3 signs that you might need a break

“Mom, it’s like you have a sign on you that says, “I love you, but don’t ask for any of me. I just don’t have it to give right now.”

Um, this is me. Right here. In the flesh and blood. I’m present. I showed up and I’m smiling and interacting.

Can’t you see that?

This was several months ago and I wrote it about it at the time.

When my daughter called me on this, I wanted to protest: I’m a giver. I’m here, sis. Always. Yet the reality is that she had pegged it.

I was tapped out.

As women we are givers, but sometimes we try to pour water out of an empty well. There’s signs that are flashing, but do we see them?

Those signs are a call for help. It’s asking us to sit down and reassess and ask for guidance on how to fill back up.

I know that for some of you, this seems impossible. Will you hang on with me? I get it. I do. I had three babies in 19 months. I had three teenagers. My children played sports and I juggled being in three places at the same time. Three weddings in three years. I have five grand babies with another due any moment. I was both a working mom and a stay-at-home mom in different seasons. I worked flex time in another.

In this season, I have pressing deadlines, aging parents, bills to pay, a ministry to nurture, family to love, and an empty room in my house that I’m going to decorate one day when I have time.

I know what it is to try to figure out when to take a bathroom break, and how it feels to have children peeking under the bathroom door waiting for you to come out. I know what it is to have an aging parent who needs direction, and how that hurts your heart because they used to be your rock.

I’ve been there. I am there. I don’t know if it ever becomes easy. 

But I do think it’s worth a conversation.

Recently I asked several women to describe when they knew it was time to give themselves a break. This is what they had to say:

My body is breaking down

One woman described the breakouts. No matter how she took care of her skin, her face told her that there was all kinds of stress going on inside.

Another said that she ignored sleep, staying up until late taking care of all the extras that didn’t get handled that day. She said she felt like a robot as she moved through the morning and into the afternoon. She had dark circles under eyes. Her thinking was foggy.

Is it possible that we keep going while our body is sending distress signals, asking us to:

Slow down.

Take a deep breath.

Reminding us that:

We don’t have to conquer the world.

Not everything that seems important, really is.

It’s okay to ask for help.

We’re going to ask our bodies to perform at a pretty high level for seven or more decades. Pouring out is good. Pouring back in, resting, giving ourselves permission to sleep at night, recognizing when we are stressed and adjusting or asking for help — it’s a balancing act, I know, but it’s worth it.

We need those things to function. We won’t always get them, but we can give them the priority they deserve.

When something small seems really big

My friend, Julie Barnhill, describes this as a Mount Mama moment. You’re pushing it down, and pushing it down, when suddenly something small sets off the powder keg inside and “BOOM” you go off.

It’s that word. That look. That driver in front of you. That burned dinner. That shrug.

It’s small, really, but it seems monumental because it’s one more thing you have to deal with and you’re at capacity. There’s no more room.

One thing that helped me years ago was to take a second look when someone or something was bothering me to the point of Mount Mama eruptions. You know, when it comes out of nowhere and you want to point to that person or that event and say, “He did it!”

{Click to Tweet} Pouring out is important. Pouring back in? That matters too. https://wp.me/p4jbdw-2IS

Usually, if something small became something big it wasn’t about that person or that thing. It was about me. I was irritated. Impatient. Out of sorts.

I didn’t recognize it because I hadn’t slowed down long enough to work through it.

Here were a few questions I could ask:

  • Did that person deserve my reaction?

The answer is almost always no. After a sincere apology, that leads me to the next question.

  • What is the real issue here?

Lord, show me. If it’s that I’m tired, let me rest. If it’s that I’ve been out of Your presence, thank you that You are my Source. If it’s deeper, peel away the layers and reveal where You want to heal.  

You are sending out signals of “Don’t touch me” to those closest

This is where I was. It’s what my daughter was trying to say in the gentlest way possible.

The problem was that I felt like I was present. It wasn’t that I was absent in body, but I was absent in spirit. There, but not there. My daughter said that it felt like I was there out of duty.

Oh, that hurt. Good grief that hurt to hear. 

Yet when I took a closer look (thank goodness for the gentle guidance of the Holy Spirit) I saw that there was truth in her statement. Richard was sick and going through surgery. I was in a huge deadline, working long hours. I was traveling and ministering. I was “present” with my family, and yet feeling the tug that said I wasn’t able to be with other family members (like my sister) who I loved.

It was real life and some aspects of it I couldn’t change, but I could stop and reassess and see if there were things I could do differently.

I took a couple of weeks away from the tasks that were not as immediate.


In fact, it went on quiet merrily without me. What was this teaching me? I was placing more importance on my need to do it all, and do it always, than was required. I needed to build-in margin. I needed to give myself permission to let a few things simmer while I filled back up.

I still worked. I still showed up. Yet I intentionally slowed it down.

I paid attention had to my personality and capacity. While others might thrive under deadlines that require 12-hour days, I’m not one of them. I gave myself permission to say no next time to an unrealistic deadline. I’m a hard worker. I’ll turn it in on time, because it matters to me. I didn’t need to be superwoman and do it in half the time of everyone else.

I’m listening for His voice and saying yes where I’m supposed to say yes, and whispering no where it’s applicable.

What if a break isn’t possible?

Let’s be real. Not everybody has support. There are beautiful sisters all over the world right now who desperately need a break, but if they stop there are things that will fall apart.

We need to see her. We can be a part of her “margin.”

It doesn’t have to be big. It might be giving a new mom a nap, or walking with her in the early mornings so that she has someone to talk and pray with.

That’s where we become stronger together.

We offer each other breaks. We offer each other words of encouragement. Maybe we slip a few dollars in an anonymous card so she doesn’t have to work so hard to give her child a birthday or Christmas gift.

Share a moment when you needed a break and the signs were clear.

Did you pay attention? Did you ignore them? What is one way you responded to that sign and how did it make a difference?

How has someone else stepped in to offer you rest or margin in your life?