Do you ever get to the point where your mind feels numb? It’s hard to muster the energy to tackle a difficult project and you know you are not thinking clearly on challenging issues. Or how about times when one of those whiny, complaining emails arrive and you fire off a reply that, well…certainly didn’t help matters. And then there are times when you forget a very important meeting or make foolish errors on simple administrative tasks. Assuming you are not habitually low-energy, over-reactive, forgetful, or sloppy, what’s going on? Why are you not handling these normal challenges in your typical effective manner? The answer is probably quite simple.
You’re tired. You need rest.
Your mind, body, and spirit are reminding you that you cannot keep running at this pace. If you continue on, you will just make more errors, continue to lack the enthusiasm and energy you need as a leader, forget more meetings, and get even crankier. How will that impact your followers?
Most people don’t have good systems for recognizing their need to rest before things get dangerous. Dangerous? Yes. The impact of overwork on yourself and others can have horrible effects on your mind (depression), body (ill health and worse), and spirit (poor emotional disposition). Keep in mind, too, that you don’t live and work in a vacuum. All of these factors have an effect on your relationships at home and work, too! They impact your marriage, relationship with kids, and work “family,” too.
Because we tend not to recognize the need to rest until damage is already done, it is wise to build regular disciplines of rest and renewal into your life. Proper rest and renewal occurs only when you attend to all three dimensions of your being: mind, body, and spirit.
Understanding sources of stress and burnout will help you develop your own practices for rest. What are the elements of life that cause stress and burnout? There are many answers to that question. A few include
- Technology and our “always-on” world
- Running at too many goals
- Fighting to win the fleeting “I’m successful” competition
- Being a leader (stress and burnout just go with the territory)
- Unhealthy choices in relationships
- Lack of fit between who God made you to be and the path you have chosen
You can likely add two or three things from your own life that cause you a great deal of stress.
I once conducted a rest and renewal seminar and among the participants there was complete agreement regarding the need for renewal. However, they recognized that due to the varying causes of stress and burnout in any one person’s life, it is difficult to prescribe a specific course of action for renewal. Instead, individuals need to explore their own causes of stress and fashion appropriate responses that integrate their whole being.
So, I’m not offering solutions in this article. I am reminding you how fragile your life and relationships are. I am challenging you to take inventory of your life and assess whether you need to run that hard, that long.
Whatever your sources of stress are, you need to build into your life regular periods of rest and renewal that attend to the mind, body, and spirit. Develop strategies that you can implement on a regular basis—not just an annual vacation. You need to do that, but you also need to engage in rest and renewal on a weekly and daily basis, too.