I can remember so clearly the early years of parenthood, those times when I was on the brink of breaking down. I could very faintly feel the exhaustion setting in more and more, my patience very thin with the kids and emotions flying everywhere about the smallest issues. It was then when I knew that I was in the danger zone; I needed a break.
What to do? My husband, obviously, also got very tired juggling work and family, we usually had so little time to schedule any “down time”. In spite of all the pressure It was as if Gideon could sense that this mode of mine could go very wrong, very fast. He would quickly agree to baby sitting when I asked for a few hours alone time, or coffee with a friend. No big weekends away, just a few hours to re-collect. These small breaks really helped me then, and they still do now.
Taking breaks have always required some specific intentions from my side. Intentions such as scheduling time for myself, eating humble pie by asking for help and giving myself permission to rest a bit.
It was during one of those coffee breaks that a very dear friend of mine said the following: “You do not have the luxury to let yourself break down, because when you break down your whole family goes with you.” I did not want to hear those words then, because honestly, I really just wanted to lie down and not get up again. But what she said was true then and remains true now.
BURNOUT is a state of chronic stress that leads to:
- Physical and emotional exhaustion
- Cynicism and detachment
- Feelings of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment
Using time wisely remains a constant struggle for me, always to little time and too much to do. During my quiet time as I, once again, prayed about time and surviving in the hustle-and-bustle of each day, God spoke clearly and surely.
He said “… for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his. Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.”
(Heb 4: 10-11, NIV)
By not intentionally resting I am actually being disobedient as the Israelites were in the desert. God’s rest has a lot to do with faith and trusting Him. This chapter focuses on the sabbath rest and sabbath is taken from the verb Shabbat which means to rest or stop from your work. There will always be more work to be done, more goals to conquer, and something else to do for your child, but rest contributes to not just work but being equipped for the work of our hands.
One practical way of grabbing hold of the craziness of life is PLANNING. I have a slight hunch that putting more consideration in what we are planning to do than just being part of a lot of busywork, can change everything. In our franticness we usually battle with boundaries. We commit to appointments, line up to-do lists and overpromise easily without thought or consideration. When our brains constantly keep on thinking about unfinished tasks our subconscious minds exhaust us much more than any session at the gym ever can. Extreme tiredness (or, Burnout) very seldom results from physical exertion but more often from mental and emotional stress.
You are what you think …. and too many tasks and commitments exhaust our minds.
Taking all of this in consideration your task as a parent, special needs or not, is demanding. Most of the time parenting is not your only responsibility you have to divide yourself in a million different pieces every day. Rest, usually, does not fall high on the priority list.
If you cannot imagine a life with regular pit stops, why not start small and change your everyday life paradigms a bit? Small pit stops can be:
- Starting your day with God, yes get up earlier and go to bed earlier (He keeps you afloat and wants to give you supernatural strength), Matt 6:33
- Planning a longer bath or shower session every other day (don’t just rush through it, enjoy the moment),
- Doing a bit of exercise at home (even if it’s only 20 min a day, it builds self-confidence and physical health),
- Buying that book you thought you would never get to reading and read it for 20 min in bed before you fall asleep (dump Facebook, scrolling through other people’s lives aren’t relaxing at all),
- Scheduling in that date night, even if its once a month, way in advance (make every effort to organise help with the kids), and
- Very importantly: speak positively into your own life, words such as: “don’t give up”, “you are doing well” or “you are doing the best you can” will go a long way!
Believe that you are precious in God’s sight!
“I have told you these things, so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33, NIV)
Written by Johanni Meiring
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