Lessons in Resting
Here are some things that I’ve learned in the last few years.
1 I enjoy being busy, though complain about it all the time.
So often I answer the question ‘How are you?’ with ‘Good thanks, though I’m really busy.’ Busy with work, busy with friends, busy with life. Generally busy with good things, but still, busy. It seems that so many of my friends give the same answer as well. Whether students or workers, old or young, we all seem to be very busy.
2 There’s a very fine line for me between busyness and overwork.
As I said, I feel like I’m busy with good things. Things I enjoy and choose to do. I like taking opportunities and saying yes to things. I work hard in my job and have extra-curricular activities to plan and attend. Busyness is good. But it’s so easy for me to get to a point where I feel like I’m on the edge of a precipice on a Sunday night, bracing myself for the gauntlet of events and activities that the week will bring. I often feel stressed in anticipation of stress.
3 Busyness for more than a week or so really ups my stress level.
If I have several of these busy gauntlet-like weeks in a row it really starts to show. I wake up every morning desperate to just stay home and hibernate. I feel anxious about all the things I need to do, even about all the people I need to see. I feel guilty for not catching up wth friends because I have no time. I can’t focus in work and end up using my time poorly, meaning I have to be at work longer to get everything done. Which makes me more stressed.
4 Being busy and stressed means I think about being busy and stressed, therefore making myself more stressed.
When I feel like this, I think and worry about how stressed I am all the time. It’s a vicious cycle, where I just tie myself in knots over how I’m possibly going to get everything done and survive the busyness of the week.
5 I need to learn how to rest well so that I can keep my stress/busyness level down.
After getting to this point several times over the last few years, I’ve begun to realise that I actually need to learn to rest. I can’t just alternate between crazy busyness and hibernation at home. I need to use my time, whether it’s an evening off or thirty minutes before going out, to rest well. This doesn’t mean coming home and staring at Facebook; this does exactly the opposite of what I need. It means choosing to do things that I enjoy and which I know give my mind and body the downtime I need. For me this is cooking, making some fancy coffee, reading a book, watching ‘good TV’ or doing some gentle exercise. I’m getting to know myself and what is rest for me and it’s been surprising the difference it has made.
6 I need to plan good rest into my life.
In a week where I plan rest into my schedule, and then actually do it, I am better able to do my job efficiently, more willing to help and listen to my friends, and generally feel much happier and healthier. I struggle sometimes with feeling selfish with my time, as if taking two evenings for myself is terribly wasteful, but I’ve come to realise that I simply need to have downtime to keep going.
Resting in God and in his word has also formed part of this for me. I’ve been able to enjoy taking a longer time to read, reflect and pray, even if it’s not every day. For me, this has been very encouraging and spiritually nourishing. Much better than a snatched ten minutes out of guilt, squeezed in right before bed when I’m totally exhausted.
So I need to keep pro-actively resting. Taking time, not just to sleep, but to rest. Because using my free time wisely definitely helps me to use the rest of my time wisely as well, and, more than that, it enables me to better enjoy all the things that I do.