Instead of making New Year’s resolutions, I choose a theme word for the year. A word that shapes and guides my goals for the year, a word I want to embody. Rest is my word for 2020: I want “less stress, more rest”. Naturally, I asked for (and received) Rhythms of Renewal by Rebekah Lyons for Christmas to start my year of rest.
Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose promises that “you can be rescued daily from worry, stress, and anxiety” and “create space for inner peace and discover a vibrant way forward”. Author and speaker Rebekah Lyons shares about her own struggles with anxiety and panic attacks and how implementing these simple rhythms in her life helped her overcome this battle.
Stress and anxiety can be transformed into peace and purpose. Boredom and depression can become excitement and engagement.-Rebekah Lyons
The book is divided into four sections: Rest Rhythm, Restore Rhythm, Connect Rhythm, and Create Rhythm. Rebekah writes that the first two rhythms, Rest and Restore, are input rhythms, which “allow the peace of Jesus to fill us”. The output rhythms, Connect and Create, “help us engage with the world around us” (p. 22). Each rhythm section is then divided into 7 short chapters, one for each practice that can help us pursue health and wellness. Each chapter is short (about 8 pages) and includes Rebekah’s personal story of engaging that practice, some research to support the need for the practice, and three reflection questions with room for readers to journal their answers.
The organization and structure of the book made sense and was easy to follow along. Readers could easily choose to focus on one rhythm each week, perhaps reading one of the seven chapters for each day of the week. The reflection questions allowed space to ponder Rebekah’s suggestions and apply them to my life. I also liked the inclusion of the Connect and Create rhythms, as often interpersonal relationships and work or vocation are given just a passing mention in most self-care books. I also enjoyed reading about Rebekah’s family, especially the adoption of her youngest daughter from China, and Rebekah’s grieving process after the loss of her dad. Her personal, narrative writing style makes the concepts from her book more accessible and helps readers relate to the ways another busy mom has implemented these practices in her life.
Rest precedes blessing. We don’t have to run to earn rest; we run fueled by a posture of rest.-Rebekah Lyons
Many of Rebekah’s suggestions seemed common-sense and are covered more adequately elsewhere. For example, ten pages on “eating smart” and eight pages on sleep practices will not revolutionize anyone’s eating or sleep habits. They were good reminders of the importance of some health habits but did not provide much new insight or inspiration. As a psychologist, I’m hesitant to recommend this book as a resource for overcoming serious mental health issues like depression and anxiety, as the book’s description seems to suggest. Most of the suggestions in the book would benefit readers who are moderately high-functioning and experience ordinary levels of stress and worry. I appreciate Rebekah’s vulnerability and openness about her struggle with mental health issues, and I admire her desire to help others overcome their emotional challenges. However, for those with true mental illnesses, or debilitating levels of distress, the suggestions in this book will not even touch their pain. This book will help relatively healthy readers make some changes to improve their quality of life, but for those with diagnosed mental illness or emotional disturbances that are impairing their lives, intensive therapy to change ingrained negative patterns of thinking is likely necessary.
Rhythms of Renewal promises to provide “new insights into wholehearted living” through “heartening stories, helpful research, and actionable steps” (inside book flap). I did enjoy the heart-warming stories, and I found some suggestions helpful, such creating a morning routine and practicing Sabbath. We could all use reminders to take more walks, hug our friends, and work with our hands to relieve stress. The companion study guide and five-week video Bible study will no doubt appeal to women’s Bible studies and church groups. However, for those who crave a more in-depth path to wholeness, I suggest they look at other resources such as Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection.