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The rhythmic pounding of ocean waves might be one of the most relaxing sounds God ever created.

A couple of weeks ago, Laura and I spent a week vacationing in sunny, warm Florida. (Michigan weather, please get a clue). We took in Venice Beach on a windy day, and the waves were impressive to look at and inspiring to hear. The never-ending ebb and flow of the surf mesmerized me once again. I love watching waves. They energize and soothe me at the same time.

In a way, I think ocean waves are one of God’s creative messages about what an emotionally healthy life looks like.

Push onshore and then retreat offshore. Flow and then ebb. Work hard, then rest. Short bursts of energy, followed by moments of recess. One of Converge Coaching’s core values is “Healthy work/life rhythm.” Easy to say. Much more challenging to do.

For most leaders, the notion of a 9:00-5:00 work schedule is unrelatable. If you’re leading an organization, work doesn’t come at you in an eight-hour per day, five-day per week stretch. It comes at you like ocean waves. Times of onshore flow at different speeds and varying volumes.

The problem is, the waves of work action are challenging to regulate. If a leader is inattentive, his or her life can be all onshore flow with very little accommodation for offshore retreat. For some leaders, their work life is all flow, and no ebb, except when they collapse into bed each night, exhausted once again from a lack of healthy rhythm. Months and months of unrelenting work with little-to-no down time lays the groundwork for anxiety, burnout, and depression. If these 3 evils crash into your life, you will be forced to “ebb.” And likely for longer than you want.

How do you know if you’re out of sync emotionally? Is it even possible to know? Yes, it’s possible. Here are 4 signs that indicate you might be out of rhythm:

Sunday evening dread

If you feel a knot in your gut on Sunday nights as Monday approaches, you might be out of rhythm. (Yes, it could mean other things, like you dislike your job, or have an ornery team, etc.) But if you love what you do, and the looming week has you feeling like “Ugh” . . . you may have a rhythm problem. Pay attention to the ugh. It might be telling your work flow and ebb are out of whack.

Increased irritability

I used to think irritability was always a sign of immaturity. And while it often is simply that, sometimes irritability can be linked to a lack of rhythm. If your work life is all flow with no ebb, no matter how much you love what you do, irritability won’t be far behind. Feelings of irritation can be a God-given signal that something in your life needs attention. Maybe your irritability is the result of a string of emotionally-draining events with little-to-no-time-in-between for recuperation. Consider it a possible indicator you’re overcommitting time and emotional resources. You may be all flow with little-to-no ebb.

Endless physical ailments

If you’re encountering a string of illnesses—respiratory problems, flu, sinus infections, migraine headaches—of course these could be due to solely physical sources. But I wonder how often their source is schedule-arrhythmia? I recall on numerous occasions, when my work life was out of rhythm, that I would get sick during vacation. It happened like clockwork. My kids would complain, “Dad you always get sick on vacation.” Disappointing to them, because I wasn’t my usual fun self when ill.

Does sickness visit you more often than not? If so, it could be you’re out of rhythm.

Discomfort with down time

If you get fidgety when you’re not working, uncomfortable with taking a breather, and don’t know what to do with yourself during down time, I can almost guarantee you’re out of rhythm. God didn’t create you to be the Energizer bunny during all of your waking hours. He’s given you ocean waves as a creative reminder to work diligently, but to rest just as diligently. Short bursts of productive effort, followed by short seasons of retreat. Watch the ocean waves, and you’ll soon discover God’s rhythm for emotional health.

Work resulting in proper outcomes is a gift from God. Workaholism and laziness are perversions of that gift. They interrupt the wave action God has designed us to flow with. If you’re all flow, watch out. Soon you won’t be crashing onto a beach—you’ll be crashing into a wall. If you’re all ebb, be wary. You’re wasting time and talent, both of which God will hold you accountable for.

 

So my leader friend—if the week ahead causes a knot in your gut, if irritability is on the rise, if you’re chronically ill, or you feel restless when you’re trying to to rest, get to the beach. Watch and listen to the waves. Let the genius of God’s creation speak to you about a healthier rhythm of work and rest. And then commit to following His simple but brilliant plan for your longevity.

I’m rooting and praying for you!

John Opalewski

Author John Opalewski

John Opalewski is a graduate of Oral Roberts University. He served as a pastor for fifteen years. He has worked in the business world for nearly two decades, serving in multiple leadership roles. John's experience as a leader in both the church and business arenas has made him a sought-after international speaker, coach and mentor.

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