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Do you plan for the pause?

As I’m writing this, I’m tired. I always get a rush of excitement when summer begins. I imagine wide open months ahead, ready to fill with creativity, trips, and fun memories with the kids.

Then sometime right around now in the season, the reality settles in of just how long summer days are.

And I’m reminded again of how easy it is to barrel down the over-extended, cranky, exhausted path without planning sufficient provisions to keep going at a healthy (and happy) speed.

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” – Abraham Lincoln

This quote makes me think about how important the ebb is to the flow of life – how important the pause is, to both our well being and our productivity as well.  In fact, it seems our society idolizes productivity, but rarely allows for the very things that make us most productive.

In nature, nothing is wasted; the winter season does more for the plant than simply create a break between times of fruiting. The winter is necessary to the growth of the fruit – it plays a vital role in the quality of the fruit itself.

For so long, I equated our need to ebb simply as you would understand a machine’s need to be given “breaks”.  It made sense that if you drove a car at top speed over time it would simply break; the machinery would give out. And that is true to a large extent with us as well. Without times of rest and restoration, we see clear signs of burnout, depletion, and exhaustion in our lives.

But what if taking regular, effective pauses of self-care in our days did even more than prevent burnout? What if these intentional practices of well-being actually produced in us richer fruits in our lives?

I’m seeing now that self-care is really self-stewardship. It is taking excellent care of the gift of myself. My times of pause and restoration enhance my capacity to live, love, and mother from a refreshed, calm, and energized place. For me, self-care is simply investing in practices that allow me to show up as my best and brightest self.  And in turn, those I love get the best of me as well.

Take a moment right now and consider the day before you, or the week before you. Have you scheduled simple practices of self-care into your days to pro-actively keep your body, mood, mind and spirit well cared for? Share in the comments some ways that work for you to keep the blade sharpened as you go.

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  1. Vilda

    You are so right! Summer comes in disguise, it’s meant to be relaxing but we cram so many things into our lives during that time. So important to be slow…

    • Lisa Byrne

      Thanks for the comment, Vilda…yes, the cramming in can become a habit!

  2. OM

    This blog post feels as if it was written just for me. I’m about to enter in a very busy season in my life, and was trying to get in shape by doing more and more, so I’m starting to feel the burnout before the actual work starts! Maybe I need a different, gentler and more paused, approach.

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts, they’ve stirred something in me.

    • Lisa

      OM- I can so relate, especially in the area of “exercise” – It has taken me so long to embrace the softer, more fluid, more restorative kinds of activity when my body and life are really calling out for them….but it is a JOY to move my body in those ways too! 🙂

  3. Victoria

    Just what I needed to hear this morning. I have the chance to get away in the coming weeks just me, and was thinking it would be selfish. Your post gave me the push I needed to see that it is not.

  4. Caroline Starr Rose

    Hiya, Lisa! So fun seeing you here. Thank you so much for this. We’ve got two more weeks of summer, and I received my edits for my next novel last week. I’ve got a few months, which is good, and I’m determined not to let myself get panicky that I though I’ve dug in I haven’t yet made it far.

    I won’t get panicky. I won’t get panicky.

    I attended a literature festival in Nebraska over the weekend. It was all the work I could do, and rightly so. I have boys who need new clothes and school supplies and visits to the bio park and other last summer hurrahs. I know I will get some physical work on the edits done, but it won’t be what it will be in a few weeks…and that’s okay. For now, there will be more axe sharpening than chopping. But when I’ve got weeks of chopping lined up one after another, I’m going to be a tree-felling monster!

  5. Jessica

    In my early years of marriage life was just so hectic and the calendar was always full and we were always stretched and fed up. Now we have a 12 week old baby girl, we’re actually being so much more intentional about pursuing a slower pace of life. We kind of feel we now have a good excuse to say no to things and are now home most nights of the week and keep weekends for family time. We have recently started to block out time on the calendar for regular downtime and date nights so that we can pause and invest in ourselves and our marriage. We do however need to get better at making time for our health. We’re not yet organised when it come to meal planning and somehow exercise always goes to the bottom of the pile, even though we know it is so key to our wellbeing.

  6. Theresa

    Thanks for this reminder. I have recently taken up jogging (trying to teach an old dog new tricks:) & it has become something I crave. To be alone in nature it is actually really refreshing for me & I typically come back a better mama for my boys. Added bonus is that So no guilt required:).

  7. Anne

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. I need some downtime. In fact, I think I’m going to plan them in this week!

  8. Kika

    This speaks to me too but perhaps in a slightly different way. Usually we think of summer time as relaxing, fun, etc. But this summer we have two dying family members that we must travel to see regularly, creating some financial strain not to mention the pain of walking through this. At moments I want to feel sorry for myself but then realize that this is simply a ‘winter season’ of sorts. That we must embrace it and grow in it as opposes to wishing it away or resentimg it. Seasons like this are ones of puttong down deeper roots, I believe. I also totally agree with the need for purposeful self-care on order to be the wife, mom, friend, daughter I need and want to be.

  9. Lindsay@littlehousebigworld

    So true that we can love our families better when we have taken care of ourselves as well. We sometimes feel guilty for taking time for ourselves. However, when we realize that we must be cared for for the sake of others it’s easier to embrace. My mornings at the gym a few times a week give me a boost. I also sit down during the kids’ nap time and read or write a little.

  10. Elizabeth

    Summer is our naturally busy time of year (farming) but that doesn’t mean we don’t need rest. Rest is so hard when there is so much to do and busy little kids. This is a great reminder that we do better to rest every so often then to try and push through.

  11. Shalene

    I’ve been feeling an intense need for order and rest lately. Thanks for confirming that I know I need to carve some time out!

  12. Katelyn

    I started running again 3 weeks ago. And we adjusted our son’s bedtime routine to give me a bit more time in the evenings to myself (to knit and listen to an audiobook or watch a TV show.) My son just turned 3 and I feel like I’m finally finding my balance for “me” again after 3 years of intense 24/7 care. It’s still intense, but I don’t have a 24lb 1 year old who refuses to eat table foods and only wants to nurse permanently attached to my hip anymore. I also try to be very intentional about how much time we spend outside our home. The more on-the-go we are the more frazzled I feel (introvert here) and the more behind I feel in the care of our home, which just frazzles me more.

  13. Ellen

    Oh Lisa! How I can relate. I’m staring at my day planner now, with not as many pauses as I’d like in sight. This is so true and so needed. My biggest desire is creating space – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, etc. Thank you so much for this~

  14. Kelly

    I’ve always said that God created nap time and bedtime for families to remember they all love each other after all. Times of rest and quiet are so good for the soul. I actually started school with my kids a little early to get some more routine back into our world.

    Just like Christmastime, I think I need to remember that end of July and beginning of August is just a time we need to instill simplicity back into the days. Thanks for a great thought today!

  15. Emily


    Whenever I read your articles on SM or you’re a guest on the podcast, I get so inspired! This post, against, does not disappoint! Thank you!

    P.S. — I mean this as a sincere compliment, your voice on the podcast sounds very much like Cameron Diaz!

  16. RJean

    This was very timely for me as well. I am currently finishing up my MA thesis so that I can officially graduate from my MA program before I begin my PhD program on August 13. Normally I would take some time away from academic work before plunging into the next term, but that is not really an option right now. The goal at the moment is to push through so that this can be completed and in final form by early next week so I can at least get in a long weekend before Orientation begins. The drive to complete tasks and “get it done” often leads me to cut myself short on self-care and even just relaxing without numbing myself with TV, etc. Now I am encouraged to look at my calendar and mark out some time to unwind and get in some rest before the crazy starts again.

  17. Tiare

    This reflective article reminds me of one of my favorite quotes: “Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.” (Guillaume Apollinaire)

    I’m a compulsive attempt-to-do-it-all-er. But enough experience (as in, years and years and years of it) has helped me to form a healthier habit: Write out my entire to do list…and the purposely slash half of it.

    Nowadays, if my daily to do list is longer than a Post-it, it’s too long. Doing this inclusively provides for me to make time for day’s needed pauses.

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