“I can’t even handle it!” That’s a phrase my five year old has come to use to communicate when she has intense feelings of being “too” overwhelmed, mad, helpless, stuck, anxious, or sad. I think this sentiment captures what we all feel as summer draws to a close and the school year ramps up. Whether juggling the many demands of being a teacher, a student, a parent guiding their children through the difficulties of school, or a homeschool parent, there are moments that just feel like too much, like we can’t even handle it.
Some seasons are unavoidably busier than others. The question is, How do we help guide our children, our students, and ourselves through these moments that are simply too much? While we may not be able to tame all the busy, we can set ourselves up for success in the midst of the busy by adding one essential thing to our calendar: margin.
Our culture has trained us to believe that the successful life is the busy life. We work long hours, fill the holes with extracurriculars, and don’t sleep nearly enough. The net result is that we are worn out, exhausted physically, spiritually and emotionally. We are left with an inner deficit that prevents us from being our best selves for those we love. Incorporating margin into our lives creates space for us to rest, nap, play, enjoy those activities that refresh us, or simply do nothing at all. Building margin into our lives is certainly counter to modern culture. Here are some tips I’ve found helpful for creating and using margin for my family’s physical, emotional, and spiritual health.
1. Plan it.
We don’t leave our doctor’s appointments or important meetings to chance. Why would we leave times to take care of our inner lives to chance? Take the time to add margin to your calendar. Literally. Go mark it on your calendar. If you really want to be able to resist the temptation and allure of constant busyness, set time aside for rest. I have personally decided that the time of margin that works best for my family is to commit to one day each week where we do nothing work related. We may go hiking, kayaking, do yard work, etc. But we intentionally stay away from filling this time with our vocational tasks.
2. Fill it.
Now that you’ve set aside time for margin, what will you do with it? Fill it with life giving activities. This may mean you take a nap, go on a hike, watch a movie with your family, or sit and drink a good cup of coffee. In his book, Emotionally Healthy Leadership, Peter Scazzero asks the question, What do you currently do that nurtures your Spirit and fills you with delight? Whatever your answer, fill your margin with that. This means my margin time will likely look different from yours, and that’s okay. The point of margin is to refill myself physically, spiritually and emotionally.
3. Guard it.
Once you have built in margin and made plans for putting it to the best use, you need to protect it. You must be willing to protect the time you set aside from the false emergencies of life. You may disappoint people or struggle with the fear of missing out, but once you’ve experienced the fruit of your rest, setting appropriate boundaries will become easier.
At the end of the day, margin in your life is intended to serve you and make your life more fulfilling. Friend, we are not machines created for production. We are human beings created for relationship. Resolve with me to create space for you to rest and be refreshed this school year, lest we find that we can’t even handle it.
Resolving to rest,