Another school year has arrived. As we start the new year, I am reminded of parents and students telling me about their after-school struggles. One struggle in particular comes to mind—the struggle of after-school exhaustion. A student comes home from school and suddenly feels exhausted, physically and emotionally drained. There are chores to do and homework to complete, but they don’t want to do anything but sleep.
Before you think this is a sign that your child is lazy, consider the results of studies published in Current Biology on August 1, 2022. These studies “used magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to monitor brain chemistry over the course of a workday.” The findings suggest that thinking hard (aka—doing challenging cognitive tasks) over several hours produces fatigue through a buildup of glutamate in the brain. Rest and sleep are essential to eliminate this excess. In other words, the mental exercise of attending school and focusing on academic work all day may actually bring a child to a state of mental fatigue. And mental fatigue is a signal that we need stop working and rest. If we ignore that signal, we will likely shift toward investing little effort and accepting short-term rewards for that effort. In a practical sense, that means doing shoddy work (whether on chores or homework) just to say it’s finished.
What can you and your child do to overcome this mental exhaustion? Here are 2 simple suggestions.
Allow your child some down-time to rest after school. Don’t become harsh or critical because you assume your child is lazy and telling them so. Accept that they may have worked hard all day and need a break. A 20-minute power nap can do wonders.
Establish a positive bedtime routine to encourage a good night’s sleep. A good night’s sleep is important to our mental and physical health. It may not prevent after-school exhaustion, but it will help promote more success in with school and overall health.
Last weekend we changed our clocks, “springing forward” into daylight savings time. In the process, we lost an hour sleep. That, on top of the fact that most of us do not sleep the recommended 7-9 hours a day, makes today the perfect day for a nap…and National Napping Day. Actually, every day is a good day for a nap. According to the Sleep Foundation naps not only reduce sleepiness, they also improve learning, aid in memory retention, and help us regulate emotions. Napping also strengthens our immune, reduce cardiovascular disease risk, boost work performance, reduces stress, and decrease risk of cognitive dysfunction. (see Benefits of Napping | Sleep.org ). In addition, napping as a family can help your family “get in sync” and in rhythm with one another. And, according to the “Nap Bishop,” if you’re looking for a way to resist the overworking mentality of our society that leads to burnout and contributes to oppression, napping is the resistance in which you need to engage. So, call the family together, grab your pillows, and resolve to take care of yourself. Take a nap.
The Journal of Consumer Research published a series of studies drawing participants from Italy and the United States. They discovered that U.S. citizens associated busyness with status. We tend to view people as important when they skip leisure and work all the time, even complaining they “have no life” because of work or desperately “need a vacation” but are too busy to take one (Lack of leisure: Is busyness the new status symbol?). Unfortunately, this mindset is deadly to a healthy marriage and family. In fact, according to a Baylor University study in 2016 the best predictor of happiness within families was spending time together engaged in familiar leisure activities (Pleasant family leisure at home may satisfy families more than fun together elsewhere, study finds). As overwork and busyness have become status symbols, we have become enslaved to the slave driver of our cultural frenzy. But familiar leisure time at home promotes family happiness, not constant running and busyness. This presents a “bit of conundrum,” doesn’t it? Ah, but I have a solution, an ancient solution that we often overlook when considering our marriages. A healthy marriage needs rest, not just any rest but a Marital Sabbath Rest. A Marital Sabbath Rest will help us experience the rhythm of God in our marriages, a rhythm that invites us to look forward to reigniting our love together, savoring our connection in the moment, and remembering who we are as couples. A Marital Sabbath Rest will restore God’s freedom from the slave drivers that compel us to overwork so we can experience the gift of freedom to worship and rest. A Marital Sabbath will refocus our perspective on our delight for our spouses. It will allow us the time to “re-create” and revitalize the unity God has given us in marriage. Status will not give a lifetime of joy; a happy marriage will. We need a Marital Sabbath Rest to restore that knowledge. To incorporate a Martial Sabbath Rest into your marriage:
Set time aside for you and your spouse. Develop a simply ritual to separate your Marital Sabbath Rest from the rest of the week. The ritual can be as simple as lighting a candle or eating a meal together. Just establish the activity as one that signals the change from “regular time” to “Marital Sabbath Rest time.”
Acknowledge, adore, and admire. Begin your Marital Sabbath Rest by acknowledging your spouse. Recognize and thank your spouse for their investment in your marriage and your home. Tell them one or two things you admire about them. Let them know a couple of things you adore about them. This can also serve as part of the ritual separating the Marital Sabbath Rest from the rest of the week.
Enjoy a meal together. During your meal, enjoy conversation. Save conversation you know will lead to heated disagreement for another time and enjoy friendly, fun-filled conversation with one another. Speak to one another as friends and lovers. Recall times of celebrations. Discuss dreams and anticipate future fun. Share your meals.
Play. Stop working to accomplish something and simply enjoy your time together. Don’t worry about time; savor the “eternal moment” of play and love. Forget about productivity and just enjoy God’s gift of your spouse and your marriage.
Rest. Take a walk. Sit on the porch. Listen to some music. Relax. Go to bed a little early and enjoy your spouse. This is a time to relish in your relationship and savor the intimacy that culminates from a day of enjoying one another.
I know enjoying a Marital Sabbath Rest takes a little preparation and effort. However, the dividends are amazing—a greater peace, a growing sense of security, an increasing joy, and a deepening intimacy.
A couple walked into my office seeking couple’s therapy. They were at their whit’s end. They have a faint memory of loving one another but that love has long since been replaced with frustration, bitterness, and sorrow. Hope was hanging on by a thread. Coming to me was their last ditch effort to restore something they had lost long ago. They were tired of the old marriage they had fallen into and needed something new.
As this couple spoke with me, an image of the resurrected Christ appearing before Thomas came to mind with the words, “Behold, I make all things new” ( I realize this statement does not occur when Jesus appeared to Thomas, but both came to mind…). Later, as I thought about that passing image, I realized how drastically Jesus had changed things, how “He had made all things new.” He stood before Thomas still recognizable in body and speech. But, everything had changed.
He still had the body that everyone recognized as belonging to Jesus, but His body had changed. The old body, the mortal body that had died on a cross was made new. He now had an imperishable body, an immortal body, a resurrected body.
He still had the marks of nails in His hands and feet, the pierce of the sword in His side. But these had transformed. They no longer represented pain, torture, and death. They had been made new. They now represent forgiveness, redemption, salvation, and love.
Jesus stood in their presence. He ate their food. In this sense, He appeared very similar. But, all things had been made new. He didn’t walk through the door, He simply appeared. And, His very presence transformed hopelessness and fear into hope and anticipation.
Truly, everything had been made new. As time progressed, even the disciples were made new. Those who lacked understanding became wise in the Word of the Lord. Those who lived in fear became courageous. Those who wanted to rain down fire on a village become loving. All things were made new.
I know it sounds simplistic but if you want “all things to be made new” in your life, your marriage, or your family begin with prayer. I’m not saying change is easy. I’m not suggesting suddenly all things will be made new while you do nothing. Jesus endured shame and humiliation to make all things new. He had to practice radical obedience “even to the point of death” to make all things new. You will have to take some radical action as well…actions that will feel uncomfortable, actions that will challenge you, actions that may even prove painful. The scars will still be there…but they will be made new. The pain will be a memory…but it will be made new. So if you want change get ready to work. Hard. And begin that work with prayer because He makes all things new.