“The man who is wise, therefore, will see his life as more like a reservoir than a canal. The canal simultaneously pours out what it receives; the reservoir retains the water till it is filled, then discharges the overflow without loss to itself … Today there are many in the Church who act like canals, the reservoirs are far too rare … You too must learn to await this fullness before pouring out your gifts, do not try to be more generous than God.”
~ Bernard of Clairvaux, On the Song of Songs
I’m not going to lie. Working two part-time jobs and becoming the de facto tech consultant for my parish has been a heavy lift. I’ve been teaching a lot of folks how to join a Zoom meeting and I was far more patient with the first person than the most recent one. I’ve worked three weeks worth of hours in the past two weeks (I know this for sure because I track my hours via Toggl – check it out it’s awesome). I’m tired in that overstimulated, can’t stop thinking but also can’t focus way. I know my mind needs a break. I know this pace is not sustainable for another two weeks, much less a few months. I know I need to re-establish regular time off.
This past Friday I took a day off to move. It was not restful, far from it. But it reminded me that the show will go on without me. I am very much looking forward to a more restful Sabbath this coming Friday. Here are five things I’ll be doing to prepare. None of this is revolutionary. But sometimes we need help remembering what we know.
Five Tips for Taking A Day Off
Communicate What You Need
It sounds simple, but asking for what we need can be hard work. If you work for a church professionally, has your staff talked about how boundaries will be different (or the same) during church closures? Have you explicitly laid out expectations for time off? Or when you’ll be answering texts, phone calls, and emails?
We now know that church closures will extend at least through April 30th, so it’s time to think about what we need in order to create a healthy work-life balance for this season and communicate those needs to our co-workers. You might start by saying, “I’m planning to take my normal days off moving forward. Is there any reason I might need to shift those days during this crisis?”
Once you’ve communicated with staff members, figure out how you’ll communicate when you’re working to the rest of the community. This week I added this note to my email signature: “My St. John’s work days are Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. If this is an urgent matter, please call or text… ”
Hand Off What’s Essential
Think about what might need doing that won’t get done on your day off and figure out who could do it. In my case, I need to find a “host” for Morning and Evening Prayer so I can take my normal day, Friday, off. Everything else that I don’t get done by Thursday evening can wait until I return to work on Sunday morning.
Decide What’s “Regular” Off Time & What’s Sabbath Time
All our normal rhythms are out of wack. Laundry and family time and email are all blurring together. As your time off approaches, set aside some time to do all the things that didn’t get done during the work week (from mowing to prescription refills) and set some time aside for Sabbath. If you live with others, make sure you communicate clearly how you’ll be splitting your time.
Consider Your Sabbath Needs
Without some intentionality, I can easily fill my day off with chores and Netflix. But that is unlikely to rejuvenate me in the way I’m looking for. Even if you can only set aside two hours for Sabbath, consider:
- What would bring me joy? Is it reading, walking, a board game, creating, writing, gardening?
- What would bring me peace? Is it an unscheduled hour, meditation, a nap, a bubble bath?
- What do I need today? Is it a healthy meal, some exercise, a phone call with someone dear to me?
- How am I processing this season? What would help me grieve these losses and recognize the gifts of this time? Is it journaling, counseling, talking with a friend?
You might consider the rest of your off time in a similar way.
- Is there anything I can check off my list that will help me be more present during my Sabbath time?
- Is there anything that does not need to be done, anything that can wait so I can rest?
Fast From Technology
We all need different things from our time away from work, but in this season of extreme digital connectivity it is worth considering how and when you will fast from technology. Consider starting small, you could take a walk around the neighborhood without your phone or leave your phone on silent in another room for an hour, and then reevaluate weekly.
Don’t Forget to Think About Next Week’s Day Off
Once you’ve had a day off, don’t stop there. Put your next day off on the calendar and spend some time reflecting on your recent experience so future Sabbath time can be even more meaningful. If you are looking for more encouragement, this episode of Brené Brown’s podcast, Unlocking Us, is fantastic!
Questions for reflection:
- What part of the day felt most restful? What felt most peaceful?
- What felt most life-giving? What felt most joyful?
- Was there anything missing? Anything I wish I’d had time for or wish I’d thought of at the time?
- What part of my next day off am I most looking forward to?
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Sarah Bentley Allred is an editor for Building Faith and the Director of Children and Families Ministries at St. John’s in Wake Forest, North Carolina. She is currently working from home with her husband, Richard, and their rescue dog, Grace.