Do Less This Advent Season
restore peace to your home & heart
By Kate Wicker
In an age of multitasking, many of us are trying to do more and be more—whether as spouses, parents, friends, volunteers, or co-workers. We’re overworked, overwhelmed, and over-leveraged. We might fool ourselves into thinking that if we prayed more, we could do more. But sometimes God is inviting us to do less. Battling burnout is not easy. Sometimes it takes energy you don’t think you have. However, small changes can go a long way in restoring peace in your home and in your heart.
Feeling fatigued before the first candle is even lit on your Advent wreath? Here are six simple ways to help you recharge:
1. Keep things in perspective.
When facing burnout, it’s easy to think things could not get any worse, but Catholic author Patti Armstrong, a mom of 10, says it’s important to count your blessings even when you find a cloud of negativity looming over you. “It helps me to think of stories I’ve heard of people with really awful lives—like the man I saw on the Discovery Channel who had an immune system disorder that made his hands and feet look like they had long roots growing out of them or the homesteaders of North Dakota—where I’ve lived for 19 years—who live in sod homes without screens, running water, or computers,” she says. “I realize that their best day is worse than my worst day. Suddenly, my struggles are in perspective—usually.”
During times of burnout, we need honesty and hope. We need to honestly assess our lives and figure out what we’re doing right and what we could be doing better. We have to hold onto the hope that we’re only shrouded in a temporary darkness; eventually we’ll return to the light with renewed strength.
2. Enjoy your kids.
I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking my kids are the source of my burnout. Yet, when I take a step back, I usually see it’s not so much the day-to-day care of my children (although being a mom of four young children certainly can be physically exhausting) that wears me out; it’s my attempt to be more than a mom and to achieve successes outside the realm of caring for my children and husband that leave me feeling frazzled. When I focus on enjoying my kids—not just taking care of them or trying to squeeze in extra, nonessential work—I end up feeling fulfilled and restored. Read a storybook to a younger child. Go on a walk with your teenager. Spend time with your children—don’t just feed them and parent them.
Grandparents seem to have this all figured out. You don’t see too many grandparents stressing over what their grandkids are going to eat for dinner or what they’re going to wear. Instead, they just enjoy their company (and ply them with brownies and too many gifts. I’m talking to you, Gaba and Papa).
3. Be kind to yourself.
“Moms often view time for themselves as some monumental event that can’t be accomplished without a lot of maneuvering and ‘selfish neglect’ of our children,” says Kris Chatfield, a mom of five. “Although God often asks us to die to ourselves to fulfill our vocation, we’re not effective in our roles if we’re neglecting ourselves physically or spiritually.”
A weekly spa visit probably isn’t feasible, but you need to carve out time in your daily routine to pray alone, as well as pursue a personal hobby.
Eating healthy, exercising (especially out in the fresh air), and getting adequate rest are important as well. We are physical and spiritual beings. We have to make time to nourish our souls and our bodies.
4. Rethink your faith.
My experiences with burnout often coincide with spiritual dryness. Sometimes I feel like God is very distant when I need him the most, and I start to get angry. Why am I not feeling his presence? But as Patti discovered when she co-authored the Amazing Grace series (Ascension Press), God is with us even when we don’t recognize his hand in our lives. “Like Mother Teresa and her dark periods, we persevere in our faith even when we feel nothing,” Patti says.
In times like these, I keep showing up for prayer. Sometimes the only words I can utter are: “Lord, help my unbelief.” But with time, God reveals himself to me again, and I am evermore convinced that faith is something I do more than something I feel.
5. Pare down your to-do list.
I was recently reading The Phantom Tollbooth aloud to my children. There’s a scene in which the main character, Milo, stumbles upon the city of Reality that isn’t really a city at all anymore because the city’s inhabitants “all rushed down the avenues and hurried along the boulevards seeing nothing of the wonders and beauties of their city as they went.... Because nobody cared, the city slowly began to disappear.
Want to keep from feeling like you’re burnt to a crisp? Slow down. Don’t itemize your days into a to-do list. Sure, it’s great to be productive. We need Marthas in the world, but we all need to be like Mary, too, and pay attention to the “better part.”
Don’t let the beauty of the world or the simple pleasures of your life—like the smell of your morning cup of coffee or a dazzling blue sky—fade into the background. Think of your life as full instead of just busy, and ask yourself if there’s anything you can cut back on. There’s a season for everything. You may not be able to do it all at the same time, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do most of it throughout a long, fulfilling life.
6. Don’t compare yourself to others.
Social support is essential to recovering from burnout, but try to turn to people who leave you feeling encouraged, not inadequate. Steer clear of anyone—in the real world or in online social media outlets—that makes you feel like you’re not living up to your calling. A few years ago I had to stop reading some of my favorite blogs because I found myself wondering how the uber moms I admired managed to plan crafts for their kids, whip up delicious meals, homeschool, never lose their temper, and be faithful at all times—when I was lucky to find time to shower.
But the truth is, none of us has a picture-perfect life no matter how we come off to others, no matter how lovely our blog or children or home appears. What I try to remember is that I only have to work on being the best version of myself. And that is enough.