Tag Archives: stress

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home (Guest Post)

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home

by Steph Beth Nickel

More people than ever are working from home. Even before the pandemic hit, more and more people were starting home businesses. Over the past 14 months, many employees who would typically work in an offsite office have had to work from home.

There are several advantages.

Dress pants and shoes last longer.

If your work includes Zoom calls (oh, to have been in on the ground floor of that business), you have the option of wearing PJ bottoms or leggings and going barefoot e-ver-y day! And if you don’t connect with coworkers and/or clients via Zoom, you have the option of wearing comfy clothes head to toe.

You can set the alarm clock for later—if at all.

Who needs to get up early when they don’t have to eat, dress for work, put on makeup, and get out of the house in time to make it to the office by a specific time? (You don’t even have to shower every day. Who am I to judge?)

Without the commute, you save time.

Now that the commute lasts only as long as it takes to walk from your bedroom to the computer, you’re saving loads of time every single workday. And, just think, no rush hour traffic morning or night.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

Eat the lunch you brought or head to a local restaurant with your coworkers? No need to make that decision. The kitchen is only a few feet away. Need a coffee refill? Who’s to stop you?

You have less interaction with difficult coworkers, supervisors, and customers.

Once you’re into the flow of your work, you can keep going until it’s finished unless something truly pressing comes to your inbox. Escaping the daily interaction with others who cause you stress can be a blessing.

There are, of course, drawbacks as well.

You may need to increase your leisurewear budget.

When it became apparent that the first lockdown was going to last for a while, several fashion designers turned to making new lines of leisurewear and scaling right back on office wear, vacation wear, dresses, etc. Many of us have more leggings and joggers in our wardrobe than we ever imagined we’d own.

You may not have to depend on an alarm clock to start your day.

It’s wonderful to go to bed knowing we don’t have to wake up at a specific time. Plus, staying snuggled under the covers instead of jumping up before we’re ready … BONUS! However, if we find it too tempting and we don’t set “office hours” for ourselves, we may just spend too much time comfy and cozy.

No commute time.

For many people, that commute was their only opportunity to read a book or listen to a podcast. And at the end of the day, it provided the perfect opportunity to decompress before switching gears and tending to home and family responsibilities. It’s hard to factor in the equivalent when household chores, family demands, and work are pressing in 24/7.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

You’ve heard of the COVID 15/20/25. Yes? The food and drink that are readily at hand can lead to weight gain (and the need for the aforementioned leisurewear budget increase).

On a more serious note, the emotional and mental stress that the pandemic has placed on us has led to many people not having the wherewithal to eat healthy and stay active. They may sleep more and gain weight, which can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and guilt. If you’re having trouble dealing with the additional challenges this past year has laid on your shoulders, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, a counsellor, or a mental health professional.

Less interaction and other voices.

Extroverts are likely missing the daily face-to-face interaction with other human beings. Even introverts benefit from these interactions. And while we may love our family members to bits, “Mom, Mom, Mom …” and “Honey, have you seen my …” can weigh on us after a while.

I love the freedom of working from home, but it does pose its fair share of challenges.

If you work from home, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages you’ve discovered?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Facing the Storms (Guest Post)

Photo credit: Pixabay

Facing the Storms

by Steph Beth Nickel

Sitting on the patio at a restaurant in Grand Bend, Ontario, we watched the sky grow dark and the storm roll in. (They moved us inside as they battened down the hatches, so to speak.)

It was fascinating. A sunny day at the beach turned into a thunderstorm with torrential rainfall. Not to mention a power outage that had us wondering if we could slip under the arm across the parking lot. It had stopped halfway down. (We made it with lots of room to spare.)

The drive home was uneventful. The power was out in much of St. Thomas, but hey, no biggie. I couldn’t help but think of my friends and others living in California, dealing with raging fires, and Texas, being bombarded by Hurricane Laura.

You may not be facing thunderstorms, forest fires, or hurricanes, but you are facing storms. We all are, here in the anomaly called 2020.

I can almost guarantee you’ve heard all the suggestions below before, but in case you need a reminder, as I often do …

When you’re facing a storm, consider the following:

  1. As they say these days, give yourself permission to feel all the feels. Accusing God of wrongdoing is dangerous. Feeling what we’ve labeled “negative feelings” is 100 percent acceptable.
  2. Give yourself a break. Sometimes we do get overwhelmed. We simply have to acknowledge that there comes a point when this becomes an excuse, rather than a legitimate reason, for not getting busy crossing things off our To Do list.
  3. Begin a Gratitude Journal. Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts got us thinking about listing 1,000 things we’re thankful for. Whether we do this or not, keeping track each day of something we’re thankful for can go a long way to reassuring us there is beauty even in the midst of the wildest of storms.
  4. Rest and recharge. Go for a photowalk. Curl up with a good book. Watch a movie. Take a nap. Play a boardgame or put together a puzzle. There are countless ways to refresh.
  5. Get together with a friend. Proximity or social distancing protocols may make this a challenge, but Zoom and FB Rooms, etc. can be the next best thing to getting together in person.
  6. Fellowship with other believers. Some congregations have begun to meet in person. Others are live-streaming their services. Attending church (or watching the broadcast) are important, but so is genuine, interactive fellowship, with lots of back and forth. Participating in a Bible study in-person or online can build us up and help us face what comes at us.
  7. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer. Of course, this is important no matter what “the weather.” However, the temptation is to succumb to the weight of overwhelm and let important disciplines slip away. It may not be the time to sign up for a theology course. (But who knows? It may be.) No matter what, spending time developing our relationship with the Lord is of prime importance.

How about you? How are you facing the storm? What do you do to get you through these difficult days?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Christmas Devotional and Giveaway

If you like Christmas devotionals, check out my guest post at Patti’s Porch. Someone who comments on the post (on that site, not here) will win a print or ebook copy of my daily devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. Draw is on December 17, 2019.
Link: This is the Lord’s Battle.

Survivors and Overcomers—In Fiction and in Real Life

Violence against women, especially sexual violence, scares me. Even in fiction. So why is the heroine in my Green Dory Inn Mystery series a survivor of human trafficking? Short answer: I don’t know. Longer answer. I don’t know, but the idea kept popping up until I decided I’d better cooperate in case there was a …

Click to continue reading at the International Christian Fiction Writers site.

Follow me on BookBub

Review: Simply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman

Simply Tuesday, Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World, by Emily P. FreemanSimply Tuesday, by Emily P. Freeman (Revell, 2015)

Subtitled “Small-Moment Living in a Fast-Moving World,” Simply Tuesday calls readers to live in the everyday moments without the pressure to perform or to push on to the next big thing. Even the cover art, a quiet bench with birds and dragonflies, calls us to slow down.

Sections consider our home, work, relationships and souls, as well as a vision for what’s ahead. Readers are invited to find ourselves and our loved ones in the present, and to be present to Jesus with us. The book is part memoir and part an exploration of Christian living, shared by one who’s still learning through life (as opposed to one who’s nailed the answers).

It’s approachable and easy to relate to, an invitation to embrace and celebrate our smallness instead of condemning ourselves for our humanity. My favourite lines:

What gives moments meaning is not the moments themselves but the presence of Christ with us in the midst of them. (p. 47)

True belief is movement toward God even in the midst of confusion or frustration or fear. (p. 78)

I can’t prevent storms from coming, but I can decide not to invent my own. (p. 209)

Emily P. Freeman writes with a transparency and a conversational style that will be familiar to anyone who follows her blog. Something I hadn’t noticed in her blog posts that made the book a little harder for me is the fluidity with which she shifts from past to present and back again. We do this in conversations, to add immediacy: “Fifteen years ago, I’m working at a local high school… It’s morning and the bell rings…” (p. 206) In printed form, I find this jarring. Maybe it’s the editor in me.

Simply Tuesday offers refreshment for anyone struggling in the try-hard life while her soul aches for a simpler pace and a bit of fresh air. It’s not anti-performance or opposing busyness. Instead, it’s a glimpse of what life might look like if we began to nurture the small things in our lives and if we accepted ourselves as who we are instead of always pushing to be more than we are. Highly recommended for weary souls.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior

The Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi JuniorThe Reluctant Caregiver, by Bobbi Junior (Word Alive Press, 2014)

I knew this was a book I’d value, from the dedication:

Dedicated to my brother, husband and children, who never said “You should…”

And to Jesus, who said, “Let me.”

On one level, this is a memoir of one woman’s struggle to demonstrate the love of Christ to her mother, Nancy, who has dementia. Without a power of attorney in place, Bobbi Junior and her brother, Lawrence, can’t take the conventional advice to “put her in a home.” As a Christian, Bobbi feels called to treat her mother with love and dignity, even though they had a difficult relationship since Bobbi’s childhood.

On another level, it’s a story for every Christian walking in a hard place.

The Reluctant Caregiver is transparent about Bobbi’s ongoing battles with her attitudes, fears, and the desire to take charge. Most of the time, she rises to the challenge in a way that will have many readers shaking their heads in admiration (and a few readers putting the book down, angry that she doesn’t retaliate or walk away).

When she fails, or when she’s floundering, her journal entries give us clues to how we might handle similar experiences. (What? You haven’t failed or floundered lately?)

The book reads like a journal-style novel, and I found myself reading every chance I could. It offers insight not only into the difficult role of a caregiver but also into the pain of an intelligent woman who knows she can’t think straight anymore – and who now berates herself as “stupid.”

The chief take-away is that we can’t manage life’s challenges in our own strength, but that Jesus is ready to take the lead if we’ll only let Him. Because we’re human, this is a day-to-day or minute-by-minute process. We get better at it, but only in the sense that practice helps us learn to turn to Him more readily.

The Reluctant Caregiver is a valuable resource for Christians who are or who will become caregivers, and for those who find it easier to take control than to surrender it to God. I’m in a wide-open space in my life right now, but even in my small stresses I found Bobbi’s prayers and journal entries showed me a better way. I’m challenged to walk closer with Jesus and to ask Him to show me His way instead of insisting my own. Even in the little things, it’s hard to do.

Bobbi Junior is a Canadian author and speaker who shares what she’s learning about life and caregiving at her website: bobbijunior.com.

[Review copy from the public library.]

On Joy and Interruptions

How did I lose the joy of Christmas?

It would be easy to blame the commercialism and hype. The music that starts too early in the stores. The trees that pop up, fully decorated, after Halloween – not even pausing for Remembrance Day.

Or the details, oh, the details. What to buy? Make a list. Be sure everyone gets enough – enough stuff they don’t have room or need for. Cringe when the bills come in.

Beneath it all, the dread – what if I can’t find the perfect gift for each loved one? They like money, but it always feels like I’ve failed to come up with anything better. The giving, after all, is to please them – not just a hollow ritual.

Pull out the same old decorations. Hang them in the same places. Bake. At least the baking’s fun – and the eating, if not the weight gain.

Cram an already-full schedule even fuller with extra events and gatherings – and with the unstated pressure to do it all, “because it’s Christmas.”

Jesus didn’t come to bring expectations and guilt – just the opposite. He didn’t come to drive us into debt or anxiety, but to set us free, enrich our spirits, and pour His peace into troubled hearts.

He came to interrupt our mundane lives and give us new life – abundant life. How often do I cling to the mundane instead?

I think that’s where the joy went – brushed aside because my agenda is as full as the Bethlehem inn.

This year, instead of carrying the weight of the doing, I want to cultivate the being. Being still with God, daily exploring the message of Advent. Being open to the interruptions that December brings to my plans. Not resisting the decorations as one more clutter-filled chore, but embracing the chance to love my family by creating a festive environment.

Choosing to enjoy the opportunities to spend time with friends and family. Hearing and celebrating the music of the season. Being with God, even in a crowded store, and listening for His nudges in what gifts to buy for whom.

I don’t want to miss the joy of Christmas by clinging to the mundane. I’d rather be a shepherd than a sleeping (or grumpy) citizen of Bethlehem.

Writing this post on Sunday helped me articulate the issue and put me on a better track. There’s something about identifying the problem that lets us begin to fix it.

This may be too early in the season for me to experience Christmas joy, but I’m finding meaning in deliberate, daily Advent readings, and once I stopped avoiding the Christmas activities, I’ve even begun to enjoy those. We have no decorations up yet – my husband and I are both sick. But we did a bit of shopping Wednesday night, and in God’s sense of humour, He helped us find a surprising amount of gifts (including one for us).

If you’re experiencing Christmas angst, you might check out Janice Dick’s post, “Christmas Stress.”

I encourage you to pop over to Carolyn Arends’ website and click on her song list to play “Vacancy.” It’ll bless you 🙂

In Stress, Remember God

God’s strong name is our help,
the same God who made heaven and earth.
Psalm 124:8, MSG*

This psalm is a celebration of God rescuing Israel from their enemies. They had no other hope, no chance. Without God, they’d have been destroyed.

We have life-or-death crises too. More often, we have lesser struggles that can still overwhelm us. This verse offers two strategies to help us hold onto God by faith.

Remember God’s strong name. His name reveals His character. It’s who He is. Healer. Provider. Ruler. Deliverer.

Remember God’s acts. He made heaven and earth. He parted the Red Sea and the Jordan River. He sent His Son to die for us and break the power of sin and death.

God is, and has done, so much more than this. And He hasn’t aged or gotten tired. He’s the same now, and He’ll be the same tomorrow.

Our God, we find confidence in Your unchanging nature. We praise You for who You are and what You’ve done, and for what You will do. Please strengthen our faith and help us to rely on Your unfailing love.

Listen to Chris Tomlin sing “Our God” and be encouraged today.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

God and Time Management

My times are in your hands;
deliver me from the hands of my enemies,
from those who pursue me.
Psalm 31:15, NIV*

The most important thing I learned in university had nothing to do with my field of study. I learned, through experience, that when the deadlines loomed and there was more to do than time to do it, I could ask God to help.

Our God is outside of time. He made time. We live in it, and He gives us enough to do what He has for us to do. I remember one specific time in university, praying that somehow He would stretch time to allow us to finish a hefty assignment.

We didn’t get a flashy miracle like the Old Testament king who saw the sun’s shadow move backward, but we got the peace and the enabling to do the work. And somehow, we had the time as well.

I told this story to one of my sons on the weekend, hoping to encourage his own stress load. Then I stopped and looked at him. “I learned this. But I haven’t been applying it.”

My husband, on my other side, was valiantly not saying a word. But I saw agreement in his eyes. He knows how heavy my to-do list has grown, and how I’ve been stressing about how to meet my responsibilities.

Knowledge not applied isn’t much use. Remember to pray. (Click to tweet)

God our Maker and our Sustainer, You never asked us to do life on our own. You ask us to let Your Holy Spirit indwell and empower us. Of course when we look at our responsibilities, they seem too much for us. You’ve designed us to rely on You. Forgive us for those many times when we’ve tried to carry the load in our own strength. Thank You for the opportunities in our lives. Please give us wisdom in our choices and faith to rely on You. What You give us to do, You will equip us to do. Help us not add in other things to weigh us down, and help us stay close to You.  

Chris Tomlin’s song, “How Great is Our God” includes a reference to this week’s verse, and it’s a good anchoring one for us to sing.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.


Fear as Opportunity

Stress and pressure are like strong winds. They knock us off our feet and send us tumbling, flailing for support.

As long as we keep God at our backs, we can stand.

I often use the prayer picture of a piece of paper, wind-plastered against a cliff, pressed so tightly against the rock face that you can see every groove and jut in the rock.

Isn’t that our prayer as Christians? “Lord, shape me to be like You.”

Life’s struggles are often His best tools.

So why hadn’t I recognized that fear is only another tool? Carolyn Watts writes that “fear can be an assetif we learn how to let it lead us closer to Jesus.” (see How to Turn Fear into an Asset)

Or as a good friend said to me the other day, “Fear is a driver—it can drive you to God, or deeper into fear. Pray to choose wisely.”

This puts fear in the same category as trials, temptations, stresses and even gifts: something God can use in our lives to develop perseverance and endurance. Instead of freezing up or shrinking inward, we can invite Jesus into our fear, ask Him to use it to draw us closer to Him—to let it press us into His likeness.

We can praise Him and rejoice over what He’s going to do, even though we can’t yet see what that will be.

Thanking God in our fear, instead of letting it close us off from Him… this is delightfully subversive and not at all what the enemy of our souls has in mind, I’m sure. But it matches Scripture: “For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow,” (James 1:3, NLT) and “Be thankful in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18a, NLT).

It comes down to this: who/what do we believe is stronger, God or fear? The loyalty to God that I’ve been reading about in the Book of James gives me my answer.

Not that I’m going to welcome fear, to throw open the door and invite it in, but this breaks its power. This lets me press into God, lets me know I’m in good hands and it’ll be okay. No matter what.

[If fear is one of your struggles, I highly recommend following the posts at Hearing the Heartbeat, beginning with How Do You Hear God’s Don’t Be Afraid?]