The new standard answer for how are you doing? has shifted from a bland fine to a hurried busy. Very busy, lately.
It’s so easy to say that it’s important to leave space to breathe, recharge, practice hospitality, and see the unexpected beauty of God. But what happens when you have a million obligations on your plate that you love and can’t quit? How do we find grace in the periods where stepping back isn’t an option?
I’m a chronic over-committer. I’m also a chronic complainer. I’ve found that sadly, those tend to come hand-in-hand. The more I take on, the more I want to prove that I am indeed allowed to be more stressed and more hurried than everyone around me. It’s taking every ounce of self- control to not write out every obligation on here to prove that my frantic, forgetful nature is fueled by completed checklists and good deeds. I scramble to complain to show that I’m frantic (and maybe better?) because I’m productive. Sounds a bit insane, doesn’t it?
Life has been good but busy lately, like too much of adult life. The busyness is usually energizing and stems from a deep involvement in things that I love, but running 99% of the time ends up always being exhausting, no matter the reason for the run. I’ve been struggling lately to stay afloat in the sea of things I love. Sometimes you can let go of a few things when you feel the frenzy of life hitting hard. Sometimes, you genuinely can’t. Busy seasons happen. And when they happen, the most confusing mix of passionate working and angry exhaustion butt heads.
I’m so mean when I’m tired and running low on grace for myself and other people. It’s a nice thought that grace should happen no matter the circumstances, but anyone who has snapped at a well-intentioned husband’s hug in the middle of a midnight load of laundry (I believe that conversation went I love you but please, I just want to go to bed) knows the reality of the busyness strain. What can you do when setting aside an hour in the morning to center yourself feels impossible and the strain feels too much to bear? What happens when you can’t drop the load you’re carrying? When do you ask yourself, why can’t I just handle this?
There’s the slow tired of a busy week. Then there’s the worn-out, exhausted tired from a busy life.
I’ve been feeling the weight of Colossians 3:23 lately: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” Working for the Lord means running at half-capacity and complaining about it all day because I can’t function on six hours of sleep isn’t going to cut it. We are all human– you will be a total grump running on empty for weeks on end, and that’s not your fault. What is your responsibility is finding some ways to turn down the heat, even when you can’t take anything off the stove. Living in grace means that taking some measures to find peace in the chaos is a duty, not a luxury.
Three things to make sure you’re doing in seasons of stress:
- SLEEP. No, seriously. It’s okay to run on less sleep than you need for a day or even a week, but not for an extended period of time. Caleb and I tried to do this last month and ended up both getting sick for two weeks. TWO. WEEKS. If we didn’t have time for a few more hours of sleep, we really didn’t have time for two weeks of foggy headed thinking culminating in fevers. It’s so hard when deadlines arrive and obligations catch up to you, but keeping a plan ahead of time and spacing out responsibilities so 3am bedtimes don’t happen is so necessary. This is going to sound crazy, but it’s okay to just be skating by sometimes. Do the very best you can on as much as you can, and stop when you feel too tired to think straight. In busy seasons, knowing when to stop and turn out the lights is a vital skill.
- Make time with the people you love. Everyone has their different coping quirks, but I tend to shut down entirely when I’m stressed. Don’t forget that meeting for coffee or lunch with a friend isn’t just another thing on your plate: it’s a chance to both feel supported in your stress and remember that there’s life outside of your frantic schedule. When you are reminded that the world won’t explode based on your accomplishments or failures, the load feels so much lighter to carry.
- Acknowledge the burden, but don’t obsess about it. Easier said than done, I know. This is the main part of working for the Lord rather than men– it’s okay to be in a season of stress and feel rushed, but it’s not helping your heart to worry each day about how you’ll get it done. I know that’s so hard to put into practice when everything genuinely needs to be finished, but worrying just takes more energy! Complaining constantly doesn’t actually help you to unload, but cements in your brain all of the stress and tension that you focus on. Does that mean we should never say when we’re feeling the burden? No! It means being intentional with our words and actions to make sure we know the difference between asking for comfort and support and asking for permission to focus on the negative things out of our control.
Seasons of very busy happen, and they’re so rough! It’s so normal and hard to feel overwhelmed, but try to find purpose and peace in the opportunities God has challenged you to grow in today.