After going at breakneck speed since having my first child 10 ½ years ago, I’m finally slowing down. The trouble is, my body has been giving me warning signs for several years, and God has been leading me to take it easy (Psalm 127:2), but I have failed to heed the warnings… until now.
Now I’m taking the warning signs seriously, and I’m praying it’s not too late. My body is showing signs that something autoimmune is cranking up. It’s not so bad that it can’t be reversed at this point, so I’m making every effort to do exactly what I need to do to make that happen—with God’s help.
I think I am in this situation is because I failed to heed my body’s warning signs: having mono three years in a row (and exhibiting symptoms when I get run down and exhausted), Raynaud’s phenomenon, weight loss despite eating plenty of calories, unrelenting fatigue, joint pain, and a nasty episode of swollen, feverish, painful joints last summer. The root cause? Pushing myself beyond reasonable limits day after day, year after year, and not listening to my body.
Unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the only mom facing this. We’re exhausted, burned out, and sick. It shouldn’t be this way, and God doesn’t intend for us to live like this. We’re trying to do too much, and we’re not doing anything well.
So what do we do? We have responsibilities, husbands and children who are counting on us, laundry and dishes to keep up with, homeschooling (or homework) to help with. Jesus said to come away and rest. (Mark 6:31) Just thinking “rest” to myself causes something strange to happen in my body. The muscles in my forehead relax. My shoulders release from the hunched position. My jaw unclenches. And I wasn’t aware that any of those things were happening until they were gone.
Jesus said to rest, and it’s obvious we have a physical response to the word, but how do we do that?
Cut back. Look at your calendar and schedule. Prioritize everything on it. Anything you’re doing because you feel like you should or think you need to do so people will like you or because if you don’t no one else will needs to be eliminated from your list. (Thanks for that tip, Tricia Goyer!) Only do things that are necessary to care for your family and that fulfill God’s call on your life—your true passions.
Ask for help. Assign chores to your children. Even the youngest ones can be taught to do chores that will lighten your load. Let go of the idea that everything must be done perfectly, and resist the urge to go behind them and redo the tasks you assigned them. They will learn to do those tasks better with practice. When a friend asks if she can stop by and help, say yes!
Say no. Don’t say yes to everything people ask you to do. Remember those priorities and your calling and purpose? If it doesn’t fit in one of those categories, say no. (This is much harder than you think it’s going to be, especially if you’re a people pleaser by nature. It takes practice, and you will slip up at first. Give yourself grace and don’t beat yourself up too much.)
Make time for yourself. What do you really enjoy doing? What energizes you like no other activity or brings you pleasure that allows you to go back to the mundane tasks of your day with joy? Is it reading a great Christian fiction book? Knitting, crocheting, sewing, painting, writing, or some other creative endeavor? Spending a couple of hours at a coffee shop with a friend? Whatever your “me-time” is, schedule it into your week. There’s nothing wrong with making some time for yourself after you’ve gotten your quiet time and exercise in.
Exercise. Yes, I went there. As hard as it is to get started, you’re going to thank me later. Exercise will give you energy, help you sleep better, and help you feel better about yourself.
Time with God. This is last on the list, but it should be first in planning your days. Get up a little early to spend precious time in the Word and prayer. You will feel rest in your spirit far into your day and will be better prepared to face whatever your day brings.