Know When You are Exhausted


Now that the rush and excitement of the New Year has ebbed, perhaps you have slipped back into some familiar habits that you were hoping to break out of. One of my pernicious habits is going non-stop through my days. Conscious pauses during each day are essential for high productivity. Even though I have learned so much about the value of the rhythm of rest. I know that stopping regularly is essential for my fortitude.

I love my weekly deep rest, but it’s still hard for me to build pauses into my day. One of my strongest pulls is to frame my day as a series of action steps, not the ebb and flow of go and stop, act and pause. My new tactic is to build more space around my scheduled events. I consciously pause and absorb the action after a meeting or a call. I no longer just grab my to do list and take action the minute a meeting is over.

And, one thing I have been noticing is, when I am not on the go. I am tired.

We have to know when we are exhausted. Only you can be aware of when your fatigue has eaten up your joy. Only you know when your attempts at savoring your life fall flat. The music that you trust to light you up, the conversation with a treasured friend, the dip in the lake or the long shower – none of these reliably nourishing moments bring you the lift and inspiration, the joy, that you count on.

Now it’s really time to stop. Just stop right now. Put down your to do list. Believe it or not, much of it is optional. Even if, or especially if, you are a beleaguered care-giver, parent, nurse, social worker or clergy person – you must stop. You’ve given too much and you are in danger of losing your taste for life. As vital as you think all these next action steps are, they aren’t vital. Your vitality is. Even if, or especially if, you are the parent of a small child or a surly teenager, give the child a crayon and paper and let your teen slouch angrily to his room (no, don’t give any of them a screen, and see if you can stay off yours ….)

Thich Nhat Hahn says this in his tiny genius book, How to Relax

“If we can’t rest, it’s because we haven’t stopped running. We began running a long time ago. We continue running even in our sleep. We think happiness and well-being aren’t possible in the present.”

In fact, stop right now while you are reading this. Notice how you feel in your body. Notice the light illuminating the area. Notice colors, sounds, the texture of fabric on your skin. Notice your breath, going in, going out, a sign of your soul, patiently waiting for you.

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