Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Thinking About Summer Stress


Recently I flipped through last summer's planner to find some information. I read the notes on one particular week when I had two children with emergency medical visits (neither serious). Somehow just reading those notes in my planner gave me a feeling of panic. I could remember the stress of those weeks. 

And then I realized how much less pressure this summer has had. I'm not completely sure why. We are still very busy. Many of the activities from last summer are repeated this summer - even a sibling wedding. But I remember last year waking up on Monday mornings and almost dreading the week. I usually love Monday mornings and the anticipation of a new week, so it was unusual for me to feel discouraged on a Monday. 

I don't want to get stuck analizying the past, but this winter I did consider the last year and changes I could take to keep from becoming so overwhelmed. Life will always bring unexpected things (like those emergency medical visits) so I wanted to provide some margin to give a cushion.

I've become aware of how much I find fulfillment in being busy. I love planning events, sharing life with family and friends, and helping others. I can work fast and efficiently and get a lot accomplished. I like a bit of pressure, such as waking up and knowing that I have an hour to study for the Bible study that I'm teaching tonight before going out to pick the green beans. I'm slowly realizing that my personality finds so much satisfaction in activity that it is hard for me to build proper boundaries. It is hard to say "no" to things I love. 

For example, last year four of my siblings bought houses within just a few months. I love to paint. I wanted to spend time with each of my siblings helping in their new houses. My children are old enough to stay home by themselves for the day. But eventually it became clear that I just couldn't be gone multiple days helping paint and not feel the strain, especially if I was also involved in several others things that week. 

It seems silly that it is so hard for me to admit that I'm human and have limits. When I had babies, it was easier to stay home. Now I no longer have Ed to tell me, "I think you are doing too much." In November, after helping plan three events in three weeks (on top of quite a few other events in the previous months), I realized I had to listen to my stress level and be the mature person and start saying, "no" to things I really wanted to do. 

This year I made a simple guideline that I was going to place priority on serving in my local church and community. I know, that means I can still be quite busy, but it helped me turn down opportunities that were further away. My children aren't babies anymore, but they are still young enough that they don't like me going away too often. I want my children to learn the joy of serving, but they also needed to not feel like they always were given mom's leftovers.

Another deliberate choice I made this year was to look for ways to streamline tasks, even if that meant more work and time (maybe even money) upfront. For example, this spring I tore out some of my perennial flowers, planted some shrubs, and laid down mulch. This will hopefully save future hours. I've also tried to be more deliberate in menu planning and grocery shopping to avoid the last minute "what's for dinner" panic that I had fallen in. I've tried to work ahead on projects (like wedding sewing) to avoid last minute stress. 

I'm still not sure why I'm enjoying this summer so much. But this is only July. Maybe August will be frantic and frustrating and blot out the enjoyment of June and July. Many things are outside my control, and I want to learn how to have peace in times of unexpected stress. But I also want to recognize when change is needed. Even small adjustments can make a difference.


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