I would love to get some things off my chest. Don't worry, it's not about anyone else, as a matter of fact it's about me. The other day, I was in my bathroom staring at myself in the mirror. Just standing there looking at myself as if I was expecting to find something that I've never noticed before. I paid particular attention to my eyes and noticed how tired they looked. I noticed how dry my skin was and the way my face had a weary look, as if life was taking it's toll on me. I knew something was wrong because it wasn't as if it was the end of my day where I would expect to see tired glassy eyes. This was in the middle of day where I should be feeling my most energetic. Needless to say, I was worried. The questions immediately started to pour in.
- Why do I feel 20 years older than my real age?
- Am I doing too much, working to hard?
- Is all this work worth my time? I look a mess!
- If I stop, I will never reach my goals. How do I balance my life?
After sitting for awhile and thinking about how to make a change, I realized that I've been neglecting myself. Although I've lost a tremendous amount of weight, I'm still expected to eat healthy, which I was not doing. Pure water has not touched my lips in days, even weeks. I know, I know.
My workout routine has fizzled to nothing and I thought I was being clever by wearing a Fitbit every day to count steps that I normally take. "Yes! I took 1,000 steps today! Woohoo!" Turns out I needed to take about 12,000 to make a dent in my physical goals. Talk about an epic fail.
Add to my physical drain, my busy brain that's always racing. From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, thoughts are running through my head. Those personal goals that you set for yourself in order to feel accomplished can become a heavy burden when they are not met. There are so many decisions to be made in a day and so many people vying for your time that it is very easy to become overwhelmed and tired.
Ladies and gents, I'm only 36 and way to young to feel the way I do. I can't walk around telling everyone else how to live a healthier existence and not listen to my own advice. So I decided to take back my own time and energy and begin to conserve and distribute as necessary. What do I mean by that? Well for instance, I have about 4 things on my mental to do list today. But because it's on my mind and not on paper, those 4 things can easily turn into 12 and open the door to overwhelm.
To combat this, I started to use my calendar app to record my tasks. I love to write things down initially, then import them into my phone calendar so that it can go with me everywhere. As soon as I get to my desk at work, I check my calendar to see what's on the agenda for today. If nothing is there then I try to write down goals for the day, just so I can keep myself from taking on a bunch of meaningless tasks to fill in the time. If there is something on my agenda, I do that task and that task only. Most of the time, the task takes up most of my day so I never feel like I'm not accomplishing anything.
I also prioritize what's important. I have to admit that I am very weak in this area. When I see a list of things to do, I jump into it and start from the top down. By the time I get midway down the list, I'm tired and tapped out. Now I prioritize my list like this: Spiritual maintenance (prayer & reading the word), Family, Personal, Business and Church. I put church last because I no longer have a leadership role in my local church so those tasks are few and far between. Speaking of church.
Church Ministry Balance
If you are heavily involved in your church let me give you some really good advice that I received from a wise person.
Find your talents and abilities and work to develop them within ministry. God gave each of us certain talents to work with and when we try to do things that are not inherent to us, we will wear ourselves out. Try to stay away from looking at what others can do, and develop what you can do. When you develop your talent, you will become passionate about it and naturally feel compelled to use it for the kingdom. My talents are teaching and exhortation but I was a Sunday School teacher for two seconds before I was moved to various other positions. Instead of declining the offers and focusing on developing my talents through prayer and mentorship, I said yes to every position that was given to me. Eventually I burned out, and to this day I regret not continuing with teaching and getting into that ministry because I'm so passionate about it.
Family comes first. Never sacrifice time with your family for church business unless your family agrees. Even then, make sure that it doesn't become a habit. It doesn't make sense that you lose your family because you had to speak at a bunch of events. You are busy feeding everyone else, pouring into their lives while neglecting yours. When your church activities are over, you need something stable to come back to and that is your family.
Keep your relationship with God the number one priority. If you find that your ministry activities are starting to feel like job, it's a good time to take a step back and reconnect with God. You want to make sure that you are always in his will and on the right track. Ministry should never feel like a meaningless job. As a matter of fact, it is God who is doing the real work so if you are feeling tired, maybe you're overstepping your boundaries and doing things that is beyond your ability. Do what you were tasked to do and put everything else in God's hands. Every once in awhile take a moment away from the activities, spend quality time with God and evaluate where you stand with him.
Spending Your Energy In the Right Places
Spending your energy in the right places is key to your mental health. These days, I spend a lot less time on social media unless the conversation is very interesting or intellectually stimulating. I unfriend or unfollow people who do not contribute anything to my purpose for being on there. Let's be honest, once you start scrolling on Facebook, you can literally be there for an hour scrolling away and not getting anything done. Your energy is being drained and you're not benefiting from the information overload at all. The same goes for Pinterest and Intagram. It is even worse with these two platforms because beautiful pictures of really quick recipes can have us glued to our phones like zombies for hours. Guilty as charged.
Spending Time With People
One thing I've learned over the past two years that saved me a lot of energy. It's ok to say no and you shouldn't feel guilty about it. It's that simple. Evaluate requests that come your way, whether by family, friends or at work. Is this a real emergency? Does this have to be done immediately or can I schedule this for later? Can this person accomplish this on their own? How much of my time can I really invest? Once you get into the habit of evaluating and prioritizing requests it will become inherent and much easier to manage your time and energy. Take control and you'll be surprised at how much more of an asset you can be to others by being able to give quality over quantity.
With that said, beginning May 1st, I'll be taking a step back to rest, replenish and have a 21 day conversation with God. I'll be documenting my dialogue with him here, on the blog in a series called "Today I Talked to God: 21 Days of Intimate Conversation With God". I'll be posting every Friday as usual and hope that you join in by having your own conversation with him. I'm looking forward to sharing with you soon.
Until next time,
Live in gratitude. Live in love.