Justin and I have found that, while juggling homework, activities, dinners with friends, and church commitments, we often struggle to find time to rest. You may know exactly what I’m talking about – all good things, but no time to recover in between. About a year ago, we knew we had to make a change and come up with a plan to deal with the onslaught of people and activities vying for our attention, knowing that if we didn’t burnout was imminent.
We all know how easy it is for exhaustion to take root and keep us from healthy physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual lives, and today I want to discuss one method that my family uses to keep exhaustion at bay.
One Strategy For Conquering Exhaustion
In discussion with a friend, I heard about this idea of creating circles: essentially, placing people and commitments into three circles: an inner circle, middle circle, and outer circle.
It sounds a little harsh right off, doesn’t it? I thought so, too, and brushed it to the back of my mind for quite some time, but when Justin and I found ourselves facing exhaustion and total meltdown as a family we decided it was worth the try.
We are so thankful we did.
Step One: Inner Circle
To begin with, you need to come up with your inner circle. These are the people or commitments you say yes to, barring unforeseen circumstances, those that are refreshing to have around even in the hardest times. This category may include a best friend or a family member, depending on the stress level of the relationship. If you have someone you are ministering to and feel God’s calling in that, that person may also fit into this category.
Keep this inner circle to two or three individuals, couples, or families. For me, three was the most we could have, because I love to host people for food and drinks, and there are only so many weekend nights to do so.
Was it hard to whittle it down to just three? A bit, yes, but it was worth it. We can also remember that Jesus had an inner circle, the disciples, whom he rested with as well.
“Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, Jesus said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” – Mark 6:31
This concept of an inner circle is a critical first step in finding rest-filled family times.
Step Two: Middle Circle
I call the middle circle (or the next layer of sanity) the “say yes most of the time” group. You aren’t going to blow off your “just say no” weekend for this group, but you will make room in your schedule to be with them. The important part of this group is that they are people that, while truly important, don’t take priority over your immediate family time or deplete your emotional or mental reserves. If you are tired and need rest, this is the group you have to respectfully decline.
For me, this is the hardest group to deal with, mostly because I’m a “yes” person. I want to say yes to everyone in this group, but if I’m going to retain my sanity, then I have to have a plan to say no when necessary so I can rest and recharge. While it might seem harsh, having a plan in place to say no is critical for me. Without it, I will continue to say yes, even when I need to say no.
I also have to keep in mind that individuals place in this group won’t know, and I will be a healthier person to be around when I am able to say yes.
The middle circle is where I add the rest of the family (providing they are healthy relationships), any close friends I left out of the inner circle, and possibly my coworkers.
Step Three: Outer Circle
I’d just like to preface this “circle” with the fact that it’s a hard one to swallow. I don’t like the idea of excluding people from my life, and I don’t think it should be done frequently or without a lot of prayerful consideration. It is, at times necessary and that’s the reason I bring it up here.
If you haven’t already guessed, this is the circle of people and commitments that you almost always say no to. It includes people that consistently drain all of your energy, and ALREADY HAVE THEIR OWN SUPPORT SYSTEM. This is NOT the place where we exclude people just on account of not liking them.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35
For example, I have one person in my life who is exceptionally draining. She walks into a room and I really just want to hide. She’s a wonderful, Christian woman, but she and I are such polar opposites in our temperaments that it can take days for me to recover my energy after getting together with her. I’ve had to make the decision, knowing that she has a solid group of Christian friends around her, that she is not my ministry. Does it mean I don’t care about her? No, quite the opposite actually. It means, that I have to say no if I’m going to be valuable to those I am called to serve (and serve with).
This category of people (or commitments) still includes people I love, care about, and pray for, though, at this time, it is a group I am not called to.
In Every Season
This system of circles is not meant to be a way to rationalize people out of your life. The outer circle is also not a place for people you have simply chosen not to forgive. Rather, it’s a tool that, used with prayer and discernment, can help you to keep fatigue and exhaustion at bay.
Note: Each season of life comes with different influences and callings. Similarly, this system shouldn’t be set in stone. Just because someone is placed in a certain category at this time, doesn’t mean they should stay there forever. An outer circle person or commitment could join the inner circle at any time, and vice versa, so remain prayerful about who God has you ministering to throughout each season of life.
It makes me think of my money budget in some ways, in that, if I have the money set aside for the unexpected things, I won’t feel stressed or overwhelmed with sudden expenses. Similarly, if I’ve budgeted my energy and time, I can be confident and excited when I have the opportunity to say yes to the things and people that matter most.