*This is the third of a three part series on personal rhythm and burnout.
There is absolutely no slowing the pace of society. But there is a way to find our own rhythm amidst a crazy culture hell-bent on performance and achievement.
In two previous posts, Afterburners and Beyond the Burn, I shared my thoughts on times when we need to put the peddle to the metal and push hard and when we’ve pushed too hard for too long or too often. Now I want to help us come to the place of our design, to the place where our engines are running smoothly and energy is expended at healthy levels. Believe it or not, this doesn’t look much different for each of us.
I have dogs, two West Highland Terriers or Westies. I call them West Highland Terrorists. They’ve declared jihad on the squirrels in our backyard and, for the little one, anything with wheels in the front yard. Winston and Reilly are complete joys. They give love and affection in mass quantities with little requirements - although a tasty treat here and there never hurts. Reilly can sleep until noon every day without a bathroom break from the night before. But it took us seven years to figure out Winston’s morning bladder control! Winston will go to bed at 10 PM like clockwork while Reilly is just getting ready to play. Despite some differences, they do have similar rhythms of sleep, exercise and eating.
It’s the similarities of life that I think we all would do well in considering as we seek to find that sweet spot of living productively while avoiding burnout. And not just burnout, but living beyond a healthy burn. I often wonder how many relationships could be closer or diseases thwarted if we just throttled back from the pace of life. And just like my dogs, it’s far more a matter of what we do rather than when we do it.
So, here are some things I’ve come to embrace. I think they’ll help you to find your life rhythm, to feel your burn, the place where you live most productively and joyously.
We were designed to work. When God created the earth and He saw that it was all good (this is long before humanity rejected God’s lead), when He made the garden for humanity to dwell in there was a blessed need for it to be worked and cared for. (see Genesis 2:5 & 15) Work is good, when it’s in it’s proper place within our rhythm. As creative beings, work allows us expression of a God-given gift. However, the further away from God we get the more out of sorts our work becomes - both in what we produce and what it produces in us. Work is good, but work isn’t God. Do it, do it well, but keep it in it’s proper place.
Here’s the big one that most don’t get. Most of us rest from our work, worn out from a week of labor, we desperately seek the weekend - where we work some more. But this is out of sync, even though most have been taught to approach life this way. I’ve come across a way of thinking that sees rest as far more sacred than work. In how we were created, rest is sacred. God demonstrated this pattern for us when He gifted us the Sabbath and modeled it on the last day of Creation. Think about that! The seventh day, when nothing was produced, is still called a day of creation! Could doing nothing on one day actually spark creativity for the other six? Imagine what could come from embracing a day of rest as part of our creative nature. Our rhythm should be more of working from our rest rather than resting from our work. Try it, you’ll love it!
Although this is part of Sabbath, it’s more pervasive. I’ve learned to rest throughout the day - forcing myself out of the pattern of the world of skipping lunches, dinners or breaks. I’ve now set an alarm on my phone to remind me to step back several times each day to rest, to breathe. Sometimes it’s for a few minutes at other times a bit longer. I remind myself of who I am, where I come from, where I’m going and how I’m getting there. It’s not a time to repeat mantras on achievement or success, but rather moments of quiet where I return my heart and soul to the place where they were created. I remind myself of my humanity, frailty and limitations. And know this, we can’t “binge rest”. Rest needs to come in qualitative moments throughout the day and week - the greatest of these being Sabbath. Ever wonder why it takes 3 or 4 days of your 7-day vacation to actually unwind? Not so much fun, is it? Start a healthy pattern of daily and weekly rest and you’ll be well into your vacation much sooner than you expect.
This can be a huge part of Sabbath. It’s an art that most adults have lost or distorted. Instead of rejoicing we revel and wind up with hangovers; more exhausted from one night of “play” than a week of work. No wonder society is so upside down! Learn to rejoice, to enjoy creation and our part in it - it’s part of your God-given nature. Lay in the grass, go for a walk, stare at a stream, hold a bunny rabbit, meditate on the cosmos. Be child like! Don’t miss it! Enjoy it!
We’ve been gifted sacred relationships. Spouses, children, family and close friendships need to be invested in and enjoyed. The problem with our current culture is that relationships are often the first things sacrificed on the altar of work. When we worship work we discombobulate the God-given order. I love the creation story in the Bible because the directive to work is last in the creative sequence. Nature is birthed, then man and woman then work. Relationships trump work, at least they should.
I pray you will take time to prayerfully consider what I’ve shared. Once you get some of these rhythms in place, you’ll enjoy a much healthier and efficient burn for your life. You’ll recognize more quickly when you’re beyond your normal burn, headed to an unhealthy place. And it will assist you in utilizing your energy in more productive and honoring ways.
*Just as with work, the idolization of anything is unhealthy. Many idolize rest, others family, still others become legalistic on Sabbath. Be aware that our human tendency is to get out of sync with God’s designed rhythm for our lives.