Emotional Budgeting


As I have been evaluating my life in this season of burnout and begun the journey towards healing, I recognize the need to be discerning with what I allow back into my life. I have a long-standing pattern of overestimating my capacity which ends up in over-fatigue. I am learning the importance of asking the one that knows me best what his opinions are about what I say yes to and what I say no to.


My husband is a wise and kind man who is calm and reassuring. Mike has a pastor’s soul and cares for me well. He has seen me in dark seasons of grief/burnout and has keen insight into my cycles and what works best for me. We both are committed to finding sustainable rhythms for ourselves and our family.


About a month ago, Mike said, “I think that you should consider an emotional budget.”


And I was like, “HUH?”


He went on to explain that just like a money budget, I need to pay attention to my emotional bank account and recognize that I have a finite amount of emotional energy each month that must be allocated in responsible ways.


These are the questions he posed to me:


What are the things that drain away your energy just like spending drains a bank account?


What are the “automatic drafts” in your life that will regularly require an ongoing emotional investment from you?


How are you going to receive deposits so that you can be generous in sustainable ways?


Side note: can I say that the man is freakin’ brilliant?


He noticed that often I say yes to ministry opportunities and make myself available to women without recognizing that I have to honor the “automatic drafts” in my life. I must have enough emotional investments in reserve to care for the ongoing daily demands of our lifestyle. I regularly end up overdrawn on my emotional account because I don’t plan for how much my current season of mothering takes from me.


What drains me right now?


Ministry outside my home. Deep conversation. Meeting women for lunch. Hospitality. Keeping my phone by my bed at night and in the morning.


What are my automatic drafts?


Mothering + Homeschooling six children who range from 18 to 4 years old. Shopping and preparing wholesome meals for my family. Effective + beautiful home management including cleaning, laundry, maintenance, decluttering, decorating and organization. My children’s extracurricular activities and schedules. Birthdays and holidays.


What are my deposits?


Writing regularly. Date nights with Mike. Tuesdays. A monthly writing circle. Solid sleep. Daily walks. Reading quality books. Podcasts. Netflix. Choosing to charge my phone in the office at night.


Do you see how easily I can overdraft my account in this season when my automatic drafts are high?


So every time I come up with a new and shiny idea, Mike gently asks, “How does this idea fit into your budget?” And usually, for now, the idea is a withdrawal and not a deposit, and therefore it receives a no. There is momentary frustration, sadness, and fear, but that is quickly replaced by relief and freedom.


Here’s more good news: A withdrawal for me might actually be a deposit for you! The very thing that I say no to might be a yes for another sister. Maybe a new opportunity or idea isn’t meant for me, but for her. We can celebrate my “no” and her “yes” and our beautiful differences in capacity, giftings, or season of life.


This is why it’s important to listen to the Lord for our unique season with our particular capacity.


We should not judge another woman’s choices for what she deems best for her soul, in her season, with her lifestyle. We must cheer each other on towards freedom and health and living within our emotional means. We must tell each other, “I am so proud of you for your hard choices and for living the best life for you and your family!”


Have you considered an emotional budget? Are you living within your emotional means? Do you have too many withdrawals and not enough deposits? What are your automatic withdrawals within your home, your extended family, your church? How can you communicate your needs to your husband or to your friends?


In Present over Perfect, Shauna Niequist says:

 “I gave myself away indiscriminately. Be careful how much of yourself you give away, even with the best of intentions. There are things you cannot get back, things that God has not asked you to sacrifice.”


God gives us the emotional capacity for the people he has called us to. If we feel chronically depleted, we need to evaluate our dailiness to see where we are over-giving or available to others when we need to give our generosity and time to the ones closest to us. These evaluations are never easy, always painful, but ultimately redemptive and fruitful.


Shauna goes on to say:

 “People, individual people, matter more to me than ever. I’m giving more focused time to the people I love than I ever have: eye to eye, uninterrupted, deeply connected. But People — as in What People Think, that nameless, faceless swamp of opinion— has less to say to me now that it ever has. And the freedom in that is astounding.”


Astounding freedom. All of us have the emotional capacity for that!