Creating Balance in Life

In a few days summer will be officially here. This is a much anticipated time for many of us. The weather forecasts are full of beautiful, sunny days, and opportunities abound to catch up with old friends, visit family, plan vacations, and tackle household projects. Summer can be a busy time, with a to-do list attached to each dawning day, and a zealous effort on the part of many to use the time wisely before cold weather returns. Yet, as I anticipate summer, I am mindful of the need to create balance in my life by including time to rest and rejuvenate.

In our current society, the words “rest” and “rejuvenate” may be considered old-school. Who has time to take a break? Even while asleep we remain connected with those who are awake through technology. Today, life’s pace is faster than it has ever been, and no one, including me, wants to be left in the wake of progress. I can recall dismal days that ended with no obvious outcome, feeling the rise of guilt, that I had allowed such emptiness into my schedule. Maybe they were not empty days after all; I just did not understand. Maybe their purpose was to allow my body and mind to enjoy a respite; a part of God’s plan. Rest and rejuvenation are indeed purposeful, and my goal this summer is to enjoy them.

When I consider the value of rest and rejuvenation, I am mindful of Ecclesiastes 3:1 which states “To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.” \”Turn Turn Turn\” – The Byrds

This verse does not only speak to the notion of purpose, but also to balance. Balance provides an essential dimension to life. The dictionary defines it as a state of equilibrium or emotional stability, qualities that are important for Pastoral Counselors who are charged with the mission of the psychospiritual care of clients. To maintain that emotional stability, it is recommended that we include self-care in our schedule.

How easy is it for you to relax? Do you practice self-care? In the past, I maximized every weekend, and as many evenings as possible during the summer, with tasks.  In the process of doing, I forgot how to be. I forgot how to be calm; I forgot how to be mindful; I forgot how to be relaxed. I forgot how to appreciate uneventful days and simple pleasurable acts. I replaced “to be” with “to do.” Gratefully, this was brought to my attention, and I decided to change. I invite those among us who are caught up in doing, to pause, and try to practice being. Allow yourself to be still for a few minutes each day so your body and mind can recharge. Give them a chance to restore so you may create balance in your life.

The Rest that Comes After

Aside

“Every person needs to take one day away. A day in which one consciously separates the past from the future. Jobs, family, employers, and friends can exist one day without any one of us, and if our egos permit us to confess, they could exist eternally in our absence. Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ― Maya Angelou, Wouldn’t Take Nothing for My Journey Now

The other day I was abruptly reminded that I needed to rest. I had just gotten home after a long day and somehow between turning off the engine and opening the door, I dozed off for 20 minutes. I might still be there if it had not been for the sound of a car door slamming somewhere else. I got inside the house and a familiar chorus ran through my mind, “I will rest after . . . .” After the treatment plan is done, after the chapter is read, after the email checked and after the project for work is completed. Rest for me did not come until after midnight.

I have talked to many of my colleagues, and my experience (with the exception of the car incident) is typical. Rest becomes the thing that comes after. Rest will come after work, after class, after meetings, after homework, after family responsibilities, and after essentially everything else. Quite often, the “after” does not come. We all know that we need rest, but making that rest a priority is a significant challenge.

A 2012 CDC study reported that more than 40 million U.S. workers get fewer than 6 hours of sleep per night. This obviously is less than the 7 ½ to 8 hours that is generally recommended. Just take a moment to reflect over the last month of your life and think of how many times you have gotten proper rest.

To make matters worse, our society often applauds persons for working themselves to the point of exhaustion.

So, we have exhausted counselors sitting across from exhausted clients. We have to do better and also have to encourage our clients to do better as well.

Rest always comes “after” something, but make sure that rest doesn’t come after everything!