Most days, it seems like there’s not quite enough time to accomplish everything we need—or want—to do. It might be that we’re juggling kids, a marriage, and a dog; or it might be that we’re trying to balance classes and friendships and work; or that we’re living in the tension between our professional and personal lives. Whatever roles and responsibilities we carry, we have all experienced that nagging feeling that we’re not doing enough.
So it may seem counterintuitive to suggest that what we actually need is more refreshment. It may sound, in fact, like an unattainable luxury: to refresh ourselves when there are things to get done. It’s easier to put our own lives on hold when the kids are screaming, when the deadline is looming, when the bills are overdue.
We can’t put our need for refreshment on pause forever, though many of us feel as if we have to do just that. I’ve struggled with the tension of wanting to renew my soul but feeling guilty about the desire to do “something for myself.” As I’ve learned the hard way, though, things that refresh my body, mind, and soul aren’t luxuries. They are necessary for long-term health and wholeness—just as necessary as food and sleep. Go without refreshment too long, and you’ll find yourself exhausted and fried.
One problem is that we associate refreshment with big trips or expensive experiences—and those seem unattainable. What we need instead are smaller, more consistent ways to refresh in the midst of our everyday lives, and that doesn’t have to take a lot of time or money. Here are five ways to refresh when you don’t have time to slow down.
1. Listen to Scripture
If your time to read the Bible is rushed or nonexistent, consider downloading a Bible-reading app to your phone or computer. Find a version of the Bible that you love, and start listening before you pull out of the driveway on your morning commute or while you’re on your way to drop off kids at school.
We’d all like to have time to study the Bible deeply, but listening to the Bible is another way to concentrate on Scripture in the midst of full days. This listening can keep us focused on “what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable”—the things that we are called to “think about” (Philippians 4:8). Consistently hearing the Scripture fills our minds—and hearts—with God’s truth, and that truth will refresh and sustain us in a soul-nourishing way that nothing else can.
2. Put Your Feet Up for Five Minutes
Whether you close the door to your office and put your feet on your desk or hop on your favorite couch at home, get your feet off the floor. Put your phone down and turn it on silent (it’s only five minutes, remember?), close your eyes, and focus on breathing.
Rest is good for our brains and our souls. A University of Illinois study points out that taking short breaks enables us to stay focused over the course of a long project. Similarly, a writer for the New York Times argues that idleness is good for us, stating that “The space and quiet that idleness provides is a necessary condition for standing back from life and seeing it whole.”
Scripture helps us see our lives as a whole, too. When we step back from the minutiae of our lives to consider the vast world God has created, we can rest in his mindfulness of us (Psalm 8:3-4) and in his ability to hold the world together—a refreshing truth and something we don’t have to accomplish on our own (Colossians 1:15-17).
3. Spark Your Senses
God created us to experience the world through all of our senses. If you are calmed or invigorated by a certain scent, for example, invest in a fragrant candle and light it during a particularly stressful part of your day. If you can’t have flames in your workspace, consider melting wax pods, which release the aroma of a candle without the fire.
Similarly, if you are refreshed by the mountains or the ocean but can’t look out your window and see them, purchase a photo of a beautiful place and put it in your office or by the kitchen sink.
Music, too, can be a powerful way for us to refresh our souls. One study showed that playing music can decrease anxiety, even in an environment as stressful as an emergency room. Even if we must be in a stressful environment, it may be possible to turn music on in the background, or in headphones. Choose music that encourages you and lifts your spirits.
4. Pick Up an Encouraging Book
We can’t reach for just any book and expect to be refreshed; we need to be thoughtful about what we allow into our hearts and minds. But an edifying, encouraging book can be energizing. Keep the book on your kitchen counter, on your desk at the office, or in your purse, and then let yourself dive in for ten or fifteen minutes—over your lunch break, while the baby naps, or before closing your eyes at the end of a full day.
I feel particularly refreshed by faith-based, thoughtful fiction (Sensible Shoes was a revitalizing read), and by well-written nonfiction books that creatively display truth (Teach Us to Want and Overcomer, for example).
When we allow our minds to participate in a powerful read, refreshment comes in two ways. First, we momentarily break from the stressors and frustrations right in front of us. Second, if the book is edifying, we often return to our lives outside of the book with renewed vision and hope for what’s ahead.
5. Speak Several Breath Prayers
Breath prayers are prayers that can be said in one breath; they are simple, straightforward prayers that are meant to focus our attention on God and his presence with us. If we find ourselves worrying, afraid, or overwhelmed, saying a simple breath prayer multiple times, such as, “Thank you for your love, Lord,” or “God, you are with me,” can point our hearts back to Christ.
We can also pray Scripture, such as “Perfect love expels all fear” (1 John 4:18), to refocus our attention on God. This can refresh our souls as we focus our hearts again on the good news that Jesus has saved us, that he is with us, and that his well of living water—the Holy Spirit in our lives—never runs dry (John 7:37-39).
Whatever we do, it is important that we intentionally incorporate refreshment into our regular routines for two reasons. First, true refreshment keeps our souls connected to Jesus, the source of all life. Second, refreshing our spirits fends off the burnout that so many of us feel on a regular basis. We can abide in Christ in many ways; these simple ideas, such as listening to Scripture, reading encouraging books, and taking short breaks, are easy ways to incorporate renewal into our lives.
Regularly refreshing ourselves is not a sign of weakness or selfishness—it is the way to stay healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually. And when we are healthy as women, wives, mothers, and daughters, we can thrive in all of our responsibilities and roles, ultimately blessing those around us as well as ourselves.
How will you refresh this week?