Stress in a pandemic: 3 Tips to be bold & regain margin

This has been One Challenging and Stress Filled Year!

stress in a pandemic

I don’t want to say horrible, because I think God has given us gifts in the midst of the trials, but it has been challenging.

  • For some, it has been a year of great sorrow.
  • For some, it has been a year of fear of the unknown.
  • For some, it has been a year of devastation.
  • For some, it has been a year of inconvenience.
  • For some, it has been a year of great loss.

But for everyone, it has been a year with much stress, and stress that we haven’t always learned to deal with.

When stress walks in the door, margin tends to jump out the window!

I’ve talked about margin before. Maybe now is a good time to re-read that post and then come back here to look at how things are different in a pandemic. For a reminder, margin is that part of our lives that gives us room to breathe – it’s making sure our time isn’t scheduled to the last moment, or making sure that our budget has a miscellaneous column for those odd things that come up. Margin is what helps to keep us sane. It’s leaving space on the sides of the page (margin) in case we need to write notes or comments on the page. If we wrote all the way from end to end, our stress level would rise when we had to make a note on the page!

Did you see the analogies there? I mix metaphors a lot (sorry) but are you catching the drift of what margin is and how it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for our health and well-being??

Our struggle, particularly if you are feeling the need to be a “Good Christian Servant,” is to see the needs around you (when others are stressing out) and add THOSE needs onto your ever-growing list. And before you know it, you have written into every empty spot of the margins on your page… and you are drowning!!

#1 Tip: Saying NO is not a bad thing!

Two things I’ve mentioned over and over again that I’ve learned in my life from others:

  • you MUST put your oxygen mask on FIRST before you can help someone with theirs
  • for the believer, THE GOOD is the enemy of THE BEST

When we pick up the pressure and stress of others, are we doing it because God has called us to serve in this particular way, or are we allowing others to dictate our agenda? This is a real hard one. We see over and over in the scriptures how we are to serve, die to ourselves, put other’s needs before our own. How can this jibe with saying NO?

I always take a peek at Jesus. 

We see Jesus, frequently taking off from others. Going into the wilderness. Taking times of retreat with the Father. He is telling others NO when they were demanding He heal/preach/whatever they are wanting Him to do. He is practicing what 21st Century folks call Self Care. He is making sure that HE is stepping into His communion with the Father. This is, in a manner of speaking, keeping the margin in His life so that He can, in turn, serve and minister to others.

And there are so many things in our lives that we think, “Oh that’s a good thing, therefore, I MUST do it!” But when we pick up all the good things we could possibly be doing, we do not have time to do the will of God (His BEST) that He has ordained for us!  We put 90% of our time and energy into things we are not called to do and we find that there just is no space in our lives for those things we are anointed for. And did you ever notice that MOST of the time, the things we are anointed for are the things that bless and fill and energize US as well as others?? Something to think about!

#2 Tip: Take time to be filled, don’t just fill up your time!

We’ve all done it. Netflix, Hulu, cable TV… we sit and mindlessly “binge” on shows and come away feeling drained, or worse, guilty for the time we’ve spent doing nothing. Now, please know I am NOT saying binge watching something is wrong. On the contrary. Sometimes we need entertainment to take us out of our thoughts and stress and just laugh, cry, get tense, etc. Entertainment can actually be an opportunity for our personal internal “jobs” to be turned off and for our emotions to be filled up and rejuvenated.

BUT when we let entertainment RULE us, we don’t get filled, we just fill up time.

Don’t shy away from entertainment, but make it a deliberate choice. If you have found yourself at 4 am (especially if more and more regularly) having sat down at 8 to watch one movie and bleary-eyed after 9 hours of random watching, then this might NO LONGER be a time of refreshment for you, but of mental and emotional escape. Escape never fills us, it just puts off the things stressing us out, which in turn, adds to our stress. Talk about a vicious circle!

Find ways to be social. I know it’s very hard right now. And some of you find being social a real stresser. But we can now be “pickers and choosers”. We are not obligated to random shallow social events, because they aren’t safe. But that doesn’t mean we can live in isolation. God created us for community. However large or small that community is. Make time to “hang” with loved ones you feel safe with. Play with them, talk with them, laugh with them, cry with them. For my social butterfly friends, go and visit outside (even in the cold weather, you can sit outside and talk through windows). Do not neglect this part of God’s designed plan for community.

And remember, it’s not just our emotions that needs to be refreshed! Have you reduced your time with the Lord? Are you praying “more” (or thinking that you are… sometimes we convince ourselves we are praying more because we are tossing up random prayers throughout the day rather than really sitting and communing with God) but not in the Word? When was the last time you cracked open your bible to sit and meditate on it? I don’t mean reading your verse for the day or someone else’s devotional? When was the last time you actually stepped into full on devotion to the Lord? THIS is the path to real refreshment. This is where you will find yourself truly getting filled up.

#3 Tip: Eat right, exercise & get dressed!

Seriously?? We are in a pandemic, staying in my pjs all day (every day) and munching throughout the day is a PERK of being at home. Well, it sure was fun for the first week, even the first month. But I think it leads to a not-so-healthy mental state that we are not realizing.

Years ago I used to follow the Fly Lady. She’s a gal who helps other gals get organized in their homes. I learned a lot from her. You know the #1 takeaway I learned? Every day get washed and dressed (she has you put on your shoes, but the thought of that made me stressed, so I don’t do that). Why? We actually act differently when we are dressed and ready for the day. We become more focused and purposeful.

I’m suggesting it because when we are setting our own personal grooming as a regular part of our day, we realize that this is also self-care! We are taking care to eat healthily, exercise to strengthen our bodies (especially if all we have is our home and are less likely to get off our couch or home office chair) and get dressed KNOWING that our lives are ready to step into the purpose God has ordained for us this day! And when we think about our lives being designed for HIS PURPOSE, it becomes one step easier to actually SEEK Him for how to order our days!

This is the day that the Lord has made, we will rejoice and be glad in it!

2020 was made by God. It was time that He set in place and He granted to us the life to live it. 2021 is just as ordained by God. Are we willing to recognize that God’s hand is still working through this time and that rejoicing is something that helps us alleviate stress? Rejoicing and praise gets our minds off of ourselves and onto the God who blesses, protects, provides, delivers, heals. More than that, when we praise Him, there is something supernatural that happens. He actually inhabits the praises of His people! Are you making a way for His habitation to dwell within and among you?

May we each grow in wisdom and margin for a less stressful year!



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1 Comment

  1. Such wise counsel—especially as the year is ending.


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