Athletes will tell you that working out is not the most important part of training. Recovery is. The number one cause of athletic injuries is the lack of recovery time between training sessions.
Let me repeat this because it’s so counterintuitive—recovery is more important to athletic performance than training is. Your body needs to rest and repair between periods of exertion. “By not letting each of the muscle groups rest, a person will reduce their ability to repair. Insufficient rest also slows fitness progression and increases the risk of injury.” (Jayne Leonard, How to Build Muscle with Exercise)
That’s very orienting. It’s a physical expression of a reality that applies to your heart and soul as well. We could probably predict who’s going to burn out and who’s not by looking at their recovery practices.
But most people don’t take their recovery seriously. They’re simply shocked and heartbroken when their soul suddenly gives out, like a camel who has walked a thousand miles and drops. How will you build recovery into your life? What’s your plan?*
Healing from trauma involves naming what the trauma was, and what its effects upon us have been. This is the “story work” every good therapist helps their client through: What happened? What was it like? Tell me the story. (This “narrative approach” helps process trauma and rewires the brain.)
You can’t heal trauma without grieving it. This is why the mad rush to grab some joy and the global denial insisting that “things are getting back to normal” are cruel to the soul. It’s a shared attempt to sweep it all under the rug, but the problem is a good part of your soul goes right along with it. Under the rug.
I want to suggest two things:
First, look back to name what these years have been like for you. Name the losses, the fears, the sources of your anger and frustration. Imagine I’m your therapist and I’ve just asked you:
What’s it been like for you?
What’s been hard?
What made you mad?
What do you wish had never happened?
Put it all out there. Honor it. Grieve it.
Second, pay attention in the current moment. It’s far better to do this in real time—name what the current moment feels like, what it’s demanding of you, how it’s impacting your soul. Stay current with the cost of living in an hour like this. When you have a heart for humanity, when you share Jesus’ compassion for people, communities, and creation, you’re going to experience a lot of heartache in an hour like this one. Care for your soul by putting words to what it’s like. Don’t just pretend everything is fine.
By the way, this is exactly what is modeled for us in the Psalms—David and the other writers cry out to God with deeply raw descriptions of what is happening all around them, and how it makes them feel. Read Psalms 6, 13, and 42 for examples. Let them be your guide to emotional health.