Welcome to Self-Care Saturdays, a series of bonus blog posts that will be released on the last Saturday of each month. In a world where we are constantly faced with demands on our time and energy, it can feel impossible to slow down enough to pay attention to our own needs and take steps to care for them. These articles are meant to get you thinking about one small step you can take today to practice kindness and care for yourself.
As we get to the outset of summer, I’m always reminded of what summer meant when we were kids. School was out! Which meant endless days of play, sleeping in, no homework, and time with friends. Each year we were given these precious few months to completely shut down our daily routine and schedules and spend the entire time getting some much needed rest.
But as adults, we often don’t have the same leisure in our lives. We often take only one or two weeks of vacation a year. Our weekends can be filled with more work, either from our work responsibilities spilling over to the weekend, or with housework or other various tasks. Our culture encourages working until the point of exhaustion. We are desperately in need of time to rest.
One simple way to begin incorporating more of the rest we need into our lives is through taking a Sabbath day of rest.
Why do we need it?
Research has shown that downtime or idle time gives benefits including more creative and productive work, improvements in memory, and increased energy. For the Christian, Sabbath days of rest are something to which we are called. One of the Ten Commandments is to honor the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11), following God’s example of rest on the seventh day.
For me personally, taking a day of rest is something that’s felt increasingly important. As a recovering perfectionist, it has always been difficult to rest. I worry about failure or not doing enough. But in Deuteronomy 5:15, God exhorts the Israelites to take a Sabbath as a reminder of His actions and provision in leading them out of slavery in Egypt. My choice to take a Sabbath affirms the truth of this verse: that ultimately, God is working and providing in my life, and I don’t have to be responsible for it all.
What holds you back from resting? What are you afraid of?
Once you’ve decided to rest, the next step is the most important of all: make a plan. If you don’t make a plan, you likely won’t do it. Typically, a Sabbath day of rest is an entire day. If you can’t plan for a full day due to time constraints, intentionally set aside a portion of a day or two each week to engage in restful activities.
Next, spend some time gathering ideas of what will refresh you on your Sabbath. When we fill our days off with activities that help us escape, but don’t refresh or renew us, we can often end the day feeling more drained than we did at the start. Plan to include activities in your day that will be refreshing rather than just filling time.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Turn off your technology.
A University of Maryland study showed that college students who unplugged from technology for a day experienced a greater sense of mental rest and well-being. Turning off technology creates space and quiet in your life, which are two things that are necessary on your days of rest. Try turning off your phone for a few hours as an experiment first. Notice how it feels to be released from the constant tie to technology.
Spend time with people you love.
Prioritize a date night with your spouse or spend the evening with your family or friends doing something enjoyable and relaxing. Spend time expressing gratitude to your loved ones about their presence in your life. For the Christian, this might involve spending time with God. You could read and meditate on Scripture, journal, pray, spend time in nature, play or sing worship music, or anything else that helps you to connect with God.
I love to bake on my Sabbath. Baking bread often takes hours, as you need to wait for it to rise multiple times. Having an entire day in which to slowly bake a loaf of bread reminds me to take my time and be patient. Try this yourself with something you love: make a meal that takes a few hours to cook. Take a long walk with your friend or spouse. Sleep in. Sit and breathe deeply. Take a bath instead of a shower. Read a long book.
When we were kids on summer vacation, we could always find something fun to do. Take some time to sit down and make a list of all the things you have done that have been fun, and then plan then into your day of rest. Become a kid again and play at a playground or park, color in a coloring book, or visit a children’s museum.
Do a hobby.
Is there a pastime that you love, but you never make time for it? Or maybe something you’ve been meaning to learn, but haven’t yet? Spend part of your day of rest doing a hobby that you enjoy. If you think you don’t have hobbies, remember when you were a child and how you spent your time. What were some of the things you enjoyed doing? Use this as the basis for ideas of what hobbies you could pick up.
Embrace trial and error.
As you start the process of setting aside a day of rest or a Sabbath, it will be difficult at first, like learning a new skill. Often the first few days, you won’t feel as refreshed as you’d like, or you’ll end up in distraction or escape. Something you thought would be restful might end up feeling like work. Instead of throwing in the towel, keep trying new ideas. As you experiment with different rhythms, you’ll figure out the best ways to become refreshed.
Keep in mind: what is restful for someone else won’t always be restful for you. Part of this process is one of self-exploration. You can try some activities that others suggest, but don’t be discouraged if they don’t work for you. As you begin to experiment with different ways to rest, you’ll get to know more of what you personally need to feel rested on your Sabbath day.
Try this out sometime in the next few weeks! Pick a day to spend either the full day or a portion of the day resting. Try out a few of the ideas above to see if those might feel restful. Read a book or two that will remind you of the why and how of rest: I like Sabbath by Wayne Muller or Sabbath-Keeping by Lynne M. Baab. And remember: as you slow down and stop your work, you’re helping yourself to return to your work re-energized and affirming that the world doesn’t rest on your shoulders.
If you’re looking for more recommendations on books about rest, or if you yourself have a good resource to recommend, check out our Facebook page, where you can comment with ideas or read what others have suggested.
Are you struggling to find time in your weekly schedule to rest? Or are you feeling too anxious or stressed to even think about taking time off? Perhaps you’ve tried resting, but you find that all you do is escape or distract yourself, which may lead you into a fog of depression. I believe self-care is an essential part of caring for your mental health. Restored Hope is an Ann Arbor based counseling office where I'd love to support you on your journey to greater rest and well-being. Give me a call at 734.656.8191 or fill out the form here to talk today.