3 Tips on Rest for Super-Busy People

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3 Tips on-4

I suppose I am not surprised that the first two questions I got when I said “ask me anything” were questions about finding time to rest. We are chronically exhausted people. The most common response to the question “How are you?” seems to be “Busy!”

One reader wrote:

“Do you have any thoughts on how Moms of little ones can find time to rest? The cycle of sleeping, waking, diaper-changing, feeding, burping, rocking, and then back to sleeping, waking, diaper-changing… is relentless.”

Another wrote this:

“I’m a college student and am thrilled that I just got a part-time job to help cover expenses. My grades are going okay, but I feel like I’m missing out on the stress-relieving fun things I used to have time to do. It’s weird not having that emotional outlet, and that creative side of me is crucial to who I am as a person. I don’t have a clear-cut question per se, but in essence – is this adulthood? Or is there something I can do about it?”

What a great question: does adulthood mean all work and no play? Is this just the way it is? Does being a grown-up mean we climb onto a hamster wheel and just keep running until it’s our turn to stand before the Pearly Gates?

I don’t believe that adulthood means constant work and exhaustion. However, the proverbial hamster wheel does keep turning, and so adulthood means we need to take responsibility for our work and rest cycles. The wheel won’t stop, but we can choose to get off every now and then.

I know you’re busy, so I’ll keep this brief. I’ve been a grad student and I’m now a Mom of three kids 5 and under, so I’m not about to suggest taking a day per week to sleep in as late as I want, followed by a 2 hour massage and a leisurely walk in the forest. That kind of rest is just not available to me in this phase of life, but here are my 3 top tips on trying to find rest in the midst of a cyclonic calendar.

1.  Understand what rest is.

God made us to be people who both work and rest. Mentally, spiritually, socially and emotionally, we are designed with a need to be productive, and we also need to take a break. We cannot do the same thing 24/7/365 and expect to keep functioning at top capacity.

We were made to work, but we were also made to rest. Daily, we need sleep. But we also need conscious time for REFRESHMENT, RECREATION and REFLECTION. Rest does not simply mean dropping into an exhausted heap once we can’t keep going any more.

Rest includes active, awake time where we get to enjoy the fruits of our labors, relax in the presence of loved ones, remember who we are and Whose we are. We NEED time like that. It isn’t laziness, it isn’t frivolity. It’s healthy and it plays a huge role in helping us LIVE the life we’re living.

2. Plan time to rest.

Rest time doesn’t just “happen” in my life. There’s always something to do. There’s always a need to meet. There’s always something that could be cleaned, put away, better organized. If we wait until we are “done” with our “to do” list to rest – it won’t happen. We need to rest not because we ran out of things to do, but because it is time to rest and it’s important. So for me, I need to put “rest” onto my “to do” list, and it takes a little planning.

When I was in grad school, I chose to rest on Sunday afternoons and evenings. However, that means I often stayed up LATE on Saturday nights finishing assignments that were due on Monday to protect that rest time. When I was in full-time ministry, I used to take Fridays off – and at first I would schedule all my errands and personal business for Fridays, but then soon realized that personal “work” was just as tiring as office “work” – and so I needed to plan my errands for other times so that I could protect that rest time.

Now that I’m a Mom, we still try to rest on Sunday afternoons and have a “family nap time”. We get take-out for dinner or I pull out left-overs so I don’t have to cook. I don’t clean or tidy up. I don’t pay bills. We make time to play and go outside, and we try to take a nap. Sometimes the children are obliging. Sometimes they aren’t – and there has been more movie watching or co-sleeping on those days. But we plan around that time, and thus far it is working for us. We get a change of pace, and it is refreshing.

There have been seasons in life where regular rest just wasn’t possible: in the first weeks with a colicky baby, when family emergencies arose, when tragedy struck – those times demanded our full attention hour by hour. However, once the immediacy had passed and we were figuring out the “new normal” after the crisis, we needed to recalibrate our rest time too.

3. Figure out what is restful for you

When talking about the Sabbath and the concept of rest, Jesus made this revolutionary statement: man wasn’t made for the Sabbath, the Sabbath was made for man.

In other words, rest is about finding what is spiritually, mentally and emotionally refreshing for YOU. It might be reading, doing crosswords, hiking, hard physical labor (my husband finds hacking at things in the garden tremendously refreshing after 6 days of sitting in front of a computer), spending an unhurried lunch with someone. It might be picking up a musical instrument, or a paintbrush, or taking a walk. But whatever it is,  it should BLESS you and leave you feeling more full of life than you did when you started.

P.S. tempting as it may be to “rest” by vegging out in front of a screen and trawling the internet, can I suggest that this is often less restful for us than we think? Watching Facebook refresh is not, in fact, refreshing. If that’s your default way of resting, perhaps consider switching it up.

The wise man in Ecclesiastes said that there is a time for everything. There’s a time for scattering stones, and a time for gathering them. There’s a time for being born, and a time for dying. There’s a time for weeping and a time for laughter. Our calendars are busy and our “to-do” lists are long – but there is time to work and there IS time to rest.

Sometimes we just need to put life on hold for a while, so that we can truly LIVE. We may need to think creatively about how to make that happen, but it’s always worth it.

How do you find time to rest in your season of life? Have your resting habits changed? What difference has it made to you? I’d love to hear your comments.

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14 thoughts on “3 Tips on Rest for Super-Busy People”

  1. Ever since your post about sabbath we’ve been attempting to set Sundays apart. It’s been awesome, and totally do-able. It doesn’t look like our sabbath pre-kids, but it’s exactly what we need. I do all my laundry by Saturday night, I’m prepping dinner (or doing takeout) ahead of time, and we’re playing more. Love your wisdom!

  2. I really like the idea of different kinds of rest–I am so exhausted by some kinds of “recreation,” and have only recently started to figure out my own pace for down days. Thank you for this piece!


  3. I have to admit, my default line of thinking when I have vacation, a day or even an unexpected hour off is, “Thank God! Now I can start catching up on X!”

  4. I will have to agree about planning time to rest. Nowadays, we tend to be so busy that even the most natural things need to be planned (ie. make time for myself, rest, spend quality time with husband, connect with children…) It is sad but it is a reality. Great how-to/reminder Bronwyn!

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  6. Thinking about rest as reflection and refreshment is a really simple but helpful means to ‘measure it’. If it doesn’t refresh or allow time for reflection, then it isn’t rest. I have recently stumbled on a 15 min ‘rest’ which includes walking around the neighbourhood reading and memorising the book of Colossians. The recall isn’t great but I feel so refreshed and encouraged that it can transform a crazy day! As a fellow opposer of entropy I find small regular ‘rests’ also help me to be a far more patient and loving mother and wife. I suppose it’s also something we will have to keep examining and thinking about as life situations change. Thanks for the thoughts Bron

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