‘How do you break the cycle of busy?’ asked Kate in her blog post for Five Minute Friday http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/03/22/fmf-link-up-routine/ this week. Automatically I thought of the fatigue management course that I teach, principles like the Five Ps and Four Ds. I was itching to getting home from work to write about these tips.
I was two and a half hours late finishing and missed my lunch break.
So much for my pearls of wisdom!
But when I look at back at the day I realise my problem wasn’t the principles not working but a case of not practising what I preached. So here’s how I did and perhaps we can all learn from my mistakes:
- PLAN: OK I did make a To Do List at the start of the day but I completely underestimated how long tasks would take and left no time for unexpected demands.
- PRIORITISE: Instead of doing the most urgent tasks first, I got distracted by something else, spent too much time on it, so ran out of work hours for more important things.
- PACE: The only time I left the building was to collect my lunch from my car. And then I ate it at my desk. What can I say? Everyone needs a break, including me, and I shouldn’t feel guilty about taking one.
- POSTURE: Is it any wonder that my shoulders ached after spending so long at a computer? Everyone needs to move and change position – do I need to repeat myself again?
- PERMISSION: Well, everyone makes mistakes so I am not going to beat myself up about this. I will remind myself that I am human but I belong to a God who wipes the slate clean and lets me start again. And a new week starts on Monday.
And as for the Four Ds – I’ll save those for another post when perhaps I can tell you about how I got those right!
(And my very lovely other half had one of these waiting for me when I got home!)
The first couple of months of this year were exhausting for me. I was really struggling. There were non stop demands at work: an overwhelming number of new referrals, complex and emotionally draining issues to solve for my current patients, plus the extra responsibilities of a supervising a student and contributing to a research project taking up precious time. Add to that a weekend taken up by a son’s sudden illness two hundred miles away and the anniversary of my mother’s death, it was no wonder I felt like I was running on empty.
But one morning, as I was reading Mark’s gospel chapters 5 and 6, I noticed Jesus and his disciples going through much the same thing.
They were crazily busy: travelling back and forth across the lake, moving from place to place to teach, healing needy person after needy person, whilst dealing with the grief of a family death (John the Baptist). Jesus was rejected and criticised by His own community, had a much needed break interrupted by the demands of others, faced another storm disrupting travel, and then yet more needy people to help immediately on reaching shore again.
It sounded so much like my life!
It certainly helped to know that He knew what I was going through. But I also decided to look more closely to see if His approach to stress was better than mine to help me cope better. This is what I found:
- He didn’t stay where He wasn’t wanted. For me, this translated as not taking on tasks that others (e.g. my boss) didn’t want me to.
- He delegated work to others. So I looked at what I could give my student and volunteers to do and, when triaging my new referrals, I directed referrals to other services where possible.
- He arranged breaks but responded flexibly to need. I realised I needed to plan time off but not be rigid in my thinking if plans went astray.
- He took His team somewhere remote to get away. This gave me hope of recovery time for my planned holiday away. It also challenged me to think about getting away mentally at times by doing something completely different, especially getting away from screens perhaps by doing more knitting or reading in my evenings.
- He took physical exercise outside – climbing a mountain, crewing a boat. I got back out in my garden after realising this – planting out some colourful pots, clearing leaves, starting the post winter tidy up. I’m also considering some regular walking, perhaps aiming for a long distance charity walk.
- He made sure He did get some time alone with His Heavenly Father. And I was encouraged to keep going with even a short period of daily prayer and Bible reading helps.
You know, it’s easy to read the Bible and not realise how practical it is. This reminded me of how much the detail of our lives matters to God and how He longs for us to live our lives well. Now I just need to apply what I’ve learned on a long term basis.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11. 28-30 The Message
(This is my weekly, albeit late this week (!), link up to the Five Minute Friday community. You can find more on this prompt here: http://fiveminutefriday.com/2018/03/08/fmf-link-up-tired/)
‘Regrets? I’ve had a few,
But then again, too few to mention.’
You know, I don’t get either of these lyrics. I’m a what-iffer, constantly questioning whether I could have handled things better, especially when it comes to other people. Could I have been a better parent, therapist, friend? If something goes wrong, was it my fault? Could I have prevented it? It’s felt especially true this week.
Reflection on performance is a key part of my job; continuous professional development is an expectation. And without regular self examination, the Christian life stagnates or deteriorates.
But it can be an unsettling way to live – like walking on snow that subtly shifts under each tread, it’s hard work. I can become frozen by circuitous analysing and catastrophising, unable to move on. Sometimes I remind myself that ‘The only real mistake you make is the one you don’t learn from’ but even that can become a pressure rather than a comfort.
But there are other wise words I can remember and hold onto, like:
‘Wait. Give it time,’
‘Stuff happens,’ and
‘I’m not in control of everything – He is.’
And, just like the thaw which is starting in my garden, even in the most frozen conditions, I will see that there is hope still pushing through my uncertainty.