, I have worked hard in my life to keep things as simple and as enjoyable as possible. With that in mind, this book looked like it would enhance what I already knew and held dear. I did not pick the book up with the Holiday Season in mind, but I have found the concepts to be very applicable. Here are two options I want us to consider when it comes to obligations and expectations in the next few months. The direction we decide to take will not be cut and dry, but hopefully, we find a middle ground that will help us to focus on the right stuff.

One option is to say yes, yes and yes. So many times it feels easiest to just say yes to everything and everyone who makes a request of us. We certainly feel a sense of reward when we say yes, because everyone is happy with us. But what happens so many times when we say yes to everyone and everything, is we start to fall into a cycle of “I have to”, “It’s all Important”, and “How can I fit it all in?” We take on so much “good stuff” but we find that other areas in our lives start to suffer. We start to feel out of control and unsure of whether the right things are getting done. Especially during the Holidays, we start to feel overwhelmed and exhausted. I’ve been there, and I am pretty sure you have too. In fact as I have spent time with wonderful individuals already this month, folks are already feeling the stress as they anticipate the months to come. That is heartbreaking to me. The Holidays were never meant to be miserable. They were meant to be filled with wonder and joy! I want to remind you, as I have to remind myself, that we do have a choice in how we fill our time and energy. There is another option.

The second option is to say yes only to the Best things, and no to the rest. The first thing that comes to my mind when I read that heading, is dealing with the many people who I might have to say “no” to. I almost get a knot in my stomach. Wow! It feels so much better to just say “yes”, at least in the short-term. I need you to trust me on this, choosing the best and saying “no” to the rest is the best thing. The initial interaction of saying “no” might be hard, but it will pay dividends in your life and relationships. Greg McKeown even mentions that in the long run, people respect you more for saying “no” and prioritizing what is most important to you. Choose the few best things over a quantity of good things. Saying yes to the best requires making a choice. It requires discerning what really matters. It requires accepting trade-offs, because there is always a trade-off. When we choose the BEST things we feel in control. We get the right things done. We experience more joy in our life. Isn’t that what we all want?

One strategy I have employed over the years when I am unsure whether I should say “yes” to something or not, is to tell people that I will get back with them with an answer. This creates a time of “pause”, which allows me to ask myself how this fits with what is most important to me. Just recently, a friend of mine was looking for volunteers to help with a fundraiser for a very worthy cause. She was getting desperate, so she sent a plea out to her friends and family to see if anyone could help. When I received the message, I held off for a day or so and asked myself if this fit with what is most important to me. I also thought about how it was going to affect my time with my husband. Once I had thought it through I agreed to help. Yes, I said yes! But I only said yes when I knew I was going to have plenty of time with John the rest of that weekend and that volunteering fell in line with an area of my life that is most important to me. When you receive a request, slow things down, take time to think, and know that your “yes” or your “no” is the right thing…is the BEST thing.

We have SO MANY CHOICES with regard to how we spend our time each day and during the Holidays. It is great to have options, but ultimately we have the power to choose. Let’s try to stay zeroed in on what is most important to us and center our lives and our Holidays around those most important people and things.

Thank you Mr. McKeown for your book Essentialism. A number of the above concepts were pulled from a simple graph he created on page 8 of his book. If you want to live more intentional and focus on the few most important things in your life, this is a great book to add to your Christmas Wish List this year.

Here’s to saying YES to our BEST!

Why it is So Hard to Take Time for Ourselves – And How to Fix It

It is Friday night, my husband is out with friends and I could really use a break. Like so many of us, I have been working hard this week as well as working through some unexpected issues that popped up. The question then is, if I could really use a break, why am I still writing this Blog Post? Why is it so hard to stop and rest or stop and do something just for myself? And you know, it’s only going to get harder as the busyness of the Holidays approach. How can we prioritize ourselves, get the rest we need and have some fun too?

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Right now I feel like there is so much that I need to get done. I keep telling myself that I will push through these last few things then rest, but the list of “To Dos” never ends. I desperately need to do some yard work. For some that sounds like more work, but for me that is a very relaxing activity. I love the fresh air, the sun on my face, and getting my hands in the dirt. I am hoping to finish this Blog Post tonight and come tomorrow I am setting the “To Do” list aside and getting outside for some “Jen Time”.

What do I need to do to make that a reality?

  • Prepare. I am going right now and pulling out my yard work clothes. One thing I know I will need in the morning is to remind myself first thing, with my pile of yard clothes, that yard work is the plan for the day. I also need to make it as simple as possible for myself in the morning. The less I have to think about, the better. Let’s say you would love to get up early and go jogging. Pull your clothes and shoes out tonight and have them waiting for you when you get up. Even set out the breakfast you want to eat. Make it as simple as possible. (One moment please, I’m going to get my clothes together…seriously!)
  • Okay, I’m back. What else do I need to do to make sure I have my “Jen Time” tomorrow. Communicate! Earlier, my husband and I were talking about our weekend plans and I let him know that I was going to work out in the yard Saturday morning. This is important because one thing that can pull us away from our needed time is the people we love. It is vital for us to share with each other what our plans are, that we really need the time, and then respect that time. Communication is key.
  • Keep it simple. It is important not to overcommit because our plans can easily turn into more stress. Plan less and if you end up getting more done, it’s a bonus. Folks, this is tricking the mind for our benefit. I am planning to work on just the front landscaping tomorrow. When I get that done, I will feel great! That amount of work can be accomplished in the time I have set aside. Now, if I have time left and decide to do just a few more things, that is going to be a bonus! This applies also for a day out. If you plan four destinations, one right after another and you only get to experience half of them, you feel bummed or you feel like you missed out. Plan one, maybe two things, enjoy them and add more if time allows.
  • Join a friend. Have you ever agreed to go do something with a friend, then at the last minute you REALLY did not feel like going? This happens to me all the time, but I go because I made the commitment to my friend, and what happens? I have a great time! Making plans with a friend keeps us both motivated, and life is so much fun with friends! This example does not completely apply to my landscape work for tomorrow, but I will tell you that silence and solitude are my friends and I will enjoy them tomorrow!

These are just a few ideas. Taking time for ourselves is hard. The reality is, just like everything else that is great in our lives, it takes intentionality to make it happen. We deserve down time and we are better wives, mothers, friends and co-workers when we prioritize it. Do you have any “you” time on your calendar in the next few weeks? If not, block some time off just for you!

Here’s to getting rejuvenated so we can live our Best!

If You are Determined to Live Your Best, You Can Have the Greatest Holiday Season Ever

As you know, living our best does not just happen. It requires thinking, planning and implementation. But we so often take a leap right over the “taking time to think” part and jump right into the planning. It is when we dig in and put some real thought into our lives that we discover some amazing insights. I know life is busy, and having time alone to think is scarce, but it will make a huge difference in your life if you prioritize it.

It is not a coincidence that I am writing about this subject right now. The Holidays are right around the corner and I know we all want them to be wonderful. Because that is my heart as well, I have created some Free Resources that I am very excited about! They come out next week with the express purpose of helping all of us focus on the most important things this Holiday Season. But these resources will do us no good if we don’t take the time out of our busy day to focus on them and ultimately the most important people and areas of our lives. This is going to require determination on your part and a “Can Do” attitude. But I know you want to live your best and you are willing to do what it takes to make that happen!

I have grown to love my “time to think” and you will come to cherish it as well. Here are a few things to help you make it happen.

  1. Make arrangements. If you have young children at home, make arrangements so that you can get away. This may require you to talk to a friend and have them take the kids one day and you take their kids another day, allowing you both to have some free time. If you have a significant other, talk to them about taking care of the kids. Even if they do not completely understand why you need the time away, help them understand that it is important to you. If it comes down to it, hire a babysitter. There are some areas in our lives that deserve investment. This is one of them. Your family will benefit immensely from the time you spend away thinking.
  1. Schedule it. Don’t just talk about it, make it happen. We can say “we should do that” all day long. Go ahead and schedule it, get it on the calendar and make it happen. There is a chance that life will throw you a curve ball, like it so often does, but make “thinking time” a non-negotiable. Today was my day to take some time to think. I planned to take that time at home while my husband was at work, but because of a curve ball, I am up at the laundromat  washing bedding. I will let you imagination come up with the scenario that brought me to a laundromat, but I did not allow this detour in my day keep me from having my quiet time. If fact, I am forced to sit here for forty-one minutes while my bedding washes. I could have thrown in the towel, but it ended up being a great time and place to think.
  1. Keep it simple. The goal of taking time to think is to quiet yourself and think about the most important things in your life. In the resources I have for you next week, I will actually have questions for you to think through and space to write down your thoughts, but keep it simple. Find a place that is distraction free for you, grab a pencil or a pen and relax. I love to start off by taking a long walk by myself and them sometimes I go to my local library. I find a quiet spot and get to work.

I want the absolute best for you and taking time to think has been life changing for me. I am confident you will find the same results. You can make it happen!


I am SO EXCITED to get my Holiday Resources into your hands next week! The Series is called Keys to a Wonderful Holiday Season for those Dedicated to Live Their Best. For the next three months I will send all of my subscribers a Monthly Virtual Goody Bag of free resources to help you have a great Holiday Season! The first one will be delivered to your email inbox this coming Wednesday, November 2nd! If you have not subscribed yet, go to the right hand column of my website, and you can subscribe there. You won’t want to miss it!

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It is my heart’s desire for you to have an amazing Holiday! Schedule some “time to think” now and be ready to put your most important people and areas in your life first, right where they belong!

Here’s to living our best this Holiday Season!

See How Easy You Can Bring the Spice Back Into Your Life

Every day we wake up, work, eat, and go back to bed. I know that is an oversimplification of what our days look like, but it can be pretty regimented at times. What is it that brings spice to our life? I believe it’s people. Even more specifically, the real spice comes from the people in our life that are closest to us, those most important people. I don’t know about you, but it is easy to fall into a day-to-day rut and start to take our most important people for granted. They enrich our lives and we enrich theirs. How can we spice up life and show them how much they mean to us?

Happy loving family

My life is filled with many amazing people. I could not even begin to list them all because, in my absent-mindedness, I would surely leave someone out. Each person in my life holds a very special place in my heart. I am truly thankful for each of them. Just yesterday as I was driving to visit family, I spent some time mentally listing out all of the people that I am thankful for and why. I immediately felt peace and joy in my heart. We are so fortunate to have special people in our lives.

How can we tap back into our most important relationships? How can we show how much we care? Here are a few ideas:

  • Our thoughts become our actions. Spend some time when you are driving or waiting for an appointment to think about all of the people in your life. Think about how special they  are to you, how they contribute to your happiness, and how your life would not be the same without them. These wonderful thoughts will bring joy into your day and it prompts us to take action. I know when I take time to think about how lucky I am to have John, my husband, in my life, I can’t help but want to spend time with him, send him an encouraging text or give him a hug. Take some time today to think about and be grateful for the people in your life.
  • Make it personal. Have you ever come across the perfect gift for someone? Or came up with an idea to surprise someone special to you? Remember the feeling of excitement it built in you? You were so excited to see the joy on their face when they received it. Ask yourself “what is one small thing I can do today to bring a smile to someone I care for?” It might be as simple as buying and giving them their favorite candy bar. It could be sending them a text message telling them how much they mean to you. It could be surprising your child by picking them up from school in person or bringing lunch to your significant other at work. Whatever it is, doing something special for those we care about reminds us of what is most important.
  • Allow for fun. Every relationship looks differently; therefore this looks different for each of the individuals you care for. John and I enjoy spending time together, but many of our hobbies are independent from each other. It is important to enjoy time together, but I also enjoy giving John the freedom to go off and enjoy his hobbies without me. Figure out what that looks like for you, but prioritize fun for those most important to you. Life is too short not to enjoy it!
  • Keep life simple. When I am running around with my head cut off, I do not have time or energy to do any of the above. We all have limits to our time, energy and focus. We can either give those we care for some of our focused time, or we can give them the leftovers. I don’t know about you, but at the end of the day, I don’t have much leftover. My creativity is used up, my energy is gone and fun is the last thing on my mind. The simpler we keep our lives and schedules, the more energy we have for those most important to us.

Who is most important to you? What would you like to do in the next 24 hours for them? Write yourself a reminder and make it happen. This small act will bring joy to you and those you care about!

Here’s to prioritizing those who are most important in our lives!

Do You Make This Mistake When Stress Hits?

None of us strive, day in and day out, towards our goals only to end up backsliding and have them fall apart. That is what happens many times when an unplanned stressor hits our lives. These stressors can come through personal or family illnesses, job changes, moves, and even happy occasions such as weddings. The reality is that each of these, and so many not listed here, require an extra amount of energy. If we do not make adjustments to divvy out our energy appropriately, we can find our goals and most important areas of our lives placed on the back-burner. What can we do during these times of increased stress to stay focused on what is most important?

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I have realized that I only have a certain amount of energy to use up each day. I have a limited amount of mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. Much like allocating the 24 hours in each day, we also make decisions on how we disperse our energy. I feel the easiest of these to manage is our physical energy. I know that if I go on a long bike ride, I am not going to have much physical energy left to tackle my landscape project later that same day. I think as we learn more about ourselves, we naturally learn to manage our energies, but it is when stress hits, that it can become more challenging.

A mistake we can all make during these stressful times, is to think we can keep going at our current pace in all areas of our lives. Stress consumes energy, and a lot of it. Here are some things to keep in mind to help us make adjustments needed in order to stay focused on what is most important.

  1. Keep your “most important things” in front of you. I would recommend making a list and read it every day, if not more often. There is something powerful about starting your day reminding yourself of these good things.
  2. Be intentional about who and what gets your focus and energy. If you don’t take time to think about this, the things that scream the loudest will get your attention, and the quiet “most important things” will not. My friend, who has two boys in elementary school, said that her shower time is her thinking time. I give you permission to take a little bit longer shower to reflect on what areas are most important, what should get your attention that day and what areas you can cut back on until the stress subsides.
  3. Watch out for unhealthy comforts. We all have a default “comfort” we go to when stress hits. It may be food, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, etc. For me it is sleep. When stress hits, I get extremely tired because I can ignore the stress when I sleep. The problem with comfort is that it’s hard to stop once we have started. I get into the mindset that “I deserve” this comfort because of all the stress I am dealing with. Give yourself some grace, but realize that many times these comforts cause us to backslide. Allocate some energy towards resisting unhealthy comfort because it does take energy to say “no” to the unhealthy stuff and “yes” to what’s most important.
  4. Guard against unnecessary stress. There are two stressors that I have to watch out for. The first one is self-imposed deadlines or overcommitting. I love setting goals, and good goals, in my opinion, have associated deadlines. This is great until it creates unnecessary stress. There are times we have to take a step back and realize we are not going to meet our original deadline. It’s okay to adjust and extend the deadline for our own sanity. The second unnecessary stressor is taking on someone else’s problems. It is my desire to help other people and I do on a regular basis. I simply have to recognize that when I give my energy to someone else, it take energy away from something or someone else. I reference back to what is most important to me and decide from there.
  5. Prioritize yourself. I put this last because I knew that if I put this first, many of you would immediately stop reading. Am I right? This is one of those truths we all know, but struggle with. The better you take care of yourself, the better you can take care of others and stressful situations. When you prepare your “most important” list as recommended in #1, please put yourself as MOST IMPORTANT. We are stronger and better able to handle stress when we are rested, eating well, getting some exercise and taking time to think and plan.

How have you kept moving forward on your “most important” areas when stress has hit?  I, along with my other readers, would love to hear what has worked for you. We are all in this together, trying to do the best we can. I would love to hear from you!

Here’s to staying focused on what is most important, even when life gets stressful!