This is another installment of my Get a Grip on Your Life series this January. For some of us, parts of our lives are out of control. For others, things are maintaining okay, but we never get ahead and always feel like we’re waiting for the other shoe to drop. This week I’m going to talk about how one thing creates reserves in us. That one thing is margin. Post contains affiliate links.
There was this super popular book in the 90’s called Margin.
In the 90’s I was busy driving my orchid Chevy Cavalier wearing a Roxy t-shirt and singing Goo Goo Dolls and Sublime with my friends. You know… high school.
Well, I grew up, had a slew of kids, and got overloaded. Then I heard everyone talking about having “margin” here or “margin” there and referring to this book. I quickly purchased it and ate up every line like a thirsty woman in the desert.
Today I want to discuss one of the ideas presented in the book – Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives – and how they affect mothers. Obviously, I won’t go into great detail as the book does, but I do highly recommend it. It is written by a medical doctor and has a lot of examples that create many light bulb moments.
Since we are generally trying to be reasonable people, we don’t set out to be controlled by our fleeting feelings. In fact, we probably work hard to be calm moms who aren’t angry all the time. But often, on a slippery slope, we get so overwhelmed that our emotional reactions become stronger than we’re used to.
Instead of being feelings that are easy to direct, release, or ignore they become strong. They make us feel panicked, desperate, or anxious.
“If we string ourselves out, expending 100% of our time and energy there is no way in which we can adjust to the unexpected emergency. We become defensive about our expended energies because there isn’t anything left to give. Having nothing in reserve, we tune out the need.” Pastor LH Evans Jr. (pg. 105)
In short, when we have no emotional reserve – no margin – there is no room for anything to go wrong. One cup of spilled juice gives us a headache. One child whining will cause us to yell. A slight traffic jam will send us into a blind rage.
Not because we’re crazy, but because we have no margin to process frustration.
How to become master of our emotions
Some of these are from the book, some are from my own experience in “emotional overwhelm.”
Release pent-up emotions in a healthy way
If you have a full emotional basement, you need to let those emotions out. This may mean seeing a counselor, having a good cry, a loud scream, or a week long vacation alone to decompress. If you know there are emotions you haven’t dealt with it’s time to face them. They are using up all your reserves and you’ll never feel free until you deal with them.
Read: Healing for Damaged Emotions (book)
Create margin for “nothing” and rest
If you are a Confident + Take Charge or Strong + Deliberate Mom, you probably aren’t too good at rest. In fact, rest probably makes you feel lazy and guilty. It’s false guilt, of course. If you are booked out, overwhelmed, and stretched too thin you have to create a space to do nothing. To rest. This may mean hiring help or just leaving the house so you don’t have to see your to-do list. However possible, work time in your day or week to do nothing. If you schedule it, the guilt may leave you alone.
Get help for depression
According to Margin, depression is often a direct result of overwhelm and lack of margin in many of life’s areas. It may be hard for those who are depressed to pinpoint an exact reason, but there will be a pervading sense of dread and doom.
“It is not obvious like a broken arm, or a fever, or a cough; it’s beneath the surface. A depressed person suffers a type of anguish which in its own way can be as painful as anything that can happen to a human being. He has varying degrees of fear throughout the day, and a brain that permits him no rest and races with agitated and frightening thoughts. His mood is low, he has little energy, and he can hardly remember what pleasure means.” J. Dreyfus
See a counselor, your pastor, talk to a friend, or make the hard choice and try to get help.
Give thanks all the time
I used to fight this. If I felt bad I wanted to stew a bit, that’s my personality. However, that doesn’t work. I started to thank God for the blessings in my life, the good things He’s done, how even though things can be tough there are great things. This seems cliche or silly, but it truly makes a difference. You start to feel a flood of happier hormones, happier memories, and a sense that things might be okay.
Get a pet
For those mothers who are already Past the Point just taking care of your own kids, you may want to skip this. However, research is unmistakeable with regards to the benefits of owning a pet. This goes particularly for people who are lonely or get little physical interaction or affection. Margin says…
“It is remarkable how closely we can approximate human-human warmth and affection by substituting human-animal contact. Pets are capable of bonding, are extremely loyal, and often exhibit deep appreciation for our affections – exactly the kind of responses needed to increase our emotional reserves.”
Learn to say “no”
As part of becoming a reasonable person, we must learn to say no. Take a good hard look at your life season, and make decisions accordingly. You don’t have to run every committee, be the leader of every bible study, or go to every function you’re invited to. It’s okay to say “No, I can’t right as much as I’d love to. We are swamped and are in much need of rest.” If people can’t accept that, well, who cares. It’s your life you’re living, not theirs.
Hope, faith, and love
Three of Dr. Swenson’s prescriptions for creating emotional margin and reserves are nurturing faith, hope and love. Dr. Flach said in his book Resilience…
“I believe the most vital ingredient of resilience is faith.“
Have faith that God is in control, He has a plan, and He can work everything for the good of those who love Him. Hope that things can get better, change, or improve. And love for yourself and others. Love is healing both for the giver and receiver.
I highly recommend reading the book Margin. It really is eye opening and has so many light bulb moments you have to read it in spurts. You just can’t read it all at once because you find yourself implementing it all day long. Or at least, you find yourself wondering how you can. If you are trying to Get a Grip on Your Life, this book is a must read.
I’ve created a free email series just for you! If you have a little one aged 1 to 8, this series will help transform your home environment. No, that is not a joke or false claim. You can let your kids express their emotions without raising back talkers who meltdown at the drop of a hat or throw a tantrum every time they are unhappy with something. After this free email series:
- your child will stop throwing tantrums for attention
- you’ll know how to validate and affirm your child’s emotions
- you’ll feel more in control of the atmosphere of your home and will be able to operate out of a place of love, not frustration
Click here to sign up for my free email series or simply click on the image below.
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