Friday, October 22, 2010

The second key to stressing less

Hello again - I'm so glad you are back in A Good Bible Study! Let's pray and get right into the second key of stressing-less: recuperate.

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us keys in Your Word to living the life You desire for us. Thank You for going first, then pointing the way. Help us to heed Your Wisdom in all things. Help us to enjoy this life, to see the blessings no matter the pain, and to both value hard work, and restorative play. Balance, Lord, is what you offer and what we need. We accept in the name of Jesus, amen.

Key one: Authenticate: be real, genuine, true to your self and to God.
Key two: Recuperate: learn to rest (and rejuvenate) your body, your mind, and your spirit.

I used to think resting, playing, relaxing, taking time off to restore myself was just plain lazy. I grew up in a household in which play was punished and work was valued. I don't think my parents intentionally modeled and enforced these ideas. I think they were not intentionally doing anything except trying to avoid and decrease their own pain. Be that as it may, I've had to learn to value rest as much as I value work, but it took nearly burning out my body, my mind, and my spirit to make the change.

The first key, authenticity enables us to live awake, to choose behavior instead of merely reacting and responding, to celebrate who we are, and who the people we love are. Authenticity is freedom!

The second key is just as important.

Read Genesis 2:1-3

God always goes first. What did He do in those first 6 days? He created, He worked at His intended Purpose, He enjoyed His efforts, He did the right thing, and He did it all right.

What did He do on the 7th day, the last day of Creation? He __________.

That's right. He rested, he looked at everything He made and saw it was good, so He took a day to simply enjoy it.

Was he tired? Of course not. God speaks and what He intends is accomplished. He showed us what is the right and good order of things: Work hard, create, bring forth your ideas into reality and do this for no more than 6 days in a row - then stop creating and enjoy what you have done for an entire day.

Rest your body, rest your mind, and restore your spirit. It's not rocket science.

Speaking of science, I just love how eventually science "discovers" the Bible really is correct in its description of how things work in this universe. For example, we'd all love to drink caffeine all day long and stay up all night and do, do, do. But our bodies are not designed to operate without rest.

Dr. Andrew Hegman says that a deficit of just two hours of sleep in one night is actually sleep deprivation. He says athletes can handle no  more than a 2 hour sleep deficit before their performance suffers. Optimally, we each need a minimum of 6 hours of sleep each night, and preferably 8-9 hours.

When you are sleep deprived (and in our society, who isn't?) your stress level increases dramatically. You can't think, you can't remember things, you can't concentrate. You want the fancy terms? Sleep deprivation, even just a couple of hours a night, results in decreased cognition, short term memory lapses, poor task performance, and lack of concentration.

Staying up all night for even one night, and definitely by the third, alters your personality, and culminates in psychotic and bizarre behavior. Now, you are starting to understand a few people in your life, right?

The simple fact is that just like our cars will eventually break down without regular maintenance, our bodies need rest and recuperation to not only be at our best, our most creative and productive, but also to merely maintain sanity!

Exerst at the National Sleep Foundation say:

"short sleep duration is linked with:
•Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
•Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
•Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
•Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
•Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

And, "according to researchers Michael H. Bonnet and Donna L. Arand, 'There is strong evidence that sufficient shortening or disturbance of the sleep process compromises mood, performance and alertness and can result in injury or death. In this light, the most common-sense 'do no injury' medical advice would be to avoid sleep deprivation."

I realized a few years ago that I couldn't keep on working 7 days a week and never planning in recuperation. My body couldn't take it anymore. My mind was suffering from depression and anxiety. My spirit was crying out for some peace. Can anyone relate to what I am saying??

Are you in dire need of some rest? Does your spirit crave a day just to look at the blessings of your hard work and enjoy them?

When is the last time you let the housework, or yardwork, just be messy and undone for one day while you laid around by the lake, or the pool, or the river with your family? When is the last time you spent a Saturday taking your family out to lunch, and then to a matinee? Would everyone in your life reject you if you took a day simply to enjoy everything, and everyone, you are working so hard for?

For me, it became about self-preservation. I was becoming overwhelmed with stress. It was affecting my mental health. It was creating disease in my body as I moved into pre-diabetes. It was destroying my spirit because I had no peace, no control over my life, no joy of laughter and play.

God didn't tell us to say yes to all the people who have no problem putting one more thing on our plates to make their own lives easier. He said do the right thing, and do things right, and do it in the right time, then stop. He said create for 6 days, and then recuperate on the 7th and enjoy what you have made.

Enjoy the home you have made. Enjoy the spouse, enjoy the children, or enjoy the friends, enjoy the family, enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Your body needs rest in order to repair injury, in order to put you into dreaming so it can process information and re-boot systems, in order to keep your personality and sanity intact. It also needs rest to keep your metabolism in proper working order otherwise, we gain weight or have difficulty losing it.

Your mind needs rest in order to de-stress and process the fight-flight-fright chemicals and hormones that have been surging through your body and brain all week. You want to be really productive and creative? You want to have a surge of inspiration? You want to see answers where you only saw problems a few minutes ago? Rest your mind and let it play.

I get all my best ideas when I switch my mind to something else, something restorative. In fact, I carry around a micro-recorder so when I get a great idea during my Sabbath, my Saturday day off, I can keep track of it and not be tempted to go back to work during my free time. I wouldn't give up that 7th rest day for anything now, and now that my family sees how much it improves my mood and sense of humor, they wouldn't ask me to give it up either.

Oh by the way, your friends and family just might resent, ridicule, and actively try to undermine your determination to take a day off and rest. They'll get over it, but you won't if you keep on pushing yourself 7 days a week. We were created in His image, remember. He took the seventh day off. Maybe being God and all, He knows a thing or two.

Read Matthew 11:28-30 and fill in the following blanks

"Come to me all you who ________ and are heavy laden, and I will give you _______. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am _______ and lowly in heart, and you will find ______ for your souls. For my yoke is ______ and my burden is ________. "

When I first began this study, you might remember I posted every day. I wanted to honor God with my faithful study and sharing of His Word. I realized it was becoming difficult to plan family time away from home, rest time, because I thought I needed to have at that computer every day and write.

But, God reminded me He values mercy over sacrifice (Hosea 6:6 and reinforced by Jesus in Matthew 9:13 and Matthew 12:7 - look it up.)

He reminded me that disobeying His command to rest one day a week in order to honor Him, even to write a bible study, didn't make sense. Even though this isn't work, I don't get paid do it, I'm not obligated by someone to do it, and this really is something I need and enjoy, I still need to put it down at least one day a week and do something else, something just for me, something requiring nothing of me but enjoyment.

I now post 5 days a week, spending Saturday at rest, at home, relaxed and rejuvenated. Sundays are not a rest day. I spend that day worshiping and enjoying being around other believers, which is also a good and necessary thing, but it doesn't replace my need to have a complete down day once a week. I need a pajama-all-day day, or a sit in the garden and watch my kids and dogs play - day.

I need it because it was designed into me, and into you!

Let's pray:

Father, help us to see how valuable, important and necessary a day of rest and recuperation is to our minds, bodies and spirits. Help us to see we cannot be at our best, our most creative and productive without rest and relaxation. Help us demand it of ourselves, just as fervently as we demand performance the other 6 days. Help us to see that we are not only modeling what is right for those who follow us, such as our children and our employees, but we are obeying Your Word. Thank you for showing us the Way, thank you for answering our call to enable us to obey. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Love, Karen

Photo by Paul Ribeiro, courtesy of

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