I have said for years that if only I were someone who dealt with stress by throwing myself into work, I could be a gazillionaire by now. Unfortunately, just the opposite is true; as stress piles on, I just sloooooooow dooooown. Stress just saps my energy. Over the years this fact as much as anything has propelled my attempts to find healthy ways of dealing with whatever life throws at me. I cannot afford to let things stress me out if they don’t have to; if I did I’d never get anything done!
Of course, sometimes life can overwhelm even our best coping mechanisms and I can feel that familiar lack of energy creeping in. And I fight back the best I can. I see my doctor and take my medicine and exercise and try not to spend too much time in bed and maybe even drink more water and eat less sugar. I push myself to keep moving even when I don’t want to. I make myself talk to people. I try to be kinder to myself and everyone around me.
But every once in a blue moon, the stress gets the upper hand and nothing I do helps and after a while I don’t have the energy to sustain my self-care efforts. This is a hard place for me to be in. It’s the point at which any attempts to help myself will not refresh me but will sap the little bit of energy I have left. I need to rest. In truth I have needed to rest for a long time. But rest hasn’t been much of an option, so I just keep pushing. Until these last few weeks when my body and mind conspired to make me rest. I am embarrassed at how much time I have been spending laying in bed or just sitting and thinking. But I just could not get myself to move. There were days when I paused going up the stairs, unsure if I was up to making it the rest of the way up.
Of course, while it is socially acceptable to become a workaholic as a response to stress, becoming a lazy bum is not generally so well received. So I kept fighting it. And inevitably I would push myself until I could hardly move and struggle to recover. Because to just stop and rest would be like quitting. Or giving into inertia. But every time I would beat myself up over not being very functional, my brain would scream “you’re sick. You need to rest and recover.”
Finally, after Christmas I started letting go of my fear of stopping and began to let myself rest. Not the guilty, only doing this because I can’t move sort of rest I had been forced into for weeks. Instead, I worked up the nerve to let go of my worries. I have so much weighing on me right now that letting myself seek and feel some peace and relief from worry seemed almost irresponsible. But I know that this is worry’s lie and that letting go will only help me in the long run. So I gradually allowed myself more and more rest – physical and mental. Yesterday, I lay down in my bed and thought, “thank you God for this wonderful bed I have to rest in.” And I let myself rest. The kids came in and hung out with me and I got up and attended to some things, but in between I just rested. Really, I probably didn’t spend much more time than usual doing nothing. But for once I really let myself rest without guilt or worry. And finally this morning I was starting to feel almost normal. My mind is finally quieting and that place of worry is not so tempting.
I need rest. I can’t do as much as I would like. I have limits. These are realities for all of us. I always feel like I’m supposed to be an exception to these sorts of realities. I can look at someone else and see that they need rest, but when the same is true of myself, I assume that I’m just lazy or incompetent. I don’t think I’m supposed to have limits. I think I’m supposed to do anything I can think of to do. But what I think doesn’t change reality.
So, I will embrace rest. I will allow it to restore me. Of course, I guess this means accepting that I will have to find some way to become a gazillionaire that doesn’t involve responding to stress by working myself to death. Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.