Confession time: I burn myself out. Like a lot. And not like burn like on something hot; the burn out that comes with running too hard for too long and not stopping. The burn that comes with working too hard, letting my anxiety take over for too long, and neglecting the needs that I know I have under the surface in favor of other things.
This past week is a prime example of the ways that I burn myself. The week at work was busy and stressful and filled to overflowing with to-do lists and meetings, and every single night I found myself pulling up my email or making another list or note about the work that would not stop cycling through my head. I then spent my weekend with dear friends and family, which was all wonderful and much needed, but tiring. By the time I got home after running errands and picking up lunch after church this morning, I was exhausted in every sense of the word…with a full to-do list and lots of things to do that didn’t get done in the midst of doing everything else this week and weekend.
I realized while driving home that I was being ridiculous.
I was singing along to my favorite album (thanks, Ben Rector) and driving with my windows down (thanks, 60 degree weather!) and feeling like myself for the first time in days, when it hit me: why was it so important to get my to-do list done today? Was anything so important that I was ready to sacrifice time with my husband and time by myself to get it done? Why did I need to work so hard today?
The answer was one that was both known and surprising: I didn’t.
I didn’t need to do my whole list of things today. My clean clothes will be just as wrinkly in their basket if I put them away tomorrow instead of today. My VBS lessons will still be there to work on tomorrow and not today. My sanity, however, might not be. And so, I started to make a new to-do list in my head that consisted of two important things: spend time with Kelly and spend time by myself. These are the two things that recharge me the most that I spend almost zero time doing, and if I’m being honest, I hate it.
I drove home and had a wonderful lunch with Kell, and I swear that an Applebee’s burger has never tasted so good. Maybe it was because I was actually excited to enjoy it (instead of trying to eat fast and save time), or maybe it was the sunshine streaming through the open window in our kitchen. Then, I took a nap, with the sun on my face and fresh breezes coming in through the window – AND IT WAS THE MOST GLORIOUS THING.
I’m now sitting at Biggby coffee (another one of my favorite things), and I’ve gotten more done in the past 45 minutes than in the past four days combined. I think it’s because I actually paid attention to myself today, even for just a couple of hours, and I’m actually taking care of myself. Sometimes it’s just the little things, like good food and good people and time resting in the sun, that make the biggest difference – maybe that’s true for you, too.
Maybe you’ve been feeling the burn lately, too – and not in a good way. Maybe you are tired and worn out because the lists and the tasks and the day-to-day pressure is getting to you. When’s the last time you’ve thought about taking care of yourself? And when is the last time you’ve actually done something about it? I’ve found that our culture puts no effort into self-care, and when we do think about it, it’s something that is supposed to take last place to our family and friends and jobs and everything else.
So, today, in the midst of the sunniest February stretch that I can remember, I want to challenge you to take care of yourself. It doesn’t have to be big – take a walk in the sun, open a window, crank up your favorite song, or take 30 minutes to sit with family and friends and just breathe. No matter how busy you are today or what your week looks like, I promise it will help, no matter how much time you have. Don’t run yourself so hard that you have nothing left to give before you even get started!