It’s ironic really. April and December are typically the two busiest months of my year. 2018 is no exception. That makes it the perfect time to talk about rest, right? In the last few months I’ve been doing a better job getting consistent sleep, but the last three nights I got about 60% of what I usually get. So, I’m prepping this podcast while sleep deprived. Not a good way to start a crazy-busy month.
I’ve talked about busy-ness before. I’ve talked about the importance of sleep before in small bits. But, apparently, something’s not penetrating my heart, because I keep getting into the same situation, where my activity level and schedule are too much. Too much for me to be the parent, friend, or daughter I want to be. Too much for me to do quality work. Too much for me to create art or writing that matters.
My circumstances are stacked against me. Do you ever feel like that? I’m a single mom and a small business owner. Either of those things is enough to be “too much” most of the time. Put them together and it feels to me like a recipe for overwhelm and exhaustion. Add to that my propensity to volunteer and “too much” is a sure thing.
Part of the problem for me is also personality type. I tend to get in deep with things my family is involved in. Part of the problem is also that I’m a natural leader, so I wind up leading everything I’m involved in. Part of the problem is that I’m what’s called a multi-potentialite, polymath or scanner. They all mean basically the same thing. It’s the opposite of a specialist. I had a friend once tell me that I’m a “skill-collector” and that’s pretty true. I love lots of things, and lots of new things all the time.
We live in a culture that drives us to that “too much” point in multiple ways. We value intensity, all or nothing-ness, busyness as a badge of honor, doing, doing, doing, accumulation, more, harder, better, bigger, faster.
My circumstances, personality, and the culture are all factors. But, this problem is epidemic; it crosses all personalities and circumstances.
Why am I worrying about it now? One of my commitments for this year is to choose health. I’m not in a healthy place right now in this sphere. I’m finding I’m over-scheduled. I’ve got very little downtime. I’m not able to do the hobbies I enjoy. I’m consistently tired. There are some seasons of life that are like that. Or, more like that than others. But, I’m not seeing it change enough as the seasons in my life change.
I’ve recently noticed two specific things that have really made me recognize that I need to deal with it right now. First, I’ve noticed that I can’t relax. I can never turn my thinking mind off. I’m working all the time, even when I’m not really working. Not that I don't want to, but I seem unable to. I don't know what to do with myself, my thoughts if I'm not working. This is a huge problem, unhealthy for me and my family, as well as exhausting.
The second thing I’ve noticed is that as I do more creative work, whether that’s in my art studio or writing, I need to be in a different mental state. Creativity doesn’t hurry on demand. The best work is born out of slow skills. If I want to do great work, I need to cultivate that kind of mental presence. It’s not that I don’t need to work at it…waiting around for inspiration to strike is not what I’m suggesting. It takes hard work, but creativity flourishes in an environment with mental space. When I’m constantly hurried, thinking, anxious, and under a time crunch, my work suffers.
Maybe you don’t have the kind of personality, interests or work that I have, but odds are good you struggle with this in some way. Because, as a culture, we don’t value slow, meandering, just being, or rest. We are constantly overstimulated. We treat our life as escapism. If we're exhausted and overworked, we don’t have to deal with real heart or relationship issues. And, we think we can live with no limits.
For about six weeks, I’ve been working with a group focused on improving our health. As I’ve been thinking about the idea of rest as it relates to physical effort, I realized that many of the concepts also apply to a life that’s over-stimulated, over-committed and over-worked. I’ve had many conversations in the past with people doing hard workouts, but not understanding that rest and recovery are crucial to fitness gains. Here are seven reasons why.
Those seven reasons that rest is crucial to physical recovery and wellbeing also apply to mental and emotional wellbeing. Rest is part of the equation of life. We need it. Science is finding more benefits of rest all the time. And, we continue to ignore the warning signs that our bodies and minds give us that they need rest. We need it physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Lack of rest or recovery mentally and emotionally leads to burnout, a bazillion dollar mental health sector of the pharmaceutical industry and the breakdown of families and relationships. Sure, seasons of hustle might need to happen. But, not years. Not as a permanent condition. Like physical overtraining, the toll in susceptibility to injury, lack of ability to bounce back, negative impacts on sleep and weight loss, mood or mental health issues and general enjoyment of life all contribute to a “too much” lifestyle.
I’m taking a serious look at my “too much” lifestyle this month and what I can do about it. I’d encourage you to join me. We’ll talk about what kind of activities or lack of activity actually contribute rest and recovery, why sleep is important and how to improve it, and how we can create a rhythm of rest in our lives.
My question for you this week is this: Are you getting enough physical, emotional and mental rest? If you look past the excuses, like personality, circumstances, and culture, why not? What are you valuing more than your relationships and your health? That’s a really important question. I’ll ask it again. What is it that you are proving with your actions that you value more than your health and your relationships?
Right now, when I really get right down to it, I’m valuing work more. Whether it’s creative work, career work, ministry work, or personal projects…it’s all work. And my son deserves better, he is way more important than work. And I’m modeling a behavior that I don’t want him to learn.
So, I have some changes to make. How about you?
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