How do I balance feeding my soul and relaxing?

In our hurried pace of life, our souls are crying out for rest and refreshment. Trying to figure out what that looks like can feel like a full-time occupation by itself. There are so many opinions and ideas out there. Figuring out how to feed my soul and make time for rest has been a journey over the past several years. I find it tends to change and shift frequently for different seasons and different levels of overwhelm and tiredness.
When I first read this question in my inbox, my initial reaction was that they are the same thing. Spending time relaxing and unwinding does feed my soul. When I took a moment to ponder it, I recognised the underlying inference as for the same tendency in my own mind and heart to expect achievement even in my relaxation. I can so often have a picture in my mind of my rest time being spent reading some deep book, meditating on Scripture or delving into a topic I want to learn more about. I feel guilty when I spend time playing a game on my tablet, binge-watching Netflix or reading a mindless novel. Maybe you can relate to those expectations on yourself?
For me, I have come to realise that there is no such thing as balance in this. There are simply different needs that are met through all of these and more. I genuinely have moments, and even days, when my brain needs to have a total escape through games or stories. On those days, I feel recharged doing those things. On other days, those same activities leave me feeling even more drained. I have come to recognise that my soul needed feeding not a distraction at that time.
The trick is to try to recognise that early when choosing what to do next. I have started trying to ask myself some questions to help me figure it out:
·      What else is happening in my life this week?
·      Do I have the emotional and mental capacity to engage in something soul-enriching or learning?
·      When did I last connect with God?
·      How often have I turned to distraction recently?
·      What timeframe do I have?
These questions help me to filter through my expectations to get a glimpse at what my soul needs at that moment. If I see that my life is very full, my capacity low and the time on my hands (or that can be created) I  allow myself to unwind with distraction. Conversely, if I see a pattern of constant distraction that has become my default, that I haven’t been connecting with God and that I am just as drained with the distraction, I choose something more enriching.
I make no claims at doing this perfectly. I am, however, giving myself permission to unwind with distraction when I need to. I am giving you permission to do the same. I am exploring what feeds my soul and how creativity both unwinds and enriches me to the core. Maybe some of the questions above can help you to figure out what you need at that particular time. Maybe you will develop your own questions that guide you. I cannot give you hard and fast “rules” or formulae for working this out. I can only encourage you to keep searching, keep exploring and keep redefining what works for you.

This post is part of a series for Write 31 Days called “For Your Encouragement.” I am taking requests from readers on what they want encouragement about and responding to the best of my ability. I would love to hear from you.

You can read the rest of the posts in this series here.