At our recent Making Connections Day in London, it was clear that many people were feeling overworked and struggled to find time to relax and recharge their batteries. Anita talked about what she had found helpful and I asked her to write her ideas up for the rest of you!
I LOVE it when I have rest days from work (note the capitals letters, for extra emphasis). Most Friday evenings I shut down my laptop and I declare to anyone listening “It’s the weekend!” I thank God that he has given me an opportunity to chill, to relax, to meet with friends to go out for coffee, to watch series catch-up on iplayer, to phone a friend….well the list is endless.
Weekends have always been special to me. At the age of 18 years, the weekend represented 48 hours of freedom time. It was my weekend; it was my time; I chose to do with my weekend what I wanted to do. I went out with my friends on the Friday night, went shopping on the Saturday, popped to the cinema Saturday evening, and then hung out with the crowd at church on a Sunday. I had fun, and made sure there was lots of it for my friends and me. Pure heaven.
As we all know from experience, time marches onwards; life doesn’t stay still. No one warned me that my weekends would become a distant memory. At university I needed to work – evenings were the only option to attend paid work, and as lectures were held during the day, weekends were spent writing essays and reading. I joined a church where the youth group met up on a Saturday night. Attending both services at church, and any other meetings organised by church, became “informally” compulsory. Don’t worry there was nothing sinister going on; I was a volunteer Youth Leader so attending church and being available at weekends was seen as setting a good “commitment” example to the youth. Saturday and Sunday no longer represented rest days, and my chill out time during the week had virtually disappeared.
In the midst of this struggle to re-discover my weekends, I graduated from university and started a two-year course to train in youth ministry. Little did I understand the impact that this course would have on my life. Yes – not only did I become a confident, bold and assertive female youth leader, fully knowledgeable in all things connected with youth people (well kind of!), but I also found a way to open the door (albeit creaky and covered in ivy) to my rest days again. More of this later on!
Traditionally Saturday and Sunday have been the “rest days” in the UK, but the working pattern has subtly changed over the last few decades.
So what did I do to open the door to my weekends again?
Really simply, my training course taught me how to plan my week, and to include rest time within my weekly schedule. “Yes, Yes, Yes.” I hear you all saying “we KNOW planning is the answer to re-discovering our weekends.”
Please, just hear me out and read on for a bit. It took me a while to work out how best to maximise on rest days. I tried several methods such as staying at home and watching whatever was on the TV; I tried staying in bed and catching up on sleep; I tried calling friends on the off-chance that they were free to meet up. It was all very ad-hoc and the weakness of staying at home during rest days was that I was often tempted to answer the phone, or to do some more preparation for the next youth meeting.
Then EUREKA – I got it… I planned stuff to do in my rest days and at weekends.
Once I graduated from my course, I moved from the inner city and went to live by the seaside. As a singleton, living in a small Kentish town, and with most of my close friends in London or beyond, in the beginning I had to learn the art of relaxing in ways other than popping round to see a friend for coffee. In addition I would track the number of hours that I was working, and seek to ensure that I did the hours I was contracted to work. If a week looked heavy with extra hours, I would cut back a meeting or take time off in lieu the following week, with the permission of my line-manager.
I started to recognise what activities and interests re-charged my batteries, and I would book these into my diary. This then meant that I had something to look forward to, and would therefore ensure that this “special time for me” wouldn’t be encroached upon by my workload. I started to write in my diary my rest time activities. So for example if I wanted to go out for a coffee, I would book that time into my diary. If I wanted to watch a film on TV or DVD, I would book that time into my diary. If I needed a complete break from my home / office, I would phone a friend and we would arrange for me to go over for a Friday night and a Saturday morning.
Thirteen years on from graduating from my training course, I still use the skill of booking time off in my diary and arranging to do fun stuff. I am now married and my husband has also learnt to go along with the diary planning! I plan to bake cakes in the evening, to watch TV together, to phone our mums, and so on. Don’t get me wrong, I am also spontaneous and love the excitement of having an idea, and then having the space in the diary to get on with it straight away.
In order for me to maintain a sense of dignity and sanity I need to have me-time. Some of my activities involve just me, and some involve meeting up with others. Here are few of the treasures that litter my diary in any one day, week or month:
- Hot chocolate or coffee at home or out and about
- Candle-lit bath
- Painting my nails
- Sending a friend a home-made card
- Window shopping
- Real shopping
- Reading a monthly magazine
- Reading a weekend newspaper over the whole week
- Checking out the reward deals on offer at my local supermarket
- Phoning a friend
- Catching up with friends on facebook
- Making home furnishings
- Providing hospitality to friends over brunch or dinner
- Catching up with TV series
Yes, sometimes it does all go wrong. I plan to do too much, and then have to push stuff back into the following week or month. On the rare occasion, I have to say a big fat NO and change my mind completely. I am still learning. I know I need chill time, so I have to make it a priority in my life.
We all have seasons in our lives, and some seasons give us the flexibility to plan, other seasons appear to strip out any opportunity to sit down for five minutes and have some “peace and quiet”. Give yourself permission to seek out those small five or ten minute slots, when you can give yourself a bit of a treat. Look through your diary for the next week and seek out a slot where you can do something that you have been longing to do for months - flicking through a recipe book, taking a walk in the garden to see the bulbs, spend time chatting with God.
Decide what you want to do and then write it down in your diary.
In a busy and demanding week, it is the anticipation of looking forward to some chill time that keeps me going. From experience, these times in my diary are my pools of blessing, my haven from the busy world that I live and work in, my time of having my batteries charged up again.
Now I must get my diary out….what day is it….I hear a voice in the distance shouting….
“IT’S FRIDAY... BUT SATURDAY'S COMING!”
Suddenly my hands start to shut down the laptop and I’m shouting out…
“Hurray it’s the weekend!”
Anita is the Youth Ministries Project Manager for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (UK)