You may wonder where I’ve been this week.
I’ve been learning to rest.
Workaholism, I read somewhere, is a drug just like nicotine or caffeine. It’s a stimulant we use to hide our exhaustion, our depression, our frustration. It keeps us busy so that we don’t have to think about what’s going on below the surface, what’s wrong with our pace of life.
But it’s only a temporary fix. The busyness only keeps a lid on life to a certain pressure point. After that, all the junk we’ve been sitting on–anxiety, estrangement, dissatisfaction, disappointment, uncertainty–overflows like a boiling pot of spaghetti that explodes in a sizzling deluge all over the stove.
So if overworking, outrunning our problems is only a mask, how do we deal with them? How do we keep our internal pots from boiling over?
I still have a lot to learn on this topic, but I took a few days this week to intensively focus on these things. Unlearning old habits is hard, but impending burnout is good motivation. These tips might seem obvious from the outside, but it’s amazing how effective they are when you really put them into practice!
1. Don’t turn on your computer and cell phone until you’re ready to make contact with the world in the morning. You can’t control the volume of calls and e-mails you receive in a day, but you can set some times that are technology-free. It relieves stress and restores some quiet times of focus.
2. Make a new to-do list every day on a separate post-it or paper. Make it detailed, including all the tasks you expect of yourself in one day: Get up. Eat breakfast. Fold laundry. Then enjoy the satisfaction of checking items off and throwing away the list at the end of the day. If you didn’t finish every last thing, it’s OK: you’ll have a fresh one tomorrow. This kept me from feeling disappointed about what I didn’t accomplish during the day and helped me to realize all that I did. (It also kept me from committing to more things than I could fit on one page.)
3. Include time for rest in the day. Spend a half-hour or an hour curled up with a book, watching your favorite TV show, taking a nap, or cuddling with pets. I found myself working more energetically, cheerfully, and efficiently during the day when I took a break somewhere in the middle.
4. Don’t sign up for too many things. It’s better to do each activity of your day with enjoyment, margin time, and time to stop and appreciate people than to try and cram 50,000 things into 24 hours. Say no when too many tasks threaten to overwhelm you.
5. Surprise your family (or whoever you live with) with little, spontaneous acts of love, affection, and service. Empty the dishwasher. Bring in the garbage cans. Leave encouraging notes. When you have fewer things crammed into your day, it’s easier to find time for this, and it helps reduce your loved ones’ stress load, lifting the overall mood of home. (You’d be surprised how this comes back around, too!)
What are your secrets for setting boundaries in your life? How have you learned to pace yourself and rest?
I’ll be out of town this coming week, so look for my next post on August 6!