Mental illness, like any chronic health problem, can require days of rest. Unfortunately, because many people still have a hard time accepting mental illness as legitimate health problems, those struggling can often feel guilty when they need a day of rest.
Today, I am having one of those days. This morning, I woke up with that sinking feeling in my stomach at the idea of tackling any of the items on my three page long to – do list. Instead, I found myself longing to savor the warmth of my covers and enjoy a new series on Netflix.
This had left me struggling with the question: How do I know if I really need the rest, or if I’m just being lazy? After all, I wasn’t outright having a panic attack or fighting depression. I was just simply craving rest.
I spent my entire morning debating whether I should take today off, or if I should just “pick myself up by my bootstraps” and get to work despite my lack of motivation. After spending time in prayer and reflecting on my week, I decided I needed a day dedicated to intentional rest. Here are five questions I asked to arrive at this decision.
- Are you missing an opportunity to sit at God’s feet?
Do you remember the story of Martha and Mary? If you have not read it, I recommend taking five minutes to read it in Luke 10:38-42. It is important to note that there was nothing was wrong with Martha’s actions. After all, we as women are called are called to “watch over the affairs of [our] household and not eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27) Watching over the affairs of her household is exactly what Martha was doing! If man were to directing this story instead of God, Martha would probably have been the hero of the story. However, God has a different set of values than man. Though hard work is good, our God is relational and we were designed to sit at His feet above all else! Therefore, while Martha’s actions were not sinful in themselves, they became a barrier between her and God, creating a foothold for sin to begin to grow.
If you were to honestly evaluate your past week, would you consider yourself more similar to Martha or Mary?
How much time have you spent intentionally sitting at God’s feet and listening to him this past week?
Have you been neglecting time with the Lord in order to accomplish more?
It’s OK if have been a Martha all week: I know I have been trying to balance school, work, and family. However, it’s never too late to start again. Take time right now today to spend time resting at God’s feet.
2. Are you being intentional with your rest?
One big indicator as to whether you need rest or whether you are just being lazy is how you spend your time.
Chances are, when I find myself scrolling through social media for hours at a time, spending hours on meaningless busy work, or bouncing from one activity to another looking to cure boredom, I am being lazy and procrastinating work I don’t want to do.
In contrast, if I am craving time in the word, desiring to write or journal, desiring exercise, or longing for time with my husband, I need time to rest.
The difference between the two sets of activities is the end result. I can spend hours doing busywork without ever feeling refreshed. The more time I spend on social media, the more I want to avoid my responsibilities and the more tired I become. The second set of activities leave me feeling refreshed. Once I’ve completed my Quiet time, writing or exercising, I feel encouraged, joyful, and motivated to come back to my responsibilities.
When deciding whether you need rest or are being lazy, make yourself a list of what you would like to do with your time. Then write how you would feel after completing each task. If you find most of your activities would leave you feeling more lifeless, you are probably feeling lazy or like procrastinating. However, if you find most of your activities fall into the second category, go ahead and take the day to rest!
Note: The specific activities in each category will differ for everybody. Some people can use Netflix as a form of genuine rest while others will journal as a means of procrastination. There is no right or wrong way to view each activity. Don’t tailor your list to reflect what you think “should be correct.” Make it personal!
3. Is your mental health or physical health suffering?
Jobs offer sick days for a reason. When you are sick, you need to rest. Most people understand this when they are physically sick. However, THIS APPLIES FOR MENTAL ILLNESS AS WELL! There is nothing wrong with taking a day off because your mental health is keeping you from functioning.
Just last month, I ended up taking an entire week off for both my mental and physical health. Before taking this week off, I felt like I had been beaten from every direction. In a matter of weeks, my husband and experienced severe financial troubles, had our studio apartment flood, had to move in with our in-laws, learned my husband’s family was experiencing difficulties, experienced car troubles, and I failed two exams.
As a result I had some severe anxiety triggered and stopped sleeping at night. The stress and lack of sleep also triggered some depression, making it nearly impossible to get out of bed. On top of this, I ended up catching a cold which turned into a stomach virus, and then into bronchitis. Needless to say, I needed time to rest spiritually, emotionally, mentally and physically! When I opened up to my boss and my teachers about all that was all going on, they all agreed it would be best for me to take a week off and REST!
This is obviously an extreme example of needing rest. However, you don’t need all of this going on to excuse taking a day off. If your depression is triggered for no reason, or you are recovering from a bad anxiety attack, you don’t owe an explanation to anybody. It is ok to REST! You are not lazy. You are a fighter. You have an illness that requires rest to get better.
4. How much time have you already spent resting this week?
This question made my decision on whether or not I would rest today. This last week, I spend over 10 hours on campus every day working and studying. I took 2 exams and completed 5 homework assignments. I had spent Saturday completing all of my chores for the week. When I had looked back and realized how little rest I had really had this week, I realized it was ok to take a day off.
In contrast, I have had weeks where I have come home from campus early every day. I have procrastinated on my assignments and neglected any chores and spent most evenings binging on Netflix. On weeks like this, I usually need to spend maybe an hour resting and having a quiet time and then getting down to business.
What kind of week have you had last week?
Can you afford to take a day off from your responsibilities or have you already been procrastinating all week and need to play catch up?
5. Decide whether to rest or work and then STICK WITH YOUR DECISION!
This is SO important to me. Often, indecisiveness is my biggest time waster. I will either decide to work, but spend the entire time daydreaming about resting instead. Otherwise, I will decide to rest, but spend the entire time feeling guilty and anxious about not being productive. Both options are equally destructive and equally a waste of time. In both scenarios, no work gets done, and I never feel rested. Therefore, instead of worrying about making the perfect decision, it is best to simply make on and stick with it!
What are your views on the difference between rest and laziness? Let me know in the comments below!