As of today, it’s a little over a week until Thanksgiving and 5 1/2 weeks until Christmas. Stop and let that sink in for a minute…….
For so many of us, myself included, that means that our schedules are only going to become more hectic. We have all of the normal things that we do every day, which may include any combination of house, kids, work, family, dinner etc etc… But with the holiday seasons coming on, we will be adding on parties, family get-togethers, holiday shopping, crowds, over-eating, and even financial stress.
So, why talk about auto-pilot, and slowing down? It’s the most wonderful time of the year, right? The truth is, we will pack our schedules so tight and take ourselves to the brink in every way, that’s all we know to do. We schedule too many things, buy too many gifts, eat too many cookies, and spend too much money. We do it every year, because we don’t really know how to choose differently.
But what if this season we could take control and determine that the final weeks of 2016 was NOT going to be about over-stuffing, over-spending, over-indulging and ultimately feeling over-whelmed.
We really have to learn the art of saying No. It doesn’t have to be rude, short or unkind, but we have to learn what our limits are and make the conscious decision not to overstep our OWN boundaries. When we constantly feel the need to buy, eat, and attend every event and party that we are invited to, there is no room left for the things that we want to do. There is no time to self-reflect, to experience the wonderful things, and to enjoy the people we are with. Not having the much needed time that we need for ourselves and being able to stay disciplined can lead to resentment, anger, disappointment, frustration, sadness and ultimately depression.
So, how do we recognize it when we are running on auto-pilot and need to slow down?
- We are constantly making mistakes. How many times have you been driving in the car and you are so intensely pre-occupied with things in your mind that you don’t even realize how you got home. When did you get home? You don’t even remember seeing certain landmarks along the way. When we are overwhelmed with things in life, we become “unplugged” from our own minds we start running on auto-pilot. This can be so dangerous to us, physically because we aren’t as aware of our surroundings and we take chances and make moves that we might not normally make if we were thinking clearly.
- Your Constantly Sick. Your ALWAYS sick, your ALWAYS sore, you get infections easily, even if they are just small. You can’t fight off a simple cold, you always have a headache. You have no energy to do anything, and you’ve completely lost your sense of humor. These things are so often dismissed as a result of stress. But ultimately it’s a sign that your body is not well. Your body is very smart, and God created it to be that way. It tells you when there is something wrong, and we should be coherent enough to listen to it. We should be able to fight off disease, think clearly throughout the day, have a reasonable amount of energy and feel generally alert and active. When we aren’t we need to listen to our bodies and find out why. Exhaustion and overwhelm can easily bring on physical ailments, so when our bodies cry out, we need to listen.
- Your Constantly Waiting for the Next Season of Life. This is a bad one, and I am as guilty as ever of this poisonous thinking. Sometimes life with a 2 year old and a 4 year old can be so incredibly exhausting and overwhelming, that I find myself thinking “if they were just a little older and could do more for themselves, then it would be better”. Then I remember to yesterday when they were newborns and I have to QUICKLY get those thoughts out of my mind and remind myself that they will be big before I know it and wont need me so much. When your constantly waiting for the next season of life, you miss out on so much greatness today. Life is fast and fleeting. The saying “the days are long, but the years are short” is ever so true. If normal feels like a foreign concept and your constantly waiting for a storm to blow over, then it might be time to slow down. If you constantly feel like your life is surrounded by drama, and you just need to get through, then it might be time to slow down. While there are busy seasons that can last for months (or even years), life should have rhythm, constancy, and a healthy amount of predictability. If you find yourself running from one storm to the next, it’s likely time to slow down.
- You’ve lost all creative ability, and just don’t feel like doing anything. A sign your running on auto-pilot, you’ve lost ability to engage in new ideas and get excited about projects your currently working on. Creativity is such a wonderful gift, and it flys away when we are overwhelmed, dis-engaged and our minds are too cluttered. I know for myself, when I am overwhelmed and exhausted, I really don’t want to work on anything, because I simply don’t know where to begin. I lose enthusiasm and excitement, and have a hard time determining what do I work on first, because everything needs my attention. We all are creative in our own way– and even if creativity doesn’t feel like a part of your daily life, it likely plays a role in your ability to stay flexible and solve problems. So when we are running on auto-pilot, we really cant live life to its fullest, and enjoy one of the most wonderful parts of our minds and spirit. We NEED creativity, without it we get stuck, even if we are robotically getting through our days.
- Your not your best self, and are motivated by shame and fear. We all have moments when we slip up and have to apologize; and if we’re honest, this often happens around the people we love most. We speak unkind words, tell lies, lose our temper, choose self over service, and generally forget the commitments we’ve made not only to ourselves, but to others and to God. But if you find that more often you are your “worst self” then your “best self”, it’s time to slow down. When we are driven by shame and fear, we’ll make decisions that only strengthen those influences. We can’t quench shame and fear by hustling– in fact, by hustling, we perpetuate them. Not changing ourselves and choosing to be our best selves, even when it requires SO MUCH more effort, we can quickly get into a downward spiral that is so difficult to pull out of. The only way to choose love and grace over shame and fear is to let go of those things we use to guard us against our own insecurities. It may take time for us to accept our limits. But acceptance will help us walk in love and grace. Accept yourself and your weaknesses and limits, and it will go a long way in giving others grace and ultimately giving yourself grace.
The bottom line is we put ourselves through most of the misery that we experience. How many times have you over-reacted, over-spoke or over stepped, over-ate, or over-spent? When we are in a constant state of push and hustle, we really know no other way. Regardless how difficult it is for us to admit, most of us choose our lot freely. And the good news is that we can decide what we are willing to put up with. It’s possible to muddle through life numb with anger, resentment and constantly picking up the shattered pieces of our hurt feelings. But is that really living? When you realize it’s time to slow down, and you allow yourself to reach for the kind of normalcy for which you were intended– a life rich with grace, forgiveness and love, you’ll find that an overpacked schedule and overflowing plate is optional.