Sometimes, working at my mental limit is what is required. Sometimes the circumstances we fall into need everything we have to survive them. And I definitely don't want to swing to the other end of the spectrum. I'm looking for mental peace not mental sluggishness. So, I might be tempted to think that pushing myself to my mental limits everyday is me being my best me.
It's just not an ideal way to live. Peter would do a much better job at describing this analogy, but it's like a gadget reaching mechanical failure: eventually, without maintenance and repair, repetition does it's worst. Speed up that repetition and reach that point sooner. I'm not doing anyone any favors by running my brain into the ground. There's no one who can persevere forever under those conditions so why make that a requirement for myself?
And what's really more productive? A burnt out mama daily chugging drearily along to exhaustion as she martyrs herself for the family because of some self-inflicted pressure to conform to a idealized version of "Motherhood"? Or a woman who shines and smiles as she works as a team with inspired energy giving the people she loves beauty and making the space around her an enjoyable place to be?
I really have to take a step back, nerve myself, (shower myself, dress myself, and feed myself if I've forgotten to do so already), and get myself some mental peace.
Routine or Ritual:
Habits help me. I do pretty much the same thing every morning. It's a choreographed dance that ensures things get done while I zone out. Wake up, mouth wash, bacon in the microwave, eggs with salsa, empty the dishwasher as I go... It's almost unconscious. I'm not worried about what's next on my to-do list because it's the same every morning and before I know it, we've eaten a healthy meal, Peter is on his way to work, and I have time to have "Bible and Snuggle Time" with Abby.
Rituals are similar but instead of NOT thinking about what I'm doing, I make it my focus. My afternoon cup of tea. Boil the water, pick out the tea, let it steep, packet of Truvia, almond milk, sit down, and enjoy each sip. Mama gets a time out for behaving herself: for clearing the to-do list, making progress on projects, or even just making it to 3:30 without losing my patience. Then I have renewed gumption to take on the rest of the day.
Escape or Experiment:
My friend Kelly wrote about this recently. In the middle of a stressful time, she took her family on a mini vacation. When the routine is what's causing the stress, take a minute to escape from it. Go somewhere else. Give the brain a good dusting off before setting it back to the tasks at hand. Hit the reset button, take the video game cartridge out of the slot, blow on it, and try again. (Super Nintendo reference, FYI)
If you can't get away, try doing the same thing but a different way. Isn't that what they say the definition of insanity is? Doing the same thing and expecting different results? Maybe I won't make eggs with salsa anymore. Maybe I'll make them with spinach now. Maybe I'll empty the dishwasher the night before (or sweetly ask someone else to do it for me).
Create or Appreciate:
Sometimes finding peace isn't about turning down the volume on the radio but about finding a good channel. A high level mental energy can be healthy when it's used up to produce something beautiful and/or functional. From Mark's Daily Apple: "It’s in the craft that you find focus – flow even. The brush or needles, chisel or knife, spade or hammer become an unconscious extension of self. The mind devises, but the hand itself thinks, designs, knows. In its fullness, we lose ourselves in the full physical experience of craft – in the sensory nuances, in the emotional associations, in the intuitive energy."
What if we can't pick up a brush, needle, chisel, or knife? Appreciation for beauty can be just as cathartic. A good song, a well written story, an artful painting, a good meal, and, yes, even a cruise through Pinterest can give us a glimpse of order in the chaos.
Plan and Pray:
Make it a priority to seek out peace. Make it a goal. It doesn't have to be the number one priority, but it should be higher up on the list than the bottom slot. Digger wrote on Embrace Your Life about her plan to make her life successful AND enjoyable. The idea that got me was making sure your "work day" has an end. Give yourself a stopping point. Peter and I started doing this a couple weeks ago. Instead of watching TV until I pass out on the couch (usually shortly after my booty hits the cushion), from 8-9 we watch one show we both are interested in (so I can stay awake), and then shut off the tv leaving ourselves an hour before bed to rehash the day, solve a problem together, or "get to bed early". We created a space between the go, go, go of the day, and the utter unconsciousness I dive into when I sleep. And it also means my brain is a little less cluttered the next morning.
When it boils down to it, there is always something attempting to steal my peace away: a new project, an unpaid bill, a required task, a human fault. Even my desire to work towards peace can cause me to realize how little of it I have. Ultimately, I need a peace outside of my own striving, a peace that passes all understanding. The deepest peace I've ever known has been when I've stopped trying to smoosh my broken parts into a pretty picture and handed (or even chucked like hot potatoes) every single one of them over to Someone Else. I know He has no problem catching them, He knows how they're supposed to fit together. He even has the missing pieces I didn't know about. Because His mental energy has no limits, He has no problem with mental peace. I ask, and I receive.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.