Friday, October 9, 2009

Tackling Emotional Debt

Today I'm tackling my emotional debt hardcore after a busy couple of weeks where it got mostly ignored. What is emotional debt? Well, I'm sure there are different ideas of what it is, but when I refer to it, I'm simply talking about the obligations that are hanging over my head that I need to get done, which aren't neccessarily high-pressure things. When you have financial debt, there is a lot of pressure from bill collectors to pay up....or else! My emotional debt doesn't involve a lot of external pressure (except for getting bills paid on time) but rather internal pressure from myself.

What is on my emotional debt list? I'll give you a recent glimpse from my list:

Thank-You Notes (I had 6 people listed)

Packages to mail

Need to send gifts to 4 couples we know who recently got married

Get some paperwork filled out and mailed

Pray for Samaritan Ministries folks from the Sep. booklet (Samaritan Ministries is a health-insurance alternative we belong to)

Prayer for people we promised to pray for

Get a tape of my Bible verse song made for my Aunt Joanie

Invite a new friend to a playdate

Give books back to gal I borrowed them from months ago

Send photos of our kids to my sis-in-law (she makes a calendar each year for the grandparents)

Send Hannah (in prison--see sidebar) a card of encouragement

Make a sick friend a meal

Some months there are more things than others. Sometimes I'm caught up, but not for long! There is always plenty to do!

Why do I have an emotional debt list vs. just putting these items on a daily to-do list? Because for me, having one master list for the month makes it simpler and I can look it over, check off the item when it's done, and get to the others as I am able throughout the month. Lately, I have been so busy following a homeschooling schedule and routine that I don't usually use my home management binder daily to write homemaking to-do lists in. My previous practices of the daily index cards or the daily checklist have helped me to get into good habits so I no longer find a to-do list really necessary unless it is a very big day with lots of extra chores to do, or a party to plan or big shopping trip, etc. We write Church events or medical appointments on our wall calendar. Find out what works for you and use it!

While obligations hanging over our heads can weigh us down, I want to emphasize that many of the things on the list are blessings. It is a blessing to send cards of encouragement to others and pray for Christians who are sick or suffering. If God lays someone on my heart, jotting it down on this list is preferrable to having niggling thoughts in the back of my head ("I should do this..." or "I need to encourage that person..."). It is a blessing to make or purchase gifts for others. It is a blessing to serve and minister to others on behalf of the Lord. However, as moms, with lots on our plates, it can feel overwhelming if we let it all pile up or try to remember it without writing it down. This is where the handy list comes in. If you aren't comfortable calling your list "An Emotional Debt" list you could find another creative name.

1. Make your list. Write down everything that is cluttering up your brain that you need to do outside of home chores and child-rearing.

2. Prayerfully go over it and consider your daily priorities. How can you take care of your emotional debt bit by bit without sacrificing those priorities?

3. Think about how you can tackle it. Could some of your thank-yous be done more quickly through a heartfelt e-mail? Is there a great book on marriage you could order in bulk and give to the 4 couples you know getting married? Can you save time on the meal you are taking someone by buying french bread and ice-cream instead of making bread and brownies?
Financially, you can get out of debt little by little or tackle it all at once, or do some of both. I try to tackle my emotional debt a little each day, but if it builds up because life hasn't allowed me to work on it, then I do a "debt-snowball" and spend a few hours hitting it hard!

4. Tackle the time-sensitive stuff first. Back when I was dealing with all of the paperwork for my husband's broken wrist, there were all kinds of things on my emotional debt lists regarding forms to fill out, phone calls to hospital billing agencies, etc. Obviously, this kind of stuff is more important than sending thank-you notes promptly. Due to the volume of weddings we were invited to this year we post-poned giving gifts to some of the couples and I plan to surprise the happy couples later on with a card and a small, but sweet, gift. Better late than never, right? =)

5. Be proactive about avoiding too many obligations. This point hits home for me! As a firstborn whose parents were very strict and required a ton out of me (and still do) I have to continually remind myself to utelize these phrases, "Let me pray about it," "No." and "I need to discuss it with my husband." Many times, I have to step back and tell myself no concerning things that I would love to do. I love to sew and want to sew a pretty apron for every one of my friends, my internet and blogging buddies, and all the ladies at church going through a rough time. But can I physically do this when I have only 3-4 kid-free hours in a day? No! These unrealistic ideas must be forgotten. I often expect more out of myself than I should . I have mentioned before that as a stay-at-home mom everyone wants a piece of your time, so you have to fight tooth and nail, sometimes fighting yourself hardest of all, to save time for your main priorities, God, husband, and kids. Thinking before you speak and weighing your options carefully and prayerfully will go a long way towards helping you avoid emotional debt that you could have avoided in the first place. Some examples of this: telling church committees that you only wish to serve in one ministry at a time, telling your kids they may not trade toys with a playmate since it's more work for you to keep track of the borrowed toy (and return it), checking your calendar BEFORE saying yes to a playdate or event, choosing a simple generic gift for extended family for Christmas (the same book, photo calendar, tin of chex mix, etc.)

I'd love to hear what some of you ladies out there are doing to tackle and stay on top of your own emotional debt (or obligations)! Please share!

Photo: Flowers from my hubby at the end of a long week (last week).


The Three 22nds said...

I try to minimize my "emotional debt" :)

Anyway, I consider Tuesday evening "paper night". I go through my little wicker boxes where I dump things all week that I have to take care of and then try to take care of them all on Tuesday nights.

It is my relaxing evening. I do a lot of housework etc in the evenings, so that is kind of my break.

ALl our bills are paid automatically online, which relieves some of the pressure...

Lea said...

Boy is this a timely post for me!

I just has surgery two weeks ago to clear up a chronic infection that I've had for more than 2 years! I actually have energy to complete things now and my list of emotional debt is literally 7 pages long (typed!).

I've decided to tackle one thing a day! Most of them are little things like writing a note, mailing a card, or saying a prayer.

I've also decided to take my daily sewing time (30 min/day after the kids are in bed at night) to finish the stack of 5 partially completed baby quilts so they're done by Christmas. Some of these babies are 2 years old now (or older!). The older one now has a brand new baby sister that will now be blessed with the quilt.

I still have a long way to go, but it's nice to know that I don't have to catch up all at once!

Thanks for the post today! I'm glad your life has settled down a bit. Love your blog!

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