Rules for Rest

Rest. I’ve heard so much about it, and yet I still feel like I don’t really know how to do it. But despite my efforts, I still feel like I’m just not getting enough poured into me to be able to pour back into every area of my life.

Unless I consciously think about it, I habitually run and run and run from one thing to another until I’m completely running on empty. It’s incredibly easy for me to run on autopilot, simply going through my normal routine without really thinking about what I’m doing or whether the very things I’m doing are serving me or draining me and how I might be able to adapt them.

In my attempt to really learn how to rest and change my habits, I’ve been keeping my eyes and ears open to the wise words of others– those I know personally as well as those whom I only know through the wonders of the Internet.

One great resource I came across recently was a post by Stephanie Mae Wilson, in which she discussed some tips for incorporating more rest in our lives. Here I’ve mentioned a few, but I encourage you to look at the full list on her website.

Create a to-don’t list. At first, I didn’t think this sounded like something that would really benefit me. After all, things that come to mind are all things that need to get done, right? While that may be true, I need to remind myself that not everything that is important is urgent, and not everything that is urgent is important. I don’t want to get caught up doing things today that could very well wait until tomorrow, or putting off things I need to do right now just because they don’t seem as productive.

I have enough to fill my plate without adding unnecessary tasks that I can delegate to someone else, let go of entirely, or wait to complete until another time. And I don’t want to equate productivity with value; there are plenty of things that are important that aren’t necessarily accomplish a task, like spending time reading my Bible, reading a novel, giving myself a mani-pedi, or going to bed early. But those things are still important components of self-care and rest, and I need to learn to value them as much as the more productive things.

Schedule time for rest. I’m big on planning and scheduling, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. I like to know what my day looks like before it begins. I feel more comfortable knowing what the plan is so that I know how much time I have allotted for everything, ensuring that everything can get done and I can still maintain some shred of my sanity in the process. But I typically put rest time on the back burner. I’ve heard time and again that rest is important (after all, it’s my word for this year), but I’m not particularly good at planning time for it. I plan to change that and set aside time to rest without guilt, knowing that it’s good for both my body and my soul.

Ask yourself what it is that you need, knowing it changes over time. Instead of just reacting by habit or reflex, I need to take a moment to ask myself what I really need. Do I need to do my laundry right this minute, or would I be better serving myself if I took five minutes to read, sip some tea, or just sit still? Do I really have to run to the store today, or would it actually be a better idea to go this weekend when I have time to go without rushing through it, allowing myself to enjoy it? Do I need more “me time” or “others time”? Knowing whether I’m in a season of neglecting personal time or time with others helps me discern what I need to balance things out when they start to go awry.

I hope that by paying greater attention to what I need to refuel myself, I can regain some balance even in the midst of the craziness of moving and travel plans. After all, I’ve been told that life only gets busier. I might as well get used to it and learn to enjoy the ride. : )

Do you have any tips for making room for rest in your life? I’d love to hear them!

 

 

Further reading:

My Heart Came Back To Life This Summer, And Here’s How… by Stephanie Mae Wilson

Balancing Act

We’re trying our best to balance the tensions we feel between autonomy and dependence upon our friends and family, safety in the familiar life we’ve known and the desire to be independent and move on to new things, and the pull to give up when things get hard and the lure of pushing through to the good stuff on the other side. We’re trying to figure out how to be adults.

We strive to find the right mix of work and play, alone time and social time. We want to break out on our own, but are sometimes afraid of how that might end. We recognize the importance of buckling down to get things done, devoting enough time to complete all of our tasks, but we also see the need to make time to relax and unwind. We can’t simply give up if we want to live our lives to the fullest. This isn’t a passing challenge; this is life, this is adulthood, and this is a tension we have to embrace.

We want to be fully invested, truly involved in the world around us, without neglecting the time we need in order to relax and recharge. Maintaining this balance is a difficult task, and one that often requires revisiting our priorities and our approach to keeping both sides of the equation in check. Ultimately, this comes down to doing a few specific things.

What this looks like for me is, first and foremost, careful planning of social engagements. I can only spend so much time surrounded by people before I desperately need some time to myself. The key has been finding ways to regularly incorporate alone time into my days so that I don’t go stir crazy if things come up to affect the balance of my plans. I might go for a run and listen to my favorite music, curl up with a good book, try out a new recipe, or catch up on a TV show.

The flip side of that all-important coin is reaching out to friends and family, keeping in touch, and spending quality time with them. I have a great group of friends who are endeavoring to live life together like a big family, and they’re really good at inviting others to coffeeshop dates, soccer games, bonfires, and our weekly dinners. If I let them, they could probably pack my schedule with get-togethers every day of the month, and I have to strive to balance those wonderful opportunities with taking time for myself.

Of course, getting enough sleep makes a world of a difference, too. If I’m low on sleep, I’m more likely to be irritable, and let’s face it, nobody wants to be around when that happens. Getting more sleep allows me to be more relaxed when things are thrown out of balance, when events unexpectedly come up, when I’m forced to rearrange my carefully-laid plans to accommodate something new. It also helps me to make better decisions. If I’m sleep-deprived, I’m more likely to be selfish with my time and think only of what things I want to cross off my to-do list, reverting back to my comfortable routine, ignoring the chances I may have to pour into the relationships around me.

Maintaining balance also requires regularly taking inventory of how things are going, and being honest with myself about when and how I should make adjustments. I try to look at my calendar and ask myself whether I’m getting enough time for myself (probably) and enough time with others (less likely), whether I’m sleeping enough (usually), and what opportunities I might have to try new things (new foods, new running routes, new hobbies, new destinations) and for being more fully involved in the lives of those around me.

I want to step outside my comfort zone and be engaged in the world around me. I want to get to know my neighbors. I want to try new things. I want to feel independent and competent and continue to learn new things that make me feel like I can take care of myself. But I also am learning to know my own limits, trusting that those who care most about me have my best interest at heart, and accepting help from them is not admitting weakness, but fostering healthy relationships and a more realistic view of my own abilities. I’m seeing just how much I can learn from others when I admit the areas in which I could use some growth.

But I can’t let it stop there. I have to choose to move beyond reflection and act upon any imbalance I see in my life. That’s where I sometimes drop the ball. It’s easy to see that I’ve been spending more time alone than with others, but takes more effort to plan a girls’ night or set up a video chat with long-distance friends than it does to get cozy with a good book in my pajamas. But if I’m looking to truly have balance, to be invested, to be a good friend, then I need to work at it. And I will probably continue to do so for the rest of my life. But that’s okay, because I know I’m not alone in this balancing act.

How do you keep everything balanced in your life?

Routines & Ruts

I LOVE routine. While I admittedly would like to be more adventurous, I love the familiarity and predictability of having some routines in my life. Routines give me stability. They help me get things done. They prevent tasks from slipping through the cracks. They ensure that the important things get prioritized and the trivial things get automated to leave me with enough energy for the important things.

For instance, every night, I take time to pack breakfast and lunch for the following day. This saves me precious time in the morning, because, let’s face it, I don’t want to get up any earlier than I already do. For the same reason, I set out clothes at night for the next day (or several outfits on Sunday night for the upcoming week). I am not as creative or thoughtful when putting outfits together in the morning in my sleepy state, so this also adds the benefit of being able to put together better combinations.

Another routine I have created for myself is a workout routine. I designate certain days as video workout days, and get up at the same time, exercising for the same length of time, in the same place. I do mix up the workout videos I use, but I gravitate toward only a few channels and have some favorite videos that I do often. I created playlists with videos that target different areas so that I can quickly select videos I know I like, saving me valuable time searching for them in the morning.

Of course, over-reliance upon routines can lead to getting stuck in a rut. It’s really easy to go through life on autopilot when you have routines set up to make things more efficient. Last year, when I was running the same route twice every week, I quickly got bored with it, and I felt unchallenged by it. Since then, I have found that mixing up my workouts (devoting different days to different focus areas, running different routes, etc.) is better for me than doing the exact same thing all the time. It requires more attention, involving more brain activity, and it keeps me more engaged in the activity, since I can’t just follow along with absentminded muscle memory. Different videos use different exercises and movements, continually challenging my body in different ways.

I have found the same to be true in my spiritual life. It’s easy to get caught up in a comfortable routine: devotional book, Scripture, prayer. That’s been my routine for a while now. But then I realized that I don’t approach any of my other relationships with such rigidity. Why should my relationship with my Heavenly Father be that way? Today I’m choosing to break out of my stuffy routine and approach my Father, my Lord, with reverence, but also with joy, basking in His Presence. I certainly will continue to read from devotional books, study the Bible, and spend time in prayer, but not in a fashion that makes each step seem like a task to check off before I resume the rest of my day. I want to be more fully involved in my time spent with Him, and fully engaged in life in general. So even though routines help me make better use of my time, I’m learning to be careful to avoid relying on them too heavily, lest I go through life completely on autopilot.

What steps will you take to create a routine to make your life simpler? In what ways might your routines be keeping you from moving forward, challenging yourself, or fully engaging?

Perfection-schism

I’m a natural-porn Type-A personality. With that comes a predisposition to perfectionism. I am also the oldest child, making me take on the stereotypical characteristic of responsibility. As a result, I pressured myself growing up to continually do better. No matter how well I did, there was always room for improvement. And if I ever slipped up, I knew I deserved punishment. I was that kid who grounded herself for sneaking a piece of Halloween candy before dinner.

As comical as some stories of my anal tendencies might be, they made my life pretty complicated. Constantly feeling like I wasn’t measuring up to the high standards I had set for myself was frustrating. I felt like I had to be good at everything I did, from school to work to friendships to church involvement. I would beat myself up over a less-than-stellar grade on a school assignment or even the slightest criticism from someone, no matter how well-intentioned.

Without even realizing it, I would shy away from activities that I am not particularly gifted in. I would gravitate toward the kitchen to clean up the night’s mess instead of mingling with strangers. I would make an excuse to leave early so I didn’t have to awkwardly dance, feeling like everyone’s eyes were on me. I truly didn’t enjoy anything that I wasn’t good at, so I just wouldn’t do those things.

I’m a bit OCD, too, so I like to have things clean. But guess what? Things only stay clean so long. Dishes pile up. Laundry overflows the hamper. Games don’t get put away. Trying to stay on top of all of these tedious tasks is just that- tedious.

I would get really stressed out trying to balance my time between all of my commitments, feeling like the “perfect” person would be good at all of them, and would be good at balancing all of them. I worked hard to do well in all of my classes, going over the same assignments over and over and over again until I felt that they were just right.

As you can probably imagine, living life that way was exhausting. So I’m done with it. I am divorcing my perfectionism. I am embracing the fact that only God is perfect. No matter how hard I try, I will never attain perfection, and I’m becoming more and more okay with that. Sure, I still want to do well, but I’m realizing it’s okay to do things I’m no good at (like bowling, playing Frisbee, volleyball, or dancing), and it’s even okay to look foolish while doing it. Do you know why? Because it’s in those moments that grace is seen in our lives. If I only ever do what I’m good at, how will I learn? How will I grow? How will I be reminded that I can’t do this life on my own? And maybe, just maybe, I’ll discover that letting loose, engaging in those activities that I have avoided for so long for fear of looking foolish, is actually kind of fun. : )