Pyxis Counselling Services: Helping You Navigate Life

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"I love a broad margin to my life. Sometimes, in a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and stillness, while the birds sang around or flitted noiseless through the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the noise of some traveler's wagon on the distant highway, I was reminded of the lapse of time. I grew in those seasons like corn in the night, and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life but so much over and above my usual allowance." ~Henry David Thoreau - "Walden"

August Newsletter from Pyxis Counselling Services
Greetings in August from Pyxis Counselling Services! Here we sit on the edge of summer looking toward the coming month and all of what it brings. My wish is that you have been able to take in some summer fun and have experienced some rest and relaxation along the way. This month's article looks at how we equip ourselves for life's challenges by building margins into our lives.

Leaving Space: Creating Margins in Life

What Does It Mean to Have Margins?
In the toolbox for navigating life is our ability to create margins or space in our lives. Generally our lives here in the first world consist of busy, complex, multi-tasking days. How do we keep from feeling overwhelmed by everything we are juggling? By having a margin - physically, emotionally, mentally, financially. 

A margin is a surplus, a reserve, some extra space on the periphery of life. It's that extra energy that we draw on to push through an especially busy work week, the emotional and mental strength we find to support our partner through a crisis, or deal with our own, or that extra chunk of money set aside for "just in case". These are the safeguards we have in life against the unexpected and unpredictable circumstances that come up.

What If There is No Margin?
if we are always operating at the very maximum limit of ourselves physically, emotionally, mentally, even financially, then when the next event occurs - big or small - we have nothing left to draw from. It's the feeling of being at the end of the rope. It's hard to tell at times how much of a reserve is left until something happens and we need to draw from it, only to find there's nothing there. 

Regular life stuff like getting a new pet, changing roles at work, supporting a friend whose long-term relationship is ending, or buying a new vehicle, these are all events in life that require a certain level of energy to manage. But what if some or all of this is going on, and then a parent dies, a job is lost or changed, or a move to a new city takes place? Suddenly it's all too much. 

The reality is that some periods of life are more stressful or challenging than others. An even more harsh reality is that sometimes everything seems to go "wrong" at once. At a certain point, often when there is a crisis or trauma of some kind, maintaining a margin is not realistic. At that point the goal might be to exist in survival mode until such time that there is enough breathing room to heal and rebuild.  

How Do We Create Margins?
Although we might not be able to sit "in a sunny doorway from sunrise til noon", as Henry David Thoreau describes, the truth is that making some sort of space will add, not subtract from our lives. Creating a margin happens along the way, or by making bigger changes at times. The lists below are some examples, but there are lots of other ways that may come to mind. 

Along the Way:
  • practicing good self-care
  • setting boundaries with people that drain energy from you
  • taking breaks throughout the work day
  • being mindful of a healthy work/life balance
  • meditation (sitting, walking in a park, playing an instrument etc.)
  • sitting and doing nothing
  • taking some "screen free" time (no TV/phone/computer/tablet etc. at dinner or after a certain time at night)
  • putting a bit of money aside each month in a savings account
  • seeing a counsellor about particular areas of stress or emotional difficulty
More Major Adjustments:
  • taking time off in between changing jobs (if possible)
  • taking the allotted vacation time from work and leaving some unscheduled days with no agenda, trips, projects
  • going on a vacation and scheduling rest days into the trip
  • changing jobs for a shorter commute, shorter work day, or more flexible work week
  • moving in order to be closer to family or a support network of some kind

Margin Check
So then, how are those margins? As I write this I realize that the way I take time off has changed since being self-employed. Of course there's a different rhythm to my work life which allows more flexibility throughout a given week, but because there's no "paid vacation", I have been reluctant to take longer stretches of time off. At the moment I don't feel burnt out, but how will I feel in a year? Will I have energy to deal with other changes, planned or unplanned in my life?

What area might need a little extra space in your life?
Please be in touch if you have any thoughts or questions on this article or any others. As well, I hope this finds you enjoying the rest of the summer and I look forward to connecting with you again next month.

Susie Merz MC, RCC


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