The pandemic increased work-related stress in many employees. I was browsing through LinkedIn yesterday and one member there made a poll asking what particular aspect in their work during pandemic have they found to be challenging or difficult. The answer to the poll pulled heavily towards the increase in time devoted to work. I too answered the same. Pandemic brought major and many changes to our lifestyle. It is also felt by many who needed to work more than the hours they are being paid for. When work feels like it holds the key to our everyday life and controls everything else that we want to do. The work demands and overwork itself feel like we are not actually managing our work but work is managing us. Consequently, many are on the brink of burnout due to stress and overwork. LinkedIn News UK recently reported of the need to change the culture where “employee wellbeing is prioritized over efficiency“. As a teacher, I have long felt, by personal reasons and experience, how efficiency is always above wellbeing in our line of work. Pandemic even aggravated this challenge not only to teachers but to all other jobs. I am working from home ever since pandemic started. While it has its advantages, there are things that really become unsettling and just this past week, admittedly, I felt less motivated to work and for several days I felt mentally exhausted. During pandemic, anytime is work time. The night time and weekends are similarly bombarded with messages and notifications from work. Even Saturday and Sunday are reduced to times to handle work-related chores instead of keeping the mind some time off from the demands of work. Sometimes, it becomes very frustrating. To ward off the pressures and being “workaholic” as forced by the pandemic, these past two weeks, I started turning my cellphone off at night and turn it on a little late during the day so I could start the day with peace of mind. I realized, the moment I wake up and see 10-15 messages in my messenger and some text messages, the more frantic I become to start the day off in a hurry. The idea of needing to accomplish it all in the day consumes me. And this is never a healthy way to work. I lose focus as my mind panics on all the things I needed to accomplish at the end of the week. The more I think about it, the more I develop headaches. In the end, I become less efficient in work. As I experiment or try out this strategy of turning off my phone at night and turning it on late on Saturdays and Sundays, it made me more peaceful to start my work and oh, the silence. I am so loving the quietness even just for some hours. It is heavenly. It is recharging. It is refreshing.
Rest is an essential part of life, whether we talk about personal life such as matters concerning family and social relationships or life in the world of work and jobs. If businesses, companies, and organizations would like to increase work efficiency, they should be able to help employees have a good and positive wellbeing. Personal wellbeing is primarily a concern and responsibility of the person but the environment should be able to effectively support this need.
Even the Bible speaks of the need for our body to rest. Why toil first, work first, and focus on the cares first? King Solomon, the wisest man, taught us that in every toil we do, we should depend on God and we should focus on Him. It should be God first, for in Him we find rest from the cares.
“It is vain for you to rise up early, to stay up late, eating the bread of toil, for he gives sleep to his loved ones.” – Psalm 127:2 (WEB)
Yes, we have a lot of cares to think about, but rest for a while. Last night, I turned off my phone, so any messages popping up will not disrupt my state of mind which is clamoring for sleep. Once my thought is disrupted with endless queries of my students and due dates from my work, I find it difficult to fall to sleep on time. So, there, turning off the phone did the job wonderfully. The morning I woke up, I spent the time praying, of course, with the phone still turned off. Guess what? I relish the time of quietness to write in my journal, study verses in the Bible, and pray without interruption. I have peace. I have more focus for the day’s work. I felt more positive towards my job and the things I am required to do.
The antidote to burnout is rest. And rest could be attained by some time of solitude. Some people would like to go on a nature trip, a walk in the park, go fishing, do camping, go mountain trekking, or simply stay in a corner with a good book and a coffee. A moment to tune out from the messes around. A moment to be still and be mindful of the present.
Overwork and a harried life are invented by man. Almost every day we are preoccupied of work and many things. We could not effectively think and focus. But God designed our bodies both for work and for rest. There is a time for everything. Just as God designed day and night for a time to be awakened and a time to be asleep, we are designed to have a time to work and a time to play.
Jesus pointed out the need for solitude and rest. When Jesus and the disciples were crowded by many people, they did not even anymore had the appetite to eat (Mark 6:32). But Jesus advised the disciples to take time off.
“He said to them, ‘Come away into a deserted place, and rest awhile.'” – Mark 6:31 (WEB)
There are two principles for resting that we could learn from this.
- Rest is a time to be alone.
- Rest is a time for solitude.
For us to attain that genuine rest, we should be able to spend it alone. Alone does not necessarily mean and does not always mean a time for our self alone. As with Jesus, it was a time to be alone with His disciples. This implies that we should have a time reserved alone for our family or a meaningful time with a small group of friends. Or, it could be a time for the self alone when we could do our favorite hobby or spend the time to relax.
The time to rest means work-related chores or tasks are off-limits for the mean time. When Jesus asked the disciples to rest awhile, He told them to go to a deserted place. A deserted place is a place free from destructions, disruptions, or disturbance. It is a time to be quiet and to be attentive of things other than the demands of work. That time with Jesus, they were being chased by many people seeking to hear from Jesus and seeking to be healed from sicknesses. Jesus rested a while from it in the boat. Away from the crowd. Away from their demands. When we spend “alone time” with family, with close friends, and with self it should be a time where we are not disrupted by work. Otherwise, rest is not there. Above all, there should be a time alone with God. No other method is as great as resting in the presence and strength of God. When the disciples took a while to rest, they had Jesus with them, the Prince of Peace. Do that too. Whatever solitude you choose make sure to involve Jesus.
Jesus gave this simple antidote to burnout. Jesus gave the solution to our stress a long time ago. Set a brief time to rest a while.