Every year, sometime in the summer, I realize the year feels like it’s just flying by. And now this year is more than half gone, and for me, the busiest seasons are still ahead.

The busier I get, the faster the time seems to pass. Keeping busy is valued in our culture, but lately, I’ve sensed that being too busy is a big problem for me. Marriage, family, housemates, multiple ministries, full-time work and social activities make up my general rhythm, and these things are good, but it’s easy to let busyness take over and forget to truly take time to rest.

Rest doesn’t often come naturally—we have to be intentional about it. We have to set aside time to slow down, give ourselves a break and commune with God.

Here are a few strategies to employ through the chaos:

1. Grab Rest Where You Can, When You Can

Rest doesn’t have to mean a two-hour nap. Have a 30-minute lunch break? Take your lunch outside and have a quick picnic. Kids napping? Grab some coffee and a good book. An hour in between appointments? Keep blankets in the trunk of your car or sit out in the backyard with study materials.

Of course, there may be necessary work that needs to be done during those time slots, but the point is to prioritize rest and self-care. After all, we don’t do things well when we are burned out. 

2. Don’t Be Afraid to Say “No”

Prioritizing rest and self-care will sometimes mean cutting some things out or not taking on more things. “No” has always been a hard word for me to say. I don’t like disappointing people. As I’ve gotten older though, I’ve realized that if I give myself away to everyone and everything, I come to the end of myself. I have to choose what I will give the best of myself to, and some things just don’t make the cut.

3. Be Prepared

I love to make plans and schedules and spreadsheets; if it can be color-coded, I’m there. I’m so quick to plan to do all the other things in my life, why can’t I plan for rest?

A lot of us keep some sort of schedule where we block out times for all the different aspects of our lives (work, ministry, date night, cooking, etc.). We need to be able to schedule rest time also.

Even if it’s a half an hour of planned reading for pleasure, that scheduled rest time will be fuel to keep you going through all of your other plans. Being prepared also means thinking ahead toward your future schedule and knowing how much to take on at one time and if and when to say no.

4. Don’t Distract Yourself

Have you ever had a block of free time, say 45 minutes here or there, and ended up spending it entirely scrolling through Instagram or Pinterest? I know I have.

Somehow, 45 minutes later, I look up from my phone and realize I’m now late to my next appointment. I usually don’t feel energized or inspired by my time spent on social media, and I find myself wishing I had done something different.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Instagram and Pinterest. I also love veg days in front of Netflix. I am not against mindless entertainment in the least, and I don’t believe that social media is always mindless entertainment (I love utilizing Pinterest for my menu planning, for example).

But purposeful rest is more than just turning your brain off for a short period of time. What are the things that make you feel energized and inspired? Filling your small windows of time with those types of activities is an investment in yourself so you can can refuel vs. just distract.

5. Get Outside

If you’re like me, you probably spend most of your time indoors, in an office, in your home, in church, in the store. But there really is something refreshing and restful about being outside.

There are all sorts of sciencey reasons why and how being outside helps us, including sharpening our focus, helping us relax and making us happy. These are reasons enough to be more intentional about getting outside, even if it’s just sitting in your backyard to read or have a cup of coffee.  

6. Make it Meaningful

Ultimately, as Christians, our rest is found in Jesus Christ. St. Augustine wrote, “You made us for Yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in You.”

Often, feeling overwhelmed and frazzled it is an indicator that we have been pursuing things, even good things, before Christ. Purposeful rest will always come straight back to the Gospel and finding our identity in what Christ has done over anything we have done or could do for ourselves.