If you’re in ministry of any kind or have kids (or both), you don’t need me to remind you that Fall is an especially busy time. That’s why it’s vitally important that we excel at managing stress.
For me Fall is several levels beyond crazy. My children are back in school. Fall is when I do most of my speaking and travel for ym360 (I have at least one event a week for the next six weeks). Fall is also a big product development time for us. In the last 4 weeks I have edited over 30 lessons of Bible study and written and designed two books for our DNow Online brand of retreat curriculum. And there’s no let-up anytime soon. Oh, and my wife and I also teach 7th graders on Sunday mornings (in addition to the weekly 10th grade and men’s discipleship groups I lead).
To steal a line from Merle Haggard, “I’m not bragging or complaining.” It’s just this way for me this time of year. Your life probably looks very similar. And so the question for us is how do we hold it all together? I am committed to fighting for margin in my life. I want to be effective in everything I pursue, but I also want to maintain the proper priorities in times of high stress.
In low-margin/high-commitment times like the Fall, I find myself asking these types of questions:
- How can I stay mentally sharp in the midst of all this drain?
- How do I make sure my reservoir is full for my family and that I am not giving them the scraps of my time and attention?
- How do I make sure I’m still keeping close to God and growing in my faith?
- How do I manage stress in a way that keeps me physically healthy?
Here are a few ways I’ve learned to answer these questions as I’ve fought to stay sane in the midst of these high-pressure times.
Don’t Neglect Good Habits
Routine is vital. Exercise is key. Staying in tune with God is not an option. Even if I stay up late, I’ll make myself get up early and read my Bible, and at least have some peaceful time to collect my thoughts before the day. Even if it’s just a few minutes. The busier it gets, the more important exercise is. I get at least an hour of exercise 5 times a week, ESPECIALLY when things get crazy. It’s amazing how much it helps.
The Team Approach
We have a joke in our house. When things get tough, one of us will say “Team B” (“B” for Blanks). It’s just a little way of reminding each other than we’re a system. We’re all in this together. Everyone is pulling for each other, everyone has roles they play.
Communication Is Key
I make sure I am constantly informing our children of what’s going on, what deadlines I have coming up, what we’ll be doing at church, etc. I actually make it a point to thank them for sharing me with others. I remind my girls (and yes, even my wife) that when I have to go and do ministry, they are sacrificing too, and that their sacrifice is Kingdom sacrifice. I make sure my family realizes that they play a vital role in my ministry, and that, in a way, it’s their ministry too.
Commit To Increased Organization
This is my area of greatest challenge. But when things get crazy, you have to really buckle down on organization. The calendar is a must, so is making sure you share it with your spouse and any other mission critical parties. Disorganization in crunch time only adds to the stress of the moment.
These are things that have helped me. I’m curious what works for you.
(Image Courtesy Shutterstock.com / (c) Neamov)