[#write31days] Day 17 “Work First, Rest Later”

Welcome to Day 17 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

On Thursday we talked about a lie that often keeps us from setting healthy boundaries. Today, we’ll look at another popular example.

Lie #2: Work First, Rest Later”
I am writing this post on a Saturday, weekend. A full week of work is behind me, and as I look at my apartment, there’s even more waiting for me. It seems like a battle is going on in my mind:
“Come on, it’s the weekend. Rest a bit.” – “But look at all the work, when else do I have time to do housework, clean, stow things away?”
“There’s always time for this, but this time is not now. Now you’ll relax and do something fun, then you can always work later on.” – No, let me first file these papers and do a bit of cleaning, then I can sit down.”
This happens several days per week, so this post is definitely for me. 🙂

I don’t advocate a “do nothing” attitude here. There is a time when you need to pull through and work; leaving things unfinished isn’t a good virtue either. Nevertheless, the “work first, rest later” argument is dangerous. Why? Because work never ends. There’s always more. Something small, something urgent. It never ends.
Why are we so inclined to use the THEN, LATER lie so often?

photo-1415370303892-4bfee9411b52Rest is for lazy people
This used to be a saying older people would tell younger ones when they struggled at work or wanted to give in. People who had grown up after the war had to rebuild their homes they could then relax in. As long as they were able and fit they would work, work, work. At a factory Monday to Friday, in their gardens or at their house during the weekend. Rest was something they didn’t really know, and maybe weren’t even allowed to long for. 
In Southern Germany where I live, especially, rest seems to carry a negative connotation.
Rest is for quitters. For people who can’t go til the end. For lazy ones who can’t persevere. For weak ones who don’t have what it takes.
This attitude is somehow instilled in us Germans, without any formal or conscious teaching. Social conventions are embedded deeply in our genes and lifestyles. And somehow this old saying and attitude has taken over the lives of managers, office workers, business people. Yes, even ‘ordinary’ people like you and me.
Rest is for the weak and the lazy. And we don’t want to be called that, right? So we better work, work, work. 

Interestingly, if you ask older people for advice what they would do differently in their lives, they say, “Don’t take work so seriously. Take a break and truly rest once in a while.” Our world is really upside down…

17bI can’t enjoy rest when work is still ahead of me

I always admire people who seem to have a special gift: they can turn their backs on work and simply look the other way. As if they were blind and work did not exist. Then they sit down and relax.
I am not one of these people.
I come home, and not matter how determined I am to sit down and rest – I just can’t. I see files to be stowed away, the dirty floor to be cleaned, laundry to be folded, emails to be written, calls to make.
There’s just so much more work ahead of me! As long as my to do list is full I can’t sit back and relax. My mind would not be able to shut down because all my thoughts would revolve around the things I still have to do. I would not be able to stop planning, thinking, and worrying.
The false conclusion I often draw from this, however, is to finish all my work first before I give myself some rest.
This doesn’t happen often because, as I said, when does work ever end?
If we don’t practice shutting off our minds and hearts once in a while we’ll never find true rest.

17dToo exhausted to rest
For a while we might be able to keep going, and rest ahead of us motivates us and pushes us forward.
But only for a while.
If we keep going and going, if we don’t stop working and thinking and worrying –  we won’t find rest in the end.
We’ll run out of energy and joy and love, we’ll burn out of passion and fire for what we do, and we will be too exhausted for rest.
We won’t know anymore what it means to rest, to refresh our soul with living water, to refill our mind with life-giving thoughts, to recharge our bodies with  supernatural strength.
Let’s not push til the very end, until we break down. Let’s have breaks in between, like a well in the desert, like a gas station in the middle of nowhere. Times and places that will help us recharge and refocus for the next step ahead.

Do you rest even though there’s still so much work to be done? What keeps you from letting work be for a while and rest for a bit? 

[#write31days] Day 10 The Person in the Mirror

Welcome to Day 10 of #write31days! 
For more information check out the series’ page

We all have our shares of fights in life.
We fight with our parents, our spouses, our children, our friends, our colleages. And we all know (or should know) how to solve these conflicts.
We can move out from home, we can break up relationships, we can stop talking to a friend, we can change jobs.
But the one person we can’t get away from is ourselves. As long as we live it is our challenge and responsibility to get to know ourselves, benefit from the strengths, and accept the weaknesses. This ‘getting to know yourself’ process can be hard and there are a few traps we can fall into.

10aThe Helper Syndrome

I have a friend who is sick. Whenever we meet up she only complains about her stressful life. Too little sleep, too little time for herself, too much work to do. When I ask her about her day or why she is so busy it always comes down to the same thing: she can’t get her own things done because she is too busy with other people. Some call this the ‘Helper Syndrome’. Of course we all appreciate a friend who helps us when we’re in need. Of course we want to be there for others and help out. That is perfectly okay. Sometimes. There is a fine line between being a friend and losing yourself, and people with the ‘Helper Syndrome’ tend to overstep it. They take care of other people’s business, tasks, emotions, even lives, so much that they can’t take care of themselves anymore.

The Crowdsurfer
People who don’t ‘suffer from the Helper Syndrome’ often appear to be super relaxed and easy-going. Unless they drift into the other extreme, I call them ‘crowdsurfers’. Instead of doing the work themselves they rely on others. Instead of taking care of themselves they cry for help. All. the. time. One obvious example might be a student in his mid-twenties who can’t cook a meal, doesn’t know how to clean the kitchen, and has to call his mom to wash his clothes. Yes, I have seen examples of this species in real life. Being an adult means separation from your home to a certain extent. Being grown-up means taking care of yourself, falling down sometimes with no one else to blame but yourself.

The Runner
Sometimes when I talk to my sister on the phone I complain about the many things I still have to do. And sometimes she says, “Come on, be honest. You love to have a good amount of stress in your life!”
She’s right.
Psychologists distinguish two kinds of stress, the good and the bad one. We need a certain level of motivation and adrenaline that keeps us going. Positive stress pushes us to grow and do good things, work builds our confidence. Negative stress, however, destroys our energy, our creativity, our self-worth. If we look at ourselves and the people around us, it becomes shockingly obviously that we give in to negative stress far too often. We are not inspired, we are just runners. We keep on going and working for all kinds of wrong reasons: more money, a promotion, the feeling of missing something important, the fear of losing our value when we reveal our weaknesses…

10bThe more we give in to negative stress the more we become deaf to our body’s needs.
Sleep? Overrated, I can do with four hours a night.
Food? Not too much, I don’t have time to eat and you get fat anyway.
Holidays? I wish…
We’re afraid to listen, really listen, and then take action. Let the work be work, enjoy a meal instead of gulping it down, ask others for help to get back on track. Often it doesn’t take much to make a big difference for our soul life. 

We can talk a lot to others about setting boundaries, taking things slow, or living intentionally. But before that we need to live it ourselves. Our body is our closest friend and our toughest enemy. Let’s take it serious.

Take an honest look at yourself: Are you a helper, a crowdsurfer, or a runner?
Do you have too much negative stress in your life? What could you change?