We are in the middle of a series about how to Defeat the Overwhelm Monster. If you are just joining us, I suggest starting here.
Maybe you say you never have a day when you feel completely overwhelmed by your To-Do list. I say you are lying. Either that or you are not completely human and I officially don’t like you (JK. I still like you, even if you are a freak of nature.) As for me, about 5 years ago my To-Do list won and I found myself unable to get out of bed. I had a lot of time to think about how things got that way. As I re-evaluated my life and thought about what was truly important to me, I realized there were a lot of things I was doing that I didn’t really need to be doing. Much of it needed to be delegated to other people; some of it needed to be cut-off altogether. It was adding undue stress to my life and hindering my ability to do what I actually needed to be doing. I took some time to restructure my priorities.
5 Things I make a priority:
1. I start my day right. My day begins with the Word of God and Prayer. My whole day goes so much more smoothly when I put first things first. I am more patient, more energetic, more efficient and I have better ideas when I give God the first part of my day. Truly, the Lord is the strength of my life (Ps. 27:1).
2. I get daily exercise. Before you think that I am talking about becoming a gym rat, let me clarify. I don’t have a lot of extra energy to spare trying to impress the body builders. I exercise to increase energy, not to expend it. Each day I choose one of 3 basic styles of exercise, each designed to meet a need in my body. Some days I do high-intensity, but short weight training super-sets (about 20-30 minutes), some days I run (but I keep my pace gentle and slow -- again, I’m not trying to impress anyone -- for 30-40 minutes), and some days I do yoga (with all the Eastern religion and mediation stuff cut out -- about 35-45 minutes) The weight training helps keep me strong, boosts metabolism (the more muscle you have, the more quickly you burn calories), and helps sculpt the body. Running is a good cardiovascular and respiratory workout, helps my stamina, and gives me a good calorie burn. The yoga that I do isn’t Power Yoga and it doesn’t have me twisting up like a pretzel. It is purposeful stretching that relieves tired and stiff muscles. It also improves balance as I age. Study after study shows that regular exercise actually increases your overall energy and also releases “feel good” hormones. I like those.
When it comes to my workouts, I listen to my body. Some days I have more energy to put into it. Other days I have given out too much in other areas, so I back off a little. If your workout routine is draining you and leaving you like a wet dish rag, I don’t know how that will help you conquer your responsibilities. But having no workout program at all is far more of an energy drain than you may realize. A strong body is able to handle more stress.
3. I eat whole foods. I’ve talked about this before on the blog. I eat as close to the ground as I can. I try not to eat any junk foods or processed foods. I don’t eat processed sugar and very, very little honey or maple syrup (just special occasions). I try to only eat whole grains and fruits when I eat carbs. For me, I have noticed that too many grains don’t help me, but too few zap my energy completely. It’s about balance and moderation.
It has been several years since I began eating this way. There have been slip-ups on my journey, of course. I have noticed, though, that when I eat the Standard American Diet, my energy levels plummet. That’s a good motivator for me to eat well.
4. Sleep! I have also talked about sleep here on the blog. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, even the most routine tasks can seem overwhelming. We need at least 7 hours, but preferably 8 hours of sleep each night. I have to be honest with you. I still really struggle with this one. I usually get 5 1/2 - 6 hours a night on a good week. That is a lot more than I used to get, but it’s still not enough. I can tell when I am pushing my body too hard, though. When I need some sleep, I will clear off my slate and go to bed at around 9pm for a couple nights. Don’t tell the gym rats, but if I need to, I will even clear off an occasional early morning workout to get some extra rest. You can calm down the gym rats by telling them that I only do that in extreme cases.
5. I try to add beauty to each day. I purposefully try to incorporate something beautiful, something creative into each day. This ministers to me. It rejuvenates me and reminds me that I am a woman, not a machine. If everything in your day feels like work, it won’t be long before you burn out -- trust me on this one. Make room to enjoy life. Smell the flowers, set a pretty table, light some candles. It doesn’t have to be a big thing, and it doesn’t have to take a long time. If you are too busy for beauty, you are too busy.
There are many other things that I do each day, but these things are non-negotiable. When I make these things a priority in my life, I am a better wife, mother, pastor’s wife, and homeschooler. I have better ideas on how to efficiently organize my other responsibilities when I don’t neglect these priorities. When I let something on this list slide, it isn’t too long before it begins to affect my family and our ministry. The price of neglecting this list is just too high for me to pay.
I encourage you to look at your own life and develop your own list of non-negotiable priorities. Having that basic list will help you as you learn to bring balance to your To-Do list.
Next time, I will tell you 8 Tips To Help You Stay on Top of Your Life. Until then, have a wonderful 4th of July!