Friday, September 23, 2011

Avoiding Overload

After a relaxing summer, I’m back to busy days and home school, back to the six o’clock witching hour when the kids and I are edgy and tired and I’m trying to get dinner on the table, back to racing to get it all done, trying to juggle ministry and home life. Back to looking at how to avoid overloading myself.

Are women in cross-cultural ministry particularly susceptible to overload?  Household tasks are often more complicated. Language study and Hospitality take time. Stress levels are high during the first few years of adaptation. Like most women, I’m into multi tasking: I make phone calls while I cook dinner and work on school planning when my family watches TV. Soon I find myself falling into the trap of thinking I have to fill every moment.

Last week I wrote about making room for God in our busy lives, and a blogging friend commented that she purposely cuts out one activity before taking on another. It made me think about how making room for God is connected with leaving time for ourselves.

Here are my thoughts and hopes for avoiding overload this fall:

Pare Down my Activities

For the next five weeks, I’ll be teaching a spiritual growth seminar on Monday nights. Of course this means I also need to invest time during the week to prepare adequately.  Afternoons are my peak productivity time, so I decided that for the month of October, I’ll need to make fewer afternoon visits to local women I want to reach out to.  To be more effective, I need to focus on the seminar, and in November I’ll have more time to visit friends again.

Leave Margins in my Schedule  

The book The Overload Syndrome introduced me to the concept of margin: leaving space for downtime in between activities.  I don’t have to fill every day with back to back activities. My husband and I try to leave every other night free in our weekly calendar.

Yesterday, after I finished making dinner to take to a friend’s house, my husband called to say he was on his way to pick me up. I resisted the urge to turn on the computer and be productive for 10 minutes.  Instead I sat down and put my feet up.  I reviewed my prayer journal.  There’s nothing wrong with “wasting” 10 minutes before continuing my day!

Turn Off the Computer or Television

Do you notice that as much fun as internet surfing is, you’re never rested when you turn off the computer?  It’s not the same as curling up with a good book or sitting outside on the back porch a few minutes. I often turn on my computer after my kids go to bed, but I’ve decided that no matter what--I’m crossing my fingers here--I will turn it off by 10:00 p.m.

Get to Bed at a Decent Hour (Most Nights!)

A morning person like me has a hard time in a late night culture, but when you wake up naturally at 6:00 every day, late nights take their toll fast.  It’s a no-brainer: if I want to be a reasonably happy person, I need adequate rest. For me a good night’s sleep starts with taking 30 minutes or so to wind down, read, and relax before turning out the lights.

Of course we need to be flexible when life doesn’t go as planned, but these are general parameters I’m trying to set for myself. What about you? How do you combat overload in your life? What do you like to do when you have downtime?


Linda said...

Your words are so timely for me. Just this morning I was asking God about some of the ministries I've taken on, and asking if He really called me to do a couple of them, or did I just say "Yes," because it seemed like the right thing to do. Thanks for helping me sort through this issue.

Hugs and blessings,

Creatively Content said...

I have been contemplating a lot recently about how to handle stress in a healthy manner. In my life I can not avoid stress so I too have been asking God about this. Thanks for the thoughts regarding overload. Continuing to pray and make small changes as I move forward...much care to you.

~Karen~ said...

Thanks for this post!

What about when you have to add an activity and can't cut anything out? That's where I am at right now. We're going into a season where we need to meet with people to develop more partners for our ministry. It will probably involve 3 evenings out and one afternoon or evening making phone calls. I also don't want to cut out going to church on Wed or Sun eve, but I also homeschool, take care of my family, and I struggle with fatigue and lack of energy some days.
I guess I'll have to look at my schedule every week and make adjustments so I don't burn out!

OliveTree said...

That's an interesting question, Karin, some life stress we just can't avoid.

Tonight, I made the choice to be flexible and go to visit a dear sister who is wrestling with a life decision. This violates my "every other night" rule, but I know my Turkish sister would NEVER say "I don't have time for you" if I needed her.

All of your comments let me know that we do indeed struggle with overload at cross-cultural workers!

Jungle Mom said...

Thank you for sharing. It is always nice to hear how others deal with stress and burn out. I will be taking a look at my own calendar to see how it would best work to keep me at my maximum without overload.

Jamie Jo said...

Thank you, Mom, I mean Olive. I needed this reminder. The computer is going off and I am turning in early for the night. (Actually reading blogs is very restful and therapeutic for me.)

OliveTree said...

Ha ha, Jamie Jo. Reading blogs is restful for me too. In fact last night I got home at 9:30 pm, kids were in bed, and for the first time in three days I had DOWN TIME to myself! So I broke my own rules, turned on the computer, and stayed up too late, in order to enjoy down time!

Tricia said...

Hi Olive, I just ran across your blog after running across the WOTH site. I'm enjoying your cross-cultural experience particularly as we have made some Turkish friends here in FL who are in flight training for Turkish airlines, and we have been meeting with them frequently over the past couple of months. We have also been working towards moving overseas, and your experiences with life and homeschooling and MKs are good to hear. :)