Rest: That which stills your body, soul and spirit – whatever releases you momentarily from the pressures of society. It could involve sleep, just chilling with friends over food and drinks, or simply being alone for a while.
The point is, rest is important. It’s not a barrier to be overcome but an enabler of a balanced, productive life.
More than halfway through university life, I wish I’d learnt this slightly earlier.
You see, I love to do stuff. I’m super active and energetic. People know me as the girl who cannot sit still for prolonged periods of time. I’m a loud and proud extrovert – maybe it’s the mild ADHD but “chill” just isn’t in my dictionary. I don’t know how to rest.
But I’ve realised, after 21 years of existence, that I too need rest.
I now know too well what burnout feels like. I also know that different parts of our being – physical, mental and spiritual – rest in different ways.
Physical rest is something terribly underrated, especially to those told they could achieve anything if only they work hard enough. (Hint: University students).
Burning midnight oil is the norm for young adults. We stay up till 4 a.m., sleep a little before dragging ourselves to an 8 a.m. lesson. Most people are heavily drugged with black coffee and caffeine pills.
After class, we might stagger back to our dorms or any random corner to doze for about 2 hours. Then it’s lunch before the next 3-hour seminar or lab session. The night brings no respite. There’s always something to do or someone to talk to, so we finally get to studying at about 1 a.m. and the cycle repeats – for the whole semester.
We’re just bulldozing our way through our early twenties and ignoring our bodies’ silent screams.
That’s 13 good long weeks of zombieland … And it’s completely normalised. Sometimes I’m not sure if people sharing such lives on social media are boasting, inspirational or really crying for help.
And there we go, just bulldozing our way through our early twenties and ignoring our bodies’ silent screams.
Truth is, we all need to take some time out to get a few good hours of rest. Better still, make that one whole night of solid, undisturbed sleep. If you truly value your life, make this a priority. It’s a great way to exercise self-care.
Multitaskers – they’re the ones involved in 7 to 8 CCAs in school – tend to suffer a great deal from a lack of this. I’m guilty as charged. Training, college events, planning for camps, overseas community service programmes, hall productions … And the list goes on.
If you’re in an executive committee, the responsibilities are endless. From sending emails to vendors to coordinating manpower and logistics, there’s always something to handle. And during the peak periods of these projects, all while juggling academic responsibilities, mental strength leaks out from our brains drastically.
Oh, the incessant pressure. It drives you but it kills you too.
We find ourselves trying to hold everything together, forgetting that our minds need rest. One minute I’m trying to reply an email I’ve taken too long to respond to and the next, I’m trying to update an excel sheet of our expenditure.
Oh, the incessant pressure. It drives you but it kills you too. And just like your body, your mind cries silently. Perhaps it’s time to switch off our phones and get away from the buzz of everything. At least for a while.
Funny how my Martha habits spill over from school into church as well.
Again, I learnt the hard way that serving incessantly in church is not spiritual rest. It could be if you allowed it to – if you flowed with the Holy Spirit instead of paddling hard with your own vision and strength.
But the non-stop Bible study and mentoring I was giving to others completely emptied my cup. I wrung every last drop from my soul for others. Maybe it was pride or misplaced zeal. Maybe I was trying to prove something. Nevertheless, I assumed it was the right thing to do. I pressed on and quickly found myself burnt out.
I’ve learnt that the essence of spiritual rest is to give God space.
I must confess, of all the types of rest I need, this one still confounds me.
Different people have different ways of finding it, but I’ve learnt that the essence of spiritual rest is to give God space. Whether through Sunday sermons, prayer, His Word or even connecting with another member of the Body, it is so important to just let Him speak and saturate us again with His power and presence.
When I finally allowed myself quiet time to go back to God, I felt healed, refreshed and strengthened.
Not just physically or mentally but with a renewed perspective: My soul felt released from the emotional pressures, tensions, burdens of society and family. Free from everything that had weighed heavily on my fragile heart and mind. Of everything I put my hope, identity and joy in.
I learnt to cast all my cares on Him, for He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7). That His yoke is easy and burden light (Matthew 11:30).
REST BEFORE YOU BREAK
Sometimes I try to appear strong. I convince myself that sleep is for the weak and that others race ahead while my lazy self catches some shut-eye.
But today, I take baby steps into the light. I humbly remind myself that I’m weak. That I’m human and I need rest too – we all do. Life is not a mindless rat race but a very different race for the One who runs to us with open arms.
“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)
So please, if you’re like me, cut yourself some slack. It’s summer. You deserve a break as well.