How to fight busy and start creating space instead
In counseling a few weeks ago, we were talking about communication in marriage, and how I’ve realized that things always seem to go better when I let myself pause before actually responding. (Surprise, surprise!)
This isn’t my strength. Too often I just react out of emotion, and I say what I feel instead of what I think. But in the story I was relaying to my counselor, I had given myself space to think about what Jon had said, and to think through what I wanted my response to be, before I actually responded.
(This is what we call progress.) ?
After listening to the story, the counselor told me that I’d done just that – created space. And she shared this quote that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about ever since.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space.
In that space is our power to choose our response.
In our response lies our growth and our freedom.”
– Viktor Frankl
She explained that when we immediately react to a stimuli (or, in my case, a little constructive criticism from my husband), we’re almost always responding out of emotion. We haven’t given ourselves time to process what we’re hearing, or even how we feel about it – we instead just react in defense, often creating a bigger issue than there was to begin with.
Slowing down and giving ourselves the space to process & think through what’s being said (and run it past what God’s Word says) allows us to make a wise decision about our response. This is growth. And that wise response often leads to better communication and clearer understanding. This is freedom.
And it comes as a direct result of the space we create.
That space gives us the ability to have clear heads. Without it, we’re cloudy and confused, and then we try to function out of that uncertainty.
I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, because I’ve realized this isn’t only true in our marriages, it’s true in all areas of life.
Dear friends, I think we have run out of space.
We are busy, busy people. We’re managing homes, driving our little people from one activity to the next, working for demanding bosses (sometimes ourselves), cooking dinners, changing diapers, connecting with husbands, folding clothes, washing dishes, and discipling hearts. And that’s just on a regular day. I’m not even talking about the days where nothing seems to go right.
Our lives are full.
Our schedules are packed.
Our tanks are empty.
And if that isn’t enough, our senses are seriously overstimulated.
We’ve got Facebook and Instagram showing us the best parts of other people’s lives, and we see how we don’t measure up. We read blogs and emails from “experts” that tell us exactly what they think we should be doing, and we feel the weight of our failure. We are inundated with dings and pings from a phone that constantly signals just how much other people “need” us, and we live each day in a state of low-level panic because we know we just. can’t. do. everything. anymore.
We have run out of space.
Space to think. Space to be quiet. Space to take our time instead of hurrying around all the livelong day. Space to change the plan without freaking out. Space to respond in love.
Space to be the kind of people God made us to be.
I hit a wall this year where I simply couldn’t move forward anymore. Both Jon and I had been running fast and hard for a good four years, building my business/starting his new job, getting us out of debt, raising the kids, juggling three different schools and schedules, managing grad school, moving three times, and more.
And then 2019 started and on top of all that running, we started hitting crisis after crisis after crisis. Real issues, greater than our day-to-day struggles, that broke me. The betrayal of a friend that I didn’t see coming. The sudden death of a family member. Numerous health and mental health issues. I woke up one day and quite honestly could not function.
I’d run flat out of space.
We’d been so busy that busy had just become our life, and I didn’t even see it. I stayed up far too late at night, working or watching TV when I should have been resting.
My lack of rest spilled over into our mornings, which were perpetually rushed and stressed – mainly because I’d slept through my alarm & started my day already scattered.
Rushing around in the mornings affected my attitude, and the way I spoke to my family. I was the irritable, hurried mom, not the patient understanding one I wanted to be.
Work consumed my time and thoughts. I neglected my love of journaling, trading my moleskine in for more “productive” time on the computer. I missed fun days with my family, insisting that the work needed to be done, the bills needed to be paid, stability always just out of my grasp.
I had completely lost my joy, instead miserably toting around my self-inflicted cross of adulthood, duty, and responsibility.
And in the meantime, my grief and depression had grown so loud, I couldn’t hear much else.
I remember sitting on the couch one morning, already exhausted by 11am, thinking, “How do I get out of this? I have so many good things in my life, but I feel like I’m missing them all. Where has my joy gone? This crazy-busy, exhausted woman who has no time for anything is NOT who I really am. How do I get back to the person God made me to be?”
What I now understand is that I was really asking myself, “How do I create the space I need in my life again?”
If you’re in the same place, I wish I could reach through this email and give you a hug today. Instead, I hope what I’m about to share gives you a measure of hug-level encouragement. Because that day was a turning point for me – and I haven’t looked back.
Here’s how I’m fighting busy and creating the space I so desperately need:
I started with sleep, because I knew that I had to start nourishing my body instead of running it ragged. For two solid weeks, I took my kids to school each day, and then came home, crawled back in bed, and slept until pick-up time. Can you believe that? I couldn’t! But my body needed it, and I gave in. These days, I don’t need to do that anymore, but I DO keep a pretty regular early bedtime of 9pm. Sleep makes a huge difference.
Nothing is more powerful than God’s Word, but I’d been highly distracted from it in my always-busy state. I was listening to the one-year Bible in the shower, but that wasn’t the same as holding the Bible in my hands. I love reading with a pen in my hand, and when my Bible is open, I’m taking notes, writing questions in the margins, and praying through God’s Word. So, I started doing this again, opening my Bible and working through one single book (Mark) very slowly, taking simple notes, and praying as I went. I did not do this perfectly, and I certainly did not make this complicated! I just opened to where I’d left off the day before, and read the next small section. And since it’s God’s Word, He showed up in all of it. ?
3. Social Media.
I took an extended break from media – both social media and television. I couldn’t handle all the noise, the opinions, the darkness, and the unwritten expectations. I read books or listened to music instead. Lately, I found myself feeling stressed every time I picked up my phone, and again I asked myself, “Do I have the space I need in this area?” The answer was a hard no, so I took all social media and email off my phone, and guess what? That mental space reappeared almost immediately. Now I check once or twice a day on my computer, instead of carrying all that noise around with me.
I cut sugar out of my diet because it was a problem. I’d been eating a lot of sugar (mainly as a way to cope with my exhaustion and emotions), and I knew it was causing my migraines. Eliminating sugar has been a hard (and imperfect, because I do love me some chocolate chip cookies) road with great benefits for me – both physically and emotionally.
Normally, I tell people to cut every unnecessary thing out of their schedules to relieve stress, but I’d already done that. My schedule pretty much consisted of driving my kids to and from school, and working. So, I had to add things in. I put in that bedtime boundary, so I wasn’t working so late into the night. I prioritized getting together with friends and family, knowing that those times were life-giving both for me AND for my people. I quit skipping family days for the sake of work, and started the hard fight of trusting that God would provide for us (and admitting that I could not do it myself). I crafted my schedule around connecting with people, which is one big thing I knew I’d been missing.
This is not something I consciously shifted – instead it feels like something God broke free in me. When I hit that wall, when I couldn’t function without sleeping all day every day for two full weeks, I couldn’t pretend like I was capable anymore. I couldn’t pretend like I could do everything. Or anything. I couldn’t work. Couldn’t stay healthy. Couldn’t do all the things I was so sure I needed to do.
And yet, life continued on. Our bills got paid. My kids got fed. We had a roof over our heads. And honestly, other than me, everyone was relatively healthy and happy! God showed me so clearly that HE is the One who provides, not me. And that one truth has given me a brand new freedom that I haven’t experienced in years.
I’m in such a different place now. Not a perfect place, but a freer one.
I’m still taking it slow, refusing to fall back into the busy that seriously burned me out. I don’t want to go back there. But I’m also still learning how to make space for myself and my family every day. How to rely on the Lord to provide for us. How to work faithfully, and then know when it’s time to rest (and actually do it). How to quiet all the noise out there and train my listening ears on the words God has already shared with us.
When we changed our name to Anchored Women, I chose the phrase “Trading Scattered for Steadfast” as the goal we wanted to work toward. It wasn’t something I had already achieved – it was the hope.
Despite how hard the last few years have been, I think God has used it to show me the way we can actually do that – how we really can trade our scattered lives for steadfast ones.
We start by making space.
Over the next few weeks, that’s what I hope to do here – what I hope to talk about more. How we can start making space for our overwhelmed selves, and for the people we love. How we can use our time in a way that isn’t just productive, but also peaceful. (I have such a great series on this coming up!!) How we can accept the season that we’re in, and find real joy in it.
So today, I want to leave you with a fill-in-the-blank sort of question. And I want you to respond!
Yep, just leave a comment below that finishes this sentence:
I am struggling to create space in my life right now because ________________________________.
I will read every single answer, and craft our messages over the next few weeks based on what you share. I want this space here to be one that always helps and encourages you.
If you’re hoping to make some space right away, I want you to make sure that you’ve gotten our FREE Intentional Summer Planning Guide.
The workbook in there, among other things, is brand new, created SPECIFICALLY to help you figure out what you & your family need this summer, and give you an action plan to make space for whatever that is.
It’s totally free, and I know it will be a super helpful resource for you as you walk into the summer!
Get access here: https://anchored-women.com/summerplanningguide
Kayse is a wife, mom, and founder of the Anchored Women community. She writes to help women fight busy, find rest, and build a life that’s anchored in Christ. Kayse is also the creator of the S.O.S. Planner, the Anchored Life Kit, and other practical resources that equip women to manage their homes and families in confidence. You can find her writing and her resources at anchored-women.com!
I’m more focused on the routine tasks and the messy house, that I’m on survival mode when it comes to taking care of my family. Having my toddlers home everyday due to summer holidays, also is a little exhausting.. Not doing anything fun for them puts a bit of pressure on me, but I just can’t fit it in. And I find my energy zapped, even on days I don’t work hard. I don’t know why. I have no patience or love for my family. Not doing enough puts me on a guilt trip. I’ve been asking myself how I can break out of the routine..I even tried a day without my planner. Helped me, but didn’t solve anything. But this article is brilliant. Struck every chord. Can’t wait for what you have in store! I love how you say that trading steadfast for scattered isn’t an achievement but hope.. Wow! I hope to get better too!
I am struggling to create space in my life right now because I don’t know where to start and rather that just picking one thing and taking action, I become paralyzed and do nothing to change. I also am horrible as starting a new routine without accountability but won’t allow myself to be vulnerable enough to let someone into the struggle with me.
I try to please everyone and get asked often to serve at church, although I already serve in 2 ways, plus serve in the homeschool group and in Bible studies. They are all great things, but I can’t homeschool and care for my family well, plus do all these extra things. Gardening, sewing, reading, taking a bath, sleeping 8 hours, or even taking a minute to pee before I really have to don’t happen anymore. I recently announced to everyone, because my husband said, that I’d be taking a break from everything to sit in my closet, pray, and figure out what God wants from me. I’m turning 45 this month and I am tired and burned out.
Time to study God’s Word.. I work full time 8 hours a day, M-F, from 3:30 to midnight. after June I’m retiring.. I’m looking forward to it in one way but not in another..
I am struggling to create space in my life right now because – I have no space. I am taking 3 days off before Memorial Day to clean out my basement and make room down there for crap that has wormed it’s way upstairs, or never made it down there to begin with. I live in a 3-bedroom double with my 2 daughters and my mother and there isn’t a clear flat surface anywhere in my house.
When we (my ex-husband and I) remodeled our house we planned out our kitchen and created a space for absolutely everything. Over time some of those needs changed, but I remember how nice it was to put everything away in it’s predestined place. My dad always said his grandmother had a saying “a place for everything and everything has a place” – that’s kind of what we did with the kitchen. It was the easiest area of the house to clean up.
Fast forward 15 years to now – short of moving everything out and only moving back in the stuff we need, I am at my wit’s end. Hopefully this little “staycation” will help me get a handle on this.
Thank you for your posts, I always enjoy them!
I’m having a hard time creating space because like You said there is just too much noise. I’m a new mom and I run our HVAC business office from home while staying at home with our 1yo. I’m non stop all day and feel like there is not enough time in the day. When I put our little to bed I just veg out. I want to have time to exercise, clean, spend quality time with my husband. So many things I want to do but can’t seem to prioritize or make time for. It makes me irritable and resentful. I will be following this series and praying for help.