Give Yourself A Break

Give Yourself A Break - a man resting

I do not know who needs to hear this but give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can, and that is more than enough.

Are you finding it hard to be motivated to do things right now? Do you feel like the things you are doing are not good enough?

Do you wonder why the things you do feel less fulfilling?

Are you someone who previously did not exhibit signs or symptoms of depression and now you are wondering if you do?

Are you sleeping irregularly or even sleeping at all?

(If these are you, you may want read part 1 and part 2 of this series grief.)

Saying yes to any of the above questions is not necessarily good or bad, like many things in our lives right now it is simply just what it is. We are beginning to recognize the changes in ourselves from pre- quarantine to during quarantine, but we have not yet let go of the expectations from our pre-quarantine persona. We work really hard to keep ourselves busy, or get down on ourselves because we are not doing what we “thought we would do”. But holding ourselves to the standards to which we subscribed two to three months ago is an inappropriate action and has some pretty negative consequences.

Hierarchy of Needs

Abraham Maslow was the son of Jewish Immigrants from Kiev, and he grew up in Brooklyn, NY. He went to school to become a psychologist and later taught at some prestigious institutions. But the thing for which he is most known is “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”. He listed the human condition in this way:

  1. Physiological needs: These include air, water, shelter, clothing, sleep, and reproduction. The things our bodies need to survive.
  2. Safety Needs: Security of body (knowing you/your body are physically safe), security of employment, security of health, security of resources.
  3. Love and Belonging: Friendship, intimacy (emotional and sexual), family, sense of connection
  4. Esteem: Confidence, feeling like you have achieved something, respect, status, recognition, being comfortable with yourself
  5. Self-actualization: The desire to become all you can be. This includes creativity, morality, spontaneity, problem solving skills, acceptance of facts, and lack of prejudice.

(Just a small caveat before we go on. Maslow’s structure here is not based on science, but on observation of the human condition. Also, it tends to be heavily western influenced, meaning that while the first two steps are virtually universal, the next three could be in different orders depending on the culture to which a person subscribes.)

For many of us, we were operating regularly on a level 3, 4, or 5.

Where You Are Now

Right now, most of us are at 1 and 2. And how could we not be? When we now live in a world where physical touch is prohibited except in our own home, where our jobs are in jeopardy because no one knows where the money is coming from, where our liberties which we assumed are threatened, and we are forced to relearn all of our ways of connecting, how exactly would we continue to affirm ourselves, or seek out esteem, or continue almost any of that which came before? We are living on the line between before and after, and it is not normal. The standards to which we held ourselves before quarantine are no longer appropriate for our level of functioning. So, give yourself a break.

Maslow’s theory is depicted as a pyramid. While that is not an unreasonable depiction, it does insinuate that these things happen in a distinct order. The last three levels can be much more fluid than the current layout appears, but the first two are very static. We need the things our body necessitates to keep going, and then we need reassurance that it will not (and cannot) be taken away from us. And, most of us do not have that assurance. Even if your job is rock solid, we are told that we potentially cannot trust the air. Why else do we need facemasks?

Friends, it makes sense that we do not want to do the things we used to want to do. It makes sense to feel more at risk than we used to. It is even understandable to feel like (gasp) a failure. When we are holding ourselves to standards that are no longer appropriate for our level of functioning, we are going to feel like we do not measure up…because we literally cannot.

So what do you do about it?

We need to check our motivators. Ask ourselves regularly “What is motivating me to feel this way?” and really listen to the answers our body gives us. When we feel down on ourselves, go back to the 10 minutes before the feeling began. What did you do? Who did you talk to? What did you see or experience? Are the understandings to which you are subscribing (and then applying to yourself) products of before or products of now?

Letting go of the operating expectations from before and learning to live in levels 1 and 2 is, I believe, the last part of the grief process for many people. Because those understandings of our worth and function are so grounded in those expectations, letting go of them may mean letting go of the lens through which we see (and understand) ourselves. Once we are able to do that, however, we can find our way into the “after” with a new (if not improved) understanding of our needs, and the needs of those around us. 

We are doing the best we can, so give yourself a break!

Want more, listen to Kelly’s interview on our Making Sense of Ministry Podcast!

Chris has served at First Church Coral Springs as the Director of Student Ministries for 8 years. He is a graduate from Dallas Theological Seminary with his Masters in Christian Education and a Youth Ministry Institute Alumnus. He is passionate about discipling young people to become future leaders in the church.

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