Life can be hectic and harried. Here are five ways to refresh yourself and make time to recharge and prevent burnout.
Have you ever watched a hamster running on a wheel inside its cage? These little creatures will feverishly run for what might be the equivalent of 5 miles without stopping. They’ll keep spinning that wheel faster and faster, even if they’re not getting anywhere, and even if they’re totally exhausted.
These days, many people go through life in much the same way. We often feel like we’re stuck on a hamster wheel, having to constantly move at a breakneck speed, while carrying a heavy load of career, social and household obligations on our backs.
We’d desperately like to stop the wheel and rest a while, but we don’t think it’s acceptable to do that. So we keep running—trying to get more done in less time—but end up feeling more pressured and stressed.
Being continually on the go certainly isn’t good for us. Numerous researchers have documented how going without sufficient rest for too long can negatively impact our physical and mental health and our relationships. At the very least, it can leave us feeling frazzled and irritable. Eventually we can totally burn out.
God didn’t intend for mankind to function at a never-ending frenetic pace. He instituted the Sabbath as a day of rest (Genesis 2:2), to allow us a dedicated time once a week for physical renewal and drawing closer to Him. He built into us the need for sleep each night, to help us recover from our daily labors. We usually need recharging at other times as well, especially if we’ve been under a lot of pressure.
As humans, none of us have unlimited levels of strength and vigor. Our daily struggles and challenges drain us of our energy. We need regular replenishing of some kind to rebuild the body and mind.
Even when life is rushed, we can and must find time to rest and recharge.Renewal can come through physical rejuvenation, mental downtime (when we’re not actively focused on work responsibilities), emotional means (perhaps having a pleasant interaction with someone), or by taking in spiritual nourishment.
But the reality is, we live in a very demanding world. We may have pared down our commitments and responsibilities as much as we feel we can, and still have crazy-busy schedules. We might have no choice but to get on the proverbial hamster wheel and work at a frenzied pace. Rejuvenation can seem elusive.
How to recharge yourself
Yet it is only with periodic recharging that we can successfully fulfill our roles in life and fend off anxiety and burnout. Even when life is rushed, we can and must find time to rest and recharge.
Here are five ways you can refresh yourself:
1. Connect with God
No matter how busy we may be, it’s important to set aside time each day for prayer, Bible study and meditation on God’s Word. This helps us to learn to think more like God, internalize His precious truths and grow closer to Him. Turning our problems over to God through prayer revives us (Psalm 55:22), whereas worrying drains us of our energy.
Connecting with God is the only way we’ll have the spiritual stamina necessary to confront our daily challenges. God will give us rest, restore us and strengthen us if we seek Him.
It can be harder to find time for spiritual nourishment when we’re busy. Still, it can be done.
Several of my friends use Bible apps on their phone to read Bible passages whenever they’re waiting in line somewhere. Others post scriptures on the wall of their kitchen to read while they’re preparing meals. I’ll put a Bible CD into the player in the car when I’m driving long distances.
These things don’t take the place of in-depth Bible study, but they do help us stay focused on God’s truths during particularly eventful days.
When the Sabbath arrives, God commands us to refrain from our usual work. We must strive to faithfully observe this day. Doing so allows us extra time for Bible study and prayer, and the opportunity to meet with other believers to fellowship and to hear God’s truths preached, in addition to physical rest.
Keeping the Sabbath will strengthen our relationship with God.
2. Make good choices for physical health
We need to take care of our bodies so we can be in good physical condition. Yet when we’re rushed and on the go, we’re often tempted to take shortcuts with our health—right when we need it the most.
Sleep is an obvious way to recharge your body and brain. Health experts generally recommend adults get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep a night. Aim to go to sleep and get up at about the same time every day to maintain the timing of your body’s internal clock. This helps you fall asleep and sleep more soundly.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes whole grains, lean proteins and a variety of colorful vegetables and fruits. These are foods that will boost your energy levels and keep your body functioning at its best.
Engage in physical activity each day, even if it’s for only 20 minutes. Exercise boosts cognitive functioning, elevates and stabilizes mood, and improves overall health. This is especially important if you sit at a desk for long stretches or are sedentary most of the day.
Get up and do some jumping jacks or push-ups, run in place, stretch, take a brisk walk, jog, bike—anything that gets you moving. Afterward, you’ll feel more focused and ready to get back to your projects.
3. Listen to uplifting music
The Bible makes many positive references to music and singing—not only as a means to praise God, but also in terms of its restorative power. One example is in 1 Samuel 16, when the young David, a skilled harp player, played beautiful music for the troubled King Saul. We read that David’s music “refreshed” the king (verse 23).
Music can be refreshing in different ways. Sometimes it energizes us or lifts us out of a bad mood. Other times it’s soothing or inspiring. Hymns in particular can be spiritually invigorating and help us focus on God’s way of life.
I know families who gather around the piano Friday evenings and sing hymns together as a way to wind down after a busy week.
What’s important is that the music (both the lyrics and melody) you choose is actually refreshing. A lot of songs aren’t and will actually bring us down.
4. Give yourself “permission” to take rest breaks
We need some downtime every day. That’s true whether you do a lot of manual labor and are physically weary, or have a desk job and find yourself becoming mentally drained. You don’t have to block out a lot of time for this—just enough to be able to rest and regroup when you need it.
If you’re in a work environment, you might shut your office door or go out to your car and sit down with your eyes closed and just rest for a few minutes. If you’re at home, find a cozy spot and allow yourself 15 minutes or so to unwind. Drink a cup of coffee, flip through a magazine, play a game of solitaire or call a good friend (someone who’s typically upbeat) and chat for a bit.
There have been many times when I was working on an article and wasn’t getting anywhere with it because I was worn-out. Then I took a short rest break and afterward the “answer” about how to proceed suddenly came to me.
It may not always seem to make sense to stop working and relax, and it may even seem like we’re wasting our time, but it really can reenergize us.
5. Go outdoors
Take your breaks outside when you can.Take your breaks outside when you can.
I live by a lake and enjoy sitting by the water and listening to the waves and gulls, or taking in a sunset. Even if I only have time to sit there for a few minutes, it’s always refreshing.
If you live near a park, woods or nature trail, take a stroll there. Or sit in your backyard or on your front porch and watch the wildlife. On a clear night, look up at the sky and gaze at the stars.
Studies report that exposure to fresh air and sunshine reduces anxiety, lessens symptoms of depression, revitalizes us mentally and emotionally, and bolsters our physical health.
Observing the created world around us, even just for a few minutes, can help us get our minds off the pressures of this life and see a bigger perspective. The psalmists did this, contrasting the grandeur of God’s creation and the expanse of the heavens with the smallness of mankind (Psalms 8:3-5; 19:1; 104:1-35). Reflecting on our loving Creator and meditating about His great plan can strengthen and inspire us.
The fact is, we need renewal every day. Even when we’re not busy, we still need recharging through daily prayer and Bible study and through nightly sleep. Ironically, it’s when life gets hurried that recharging becomes so much more critical—and so much harder to incorporate into our lifestyles. Still, we must make time for it.
God wants us to work hard, but He doesn’t want us to run ourselves ragged. We have to make ourselves stop and get off the “hamster wheel” when we’re exhausted. We must take care of ourselves to stay rejuvenated, so we can properly fulfill the roles God has given us and ultimately glorify and serve Him.