I was with a friend last week who is experiencing some huge life transitions. Job turmoil. Forced downsize of a house. Relationship tension. And on top of the obvious, he wasn’t sleeping well. The extreme physical and emotional fatigue was transforming these already formidable challenges into giant life-eating dragons, complete with fire-breathing despair and sharp fangs of hopelessness.
Fatigue was lying to him.
Last night, my 8 year old son told his counselor he wanted to come home mid-week from camp. He missed his mom (and probably his gaming console). His big sister and a buddy were finally able to calm him down long enough to fall sleep. Short nights and extreme daily activities had taken him to the brink of exhaustion. The underlying separation anxiety he was able to logically combat when rested and fresh was released to wreak havoc by his weariness.
Fatigue was lying to him.
I’m no different. The fears, shame, and insecurities I’m fully able to hold in right perspective on a good night’s sleep are freed to run amok when I’m worn out. Fatigue turns the proverbial mole-hill into The Himalayas. So what do we do?
1. Physical Rest. Sleep. Yeah, I know. Obvious, right? I’m one of those that used to think I could squeak by on 5 or 6 hours, but as I’m getting older (and wiser?) I’m learning that seven is my magic number. Anything less, and my internal fears start to grow fangs.
2. Mental Rest. I’m not one to cynically malign social media and the recent emergence of the smart-phone-app world we now live in. I think this technology is fabulous when used as a tool and not medication. But I have learned that the constant barrage of input can drive me to mental exhaustion. This is a whole different kind of fatigue, but has the same fear-enhancing effect in my life. Give your mind some space to think. To concentrate. To be bored. You’ll thank me for it.
3. Emotional Rest. This one is harder to control. Death in the family. Tension in a key relationship. Struggles at work. Sometimes life throws a fatigue bomb and there’s nowhere for you to take shelter. This is where we must accept our undeniable need for other human beings. Who do you lean back into? Who can listen? Give comfort? Who’s got your back? In my experience, this is the best remedy for emotional exhaustion.
4. Grace Rest. Sometimes our exhaustion comes from trying to earn what only Jesus can give to us. If you’re trying to work your way into God’s favor, I promise your fears will win. Because you can’t. That’s why God did it for you. Those sins you’re trying to compensate for? Only God can do in you what you’ll never be able to do for yourself. Rest in that.
Fatigue is a liar. It magnifies the difficulties in our lives and blinds us to the beauty. Don’t make major decisions when you’re drowning in fatigue. Learn to recognize the symptoms – despair, hopelessness, discouragement, fear – then get some rest. Hope (and fresh perspective) comes with the morning.
How does fatigue lie to you?