The Gift of Self-Regulation

It just hit me that I haven’t blogged in weeks! I didn’t intentionally go on a hiatus, and all my serious blogging friends probably think I’ve gone to the dogs because I haven’t kept posts flying up every week.  But the truth is, it’s a good sign.  I’ll explain.

Historically, I’ve experienced a huge blind spot in the area of self-regulation.   For a long time, I tried to run on some sort of “human generator” instead of maintaining and nurturing my main engine. (Translation: instead of getting energy from rest and nourishment, I’d crank myself up on caffeine and run til I couldn’t go anymore.)  But I quickly learned that generators aren’t created to take the weight of our need for power.  They’re a short-term option.  If you tend to forget self-care, here is a very important little secret I’ve discovered after making some repeated mistakes over the years:

Being driven doesn’t have to mean driving yourself into the ground!

I’m driven. But I used to focus that drive on putting out the biggest fires I could. I didn’t do it on purpose, it just happened.  I would focus the greater part of my energy on whatever was screaming the loudest.  (Hello?  It’s what moms do ALL the time, right?)  I applied that same thing to my job, my home, and even my spiritual and physical well-being. Then, when something was “screaming” I would go into crisis mode and all energy and mental resources were poured into that issue.  This mentality affected everything – even my tendency to be late all the time.  (I wouldn’t worry about being at the next place until I had to rush to make it.)

Eventually, it hit me that focusing on only these seemingly high-return activity (fires, the squeekiest wheels, the mini-crises, etc.) gives the illusion of productivity and (to be completely transparent) significance, but drains all creativity.  And sanity.  And peace.  And health.  Over time, this drain of mental, physical, emotional and even spiritual resources becomes its own crisis if we’re not proactive.

It has been an interesting heart-shift to decide that I don’t just have to refuel my mind, heart and body when I’m on empty. Or that I can start something long before it’s critical.  Or?  I can just not blog rather than staying up half the night or sacrificing family time during busy writing seasons. And who would believe that I could actually arrive somewhere early? (Okay, I won’t lie, I’m still working on this one big-time.)

This isn’t just a new mindset – it’s a spiritual discipline.  Knowing one’s limitations and keeping focused on long-term sustainability is helping me keep perspective of my true mission rather than distracting me with the sideshow of high-need activities that might cause me to neglect seeing myself, my family, and my work with greater discernment.

This will be a life-long pursuit – one that doesn’t come naturally for me. But one that is necessary for health, for connecting with people in a significant way, for keeping life sane and goals reachable, and for keeping me living in the moment rather than ‘out there’ mentally and emotionally. I still have a long way to go before self-regulation becomes a true habit. But staying this course is a gift to myself, from myself… and you know what?  It it a gift to the people I love.

I would be curious to hear from you all on this.  Anyone have some advice about learning to self-regulate and keeping all our roles in perspective??

2 thoughts on “The Gift of Self-Regulation

Add yours

  1. As I respond, I am sitting in the library, where I sometimes ‘work from home’ because my tots… don’t let me work at home. I have about 40 minutes until I have to head home to relieve the sitter, my dad, who has to go pick up my mom from work. Husband is away on business all week, and my to-do list for today is still pretty much un-checked, though I’ve been working on it (and mostly, all the unwritten branches of it!) since 7:30 AM.

    I say this not to ‘poor me’ but to say, I live where you live. And I don’t have a solution yet. I don’t eat healthy or exercise OR spend the time in devotion and prayer that I should, and I know all of those things would help. What helps me now is something you tweeted about this morning: Time spent in fellowship with loved ones who encourage me and make me laugh and just know me. It also helps to allow myself moments of ‘non-productivity’ which right now looks like: Taking my girls to the park across the street, for 30 minutes, without my phone. I’ll take it however I can get it 🙂

    Thanks for this. It’s for me today!


  2. Dear Emily,
    I’m right there with you, always driving with the pedal to the floor with only a vague notion of where I’m going. I tend to get sidetracked by little things, instances of Murphy’s Law that by themselves aren’t that big of a deal, but seem to carry a collective weight. So when there’s no more coffee creamer, or traffic is slow on 37 right @ the 69 on-ramp, or I forgot I had a meeting before school, I allow these trivial annoyances to consume me. But I’ve recently come to the conclusion that little things will always occupy my time until I set my sights on the big picture. Unfortunately, that realization opens up a bigger can of worms: finding a purpose to guide my walk. What is driving me? What should drive me? And why don’t I know. It’s hard to self-regulate when you don’t even know why you’re doing all of the things you’re doing.


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