Well it’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s and I’m plum worn out. Everything was lovely and exciting and fulfilling, and exhausting. Every year I try to psych myself up to get ahead of the game with shopping, preparations, and all the trappings that feel necessary in the moment to enjoy Christmas.
With thanks, each year I have enjoyed it, but left feeling a bit train-wrecked. With New Year’s approaching, I vow (once again) to find a better pace in life, and to actually make progress in balancing work and rest.
Each year I manage to forget that we need both to thrive. My dad always says “work hard, play hard”; but somewhere in that formula should be ‘and rest well’. I believe our western society downplays rest as an indictment on laziness. We’re always on the go, needing to do or experience more lest the world run ahead of us.
“I’ll rest when I’m dead!” some say; which may come sooner than later given the toll of stress on our health.
I have always prided myself on staying in 6th gear with my job, kids, whatever, but after reaching burnout several years ago I learned the necessity of real, committed rest.
Balance is Key
A good friend of mine often quotes Ruth Hayley Barton, a spiritual leader and author on this topic. She often writes about the virtue of quality over quantity. When we’re stretched thin on all sides, we drift into chaos management and end up making more reactive than proactive decisions.
Stephen Covey agrees in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that being proactive allows us to be more effective in our work, and better influence desired outcomes in our lives. The necessary ingredient for being proactive is having enough mental bandwidth to be clear-minded, and not operating under constant stress. This is where rest comes in.
Not just the occasional Sunday nap (although good), but intentional, frequent rest that rejuvenates. Rest needs to be given equal billing with work; if good work is a virtue, so should be good rest. This may feel sacrificial at first, but the long-term dividends will be more than worth it.
Busyness is not an Olympic Sport
In other words, no one’s handing out medals to whoever wears themselves out the most. I really did wear my busyness like a badge of honor. I could never just sit without feeling like something had to be done somewhere. A guilt would creep over me like a cloud of disappointment that someone must feel should they see me just chilling out. I know others in this place, who perceive their self worth as a tally of all the tasks they can juggle and all the ‘yes’s’ they can give to any request.
It’s a crazy train that takes the express route to burnout town.
It took me a long time to learn the value in saying no so I could prioritize my time and usefulness to more impactful tasks. Even more so, un-busying created better quality relationships and mental availability to those closest to me. Uncoupling my identity with work freed me up to enjoy non-work experiences more, and to enter into guilt-free rest.
Rest is Scriptural
Not that this is surprising, but God really knows what He is doing. He built us for work and purpose, but He also programmed in rest. It’s right there in His ten commandments, “Keep the Sabbath holy”. What this looks like differs among believers, however the common denominator is that it’s a day of rest. It’s a gift, to both reenergize us and commune with Him and others.
God knows our tendency to burn the candle at both ends, as well as our ability to have too much pride in our work. This ‘rest’ is a break from both. Jesus embraced this often. He took breaks from his work to pray, fellowship, and be filled by his Father. He told his disciples to stop their work and come away in private to rest because they weren’t taking care of themselves (Mark 6:31).
I don’t need any higher authority than from the mouth of God himself. If he values rest, maybe I should too.
Ruth Hayley Barton has written on Christian Fatigue Syndrome which is the result of overworking even for worthwhile missions. It’s also referred to as compassion fatigue. I can relate. Who wants to say no to something that will help others? Not knowing when to throttle back, though, will sacrifice long-term effectiveness for short-term gain. It’s a bad trade.
We need to learn to pace ourselves for the long-haul and to maximize the contribution that we can give of ourselves. Rest is key. Thank God rest is also a gift, it just needs to be used. If you’re having trouble finding balance and self-care in your life, we’re here to help.
You can call our counselors at 225-341-4147 to make an appointment.