Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Too Stressed to Rest?

by Susanne Dietze

When I volunteered to write a post on rest for this week’s theme, Taking Care of You, I was not unaware of the irony. The bags under my eyes have bags of their own. I daydream about fuzzy blankets and my Comfort Select mattress. Then when I do lie down, I can’t turn my brain off.

Grandma's bedImage by lepiaf.geo via Flickr
We’re all familiar with the benefits of sufficient sleep. Immunity boosts, sharper memory, appetite regulation, cellular repair, and lower blood pressure are all functions which are bolstered by rest. Fatigue lessens our ability to cope, solve problems, pay attention, and heal. Sleep deprivation is not healthy, plain and simple (and it's even used as a torture device!). If all of that is true, then why do so many of us allow ourselves to become sleep-deprived?

My knee-jerk response to that question is that I don’t allow myself to be up all night; I simply can’t help it. We North Americans seem to value busyness, and like everybody else, I juggle family, work, church, school, and other responsibilities. Demands on my time limit my rest. The other day I read Psalm 46:10: Be still and know that I am God. To which I balked, be still? I have ten things to do before this day ends! The house is a mess and I don’t have time to be still. Ugh.

Some of us are kept awake because of medical or other issues beyond our control (sleep apnea, pain, or outside noise). But many times, well… I don’t know about you, but it isn’t caffeine which keeps me up when I finally do crawl into bed. It’s anxiety. How will we afford two kids in braces? How do I fix my manuscript? What am I going to do about X, Y, and Z?

Are we too busy or anxious to sleep? Is it possible that in clinging to my worries, I’m not trusting God to handle the issues of my life?

The answer for me is yes. And I’ve learned the hard way that living without sufficient rest doesn’t just harm our bodies. It also denies a spiritual reality.

In his book Working the Angles: The Shape of Pastoral Integrity, Eugene Peterson reminds us that God has set a pattern of rest for us to follow. We’re to rest daily, as well as on the Sabbath and at additional times. Rest isn’t a reward for a job well-done, the finish line after an exhausting day, or an escape from our daily burdens. It’s a specific period given by a loving God for our good (Mark 2:27). I don’t just mean sleep here, when I say rest: rest also includes wakeful idleness, that time where we take a break, gather thoughts, or reflect (or, as I learned several years ago, to sit and nurse a baby and not multi-task. Talk about a wake-up call when I wondered if I could scrub a sink and simultaneously breastfeed, so accustomed was I to doing more than one thing at a time.).

I was astonished to learn that the word “Sabbath” has no mention of holiness in its definition. The Hebrew term is more akin to what we call “wasting time.”

Wasting time. Letting things go. Being utterly nonproductive, earning no cash, writing no novels, solving no problems. Allowing God to take charge for a little while. Kicking back or falling asleep in peace because we trust that He works while we rest, and when we awaken, it’s to a day God planned which is already in progress.

Utah Sunset - ZionImage by Creativity+ Timothy K Hamilton via Flickr
Where we modern folks start counting our day at the moment we smack the snooze button in the morning, the ancient Hebrew began his day with evening. That means that one of the first things a God-fearing Jew did to start his day was go to sleep, allowing God to shoulder the burdens of our world through the night.

Relinquishing control for a good night’s sleep can require a strong sense of security and trust in God, but we have a God who is ready, able, and willing to shoulder our burdens. He cares about the problems with my finances, my writing, and my packed schedule. He’ll be there through the illnesses and grief, the struggles big and small. He brought the world into being, and He can handle my problems, too, while I let go and trust Him.

David wrote, “I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the Lord sustains me” (Ps. 3:5), and “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8). When we can rest like that, secure in God’s sustaining care and protection, it becomes a rest that refreshes us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We’re then better equipped to handle problems, heal, and do God’s work.

My prayer for all of us tonight comes from Philippians 4:6-7. As we don our pajamas and climb into bed (perhaps a wee bit earlier than usual), may we all “…not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

SleepImage by bitzcelt via Flickr
Sleep well!

Question for the day: What are your favorite pajamas?

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  1. Great post, Susanne, but I must confess that I'm reading it at 11:20 PM. OOPS.

    I've found that if I go more than one night without enough sleep, my left eye will start to twitch. It's truly annoying, but has helped me be more diligent about getting my ZZZZs.

    Favorite jammies? I've got a long-sleeve t-shirt that's big, old and soft. I pair it with soft (a very important attribute), loose pants that are also made of a t-shirt type material. Not sexy, but comfy indeed!

  2. Okay, so I woke up at 3, tried for an hour to get back to sleep and here I am.


    This time of the year it's a case of too cold (so add another blanket) too hot (brings on nightmares!)

    Sleep is so very important. Who gets enough? For me it's not a case of 'not trying'.

    I like flannel sleep pants with the drawstring waist. I think they should become mainstreamed, and I'm sure some people do wear them to the store. I haven't yet.

  3. In college I had such a hard time sleeping. I would try, but the dorms rarely got quiet, and I was perpetually stressed. It was awful, and it did affect my health.

    I rarely have problems sleeping these days. I love to sleep, and seem to require more sleep than most people. My children are all higher energy than me, but we've solved this by making "bedtime" a time when they need to go to their rooms and read or play quietly.

    Favorite pajamas, I want some of those plush pajama pants. I bought some but they were tied up in a package and I couldn't see the size. They were too small and I had to give them to my daugher, sniff, sniff.

    For now, probably a pair of purple yoga pants with a t-shirt or tank top.


  4. Oops, forgot to say great post Susanne. You included some of my favorite scriptures.

  5. Good morning everybody! It's so early here that I am still in my favorite pajamas. They're actually Christmas pajamas: red flannel with sock monkeys on them. But they're so warm and comfortable. I am rather picky about jammies. The warmer, the better, because my husband is always hot and I'm cooler.

    Dina, I think I have some pants like you mentioned. Are they sort of fleecy?

    Jen, I get that way when I don't sleep. Another thing that happens is my legs ache.

    When my kids were babies, my husband and I realized that we were worshipping sleep. It was the focus of our day, because we were so exhausted. When I get tired, I try to remember that sinful attitude and pray for grace.

    See ya all in a bit! I'd better get out of these jammies!

  6. Ha, it's not early here, but I'm still in my pj's too. We're homeschooling, there's no rush... My current favs are from a sort of jersey. Comfy and cozy, and we can't forget the super fuzzy, but non-matching socks to go with it.

    Susie, I can't tell you how much your post touched me. Thanks for expanding my understanding. I continually fall into the trap of trying to do it all. I hadn't fully realized that when I do that, I am robbing the Lord. Many thanks, sweet sister!

  7. Susie,
    A gentle reminder that we are to live according to God's purposes and that includes rest. I love Eugene Petersen's gentle wisdom and was glad for a dose this morning.

    I am guilty this week of staying up late to meet some deadlines and then not being able to turn my brain off and sleep. I've learned that the computer has to go off at dinner or I won't sleep. If I don't sleep too many nights in row bad things happen. A timely reminder!

    Guilty of still being in my pjs.No absolute faves. Just comfy and at this time of year, warm.

  8. Don't mean to be a comment hog, but speaking of Eugene Peterson, I stumbled upon this great scripture today from the message version of the Bible in Matthew 11.

    28-30"Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll recover your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

  9. There was an article in either Vogue or Glamour a while back about how sleeping helps with weight loss. They said, "Just make sure you get eight hours a night." To which I said, "I'd love to. Will YOU come tend to the kids when they wake up at 2 a.m.?" LOL

    I've always been someone who wants to go to bed at a decent hour and rise after a solid 8 hours to get a start on the day bright and early. Having kids has put a kink in that, but one thing that really does help is my family's decision to keep the Sabbath. On Saturdays, we have a No Work rule. No dishes are done, no cooking, no computers . . . just family, relaxation, and focusing out thoughts on Him.

  10. Ok, I have graduated from my pajamas into real clothes. What a bummer. I'd have liked to wear pj's all day in honor of this post.

    Thanks for your kind words, Lisa! Great comment, "robbing the Lord." Why do I seem to think that the world will implode if I'm not frantically overseeing my little corner of it? God is in charge. I need to acknowledge that with my life, not just my words.

    Dina, I was so touched by that passage that you shared! Eugene Peterson's writings ever bless me. I think the other day we were discussing CS Lewis' ability to state things with powerful eloquence, simplicity and meaning. Peterson does that for me, too. "I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you." That brought me to tears, because I've been hauling around a yoke He didn't assign me to bear.

  11. Wenda, I think I'm going to follow you and make it my goal to turn the computer off by dinnertime. That's family time, anyway, and if I write at night, after the kids go to bed, I cannot sleep. I get energy from writing, and I can write all night, which is great... until I have to get moving at 6. I live with morning people.

    Looking at rest as a spiritual discipline has challenged me. I appreciate our encouragement of one another in this area!

  12. Thanks for visiting today, Roseanna! Interesting data from that article. I learned all kinds of things as I did research for this post. Sufficient sleep supposedly helps us lose weight, as well as lowers cholesterol and decreases the production of stress hormones.

    I'm also always amazed by how my kids grow overnight. God planned for amazing work to occur during sleep!

    I so hear you, Roseanna, about the kids being up. My kids were not great sleepers for a while. We had a family photo taken when kid #1 was 5 months old. If you compare that picture to the family photo taken when kid #2 came along, well...the comparison isn't flattering! But the lack of sleep does get better. And the benefits outweigh the exhaustion, :-).

    I like your Sabbath idea. As my husband is a pastor, Sundays are definitely not restful, so we have to find creative ways to set aside time for rest. You are so smart to schedule and protect your rest time.

  13. Hey Susanne,
    I've had such a crazy morning at work. I grabbed a piece of pizza for lunch, rushed to my computer because I'm loving this weeks topic, and read your post. I now feel more pulled together than I have since I got up late this am and rushed out of the house to get to work on time. (Sound familiar to anyone?). Thank you!

    I think this is all part of the be still thing I so rarely do. And I'm so with you on fatigue making it more difficult to cope. I have to admit that I'm not a stranger to taking Ambien to get to sleep if I need it. I can't function well at all without sleep and as a counselor I have to be alert and oriented. I'm so envious of folks who don't have to leave the house in the morning.

    I also love Phillippians 4:6-7 and really needed that today. Now I can breathe easier. :) Blessings.

  14. Oh Jill, thanks for your kind words and for sharing. My morning sounds like yours. My lunch too, except it's a leftover burrito :-)

    I'll be praying for you tonight! And I also pray that we all get enough rest, wake refreshed, and don't rush tomorrow.

  15. I need at 8 hrs sleep or this little red dot on my lower eyelid (I call it a stye) starts rubbing on my eyeball. Now isn't that a pretty picture? LOL

    Seriously - I've always needed lots of sleep although I've gone through periods in my life where my brain refused to stop when my head hit the pillow.

    Oh - and I did go through my Jnr Leaders crse on about 2 hrs sleep a night because I was so busy studying and getting my kit ready (spit-shining my boots). I did tend to fall asleep around 2 pm in the class, but I came out 3rd out of 120 soldiers so I guess it was worth it.

    But I really, really like my sleep. :)

    Great post, Susanne.

  16. Beautiful post! One thing I remember about the Ya-Ya Sisterhood book was how much the mother coveted sleep.

    Eight solid ones sure improves my physical, spiritual, and emotional life!

    My favorite pjs? An organic black cotton nightie with matching robe. I can stuff it into a purse and be ready for an overnight book signing where I stay with a friend.

    Oops. More information than y'all want. Sorry. I seem to do it more and more


  17. Beautiful post! One thing I remember about the Ya-Ya Sisterhood book was how much the mother coveted sleep.

    Eight solid ones sure improves my physical, spiritual, and emotional life!

    My favorite pjs? An organic black cotton nightie with matching robe. I can stuff it into a purse and be ready for an overnight book signing where I stay with a friend.

    Oops. More information than y'all want. Sorry. I seem to do it more and more


  18. A number of years ago, I did a Bible study on the feasts of the Old Testament (written by Jill Rhodes). I couldn't believe how often the Israelites were to take time off to rest -- all the Sabbaths, numerous feasts that happened over the course of the year and even a "camping" trip when they were to stay in booths or shelters! In today's culture, we have strayed so far from this model. And after a super busy Christmas season, I personally could use some of this rest too!

    favourite pj's -- a brand new pair of baby doll pjs -- a tank top in tshirt material and flannel shorts! Comfy!!
    Elaine King

  19. Your blog gives me a sense of peace as I close out my day. I especially like the verse about going to sleep in peace and dwelling in God's safety. That's comfort when you're alone in the house. God is here, too.

  20. Patti, those jammies sound great! I love soft cotton like that. And it's so true how our physical, emotional and spiritual health are so closely linked.

    Hmm, I responded to Anita's comment a few hours ago but it's not here now. Talk about TMI, I went into too much detail regarding my haggard looks after a sleepless night. I won't repeat. But I did marvel at your 2-hrs of sleep, Anita!

  21. Elaine, your jammies sound cute. I love pajamas. Sigh. Too bad nobody ever sees them! Anyhoo...I'll have to look into the book you mentioned; I'm going to have to check it out. The Israelites did seem to have vacations all over the place, LOL! They were probably much healthier for it, and it tells me that God wants more for me than the frenetic over-scheduling I seem to get caught up in.

  22. Mary, I am so glad you visited today and that the Lord has blessed you through those passages. A few years ago, I memorized those two Psalms so that if I am ever worried or frightened at night (or did something dumb like watch "Criminal Minds" before going to sleep) I'll have those promises hidden in my heart. God is at work while you rest tonight. I'll say a prayer for you!

    Good night, everyone!

  23. Like you, Susanne, I often can't turn off my brain in order to sleep at night! But I have purposely been taking a Sabbath for six months now and not only has it rested my mind and body, it has been an exercise in faith--that the Lord will help me get everything done in 6 days. And He's been faithful!

    Now hopefully I can let things go and sleep tonight!

    And I LOVE my pjs! My favs are the pj pants that are satiny on the outside and flannel on the inside!

  24. Good-night my Inky Sisters and Friends. I left work to attend a school meeting for one of my girls at 2:00. I was so exhausted I went to bed at 4:30 and didn't get up till 8:00 this evening. It so helped. My pj situation is a bit pitiful. I wear a long cotton nightshirt with a sweatshirt that I rip off when I get ye old hotflashes. :)
    Thanks again Susanne for a great post.

  25. Susie D, I'm so sorry I couldn't answer this yesterday. I was so tired because I'd been up until 4 am the night before because I couldn't...SLEEP! Sometimes I think all the things I promise God I won't worry about, come to haunt me while I'm trying to sleep. I feel for you with those bags under your eyes because I have a matching set.

  26. Genial post and this fill someone in on helped me alot in my college assignement. Thanks you as your information.


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