It was the feeling in my chest that first notified me I was headed for burnout. It felt like a hand was clenching my heart and restricting the airflow as I breathed.
That alone was enough to tell me I needed to stop, but as a perfectionist who has a chronic need to be good enough, I pushed through. Unsurprisingly, the next indicator that I was on the verge of a meltdown came when my mind started obsessing over bits and pieces. Thoughts and scenarios from years ago would pop up, and I would struggle to snuff them out.
A pointless exercise really, because the more I fought my mental exhaustion, the more lethargic I came. Enter the psychosomatic symptoms of my impending burnout. My legs felt like dough. My back began to spasm, I had physical pain in my chest and for some reason my right eye would involuntarily twitch.
It was around this point last year that I finally realised I couldn’t keep going like this. And after speaking to a counsellor about my day-to-day activities I had to confront the fact that I was doing too much.
Like many of my peers, I have grown up learning that my worth is entirely based in what I can give to the world—how hard I work, what I achieve, who I help and how much I volunteer at church. But as they began to burn out, some of them becoming chronically sick, I got the wake-up call I needed—it was time to stop the go-go-go attitude of my life.
Finding the balance in life between work and rest isn’t easy. Too much rest and we’re regarded as ‘lazy’. If we’re too busy, we’re ‘workaholics’. Sitting on either side of the pendulum leaves us feeling unhappy, unfulfilled and unwell.
I’m learning that wellness exists somewhere between these two extremes. And in order to find this happy medium, I first have to believe that my worth is not tied to what I do and do not do.
In these moments of weariness, I remember that Jesus welcomes us just as we are, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give your rest, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul” (Matthew 11:28–29 NIV).
When I am exhausted from carrying the weight of the world, Jesus takes it off my shoulders and instead replaces it with peace. All too often I take the load right back up, believing that I am not worthy of such rest. But then I remember: it’s not about worth, it’s about grace. And that’s why it’s okay to stop and rest. Not just because our body needs time to heal, but because our soul does as well.