Have you ever felt exhausted? So exhausted that you are just going through the motions but not experiencing the emotions. So exhausted that you can feel the tired in your bones, and in your soul? So tired that you eat to keep going…even though you are full? So tired that it is hard to maintain a feeling of joy and an attitude of gratitude? So exhausted that your too exhausted to write a blog on exhaustion?
There are times and seasons in life when exhaustion is just part of life…college, graduate school, early years of parenting, starting a business, a project with a due date…
But we are an exhausted culture. We accept exhaustion as the norm. We look at exhaustion as a war wound worthy of admiration and respect. We are not treating our relationship with exhaustion as short term. We live in exhaustion. We fail to take our sleep and our mental health seriously.
On many occasions the topic of rest has presented itself to me. On one occasion I was in a Bible study where the topic of a day of rest not being a punishment, but rather a gift to me was astonishing. In graduate school, I studied other cultures who don’t have the same “work yourself to death” mentality as America, where research validates that more work is accomplished in a shorter period of time when people are well rested and refreshed. At work we were given a short 40-day task to take our sleep seriously. I failed to complete that task. But Thanksgiving weekend hit. I was scheduled to work. Two of my children were home. There was not enough time to do all that needed to be done, and time with my kids is never enough. And by Sunday, I truly hit exhaustion.
There are moments in life where we acknowledge we are tired…but we keep going as if it is just a circumstance of being alive. Then there are moments of empowerment where we make a decision to change. Change does not happen until we make a decision to change. Once we make the decision to change, we have to commit to it in our minds, and re-decide to that decision, daily, until it is a habit. It is not education that changes us. Education assists us in becoming aware. It is a decision to change that creates change…a moment of hitting rock bottom…when change is essential.
That Sunday, I realized how important sIeep and self-care is. That Sunday, I made a decision to take care of this temple. I went to bed at 730 pm. I woke up after 4 hours…imagine that. I have trained my body to live off 4 hours of sleep and my body does not know how to stay asleep. And then I went back to bed. I woke up rested and awake.
I work in a hospital setting with people who are addicted to long shifts, long hours, and living fully. That Monday morning I asked 8 people how they were. Tired, tired, exhausted, tired, exhausted, tired, tired, and GREAT! 1 person had slept well besides me. We are a country addicted to our exhaustion…addicted to running full tilt. There is a price to pay for living life without rest. It is necessary for certain seasons in life…but it is not a way of living.
Action Step: As we are about to step in to the busiest season of the year, take notice of the rubber balls and the glass balls in your life. Rubber balls are things that will bounce if you drop them: Our finances, our careers and the goals we have attached to them, or making a perfect Christmas or Holiday in the home. Glass balls are the things that will shatter if you drop them: The people we love, our health, and our relationships. Focus on the glass balls and make sure they are the ones that you take good care of. Get rest! Taking good care of yourself will allow you to be present to experience the season. Focus your time on enjoying being with those you love and care about during this holiday, and focus less on the doing, the buying, the running around. We can get so busy that we miss the whole season and the present of presence.