I was watching a woman on Periscope the other day who was discussing the struggles she has had recently with energy and motivation. She used to be very motivated and driven and was able to accomplish a lot when her children were young. Then she had some health issues that slowed her down for a while. Her health issues are better now, but she finds that she still struggles with feeling tired and unmotivated, even when she should be well-rested. Several viewers chimed in to state that they also struggled with unexplained exhaustion and a lack of motivation.
One of the questions raised was, how do we tell the difference between laziness and apathy versus our body’s true need for rest and self-care? I think this question is so important. It’s certainly something I struggle with on a regular basis.
I’m a big fan of self-care and making sure that we get the rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation we need. I recognize the importance of filling ourselves up with things that refresh us and energize us so we can bring our best self to all that we do. But I think sometimes I confuse self-care with being lazy. I tell myself that I’m resting, when really, I’m just choosing to be lazy because I don’t feel like doing the things I should be doing.
I think sometimes, we all claim to be tired, when we really just feel lazy. We claim to be worn out, but we’re really just unmotivated. The difference is important. The Bible encourages rest (Exodus 20:8-10, Matthew 11:28-30), but strongly warns against laziness (Proverbs 6:9-11, Proverbs 10:4, Matthew 25:26).
So how do we know the difference? How can we tell when we are truly tired, worn out, and in need of some rest or when we are just being lazy and need to get to work?
When to know you need rest:
- You are deficient in sleep. If you’ve had a few late nights or early mornings in a row, it will catch up with you and you’ll start feeling tired. Or maybe one of your children isn’t sleeping well and keeping you up all night. If you really do have a lack of sufficient sleep (7-8 hours per night), rest is what your body needs before you can be productive again. For the mother of small children, you might be in this position for a long time. Give yourself grace and rest when you can.
- You are overly emotional. If you are struggling to control your temper with your children, you cry over minor inconveniences, you get frustrated easily, or your experience any other unusual mood swings, you are probably working from an empty cup. Your resources are drained and you are struggling to cope with life’s everyday challenges. In this case, self-care should be a top priority.
- You can’t remember the last time you took care of yourself. If you don’t regularly prioritize taking care of yourself, most moms will fall to the bottom of the priority list. If you haven’t exercised in far too long, you need to exercise. If you haven’t had a healthy meal in days, find yourself some proper nutrition. If you don’t even know what alone time feels like, schedule some time to find quiet and space for yourself. Taking care of yourself is not selfish or lazy, it is how we perform at our best. One of the key components of feeling rested, motivated, and energized is feeling healthy and fulfilled. Put your needs first. It will help you take care of all of your other responsibilities better.
When you have proper sleep, your emotions are under control, and you’ve taken care of all your personal needs for self-care, and yet you still feel like you can’t get to work, it’s time to consider whether you are just feeling lazy and unmotivated.
When to consider if you may be feeling lazy:
- You procrastinate important tasks and prioritize unimportant ones. You know what you should be doing, but you choose something else instead and try to justify yourself. One of the chief struggles people who work from home face is the pull to do household chores instead of the work they are getting paid to do. Another struggle I’ve seen people face is eating up all the junk food in their house before starting on a healthy eating plan, procrastinating their healthy diet for the sake of the chips in the pantry. Think about your ultimate goals and what is important. If you are crossing things off your to do list, but aren’t making progress toward your goals, you’re probably struggling with laziness.
- You complain about situations and circumstances, but are unwilling to do anything to change things for the better. You may complain about your weight, you complain about your finances, you complain about the messy house that no one helps to clean, you complain about the drama at work, you complain about your church, or politics, or social issues. But if someone were to ask you to point out the work you have done to improve your weight, finances, messy house, work drama, church, politics, or social issues, you would have nothing productive to show. Lazy people complain, productive people create solutions.
- You have excitement and energy about the things you need to do, but you struggle to actually start doing them. In this case, your laziness is likely a byproduct of something else, such as fear or confusion. Take a step back to address the root cause and you’ll soon find the motivation you need.
- You feel guilty when you take a break. This can be tricky because some highly ambitious people feel guilty any time they don’t achieve everything on their list and other personalities rarely experience guilt over the things they did or didn’t accomplish. But I think it can be helpful to consider how you feel after you rest. Do you feel refreshed, motivated, and energized or do you feel guilty and miserable? If you’re experiencing the latter, you may be going overboard on rest and need to accomplish some things to boost your confidence and mood.
It is good to work hard. It is just as good to rest and take care of ourselves. Finding the proper balance between the two can be challenging. One of the things I have found helpful is to plan out rest and self-care ahead of time to make sure I don’t fall to the bottom of my priority list.
Plan out your day, week, and month in advance. Know when you are going to go to bed and when you will wake up on a regular basis. Schedule your workouts on your calendar. Work with your husband (or other support team) to find time to schedule in activities that refresh you.
If you decide ahead of time to include rest and self-care in your schedule, you won’t find yourself trying to work from an empty cup. And when you start to feel lazy, you will recognize it as laziness and realize that it’s time to create some motivation and get to work. Make a prioritized (and reasonable) to do list each day and get busy on your most important tasks, knowing that you are well rested and have taken care of yourself first.