I’m not very good at resting. I notice this about myself everyday when I come home from work. Instead of heading straight for the couch, I immediately begin to search for something else to do. Do the dishes need to put away? Maybe I should go make my bed, or organize a kitchen drawer until it’s time to start dinner? This isn’t always a bad thing. Some days, in fact, I relish my level of productivity, and I do tend to get quite a bit done on any given day. The downside is real, though. I tend to get overwhelmed and burned out pretty easily and without much warning. Sometimes it feels like a switch has been flipped— one minute I’m looking for the next thing to do, and the next minute I’m complaining to my long-suffering husband that I’m overwhelmed again.
Being overwhelmed and/or overtired is not just an internal problem for me, but it also impacts my relationships with my family. When I’m tired, I tend to be snippy and short. Just recently, I declared on a day that I usually do things with my family that I needed rest too desperately to go out for the morning. When I get to this stage, I feel like I have to move everything off of my plate to regain my sense of equilibrium whether or not time away is conducive to my schedule or it isn’t. What I’m learning about myself is that I have to act very intentionally to prevent myself from becoming exhausted and overwhelmed. If I don’t plan for rest, it won’t happen until I’m overwhelmed and then I have to stop no matter what the consequences. Intentional rest is not easy for me, and I don’t get it right all the time, but I do have a few intentional practices that help me.
A Clear End to my Work Day
The pandemic and a year of working from home blurred my work/life boundary line significantly, but I’m re-establishing that line with a clear marker that my work day has come to an end. These days this time is set at 3:30pm. When I get home from picking up my boys at school, I draw a hard line with work. This is hard for me because I’m always tempted to check my email, or write another Instagram caption. Admittedly, I don’t always strike this balance correctly, and sometimes it feels like I have to draw this boundary line fresh every single day. When I do honor this limit, though, I’m richly rewarded with more mental peace and clarity.
Boundaries around Social Media
I haven’t always been aware of this, but checking my phone constantly throughout the day is actually a way that my energy is subtly depleted. Seeing what everyone else is doing always makes me feel like I should be doing more. As much as I love social media, the constant comparison trap that I tend to fall directly in to makes it necessary for me to put some hard lines around it. Right now, I use an app called Freedom that blocks the apps that distract me the most (Instagram being the primary culprit). Setting this hard line with my use of social media helps me to reserve my energy for work and for my family.
A third, and probably the most people are familiar with is a Sunday Sabbath. This is the probably the hardest of the three ways that I practice intentional rest because it takes some real planning to accomplish. If I want to have no house work to do on Sunday, I have to plan for that starting on Thursday. Again, this is an area that I haven’t fully mastered, primarily because it is difficulty for me to get everything I need to do over the weekend done by Saturday night. Lately, I’ve started moving what I don’t finish on Saturday to Monday, and that is helping me keep my Sabbath day free. My week always goes better when I start from a place of rest and a regular Sabbath practice helps keeps my well full.
These are simple practices, but in my life they go along way. What I’m learning though is that these intentional practices don’t happen by themselves. I have to make a choice to end work, and I have to choose to block my apps, and I have to choose to keep Sundays clear. If I’m not actively engaged in preserving space for rest, I simply won’t get it. These days, not getting enough margin isn’t really an option for me. There is too much important work that needs to be done for me to burnout because I didn’t manage my time in a balanced way. I hope that one day these practices are second-nature to me—habits so well ingrained they take minimal effort—but for now I know I’ll just need to keep that Sharpie in my back pocket so that I can draw a fresh line around my time every day.