How Taking a Break From Mental Gymnastics Can Give You a 10.0 in Parenting

My mind is always spinning.

Concerns about my kids, mental to-do lists for work, financial responsibilities … and that’s usually before I even get out of bed!

Can you relate? Getting more rest — especially mental rest — is no easy feat for moms.

My body is usually tired at the end of the day. But my mind is exhausted.

That mental fatigue leaves me vulnerable to a whole host of goodies: anxiety, impatience, irritability, anger — just to name a few. It makes me more likely to say something sarcastic to my kids. I can easily become anxious and hyperfocus on some aspect of their behavior and completely overreact. I can tend to parent my kids in “react” mode, rather than proactively guiding them.

Bottom line: All my mental gymnastics don’t make me any stronger. In fact, they weaken my ability to be the mom I want to be. That I can be through God’s power.

But something changed this past Easter Sunday. I felt God calling me to rest. Truly rest.

Keep the computer shut down. Leave the remote untouched. It seemed like a very appropriate way to honor and commemorate the tremendous sacrifice that Jesus made for us on the cross.

It felt strange. I didn’t know what to do with myself. But I liked it. I felt a peace and a sense of God’s presence in a powerful way. By the end of the day, a thought occurred to me: Why don’t I do this every Sunday?

The thought scared me. Unplugging and resting once a week seemed … well, boring. Unproductive. I have such a hard time being still. Which is exactly why I needed to be deliberate about doing it.

So, I made a commitment to rest on Sundays. I gave myself some guidelines, but also some flexibility. Keeping the computer shut down is something I do with very few and short-lived exceptions. Television? It’s not on much, but if my kids want to watch High School Musical with me (like yesterday), I do it.

What I’ve needed, more than anything, is a break from my mental gymnastics. I’ve needed that more than physical rest. I can be resting mentally and declutter or clean out a bookshelf. I don’t need to remain perfectly still all day.  But the mental stillness allows me to refresh and heart God’s voice more clearly.

What scared me at first, is now actually something I look forward to.

I also found that this mental rest helped me be a better more in a number of ways.

I’m calmer and more present with my kids.

When I was going full-tilt everyday without resting and refreshing, I was more likely to shoot from the hip. And that’s never a good thing. It usually took the form of impatience, sarcasm and taking things personally. I’ve found (and so have my kids) that I’m calmer when I’ve allowed my brain to shut of for 24 hours each week.

It helped me to hear the Holy Spirit more clearly.

The Holy Spirit doesn’t shout at us. He is described as a “still, small voice.” One that’s hard to hear when our mental noise is chronically at a fever pitch. Mothering presents many challenges. I need His leading. And I’ve been able to sense it — regarding how to pray for my kids, how to handle situations — more clearly since I’ve taken a step back each week.

Getting more rest mentally made me more productive.

At first, I thought that giving up that day was going to make my week crazy. I felt like I gained a lot from getting a little ahead on my week by doing some work and home tasks. But by doing virtually nothing on Sunday, I feel a peace going into the week that makes me more productive in six days than I ever was in seven. Right now, my house looks more together than it has in years. My work life is busy, but humming. Home is stressful at times, of course, but it feels like a really good place to be right now. For me, my husband and my kids.

Getting more rest? Taking a mental break? It seems impossible for moms. But it can be done.

Without it, we risk burning out. 

My presence will go with you, and I will give you rest. Exodus 33:14

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Melinda Means

Melinda is mother to a strapping teenage son and a beautiful and entertaining teenage daughter. She has written for Focus on the Family,, In Touch and Lifeway’s Journey. Melinda is also a regular contributor to The Mom Initiative and iDisciple. She is the Team Leader for Moms Together, a highly interactive Facebook mom mentoring group. Melinda is co-author of Mothering From Scratch: Finding the Best Parenting Style for You and Your Family (Bethany House, 2015), available on Amazon. You can visit her blog,  Mothering from Scratch.