I read an article about Elon Musk in Time magazine this week. It seems the world’s most innovative entrepreneur is overworked, overstressed, and it is catching up to him.
I have to admit I read the comments in reply to this article where Elon confesses to having trouble sleeping and not taking a day off in years. Folks were not kind to his laments on how hard the workload and the pressure have been on him. Apparently, if you are a millionaire/billionaire you are not allowed to complain.
But I got where Elon was coming from. When you love and believe in your work so much that your work becomes your whole life, things can get bad. Especially when work doesn’t go as well as you want it to.
You see dear reader, I am a recovering workaholic. I have been the person that put in far more than 40 hours a week and skipped days off. I missed Christmases with my family, birthdays, Mother’s Days. You name it, I worked through it.
What was the glamorous job that pushed me to work so hard?
I was an associate pastor of a United Methodist Church.
Yeah, I know. Surprising. But I LOVED what I did. I believed in it with all my heart. And there was always someone sick, someone hurting, someone in need who needed my help. The work was never done.
I managed this pattern of overwork for a handful of years. And then something changed.
I gave birth to a baby boy and brought home a one-year-old daughter from China in the span of two months. Two under two in two months is too much. At least for a workaholic.
But I believed in being a good mom even more than I believed in being a good pastor. So I was a workaholic at work and a mom-aholic at home. And I started to break down.
I started waking up in the middle of the night beyond the wake-up calls from both babies, waking up in severe abdominal pain. I would sit double over for a period of time until nausea overtook me.
This pattern got worse week after week until I began ending up in the ER with excrutiating pain. The initial thinking was my gallbladder was acting up. But the scans showed no stones. After a series of tests, it was determined that I had GERD, Severe acid reflux. In part brought on by the pregnancy, but mainly brought on by stress.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, I was working myself sick.
I had a “come to Jesus” moment with myself and took stock of my life. I realized I couldn’t do it all. I had received two miracles given at once in the form of my children, and I decided to take some time off to get healthy and enjoy their babyhood with them.
The next year was very different. Instead of rushing around all day, I took slow walks with the kids. I napped. I ate healthy snacks while watching Cinderella for the 20th time.
And during this time of rest my body, mind, and spirit began to heal.
It is fourteen years later and I have gone back to the workforce in earnest for the first time. I got a call to be a campus minister. As excited as I am about the position, I have to confess the change scared me.
Would I go back to my old workaholic ways? Could I find a way to balance work, home life, and self-care?
Well, it isn’t easy, but I am trying.
My first temptation is still to dive in and work until I am exhausted. But when the tiredness begins to creep up, something in my body remembers. Remembers I need to rest.
So, when I feel myself pushing past my edge, I walk away. I watch a little Netflix. Pet the dog. Talk to my kids about their day.
I am even starting to plan ahead. This week I knew Monday afternoon and night was going to be really intense as we were welcoming the entering freshman. Saying hello to multitudes of people is hard on this introvert.
So knowing the second half of my day was going to be intense I intentionally kept the first half of my Monday calm and relaxing. I did a small load of laundry. Then I watched The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which I had been saving for a special occasion (it did not disappoint). I ate a nice lunch. I took a nap.
And then after intentionally resting up, I worked hard. I greeted and made small talk with a couple hundred freshman. I sang songs and ate ice cream. I went to bed way after my normal bedtime.
And the next day I let myself sleep in. I got up slowly and went to the gym. Because I knew my body and mind needed rest and care to recover from my exertion.
So these days I will keep studying the secret art of rest. Hopefully, I can keep it up well enough to take care of my work, my family, and me all in good measure. Keep it up in a way I can sustain all of these things for years to come.
Do you have any advice for me, dear reader?
How do you balance work and home and personal care?
What brings you much-needed rest?