Overwhelmed? 6 Steps to more peace-of-mind

The race is on again for a new week, and you and your mind are running at top speed, full out, and it’s not even 9:00am on Monday morning.

Hubbie. House. Job. Laundry. Clean clothes. Ironed clothes.  Lunches.

Kids. Backpacks. Missing homework. Missing sports equipment.

Get in the car. Let’s GO. We’re going to be LATE.

Missing me.

Missing time.

Missing breathing room.


Slow down for just a moment and take a deep breath.


It’s not healthy or productive to feel so overwhelmed, especially as you ramp up for back-to-school.

It’s time to step back and regroup, because there is a better way.


You need to build margin into your life.


I learned this term from Andy Stanley, through his  study “Take it to the limit-How to get the most out of life.”

The description of the study notes:

Overloaded? Maxed out? Our culture encourages us to live as if we have no limits. So we fill up our schedules and empty our bank accounts. We do as much as we can, spend as much as we can, and acquire as much as we can – all in an effort to get as much as we can out of life.

Does this description ring a bell with you? Does it describe your life, especially once school gets underway?

Living a life crammed full—without margin—is counterproductive to living a life full of faith, gratitude, and joy, because:

Margin is crucial to your mental, spiritual, relational, financial, and physical well being.

Having margin means that you walk yourself permanently back from the precipice.

When there are emergencies—and there will be emergencies—you will not be shoved hard and fast over the edge.


What does having margin in your life look like?


Margin might look like the family sitting down to dinner together, and I’m not talking about in the car as you drive through Chez McD’s. It might look like blocks on the calendar for activities like hiking, sitting down to a family game night, or hosting a pot-luck with friends. It feels like a weight lifted, because your bills are paid on time and not lost under the driver’s seat in your van along with empty fast food bags and your child’s permission slip for the biggest trip ever of the year. It sounds like a sigh of relief, of laughter and joy to have found some breathing room because you waved goodbye to the terribly urgent and hello to the more important.


How do you get there?


1. Identify your stressors

Does your blood pressure skyrocket at the thought of figuring out what to make for dinner, or just to make it out the door in the morning? Is it about forgetting to take care of important details or thinking about the additional volunteer responsibilities you just signed on for? Have you bought into the belief to be a good mom you have to keep up with a Pinterest perfect image? List everything you can think of that makes your chest tight and your breath short.


2. Apply E-R-C to your list: Eliminate, Reduce and Cope.

Melissa at Whole 9 Life describes the process:

Identify those you can Eliminate, those you could Reduce and those you must simply Cope with. Consider evaluating time, money and accepted obligations all at once; you may be able to eliminate or reduce more stress than you believed. (For example, if cleaning the house on your day off is a big stressor, consider revising your budget to hire a cleaning service. If you’ve accepted too many social requests, prioritize one or two that are the most important to you, and beg off the rest. They’ll forgive you, and you really can’t afford to take on any more right now.)


3.Take the remaining list and dissect it

Think about what might be at the core of the one area that causes you the most stress, and then do some brainstorming about how to begin to tweak that into submission. Very often, it is a lack of organization, delegation , or not being able to say no.

As I suggested previously:

If you start with something basic, such as creating a weekly menu, and grocery shopping around it, that small step can cascade into a series of benefits, such as having dinner at home, enjoying conversation with your family over a meal, saving money, working towards better health, and experiencing satisfaction at taking this step, as opposed to a rushed, frantic, unhealthy, expensive meal at the nearest fast food joint.

Sometimes taking the time for an activity actually provides greater benefits in the long run, such as praying, or choosing to use part of your lunchtime to walk. Both of these activities effectively increase your white space in the form of a little peace and clarity.


4. Ask for help

You can enlist the help of your family. After all, life was never meant to be a one-woman show.


5. Delegate

For example, teach the kids to prepare their clothes and school needs the night before, allowing for a more relaxed morning. And moms -yes, your children can and need to be taught how to use a washer and dryer, for your benefit and especially theirs. It is not capital punishment. What is cruel is being almost of legal age, and not recognizing what a washer is, let alone how to use it. See here for a how-to for every age.


6. Create routines

Ask your kids to share their vision of what a smooth morning would look like, what the benefits would be, and what would have to happen you could make it happen. Enlist their help.  They might just have ideas that will surprise you. Besides, they will be more apt to implement ideas that they have some ownership in. Put the reminders in a prominent place. Run the plan, and tweak it as needed.


Remember to be patient and flexible with yourself and the family. It is especially important that you keep an eye on your personal perspective. Sometimes the problem is not with others, but with your point of view. As Victor Frankl said, “When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

Be grateful for and celebrate the baby steps, and let the mistakes go. After all, do you respond better when someone points out everything you are doing wrong, or what you are doing right? This can take some time, depending on how each member handles change.

Building this margin into your life will make a significant difference, and will help you feel less like a constantly winded sprinter and more like a well-toned, long-distance runner.

Questions: How you have created margin in your life, or where do you need help creating margin?

What point or area resonates the most with you?

You never know how many other lives you may touch by sharing what you know! Thanks for joining the conversation.

Sharing at NOBH, Better Mom, Finding Heaven, Pour Your Heart Out

Did you find this encouraging? I’d love to have you share. Just click on any of those buttons below and share away, and thanks so much!

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  1. This is such a wonderful post, full of valuable advice and practical ways to make it work for you. It’s also very encouraging!!

  2. Oh yes, and amen! What great truth, wisdom and insight you share here. Thank you! and thanks for the sweet comment left at my place. We both wrote about margin. Wow! I am getting the message :)

    • Ha, ha-me too! I really felt it this weekend as I was writing this, on my birthday. Talk about needing to find more margin!

  3. Thank you, thank you, thank you! I struggle with feeling overwhelmed quite a lot (just like every other mama, yes?) and this was just what I needed. I need to start evaluating all sorts of different things in my life.


    • You are so welcome, Jamie. I am so touched that this was encouraging to you. Evaluating can be hard, especially the eliminating part, but it is so good when we have trimmed the out of control list! Thanks for coming by.

  4. This was a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing. I just found you from the No Ordinary Blog Hop.

  5. such a great blog! Love the layout/header image and especially the content!

    Great post. Definitely something to think about during our busy weeks.

    Following you from No Ordinary Blog Hop!


    • Thank you for your kind words, Christina. I love to know that I have encouraged others to take action. NOBH is a great sharing place, isn’t it? I love the wide variety of bloggers there.

      • Thank you for visiting and commenting on my blog, Kim!
        In response to your comment: I completely agree with you. Recently, I’ve noticed how my own content in being alone is quite scarce among my age group! I have to say that growing up, I was a very shy person. But as the years have gone by, I’ve grown into a person who isn’t afraid to see a movie on my own, sit alone at lunch, or take a new and interesting dance class by myself. I’ve learned to step into these opportunities and make the most out of life. After my best friend’s father passed away, I’ve tried hard to not let myself be afraid of trying new things. Life is short and although as humans we do need people in our lives, it’s also important to be on your own to truly discover our true potential and appreciate what God gave us.

        Thank you for your thoughtful response to my post. I appreciate having conversations such as these :)

        • You are so welcome, Christina! I can remember a New Year’s Eve where I was alone, and went out to dinner. That was just a little bit tough. But with practice, you are right: we do get better and more comfortable. Love the conversations as well!

  6. Creating margin is something so many of us struggle with. I know I do! Our church did a margin series last year using Andy Stanley’s tips. Good stuff!

  7. You packed so much in this post. It’s a great reminder of how to create and maintain margin. We all try and then most of us struggle when we take on too much. (I love the Dr. Henry Cloud/ Boundaries books on this subject as well.) Thanks for the reminders and tips.

    • Thanks for the heads up on the Dr. Cloud/Boundaries books. I will have to check those out. Thanks for sharing your wisdom!

  8. Thanks for the practical tips, Kim, and the reminder of the importance of margin. One of the hardest things I have learned to do (and am still learning) is to say “no” to what other people want when it is not what God wants for me, so I can have margin…it is such a counter-cultural way to live. Blessings to you :)

    • It is countercultural, isn’t it, Dolly? Saying no is a learned skill, I’ve decided, and definitely harder if you are a people pleaser like me. Appreciate the reminder to always be listening for what He wants for me, not what various volunteer organizations want of me. Thanks for coming by. Love to see your smiling face!

  9. SUCH a great post, Kim! So helpful and applicable. I love Andy Stanley’s material because he makes things do-able.

    You’re so right about creating margin in our lives. So many times I feel like I’m slacking if I’m not running 24-7, but then Jesus didn’t make Himself crazy trying to do everything for everybody. He did only what the Father told Him, which is exactly what we should be about!

    I’ll be featuring this post on my Friday Favorites this week :)
    Hugs from VA,

    • It always makes me smile to see your smiling face here, Susan! Your analogy is spot on-the thought of Jesus running around with too much on his plate just makes me laugh and shake my head.

      Thanks for your kind words. I’m humbled by them and touched and thrilled you will be sharing this. I pray it reaches women who need to hear this message, to encourage them to do some pruning so they get down to what is really important.

  10. This is so good. So many good tips (and clearly, I need tips). I am bookmarking this and am going to start implementing!

    • Jen, thanks so much for dropping by. I know your life is so busy and you have written before about taking steps to trim down your load.
      I’m so tickled you found this list of tips helpful. I’d love to hear how you implement one or more of them in your life. Share your story on your blog or stay in touch to let me know! Peace and blessings to you today!

  11. Wow! This was so well put together and so true!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I needed this article about 9 years ago when my life was very trying. Having a son (Michael, 9years old)with autism really made me face myself in ways that you are explaining here, I had no choice but to slow down, it is like art , you have to master it … I never gave up and today I have such a loving home and beautiful enviroment… but oh yes there are still those times … lol
    I am visiting for the first time from NOBH and I am meeting all the team members!!!! Nice to meet you and I can’t wait to see what you will post next!

    • Hi and welcome, Naomi! I love your description of life as art. Mine is definitely a work in progress!

      Thanks so much for your kind words, and especially for sharing how implementing these ideas can give you a better life, with time and attention for that which is most important. I have no doubt there will be moms who draw encouragement from your words. Thanks, too, for coming over from NOBH. Great group over there, isn’t it? I just love them.

  12. Oh, you have no idea how much I needed to hear this today! Thank you for this list. I’m going to work on one! So glad you linked up! Be sure to come back each day and enter the giveaways! They are all awesome! :)

    • Your words are so sweet, Adrienne! I am so glad you found what you needed here today. Your giveaways are great and the posts that are linking up are delightful and interesting as well.

  13. It’s as if you read my mind. Building margin. This is a brilliant way for me to take a look at the things that I know are my stressors! And I know what they are. These are some great tools for me to work with them – and peacefully co-exist with them. Thank you!

    • You are welcome! I can hear your stressors quaking in fear as you stalk them and pull them up by the roots to deal with them or make peace with them, Fierce Diva! Glad to know this was helpful. Keep me posted on how this helps!

  14. Awesome Blog! A very wise man told me one time when we add something to our lives, whether it is a new goal, a class, writing a book or whatever – we must decide to let something go. If we add 15% more to our schedule, ask what other 15% of what we are doing now is getting cut?
    I shared your post on my Facebook page. Thanks so much for spreading the word, happiness is possible for all of us if we believe and take action to BE happy. To BE happy, we must Think Happy!
    Connie Williams, author of Thinking Consciously Rocks!

    • Oh, that adding and removing can be painful, Connie, but continuing to stack our growing pile ever upwards is a sure recipe for disaster!
      I’m glad you shared that 15% piece. I know it, but it is so good to be reminded of it. . .
      Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom here, and for sharing this on your Facebook page!


    Great points. I love your blog. I try to automate everything from dry cleaning to bill payments. Having efficiency in one’s life tends to make one’s life more effective. Thank you for the article.

    My Flexibility Manifesto: Following Your Passion 2 Success

    • Those are great ideas, Leonard. I have read that the act of making a decision takes energy. Automating these areas of your life removes the decision making, and that bit of stress. Plus, you aren’t stressing about uncompleted tasks!
      Thanks for sharing your tips!

  16. This topic is one I never get tired of reading on or learning about, Kim. Thanks so much for unfolding these great tips and challenging us to create margin in our lives. I’m still working on this one and my biggest area of trouble is blogging, but that’s getting better. Thanks again for your wise advice.

    • Oh, Beth. Thanks for the laugh. When I read your biggest area of trouble is blogging, I felt your pain. Streamlining, making all the pieces more efficient, etc. seem to take up so much time!
      I’m with you. I am always picking up something new about getting my ducks into a more manageable row! You are welcome, and thanks for stopping by. Always love to hear your thoughts!

  17. Kim, this is a great reminder post for all of us in our busy lives. I see my margins getting smaller and smaller as the kids get bigger and bigger! But we do make room for it. I will resist anything that breaks up that solid block of dinner time as long as I can. My DH is so good about planning family outings, as he says doing that is our way of ‘creating memories’ for the kids. I have to remember your tips as I begin our back-to-school routine, since some madness is already starting!

    • What a DH you have! He is right about creating the memories. Those kinds of times are what our two young adult daughters remember the best and most fondly about growing up.
      Take those tips and tape them to the fridge if you need to, Sandra. You can even hold that discussion at dinner one night, especially since your kids are getting older. They have lots of wisdom to be tapped!
      Thanks for stopping by and being so encouraging!

  18. I love this list and I love how you describe it – living within margins. Perfect, really. And it makes me worried that we’re not going to be living within margins this fall – at least til Volleyball is over.

    • I’ll be praying for you, Missy, as you make your way through the Volleyball season. Is there anything you can eliminate or reduce elsewhere that will allow the coping to go smoother? Be zealous as you apply the E-R-C to your lists! Enjoy the season and thanks for visiting!

  19. Routines are what help me. As well as trying to add in more time. Getting everyone up a little earlier than they have to be up so we can go a little slower instead of rushing through everything.

    • I’m am with you on the routines, Shell. Those have saved us many times in the past! I like the idea of getting everyone up earlier, too. How do your kids do with that? Do they like the extra time to be ready as opposed to just a few more minutes of sleep?
      Thanks for sharing what works for you, as it is sure to be a help and encouragement to someone else!

  20. Oh Kim, such a good reminder/inspirer! This is just what I need as I’m finishing up my prepping for school to start on Monday! We LOVE Andy Stanley and that sermon series in particular. Thanks!

    • Good luck with your school prep, Melinda, and thanks for taking the time to stop by. I remember how busy those days were! I hope you do find tips here to use as you begin your year. Glad to hear you are a fellow Andy Stanley fan!

  21. Kim,
    I’m stopping by from my friend Susan Stilwell’s site and boy am I glad I did. I am at a place of limbo as we’ve just moved from Indiana to Nevada and I’m patiently waiting for my Nevada teaching license. Though I’m privately teaching for a family here in my new home city, I still have spent much of my summer fretting, stewing, feeling guilty… or whatever you want to call it… over the fact that I have to wait 16 WEEKS for my license. After all, I should be doing something. I should be feeling productive! Lately, God has gently reminded me that this time is a gift. A time of reflection and a time to enjoy my husband (who retired earlier this year). I don’t want to live as if I have no limits and fill up my schedule and empty my bank account. I don’t want to do as much as I can, spend as much as I can, and acquire as much as I can – all in an effort to get as much as I can out of life. Yes, I believe God has given me a calling and yes, someday soon I’ll be back at teaching, but what good is all of that if I burn myself out and spread myself too thin as I’m prone to do.

    Thank-you so much for the reminder to train for the marathon and say arrivederci to my sprinting days.


    • Marisa, I’m so glad you dropped by and shared your story. My sister had to wait as well for her certification when she moved to a new state. It can make you impatient, can’t it?
      I’m glad you were reminded to slow down and enjoy this time with your newly retired husband. What a way to refresh and reconnect before you get your license again!

  22. so very wonderful. most encouraging, and so wise. I am going to ensure there is a big fat margin during this school year. especially since I am coming out of summer holidays overwhelmed, under-rested and like I need at least a 2 week vacation from my home and family. that’s probably a bad sign. E.R.C indeed :)

    • Oh, my Rorybore. You made me smile when you said you need a week vacation. Been there, done that.
      I hope you are able to trim down your schedule with E-R-C. Taking time for yourself can be really hard, but you’ve got to remember to refresh at the well so you can be the best you want to be!

  23. Hi Kim. What a great list. I am currently working on delegation and routine. School started this week for my 10, 8 and 4 year olds, and we are fine tuning our morning routine. Fine tuning includes things like finding one place to put your backpack, one place to put your jacket, one place to put your homework, etc… If we can have one place for everything, we will avoid running around like chickens with our heads cut off every morning looking for things. :) Also, with delegation, I recently gave my 10 and 8 year old daughters the chores of emptying the dishwasher and walking our dog every day. They swap duties each day. I think I need to incorporate washing clothes too! So glad I found you at NOBH. Have a great weekend!

    • Hmmm. Chickens running around with heads cut off. That sounds like how our house ran sometimes. :-)
      I love delegating-don’t you? It sounds like you are on track to make life a little more organized and simpler, but you are raising competent kids, too!
      Ours used to whine that their friends and cousins never had to do the chores or the work they did. Now that they are older, they have said that learning to do those chores and help around the house was priceless.
      Have a great start to your school year and thanks for joining the conversation!

  24. Great information, and enjoyed the read. I really try hard to keep an eye on those stressors in life and have learned how to be proactive when they come into my life now.

  25. Julia Tomiak says:

    Thank you Kim; I needed this! I found this post through Susan Stilwell’s Friday Favorites- great tips. I’m entering a new phase in my life- all the kids are in school- and I want to set up some routines that will ease the overwhelming sensation that too often turns me into a cranky mama. I have also found Michael Hyatt’s site helpful, but you offer a nice “mothering oriented” perspective. Thanks so much!

    • I hear you, Julia. We can all get cranky when our regular routines are changed! I think you’re on the right track. Creating new routines for yourself will give you a sense of purpose. I’m so glad you enjoyed these tips. I’d love to hear how you get along as you move forward in this new phase of your life!

  26. Hi Kim,
    I tagged you in my post http://soulstops.com/post/2012/08/23/Eleven-Random-Things-About-Me-and-then-some.aspx I hope you will join in as I would love to get to know you better :)

  27. What a powerful message. Thank you for sharing. Stopping by from No Ordinary Blog hop.

  28. This is such a great post! Thank you for your wonderful insight. Well, although I have been doing much better I am still working on finding my margins and balancing life and work without doing too much! I will be coming back and re-reading your article many times!

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