By Patricia Hunter
Scripture speaks clearly to the importance of work. In fact, we’re told that if we don’t work, we don’t eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10); and that a wise woman is diligent and responsible to care for her home (Proverbs 31). She’s not lazy, and she refuses “the bread of idleness” (Proverbs 31:27).
But a wise woman also understands that a worker bee is not a workaholic, but that play, rest, and restorative sleep are vital for living a healthy, productive, and balanced life. Advancements in technology have made many of the tasks that the Proverbs 31 woman was credited as accomplishing able to be tackled today with far greater ease – sometimes at the push of a button.
These technological advancements were designed for efficiency and to us save time and energy, but what often happens is that they create openings to fill with more work, activity, or distractions. If we don’t establish clear boundaries, we’ll always be available and “at work”. Work is important, and technology is a gift, but if we aren’t careful, they can easily consume our lives. A wise and hard worker appreciates technology and is committed to her responsibilities, while remaining cheerfully available to her family. She uses “saved time” to invest in all her relationships, to honor the commandment to rest and to be joyful in play. Whether we honor the Sabbath or call it a “stop day”, Dr. Mathew Sleeth*, author of 24/6: A Prescription for a Healthier, Happier Life, suggests that carving out a weekly day of rest is vital for our physical, mental, and emotional health. He urges us to be intentional about planning for that day by scheduling our work activities for the week to be completed in six days. Easier said than done, right? Moms are usually “at work” 24/7. To stop all work one day a week isn’t a possibility for most of us, but we all have activities and chores that we can put on hold and adjustments we can make that will offer more breathing room and temporarily slow the pace, if just for one day a week.
Start with prayer. Ask God for wisdom and to order your steps. Honoring the Sabbath or establishing a “stop day” for you and your family will take a little time. Be patient, but be determined. The holiday season is the perfect time to schedule a day of rest. Trust God to redeem the time you rest and put work aside. It was His idea and He gives us good things. Consider the boundaries that are appropriate for you, your family, and the needs of your children. Each of us will flesh this out in different ways as we are led. Identify your distractions to both focusing on work and maintaining a day of rest. Determine to tame your distractions and be accountable to someone – your spouse or a friend – for how well you are doing. A “stop day” is a great opportunity to declare a “no electronics day” – a common source of most of our distractions. Let others know that you won’t be turning on your computer to work, read, or answer e-mails that day. Be committed to only using your smartphone for making nonwork related phone calls and your computer only for “stop day” activities. If at all possible, avoid the Internet entirely that day. Let co-workers and clients know when you are available to communicate and when you aren’t, and discipline yourself to stick to the boundaries you establish. During the work week, plan for moments to rest each day – maybe even to take a nap. Moms are famous for using our children’s nap times to accomplish tasks that are difficult when they are awake, but maybe the best thing we could do for all of us is to take a nap with them.
Consider utilizing a technique like the Pomodoro** with built -in stops throughout the day – a technique that will not only encourage rest or change-in-activity moments, but will help you to be more productive when you are working. Take a daily walk – a slow, contemplative walk, preferably outdoors with sunshine and fresh air. Even this means just a walk around your house or apartment. When I’m using the Pomodoro technique, I work for 25 minutes and then walk outside around the house for 5 minutes – breathing in the fresh air and clearing my thinking. Take longer walks on “stop day,” and stimulate creativity by taking different paths. Look for beauty everywhere.
Maintain a healthy diet with real food – including snacks. This can be a huge challenge over the holidays, when we’re packing in more activities in our days, and we’re often preparing holiday treats that are less than nutritious. Healthy snacks to consider keeping on hand can include: fresh fruit and veggies that can be eaten raw (carrots, celery, cucumber, green pepper, mushrooms, etc.), salsa, nuts and nut butters, trail mix, dried fruit, yogurt, and/or fruit smoothies, sugarfree whole-grain cereal, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, hummus, and popcorn.
Just don’t give up on implementing the changes that will result in a happier and healthier you. Finally, as always, be flexible. Get rid of any tendencies you have toward perfectionism. Life is prone to the unexpected bumps-in-the-road. People – you – are always more important than work. Give yourself and others the grace we need to persevere – to get back on track and to overcome life’s bumps and hurdles.
Patricia Hunter lives in rural southwest Florida where she’s a wife, mom, and mimi. A retired, veteran homeschooler, Patricia is a freelance writer, photographer and blogger. You can follow her at PollywogCreek.blogspot.com.
*“The Importance of a Stop Day”, a CNN interview with Dr. Matthew Sleeth http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/11/health/sleeth-take-day-off/index.htm
**Getting Started with the Pomodoro Technique http://pomodorotechnique.com/get-started/