It’s no secret that, in the US, productivity prevails. The newer generations may have adopted the “work smarter, not harder” philosophy but it doesn’t mean that we’ve slowed down. Late nights at the office are now replaced with passion projects and travel goals. The shutdowns in Covid forced many of us to take a look at why we feel the need to fill our schedules from dawn until midnight. In this forced “pause”, there was talk of re-examining our lives once lockdown was over, evaluating which things were worth returning to and what we could leave behind forever. It’s human nature, however, to repeat patterns; not because they are fulfilling, but because they are familiar.
If you’re like me and you find yourself bordering exhaustion at times, I want to encourage you with a phrase I’ve held close the past few years: “Don’t quit, just rest.”
When we bring ourselves to the brink of exhaustion by overcommitting or the sheer nature of life’s demands, it’s tempting to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction, lock our doors and go into a reactive hibernation. Completely checking out, however, leaves us with unfinished projects, passions that wane due to lack of attention and unstable relationships. Our life begins to look and feel like a sports car stuck in stop-and-go traffic: gas, brakes, gas, brakes. It’s quite a jolting way to live.
When we choose to rest, however, we are doing more than just recharging physically. When we choose to rest, we are admitting that we are finite. We are reminding ourselves that the world can continue without us and that God is bigger than our need to achieve, please and perform. It is quite a humbling experience to truly rest.
So how do we do this when it feels completely unfamiliar? In your journey to incorporate rest, consider these three things:
- Learn to identify your burnout signs and symptoms. Do you start to get agitated more easily? Does your body react with headaches or immense fatigue? Whenever I start to rush my family along while they are telling me a story from their day, I realize that my ability to patiently listen has been emptied due to my role as a counselor. I take this as a sign I need to set some boundaries and rest. There have even been times when I am counseling clients and I think to myself, “Man, I wish I could take an hour to process what I’m going through like they are doing.” It’s at that point that I remind myself that I can, in fact, do just that. I just need to prioritize it.
- Learn to identify what truly feels restful to you. Some introverts crave alone time, extroverts may feel refreshed from spending light-hearted fun with a group of friends. Put aside what the world says rest should look like and seek to truly identify what true rest feels like to you.
- Kick shame to the curb. If you feel inferior or guilty when you rest, you’re not alone. A “go get ‘em” culture has led us to believe that our value lies in what we accomplish. It can be so difficult to transition from “doing” to simply “being.” If you find this hard, start by writing yourself actual permission slips. Take out a sticky note and write it. I’ve actually written on a note, “I give myself permission to take a nap because I know my body needs it.” After awhile, you’ll see rest as a rhythm: A way to both care for yourself and more effectively care for others.
So today, if you’re tired, weary, overwhelmed or you feel like checking out of life for awhile, I’m passing along my affirmation in hopes you’ll give it a try: “Don’t quit- just rest.”