4 Ways to Find Leisure in an Over-Scheduled World

how to relax when stressed

I don’t find it coincidental that today we find phrases like Breathe and Slow Down on the front of t-shirts, coffee mugs, and other assorted paraphernalia. Our societal “keep up with the Joneses’” mentality means that we not only have to have the same car, house, gadgets and jobs of the wealthiest family on the block, but that we keep up with their schedules, too. For many this means a 9-5 becomes an 8-6, a weekend becomes a smattering of events to get to with the incessant “fear of missing out” tugging at our hearts, and a Sabbath filled not with true rest but with preparations for the work-week, kids’ events to get to, and a continual absence of genuinely restful leisure.

What Does This Say About Us?

It has now become so commonplace to respond with “Busy!” when someone asks how we are doing. We don’t even stop to consider what this response says about ourselves, our families, or our communities.

This is a problem. And the truly sad part is…I am as guilty of it as the Jones family. If you took a look back on the last five years of my life, you’d find me stretched far too thin over work, school, church, and family responsibilities. Despite all of my best attempts to say yes to everything that was asked of me, I continually felt like I was coming up short and (what’s worse) failing to meet the needs of my very own heart.

Last year I began to take a more discerning look at my pretty deplorable work-life balance. I had lost my dad a couple of years prior and was coming out of that grief with a fresh outlook and a desperate need for rest. I knew there had been a time in my life where the pace was slower and I was happier. I wanted it back.

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4 Ways to Find Leisure When You’re Schedule is Insane

I found four steps helpful in my journey toward more leisure.

1. I regularly made a list of the things that filled my cup.

They weren’t big things. I mean, a trip to the Bahamas would have been lovely, but it wasn’t part of my day-to-day living. Rather, what filled me were evening post-work walks in my neighborhood, time devoted to music-making (of any variety), and a journaling sesh with coffee in hand first thing in the morning. Perhaps what fills your cup is different. A time each week to practice a new skill or to make a new friend. Take time to write down the “cup fillers” that are reflective of you.

2. I took a step back from the things that weren’t critically necessary.

This was a big one for me. At the height of my life’s craziness, I was working far more than one person could reasonably manage. As I pondered my responsibilities I spent a lot of time asking God, “Are You really asking this [work] of me?” Many times I found that He was saying, “It’s okay to let it go.”

So slowly I began to shave off what wasn’t necessary. I resigned from a couple of volunteer roles. Even though the ministries were valuable, I just didn’t have space in my heart to give to them. I pulled back on work responsibilities, trusting that any financial needs I had would be met by our Lord (and they were). I purposefully said no to attending certain social events because it was just too much on my plate for any given week. My smartphone was replaced with a phone that wouldn’t have the capability to let me scroll deep into the rabbit hole of social media (we pretend this is leisure but really, it’s not).

Every step was a small but important step in the right direction. Every step allowed for the “cup fillers” to find a place to reside in my heart.

I spent a lot of time asking God, “Are You really asking this work of me?” Many times I found that He was saying, “It’s okay to let it go.” #BISblog // Click To Tweet

3. I actually scheduled my leisure time.

In a world of to-do lists I find it surprising that we don’t always schedule the most important things like leisure. My work schedule at the time demanded that if my Saturday was scheduled to the brim but I had a window from 1-2, that I would pencil that in as my leisure time. It feels strange to schedule leisure doesn’t it? Don’t be afraid. Make it a to-do and it will get done, and it will mark the beginning of a good habit.

4. I learned to be prepared for a few wide-eyed stares when I would tell my friends or co-workers of my newfound habit of leisure.

I learned that embracing time for leisure is a super counter-cultural thing. Sometimes I felt a bit lazy in the face of my “busy” friends who had no time for leisure. I learned to not be discouraged by those who failed to see the value of the rest that I was seeking. This leisure was filling my cup, and that was all that mattered.

I learned to not be discouraged by those who failed to see the value of the rest that I was seeking. #BISblog // Click To Tweet

A Slow but Sure Change

So how did I do in my quest toward a life of leisure? The change, of course, wasn’t instantaneous. There were times when I still had incredibly full weeks and little time for myself. And, if I’m being honest, there still are those, on occasion.

But more times than not I would find myself returning home with hours of daylight still free. I’ve cherished this newfound freedom to read a good book or journal and pray about my day, immerse myself in the arts, and simply find time for a few things that nourish my heart and fill me up again so that I can, in turn, give myself to others. I truly didn’t know what I was missing until I gave the gift of leisure back to myself.

A Perfect Time to Begin…

As I wrap up these thoughts on leisure, I’m keenly aware that the quiet of Advent begins on December 2nd, just under two weeks from today. This is a time when the world will tell us we should be breathless with parties, shopping lists, presents to wrap, and Amazon shopping carts to fill.

In the din of this busy-ness, our Lord calls us to rest and to wait for His coming. Perhaps this Advent will be the beginning of your journey toward leisure.

Will you join me in giving our collective hearts rest?

4 Ways to Find Leisure in an Over-Scheduled World #BISblog // Click To Tweet

Karen Schultz hails from the Land of 10,000 lakes, where she is often found in or near one of them. As a doula, lactation educator, and FertilityCare Practitioner, she finds joy in helping women to embrace the gift of their bodies. Downtime is found in quiet adoration chapels, farmers markets and gardens, listening to bluegrass music, and embracing the diversity of Minnesota’s seasons. You can find out more about her here.

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1 Comment

  • Reply
    February 25, 2019 at 4:47 am

    This is an awesome article! Thank you for your insight. I just recently had my first baby so it has been hard to find time for rest and leisure. This article really inspired me to find those “cup fillers” and rejuvenate my spirits throughout the day.

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