Sometimes you need a break, and that’s OK. Resting is not merely being unproductive and inactive--it is restoring our energy for the work that is still ahead of us. In the midst of a highly-anxious time, of a strenuous effort, of a stressful stretch, it is important to find moments of rest. We need moments to mentally and spiritually refresh.
Taking a break from the stressful to pay attention to our spiritual well-being helps us move outside of ourselves. The Mayo Clinic notes spirituality is no less of a stress reliever than exercise or eating healthy foods. In tending to our spiritual sides, we become a bit more aware of the reality of the world beyond our slice of it. We are reminded the world is bigger than us--that reminder is often refreshing. We also receive reminders that there is a greater power beyond ourselves that helps to influence our world for good. Through spiritual practices, we feel increased senses of purpose, connectedness and perspective.
If you could use to connect with a deeper sense of purpose or connection, try one of these seven spiritually healthy ways to take a break and refresh.
Some may call this meditation. While centering prayer is meditative in practice, it ultimately moves our focus off of our internal states and onto God’s presence. It becomes a prayer as we find ourselves falling into God’s presence.
One simple way to practice centering prayer is to find a comfortable spot to sit for a bit, choose a word that reminds you of God, then mentally repeat that word to yourself as you sit. A variation of the practice involves using a holy symbol or picture of something spiritual. The image should represent God’s presence, and offer us a place to visually focus while our minds contemplate God’s presence. Learn more about centering prayer.
Why do we often repeat the same prayers week after week in Christian worship services? Simply put: because they connect us across space and time. It’s meaningful for us that we are speaking sentiments that thousands of others are speaking, too--not just in the present, but across history, as well. There’s a deep sense of connection in those old prayers.
Do you have any of the old liturgical prayers memorized? The Lord’s Prayer is likely the most common. Another oft-repeated prayer in United Methodist circles is this prayer of illumination:
Open wide the window of our spirits, O Lord, and fill us full of light; open wide the door of our hearts, that we may receive and entertain thee with all our powers of adoration and love. Amen – Christina Rossetti, England, UMH #477
Songs often fill the role of shared prayer, too. This could be your invitation to sing along with one of your favorite worship tunes. We’ve assembled a list of oldies and goodies that are widely known--and have been vetted for a healthy theology.
Did you know our breath reminds us of God’s presence? The ancient Hebrew name for God is “Yahweh”--which, when spoken, sounds quite similar to breathing.
Breath prayer is a means for centering ourselves in God. As we breathe in, we imaging pulling in God’s refreshing presence. As we exhale, we let go of that which hinders us, or we speak out our request for God.
What are you grateful for right now? Answering that question leads to a deep awareness of the good things around us--many of which we tend to take for granted. Take a moment to name the things you’re thankful for. It’s a rewarding practice.
Answering similar probing questions enlighten us to God’s movement throughout our days. Ignatius of Loyola developed The Examen for prayerfully considering spiritual moments in our lives. Ignatian Examen involves five steps:
- Become aware of God’s presence.
- Review the day with gratitude.
- Pay attention to your emotions.
- Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
- Look toward tomorrow.
For a deeper look, see this infographic.
Do something nice for someone else
Acts of kindness are great stress relievers--for both you and the person served! The moment you’re feeling your grumpiest might be the right time to do something kind: send an encouraging note, bring a friend a cup of coffee, or sign up to volunteer with your favorite service agency.
Welcome some more ideas? We outlined eight ways to serve during social distancing.
Take a reading break
Invest in connecting with ancient wisdom and spend a bit of time diving into a spiritual text. Of course, we believe the Bible is a great option. Other useful books include The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence and Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Merton.
Take a walk
The feeling of the sun on the back of our necks... the gentle pass of the breeze through our hair... the chirp of a bird in the distance... All serve as reminders of a world that holds goodness and beauty. That is refreshing. Additionally, movement and fresh air have therapeutic physiological effects.