When You Feel Like You’re Just Treading Water

These past few weeks, I drove to Massachussets, swooped across states to Chicago, flew to Florida to start a new job, and returned, all on the heels of a big decision for my husband and I. We’re selling our house, figuring out new job set-ups for both of us, and trying to fit in as much good friends and family time as possible before we leave.

And I can’t say that I have been very healthy or balanced in my approach to braving the transition. I am, however, learning as I go, and have found a few things to be helpful:

Take care of your body. I found this gem of insight from Scottish scholar and evangelist Henry Drummond:

“If you would know God’s will in the higher [realm], you must begin with God’s will in the lower; which simply means this — that if you want to live the ideal life, you must begin with the ideal body. The law of moderation, the law of sleep, the law of regularity, the law of exercise, the law of cleanliness — this is the law or will of God for you. This is the first law, the beginning of His will for you.”

In other words, eat well, rest, exercise, take your vitamins, make that chiropractor appointment you’ve been putting off because you’re too busy (I am completely writing to myself here). These are the essentials that fly out the window as soon as we feel stressed, but without them, our work and our faith will suffer the effects. We need to care for our bodies so that we can use them for the good work to which we are called.

Strike a balance. Sleep, good time with my husband, reading and writing, and even just sitting are important. And if I don’t make time for them, I will fool myself into thinking that I have to be wired up 24/7. But my days will be far more enjoyable and far more effective if I don’t cram them full with “to do” items.

Follow the advice of Psalm 127:2: “In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves.” It’s a false assumption that by sacrificing our rest and well-being we can get ahead.

This often means exercising the discipline of saying “no” to an otherwise good opportunity. We can’t do it all. Don’t take on an extra project that will have you working late into the night, even if the compensation is tempting.

Let go of guilt. I’m generalizing here, but it seems to me that women have a particularly strong tendency to sink into the guilt of what we haven’t accomplished in a day. But I want to feel good about what I’ve done at the end of the day, and I’m realizing the difference is determined not by tasks, but by outlook. If I am realistic about what I want to accomplish, then I am more likely to feel content about what I am able to do. And if I don’t get something done, I am learning to give myself grace.

When you’re busy and stressed, what is usually the first thing to go? What ways have you found to keep a healthy balance? 


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  • http://www.ilovedevotionals.com/ Wendy

    Thanks for this reminder! My husband and I are currently quite stressed (he’s being treated for cancer). We’ve found that taking 20 minutes to go for a walk after I finish work (ticks the exercise and connecting blocks at once) and prioritizing a good nights sleep makes the world of difference. Also don’t me afraid/ashamed to just spend a quiet weekend at home in your pajamas watching TV series if it’ll mean you can get through the next few weeks better.

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Those things matter! Amazing what 20 minutes of downtime can do…

  • http://sayable.net/ Lore Ferguson

    Gah. I needed this today Steph. Thanks. Good reminders. 

    • http://www.stephindialogue.com Stephanie S. Smith

      Ha, I write because I need to know it myself. It’s the simple stuff…

  • http://everydayawe.com/ Stephanie Spencer

    Great perspective, Steph. Moving, even when it is a good thing, is so so hard. I just moved with my family to a new state and have been doing a lot of writing about it on my blog. (Starting in April, when preparations began). That’s what helps me- writing and journaling, combined with prayer. It grounds me in a season of upheaval that seems to last forever. Hope you have lots of wonderful goodbyes and hellos as you transition.

  • http://www.carisadel.com/ Caris Adel

    ugh, yes.  It’s so hard to do though.  I get so sick of cooking for everyone else, I never want to stop to make myself something to eat.  So ridiculous.  The funny thing is I know I feel better when I exercise, take vitamins, and drink less coffee.  But I rarely do it.  I’m trying to get into a healthier habit this month, so that when school starts I can keep up a good habit of writing without getting overwhelmed.

  • http://www.mycallingiq.com/ Natasha Crozier

    Great post, Stephanie! Hope the rest of your transition goes smoothly – congrats on the new job! I know I’ve reached my stress max when I start complaining about EVERYTHING – the house is untidy, I haven’t done this, I can’t get that done, why is this here, everything is a mess etc etc. Then I know it’s time to take a break. Usually going for a walk or taking a nap or just taking 15 minutes to tidy everything up instead of complaining about it.

  • http://www.inamirrordimly.com Ed_Cyzewski

    Gosh, my routines take a nose dive, and I live and die by my routines. I’m a creature of habit for sure! I don’t know how to survive the loss of my routines, though I do find that the fixed hour prayer of the Divine Hours can help. When Ethan was born I started praying the Hours by Phyllis Tickle, and that has been a needed reminder to pray when I could fill my time with laundry, dishes, cleaning, or the thousand other things that come up when you have a baby.

  • http://twitter.com/kt_writes Kristin T.

    It sounds like God was speaking right into your soul about what you need right now, and you were listening. :) I’m so glad you’re taking care of yourself during this crazy time, and also taking a moment to share your wisdom with us.

  • Thomas

    Aren’t new jobs exciting? I felt this way when I started my new job at International Justice Mission two months ago. It is a beautiful, scary and complex time. You will definitely be rewarded for your patience!