Dreading the Day:
A pattern of dreading the day is my first sign that it is time to step back and take a break. When I dread the day ahead I think to myself, “I don’t want to do it!”, “I can’t do it!”, or “It’s too much!” Life feels impossible and overwhelming. I feel unqualified, unequipped, or unprepared. I wish someone could take my place or I could just check-out.
But where does dread come from? The definition of dread is “to fear greatly” or “to feel extreme reluctance to meet or face.” It never occurred to me that fear could be the catalyst for my dread. However, the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. I feared the expectations set before me. I forgot Jesus’ words, “My grace is sufficient for you” (Matthew 12:9).
Ecclesiastes 11:4 says, “Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” Dread inevitably leads me to procrastination. I don’t start because I’m afraid I won’t do the task well enough or have time to finish it. This procrastination causes paralysis because the longer I wait to start, the more work builds up and feelings of dread continue. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break.
However, discipline helps me break the cycle. When I discipline my days by structuring them not only with times of work but also with times of rest, I don’t fear the day as much. For me, this “rest” includes getting up earlier than my family so that I have time to wake-up before the day gets started. It also includes daily prayer and Bible reading.
Inability to Focus:
A mind racing with to-do lists blocks my ability to focus. It’s hard for me to be present, I forget important information, and I can’t recall names of people easily. This is a sign that it’s time to take a break.
Proverbs 16:3 tells us, “Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” If I’m honest, I do not commit my work to the Lord often enough. I put on my agenda tasks that I think I need to get done instead of tasks that the Lord has laid on my heart to do.
To help with this I sometimes do a simple exercise in the morning of praying over each part of my day. This helps me to recognize what needs to get done versus what I want to get done. It also helps me to anticipate inevitable interruptions so that I do not become agitated by them as easily.
Another sign that tells me I need to step back and take a break is irritability. When I feel agitated in traffic, defensive on social media, or impatient with my kids I know that I need to make some changes. Once a counselor told me that these seemingly minor irritations are misdirected coping mechanisms. For example, in my road rage, I take my anger out on strangers with whom I can get away with it (They’re in their car, and I’m in mine, so there are no repercussions.) because it’s not productive to take my anger out on my calendar and it’s more complicated to take it out on someone in my life or address it with someone I’m actually angry with.
When I catch myself in these bouts of irritability, my first response is to be quiet. It’s when I start talking that the circumstance gets worse. “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back” (Proverbs 29:11). Often times all I need is 15 minutes to be alone. This can be just sitting or sitting and reading. However, it doesn’t include scrolling on my phone. That creates more irritability. When I build small rest times like this into my day, irritability subsides.
Not Meeting Deadlines:
Another consequence of procrastination is not meeting deadlines. These can be work deadlines or simply paying bills on time. Ephesians 5:16 reminds us to make the most of our time. I try to schedule into my day small steps that will help me meet a bigger deadline goal. I also ask myself if there’s something I can take off of my calendar in order to make time for rest.
Lack of rest causes my mind to spiral into many questions and unknowns. My worry morphs from not getting my daily tasks done to real fears like my children getting sick. Anxiety is a sign that I need more margin in my life. It becomes necessary to step back and spend some time on my personal health. This looks like focusing on what I can do today to be healthy for tomorrow. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34). That includes getting adequate sleep, drinking enough water, moving in some way physically, and eating healthfully.
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