I massaged a headache helplessly and leaned my head into the steering wheel. I had just finished filing a 10-page newspaper to the printer at 1 a.m. and knew I hadn’t studied the past perfect conjugations of Spanish verbs for my quiz at 8 a.m.
I was exhausted.
As a senior in college, I served as the editor in chief for my school’s newspaper, working five days a week until midnight or later. I was also taking 13 hours of classes, some of which were 8 a.m. classes that didn’t complement my late work nights. I didn’t sleep much that year and when I did it was in 10 minute intervals with my head buried under the couch cushions to hide from the sun, my e-mail, my books.
I had friends and wanted to see and a boy (now my husband) I wanted to spend time with, but I felt I had nothing to give them or any of my other responsibilities.
I hated feeling empty, and I hated having halfway conversations with my friends and co-workers. I knew I wasn’t being the best friend or boss or student I could be, but my mind was packed with to-do lists.
Burnout was breaking me.
I was too tired to strike back, so I stepped back, and I heard my roommate reminding me to take a break and smiled when my boyfriend brought me dinner at work. I cheered on my coworkers when we published a stellar paper. And I celebrated when I passed a Spanish test.
These things had already been happening through my exhaustion, but I had stopped looking for them. In the chaos that was rocking my schedule, I had quit on me.
Don’t lose your soul to exhaustion. Sleep and relaxation and fun aren’t meant to be just a bonus to your routine. They are things meant to be a consistent part of it. When I was only somewhat present, I missed out on great things and a life that was designed for joy.
And if I needed a boost, I needed to do what so many have done before me by lifting my head from my chest and looking to God. Psalm 121:1-2 says “I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.”
I have to learn how to get the rhythm of work and play right, and I find the most encouragement in knowing that it’s OK to break my demanding routine. It’s OK to experience life. It’s OK to go to Jesus tired.
Today, I still need to be reminded to take a break and take a look around. For me, exhaustion can signal frustration.
And I don’t want to be frustrated.
And I don’t want to miss things because I was “too tired.”