There is not enough time to meet all of the demands.
You wonder if this is what burnout is.
We think that the answer to being overwhelmed is better productivity. Find the best "life-hack" blog. But there's a secret weapon that very few are talking about. Instead of being more productive, be less.
Instead of adding things, subtract some.
There's a spiritual discipline formed around this philosophy. Fasting. And it's not just about food. Here are four "fasts" to use when life is overwhelming.
First, a word about fasting. Fasting is not a means by which we get God to do what we want. It's not a religious act that makes us feel good or earns spiritual brownie points.
Fasting is about focus.
Remove the noise. Set aside normal routines and habits. Pare down life in order to attend to what is most essential.
Jesus was on a 40-day fast in the desert. Tempted by the devil, he quoted Deuteronomy: "Man does not live by bread alone, but by every word than comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). For Christians, fasting is a physical discipline that helps us see a spiritual truth. The center of life is not our bread, or work, or wealth, or accomplishments. God is our source. Christ is our most essential relationship.
The following forms of fasting are gleaned from Richard Foster's book, The Celebration of Discipline.
Fast from People.
This is not permission to be anti-social. Introverts and extroverts alike need times of solitude. We need time away from people precisely because we want to love and care for them. Solitude prepares you to be with people.
Foster writes that solitude and community go hand in hand. "Until we have learned to be alone, we cannot be with people in a way that will help them, for we will bring to that relationship our own scatteredness."
Fast from Media.
We live in an age unparalleled in human history. Never before have humans had the constant engagement that we have. While technological connection has benefits, it also leaves us empty and scattered. We find it impossible to go through an entire day, or even a minute, focused on one main thing.
Fasting from media allows you to concentrate. To be fully engaged and present. To reset. To be attentive to what matters. To pray. To think. To plan. To listen.
Fast from the Phone.
This is related to media, but distinct. Not only can we access media from our phones, but anyone has access to us. A call or text buzzes in our pocket. Immediately, we are distracted from the person we are with, or the task we are engaged in.
This gives unimportant things really important access. For instance, I'm spending quality time with my kids. Movie night in our pajamas with bowls of buttery popcorn on a Friday night. I have my phone next to me (mistake). A text arrives. Someone needs something. It can wait till Monday, but now I feel the need to respond. And I'm thinking about Monday. I'm no longer fully present on Friday.
Fasting from the phone means turning it on airplane mode for a block of time or even a whole day.
Fast from Comfort.
In our consumerist culture, everyone is selling comfort and convenience. I'm not against either of those things. But refraining from the comfortable gives us new perspective. One way to do this is to put yourself in an uncomfortable situation. Spend time with those who have fewer comforts.
Visit residents of a nursing home.
Volunteer with an agency that serves the homeless or disadvantaged.
Help an immigrant or refugee.
Bring a meal to an elderly neighbor.
The goal is not to be patronizing, or feel good about yourself. The goal is to know another's life. We may give them something of value, but it's more likely that we will be blessed. These are Jesus' favorites: the broken and poor, lost and least.
Time spent with the needy focuses us on what is essential.
It makes us grateful for what we have.
It helps us associate with those who have less.
It compels us to love our neighbor better.
Overwhelmed? Refocus with a fast.
Do you have other forms of fasting?