It was the summer of 2016 when my stomach decided to throw a tantrum.
My swollen jaw throbbed from the recent wisdom tooth extraction. But it was nothing compared to the rising acid from the depths of my gut. The pain bubbled up, tightening my chest. I sprang for the bathroom as I vomited acid, gasping from the aching. It felt like my insides were erupting.
Pain. Breathe in. So much pain. Breathe out.
This was not how I wanted to spend the first day of my leave. This should’ve been my much-awaited, month-long vacation of rest and relief!
Sadly, it didn’t turn out that way.
The doctors said I had an ulcer. My poor stomach was as wounded as my emotional well-being. I was confined in the hospital for two nights, forced to rest in stillness like a clock without gears. No working. No buzzing around. No activity.
It was just me and my mother in a small hospital room watching TV all day. My own version of a nothing-box.
How did it come to this?
I wasn’t a regular coffee drinker, nor did I skip meals. But I was often stressed to the point that I’d find myself crying while checking off my to-do list. Anxiety was at its worst. I felt like a robot stuck in a routine of tasks. I wore a smile to work every day, but I was crumbling on the inside.
I realized too late that I was burned-out.
The World Health Organization (WHO) calls burnout a syndrome from “chronic workplace stress that hasn’t been successfully managed.” I nailed the basic symptoms:
Exhausted all the time? Check.
Feeling less productive? Check.
Losing meaning and fulfillment in work? Check. And check.
I actually appreciated my job. As a therapist from the rehabilitation sector, I get to work with pediatric clients and their families. I love seeing my kids improve and have a better quality of living. But in the process of taking care of others, I failed to take care of myself. I was always working. And that cost my excellence as a service-provider.
“You have to rest.” That was the message loved ones kept saying.
It took an ulcer for me to listen to three fundamental truths about rest:
1) Our Bodies Were Designed To Rest
Prolonged stress is abnormal to the human body and mind. Search for it on Google, and you’d find a myriad of health issues like stomach acidity (* points to myself *).
I fell into the trap of thinking that working myself to the bone took the cake. It’s resilience! It’s endurance! Working hard is a prized skill!
But always pushing myself was counterproductive.
Sure, I was working hard. But I wasn’t working smart.
A friend recently told me, “Your success depends more on how well you can rest and recover—than on how hard you work. You’re at your best when you’re rested and recovered.”
Researchers explored this actual phenomenon. They’ve concluded that resilience doesn’t mean overworking yourself to finish tasks. Building resilience is working hard, then resting and recovering, then working hard again. Resilience is rooted in being skillful with rest. It makes a person efficient (Anchor & Gielan, 2016).
Which made sense. Every time I took a day for myself and actually had fun, I felt more alive and willing to tackle the incoming tasks. I’d finish the same amount of work in less amount of time if I actually took a break.
Tip#1: Set one day to rest every week! Rest and recovery is the key to resilience.
2) Rest Is More Than Just A Gift. It’s A Command.
Remember to observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. You have six days each week for your ordinary work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. On that day no one in your household may do any work. – Exodus 20:8-11a (NLT)
They call the Sabbath a day of rest. And it’s mandatory. Not a mere suggestion, but a command. The original Hebrew word for it is “Shabbat”, which means “to cease, to end, to rest.” It echoes back to how God rested on the seventh day after six days of creation.
It struck me how God—in all of His glory and passion—gave mankind the gift of rest and commands us to enjoy it. How wonderful is it to have a loving God who requires us to rest.
Stress and anxiety were never in His design.
He isn’t a slave-driver. He’s a good Father who cares enough for His beloved.
Tip #2: Schedule your day of rest. Mark it off on your calendar. Block it! Draw boundaries and say “no” to events or work that fall on that day. Let a day of rest be the first thing you schedule in your week.
3) Resting Means Trusting in God
By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. – Genesis 2:2 (NLT)
As I stayed in the hospital bed with nothing much to do, it hit me how working too much curtailed the time I spent with God. I kept giving myself away to my career, without filling up my own tank.
The end result? I turned into a drained therapist in need of my own therapy.
God doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t need to recharge. But He modeled rest for mankind on the seventh day of creation, relishing all the good things He made.
When God commanded us to rest, it wasn’t just to stop working. It was to spend time with Him. The Sabbath was a holy day for His people to focus on Him alone.
He values our relationship with Him.
When crunch time hits, there are the days when we might not focus on Him. Devotions are rushed. Worship and/or prayer is skipped.
Personally, there are days when all I can think about is finishing work. “Quiet time” with God becomes….. well, quiet.
But when we choose to spend time with Him—when we stop and just be with Him—we’re not just honoring His presence.
We’re trusting Him.
Resting means trusting Him to handle what we can’t.
Resting is ceasing in all of our worries and refocusing on Him.
Resting is beholding Him as He stands greater over our problems, schedules, and toxic weeks.
Resting is declaring victory over our all troubles.
Resting means surrendering to Him whatever we’re doing, trusting that He’ll bring it to pass (Psalm 37:5).
We don’t rely on ourselves to succeed anymore. We rest, trusting that the world won’t fall apart when we put off work—because it’s God who holds everything together.
Resting is letting Him handle what we can’t.
Tip #3 Trust God to handle what you can’t. Commit your work to Him. Do your work with Him.
[Rest & Recovery]
Years later, I’m still in the same profession, and I’ve grown to appreciate it further. After taking a month-long leave, I remembered how my job was important and crucial in the lives of others.
Giving myself time to rest changed my perspective on the to-do lists and tasks. Resting offered a season of “re-calibration” on how to approach my duties.
In the end, work transformed into a training ground to trust Him—and to be more skillful in the ways of His rest.
He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. Psalm 23:2 (NLT)
I hope you can give yourself a break! Watch this super insightful video on how you can strategically fight for your rest. (Seriously, this video really gave me a paradigm shift on work-rest balance!)
- Macky & Kahlil – for the quote and article on resting & resilience
- JJ – for sharing the Hebrew meaning of the Sabbath
References & Related Articles:
“Resilience Is About How You Recharge, Not How You Endure”
“Remember The Sabbath Day To Keep It Holy”
“Why the WHO’s Decision to Redefine Burnout Is Important”
- Raizel Leuterio (Featured Image)
- Angelina Kichukova
- Maeghan Smulders
- Myles Tan