Naively, I had assumed my five-day vacation would repair four months of overworking. I jetted off to California for relaxation with my dear little sister, supposing I’d return all in one piece again. I now laugh at my assumption. Silly me. I won’t bore the reader by listing all the accomplishments of those four months, but I headed off at the end of myself, taken to weeping, emotionally and physically drained.
My ancestors bravely ventured into unexplored territory and hacked out an existence on virgin sod. Through their pioneering example, I tend to work compulsively. As a writer, I am self employed, my own taskmaster. With a home office, I can easily put in hours that kill the body and drain the soul. I can’t turn my brain off when I’m inspired. Added together, those facts create a recipe for collapse.
What to do?
Standing under God’s sun observing his creation patches me up. Hiking among redwoods and sitting by the ocean reinforced what I’ve long known. I feel as close to the Lord when gazing at his revelation of himself in nature as I do while bent over his Word. Granted, his natural revelation isn’t as precise as his written Word; but it illustrates his brilliance, his scientific-ecological bent, his love for humanity, and his exquisite artistry. As an artist myself, his creation soothes my soul. It inspires me
In addition, I realized I had some lessons to learn:
After strenuous labor, resting and rejoicing are sanctioned by God. Using sunrise and sunset, Jesus created boundaries. When the sun set, work ended, and rest time began. Electricity has skewed that, so we must recall it. Additionally, although God needs no rest, he took a day to rest and to rejoice in his creation, declaring it very good, thus giving us permission to do the same. Later, he instructed mankind to rest in like fashion. We create and then we rest and rejoice, giving thanks to God for the work and the accomplished task. Resting and rejoicing heal the soul and the body.
Separate yourself from your work. When you work at home, there is no physical boundary between work and rest. Likewise, the computer and cell phone now bring work home. We could work twenty-four hours a day, if our bodies would allow it, and we’d still never get it all done. This is dangerous for a compulsive worker like me. I can surge, surge, and surge again. But if I don’t stop to rest, I will destroy my health and reduce my productivity. For me, I must shut the office door, disengage, and walk away.
Learn to say no. About half way through my vacation, I realized I was finally truly relaxed. Assuming I’d immediately relax and would then sort through the circumstances that had resulted in my total depletion, I was dismayed. I wasn’t going to achieve all the relaxation and contemplation I had planned for the vacation. See a pattern here. Even my vacation was meant to accomplish something! I wanted to return home rested and with a plan of action. Instead, I still needed time for recovery.
Part of the problem was that I had allowed “small” requests to suffocate me, distracting me from God’s purpose for my work. I cannot save the entire world singlehandedly; yet I’m tempted to take every project that might help achieve that end, even if I’m already overcommitted. Upon returning, I discovered this valuable resource for learning to say no. Thank you, Jesus! If you have this problem, listen to Michael Hyatt’s advice.
Take care of your body. Since I had several bad accidents last year, I have a regimen of exercises and stretches I must complete to function properly. I had been shortchanging myself, barely hitting the minimum as I struggled to reach the final deadlines. On vacation, I did the whole spectrum and felt better. I now know I can’t skimp. If I want my body to work for me, I have to take care of it.
Listen to others. Now that I’m home, I’m still in recovery mode, attempting to listen to Jesus’ instructions about rest and work. I also intend to rely on the opinion and objective view of people I love and trust. These loved ones urge me to rest when they see I need it. I will listen. Having garnered this insight into my workaholic self, I hope, by God’s grace, to stay in balance.
Do you struggle with this? What have you learned?