At the end of last year, I very nearly burnt out. As a GP with a bunch of other responsibilities, I was finding it really hard to switch off and allowed my work to encroach on other parts of my life. I got really tired and felt stretched beyond my capacity. I knew this because my body told me so, but I was also becoming less caring, less compassionate, less patient and less focussed.
Then I read a couple of books about rest and I remembered some things I had forgotten. When I was a boy, I never worked on a Sunday. I’m the son of a preacher-man and we never worked on a Sunday. We would spend time with our community, eat lunch together, go for a walk, play some games, maybe catch a movie, but there was no work – none. Rest, it turns out, is not only vital for the human body, but it is seriously good for the soul. It is also the greatest piece of resistance against the ‘system’ and the ‘ego’ that I know of.
I have remembered to rest and put some things in place to help me do so, and I have honestly never felt so well. I actively look forward to stopping and out of this place of rest, I have found I can flow into the rest of my week with so much more kindness and grace, without feeling overwhelmed. It has given me a new perspective on the rest of life and enabled me to function without much stress or deal with stress more holistically.
On a Saturday evening (just because this is the time that works best for us as a family), we turn off all screens and all emails. We don’t do any work – no homework, no work, no nothing. We try and keep any household chores to an absolute minimum and take time to be. No shopping (because we resist the narrative that says we don’t have enough), nothing strenuous – just what makes our souls happy – not in a hedonistic way, but in a restorative way, so that we can live from a place of life-giving, others-empowering love the rest of the week. We have developed patterns that make sense of who we are – lazy breakfasts, time with community, gentle walks, good food, board games, time – wasting time – together.
I know it’s really counter-cultural these days – we wear busyness like a badge of honour. But busyness is isolating us, stressing us out and killing us. I once heard a preacher-man say that only the devil is always busy, but God knows how to rest. Rest takes humility. It means recognising that life goes on without me. But it also recognises that who I am and what I do is important and so I need to be replenished in order to be healthy and well. I can’t tell you how many people have told me how well I look!
So, if you’ve forgotten how to stop, reflect, connect and be renewed, then I offer this to you as a gift. Take a day off – I mean a real good rest, once a week – it’s harder than you think…..but there is little else I know of that will bring fresh hope and life to every part of you.