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Dealing with Stress - Issue 218
September 23, 2011
Hi there! ....

This week has been about working on projects. Projects are tasks that take planning, they take considerable amount of effort and often involve a team of people. When I went to school we did projects – I remember a project on volcanoes. My end product was a 3d model. Family life creates projects too – and our children can learn skills from being involved. This week Jess finished a typesetting project and she fully planned a birthday party – invitations, decorations, food (shopping and cooking). Nomi and Daniel worked on making presents. Joshua researched the possibility of a video project. If we don’t give full value to the skills gained by being involved in such family projects we will cram our children’s days with school work, and short-change them from the life skills that projects will give them.

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Dealing with Stress

Today I thought I would share how I deal with stress. Stress is a big factor in today’s lifestyle. We all seem to have it at one time or the other, and yet it looks different for each of us and is provoked by different things for different people. It also looks different at different stages of life.

The bottom line for me is regardless of how I feel I still have children to care for so though I try to eliminate all demands on me and my time (for a season), I still need to maintain my basic responsibilities. Here is the process I go through:

First point of check should be (though I often do this last – which is why I get overwhelmed in the first place!!) is to check how I’m looking after myself:

  • Am I eating well?
  • Am I drinking water?
  • Am I exercising? – This is a double bonus for me as I get exercise I also get thinking/reflecting time which is equally important for me.
  • Am I getting sleep? For me this means – am I going to bed at the right time.
  • Am I getting creative time? (This has become obvious to me as I have gone through this process over the years – I don’t need a lot, just some) For you it maybe competitive sport, social outlet, gardening etc. Something that refreshes you because that is how you have been made.

These are basic questions that mothers often push aside and say they don’t have time for and yet when we crumble these are the basic needs and we need to find time for them. We should look after ourselves before it gets to the point where we have to! It is as if when we hit rock bottom we recognise these needs, but had we recognised them beforehand we may not get so overwhelmed in the first place.

Another basic need that I have is to be connected with Peter. I need to tell him where I am at, that I am overwhelmed, that I am struggling and that I have taken these particular steps towards giving myself rest. Often we carry this burden alone and then blame our husbands for not noticing. It is my job to keep him in touch with where I am at. Another aspect is that when we let the time pressures rob us of time together it will also begin to show in my emotional health. I need to bring this to his attention also – not to blame him for any of my situation but rather to bring him into part of the solution. Afterall he does care for me.

Secondly is how I spend my time. When I’m functioning and life is good then lots is doable but when I get overwhelmed I need to pull back and give myself time to regroup, refocus and re-energise. To do this I need to release myself from all except the basics. The basics may look different for each of us and will also likely look different depending on the ages of our children. For me it is generally these few things:

  • Three meals a day (this means I need to do the grocery shopping though it may be the only task I do in a day. I also need to do the cooking. I make sure I plan very simple meals that don’t need a lot of attention.
  • Dishes done
  • Floor swept
  • Clean clothes
My children can help with all of these concerns now, but when they were young they would work with me if they weren’t already doing the task themselves. For me it is important that the house is tidy (not so much clean) so that is my objective.

I need to be strong and cancel all other time commitments. This is very hard to do – and you may need your husband or friend to do it for you (as I have at times). But you need to give yourself time to recover. The world will go on. Appointments can be rescheduled. Other opportunities will happen. A week at home, with no outside commitments is refreshing in and of itself!

The third thing is how my children spend their time. When I get overwhelmed I find myself in a quandary – everything in me wants to drop our routine and yet if I do the day goes pear-shaped and I feel even worse. I need to find a balance between giving myself rest and keeping the children occupied (otherwise they just create stuff for me to deal with!) I need to know what is important: for me that is that the children are fitfully occupied but with limited supervision, and that relationships are maintained with harmony. What works for me is:

  • The children do whatever independent work they can
  • They have extra time to themselves in their rooms – say 1 hour play time in the morning, 1 hour reading time after lunch.
  • They can watch a dvd where normally we wouldn’t – most times I’d keep this to one a day because I don’t know how long this different routine/activities is going to last.
  • If I can I will spend a little time with them – this would be reading aloud, playing a board game, or watching a dvd with them.

Sometimes getting out of the house is also a good thing.

  • Visit with a friend – the kids can take their independent work, a board game or even a dvd so that I can truly visit with my friend.
  • Go to the library or the pool

Once I have these things happening and I have taken time and opportunity to get physical rest, then I take a little time to look very closely at why I was overwhelmed.

  • Have I not looked after myself? (as I have already said)
  • Have I taken on too much? Take time to pray and reflect on what I need to let go.
  • Is there a relational issue that is draining me that I need to get right?
  • Is it just time for a break?
By releasing myself from my usual activities and responsibilities I give myself time (and permission) to really look at my life and see where the draining and overwhelming parts are. I then need to think how I am going to make changes in my life.

NoteIt must be said, that training our children in obedience, respect and self control will help us cope when these days or seasons of extra stress come. The other thing we can do now maybe when we aren’t feeling so stressed is to get our house in order – to have a place for everything and everything in its place. Maybe this lack of order is the very thing that is stressing you out – then take time out from the rest of your life and get things in order.

We cannot keep going as we are – ignoring our stress, ignoring the things that take their toll on us. We must be wise women and deal with it whatever it may be.

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Until next week

Belinda Letchford
Living life with her kids in Australia!

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