Excess stress! It’s something that plagues our society, robbing people of peace & freedom. Instead of controlling stress, it often controls us, leading to sub standard health and emotional outbursts that impact not only us, but our nearest & dearest.
As I wrote about in a previous post, ‘Goodbye Stinkin Thinkin’, much of our stress is perceived, based on our learnt approach to life’s demands. Seeing how our thoughts play a part in inducing stress is no reason to wallow in guilt & self blame. Rather it’s empowering to grasp that much of the angst we experience can be altered with the right mind set.
One major cause of unnecessary stress comes from having too high expectations of ourselves. We can have unrealistic expectations both about how much we do, and also the standard to which we do those tasks. The combination of trying to do too much, too well, is a recipe for stress overload!
As mums we often internalise pressure to do a GREAT job in EVERY area. Motherhood is the endless balancing act of juggling meals, cuddles, play times, bathing, parties, transport, organising, sorting, housework, community work, shopping, values teaching, employment…the list goes on! But crazily, amidst this never-ending list of roles & tasks, we still expect to keep all the balls in the air at all times. When our attempts at the perfect juggling act start to go awry, we try harder & harder, but as balls go flying, we have this sense of constantly striving but not quite achieving. There’s a sense of never quite being finished. There comes a point where we need to lay some things down & cut ourselves a bit of slack.
A wonderful mum of 4 once shared this simple pearl of wisdom; we have to identify our priorities & let the rest slide!
Our priorities are what’s important to us based on our individual values & goals. When it came to daily housework with 4 kids; having a clear bench, meals organised & the washing laundered were at the top of my mum friend’s list. Those tasks kept family life running smoothly. Anything else that got achieved surplus to that was considered a bonus!
A home is something that’s built to serve us & ours. We were not meant to serve our home. While we have young kids, lowering our expectations of how tidy & clean our house is can reduce unnecessary pressure & let us focus more on enjoying what happens inside it’s walls. As long as it’s functional then its meeting its purpose to facilitate family life. But priorities aren’t defined by our standards around housework. That’s just one example.
A great way to evaluate one’s time use is to see it visually laid out in front of you. Grab a nice big sheet of paper or open a Word document & list everything you regularly do in one column. In the 2nd column, put the length of time you spend on each task & on the 3rd write why you do it. Lastly, pray & ask God for insight & direction.
Are you doing something because it lines up with your values & goals, with your priorities? Or is it something you do out of habit, obligation, to find worth or to keep up with the Jones’s? Does how we spend our time come from a place of pressure, expectations & stress? If so, it could be time to start using the word ‘no’ & often the person we will be saying ‘no’ to is ourselves.
Comparing ourselves to others is the thief of joy & causes people to spend their lives investing time in being great at things they were probably never meant to excel in. We don’t have to be great or even good at everything we do. We all do well in different areas and just OK in others because our priorities are different. If I spend too much time trying to be good at something that isn’t important to me, I might not ever get to invest in my passions. It’s okay to be okay. And good enough is good enough! It’s also permissible to do a below average job sometimes because we prioritised something more important. Don’t beat yourself up about what you haven’t done. Look at what you have done. Don’t create a pinterest worthy anything unless you want to & have the time to prioritise that!
Some of us have high expectations of ourselves because we once felt we could never measure up to the standards of someone important in our life. Deeply ingrained is a sense that nothing we do will ever be good enough. We end up with a distorted view of our achievements, seeing everything we do through a critical lens, with the bar of acceptance ever moving further & further from reach. This needs to be uprooted & healed through prayer & scripture.
The bible says that people look at the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). Although this verse is talking about physical appearance, I believe it can also be applied to the outward appearance of our works. God’s made clear through his word that our heart’s condition when doing something is more important then the deed itself. The pharisees did a lot of their deeds well and thoroughly. They prayed long prayers in the streets & gave large amounts of money. They followed the law to the letter…a bit like perfectionists. But God was more pleased with the people that gave out of love, rather then to be good enough by their own works. The Father considers a deed an offering, not because we did an excellent job according to our high standards, but because we gave what we had. Like the poor widow who gave her only coin, we can simply give what we’ve got according to the gifts, ability & resources he’s given us. When we give for good reasons, our heart is in the right place & we experience joy and freedom in our doing.
As I come to God today, I choose to let go of feeling like I’m always striving to be ‘enough’. I’m thankful that he lowered that bar, by His grace, so that I could scale it each day. I choose to believe that my offerings of work, play, relating & giving are acceptable in His sight. Not because my works are perfect but because of the Father’s grace. I choose to orientate my heart & my actions to what’s important to the Lord. May my priorities & standard of doing be God led & may he help me to see that my value is not earned by works. My value was established when, despite by flaws, Jesus saw me, & considered me worth dying on the cross for. Even if I could never do 1 more task or good work, He would still consider me acceptable…and even more then that, beloved & cherished! Because the Father’s love is unconditional. Today, I rest in that love.