Last week, my sister shared a tweet on our family’s group text from a man named Sam. It poked fun at the way Americans pride ourselves in our workaholism and 24/7 availability:
American out-of-office messages: ‘I have left the office for two hours to undergo kidney surgery, but you can reach me on my cell any time.’
Of course, the tweet is hilarious, but still; for me, it hit a little too close to home. How about you? Do you occasionally (or always) feel a pressure you’re not sure how to escape? Are you sucked into others’ expectations of you, or your own unrealistic to-do lists? Are you spinning your wheels, wondering when life will slow down so you can catch your breath?
Maybe you’ve had it with the caffeine rollercoaster; the suction of social media; demands from every direction; or continual, nagging fatigue. I’m sorry I’m so overwhelmed; but how do I turn this ship around? Where’s the exit?
The hard fact about life is that it offers so many options and opportunities. With these comes a perpetual onslaught of decision-making that can leave anyone feeling wrecked…at any age.
Generations under pressure
It’s easy to assume that only the old in years, who are life-deep in mortgages and joint pain, know what feeling wrecked is all about. But the truth is, millennials today are majorly battling burnout. There’s a must-do, have-to, all-the-things mindset that’s shoving some of us beyond our best boundaries.
BuzzFeed News senior culture writer, Ann Helen Peterson, explains that burnout is, “not limited to workers in acutely high-stress environments. And it’s not a temporary affliction: It’s the millennial condition. It’s our base temperature. It’s our background music. It’s the way things are. It’s our lives.”
Peterson explains that this exhaustion is fueled by fear. Fear that no longer can anyone “just show up with a diploma and expect to get and keep a job that would allow us to retire at 55.” In fact, many of us, at any age, are tempted to let the work we do determine our intrinsic value.
Maybe you’ve been tempted to chase status instead of choose sanity. Or to issue an out-of-office apology for a doctor’s appointment. In a world pressuring you to move faster, better, farther (to Mars, even) — your soul is indeed in danger of crashing. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 85 or 25. Feeling wrecked might even bring you to bad-mouth yourself, using slurs like worn out, rejected, or a has-been.
Don’t let the enemy get a foothold
Ah, what a win for the trickster. That sneaky enemy who prowled around in the garden just as surely as he does today, will use your own fears and memories to deceive you. He can tempt you to give up on peace. Or yourself. He wants you to forget that God looks at the heart — not your outer appearance or accomplishments — and that He loves you just as you are.
When you’re convinced everyone else is thriving and you’re the only one who’s barely surviving, it’s time to do some wreckage control. Let me invite you, if only in the space of this article, to consider a fresh mindset, rhythm or habit that maybe doesn’t look or feel like “winning at all costs.”
The Bible has some ideas here. Remember, you can take your thoughts captive (2 Cor. 10:5) and consider the wildflowers (Matt. 6:28). You’re welcome to bring your weary heart to the one who made you and find rest (Matt. 11:28).
Let’s look at three simple ways you can invite renewal into your life today:
1. Reflect on your habits
If you can write a to-do list or clock your time at work, you can take inventory of how you spend your time, attention, and energy.
It could be that you’re exhausted and wrecked because you’re investing in the wrong things. Be willing to question whether you’re spending your emotional capital in dead-end relationships or ongoing conflict. Or are you frittering away time and energy in social media or passive entertainment, and then wondering why you don’t have time for what really matters to you?
The things you and I do to keep ourselves down aren’t just physical, they’re mental and spiritual, too. So, when you find yourself blaming others for how you feel, consider the reverse your best remedy.
When life is clobbering you, refuse to join in. Stick up for yourself. Give yourself time to do the things that bring you peace and healing. And don’t let anyone else pass judgment on what that is.
Ask yourself: Is this thing I’m doing creating peace in my heart? Joy in my thoughts? Start investigating what feeds your spirit. Then hold yourself accountable for protecting that in your life.
Is it the time when you’re making your tea? Taking your walk? Watching comedy? Conditioning your hair in the shower or your body at the gym? What little or big thing makes you feel more like the ‘you’ that you really like? Jot down what you do for a week or two and then choose one bad habit to remove. Say no to something, making room to say “yes” to renewal.
2. Live like you know you’re loved
You are a child of God. And even though you are now an adult, that childish quality remains. It’s why you’re able to wonder and worship with awe.
Only God owns your being — no one else. Get used to saying, “I need this for balance,” or peace, or health, or whatever creates stability.
You won’t find out what that is by comparing yourself to everyone else. Get alone with your Maker. Be alone with your rhythms and practices, and care for yourself. You’ve heard this before but let me remind you: Talk to yourself like you are a precious little child. Nurture the 5-year-old you who needs you to accept her or him. Don’t reject or dishonor the child whom Jesus loves and gave His precious life for.
One of the finest ways to practice this is to not pretend when you’re in pain. Instead, pursue a remedy. Maybe it’s more time with God. Or you may want to try professional therapy for a while. It may be letting go of a destructive relationship or addictive behavior. Inform others that you’ll be making choices instead of apologizing that you have a doctor’s appointment.
Sometimes caring for yourself can be as simple as slowing down, allowing yourself to smile at yourself in the mirror, and saying true things about yourself. Speak to yourself with God’s grace, the way He would talk to you.
Remember, you are always growing and becoming the adult He sees. It’s worth your time to love and care for what He’s given you.
3. Refuse self-depletion
It’s possible that even the temptation to serve can pull you down like quicksand. When you’re feeling old or wrecked, it may be because you’ve been people-pleasing in areas that are way outside your giftedness.
Not only can this cause exhaustion, but it opens the door to its evil twin, resentment. If you work and live (and try to gain value) by doing more and more ad nauseum, rather than doing things meant for you, you’re choosing self-depletion.
During these swells of over-serving, you’re prone to get twisted up in lies. Ask God to lead you to truths in His word that will release your grip, free you from fatigue, and invite you into grace. When you cultivate grace toward yourself, you refresh your ability to offer it to others. When you refuse to be critical and judgmental of yourself, loving others comes easier.
In all this, ask for God’s wisdom and strength to guide you back on the path He made for you, even if that involves erasing some to-dos and commitments. It’s no easy task, but the rewards of renewal are worth it. If you’re ready to get started, begin with this prayer. Pray it often as you lean into who God made you to be and what He is asking you to do:
Dear God, today I celebrate that I’m always in the process of renewal. You are always doing a “new thing.” I feel stretched, challenged and burned out…but I’m realizing that restoration is found in trusting Your goodness and character. As I let go of resentment and overdoing, will you multiply my effectiveness? Show me how to steward the life you’ve given me. Thank you for loving me, just as I am. Thank you that your mercy is new every day. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Copyright 2021 Lia Martin. All rights reserved.