Sunday, April 29, 2012

Taking a Break

You would be amazed at the number of people I treat who never take a day off. Or maybe you wouldn't be surprised--maybe you don't take a break, either. I don't mean a "working break"--going to the beach with your laptop and email, and doing business while you watch the kids play. While it may be a nice fill in, that doesn't cut it for a real break.

I mean a day off--a real, no one can reach me, don't call me, business is put down for while--no work--day off. The kind we used to take when no one had email or cell phones. The world didn't end because someone else had to fill in for a day or two, and people were able to recharge. To really separate themselves from their jobs, and relax without interruption.

I am fortunate that my religious practices give me that break. Every 7th day, I take the day OFF. Nothing short of a true emergency (the Bible calls it "an ox in a ditch"-you're the only one there to help, and great suffering will result if you don't act) will intrude on my break, called the Sabbath. Even 50 years ago, most people had a day set aside for rest and their spiritual practice. These days, even those devoted to their beliefs hesitate to take time away from work for spiritual renewal. Throughout the year, I keep other religious festivals ranging from one day to over a week to celebrate my beliefs and remind me life is more than my career, however rewarding it may be.

Having those times off is truly a blessing. Because it is part of my belief system, it transcends my temporary wants and needs. It's a rule in my life, so I don't have to rethink it each week or each year and decide if I "can afford"-financially or otherwise--to "miss" the time. It's regular, so I don't have long stretches of unbroken work with no relief in sight. As I keep my renewal days, I incorporate spiritual practice to the exclusion of housework or yard work, so my "day off" doesn't become "cleaning day," as happens to so many others. My mind gets a rest from teasing out patient problems, house duties, paperwork, phone calls, and all the other little things that constitute work. I spend times with like-minded friends and family, and come back refreshed.

I got into my profession because I love what I do, but even a job you love will wear you down with no breaks. Whatever your beliefs, consider giving yourself one day a week to be completely disengaged from work of any kind. At first it may seem overly indulgent, impossible, or even slightly crazy--but I've done it most of my life, and once you establish it as a personal rule, you'd be surprised how easy--and essential--it becomes.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Importance of Starting the Day Properly

Grab the keys--wait! Find the keys, find the purse, grab those papers, rush out the door. Oh, no! Forgot breakfast, forgot to brush my teeth--did I put on deodorant? No time to go back. Hurry, hurry, hurry to work--people are waiting. . . .

Does this sound like your morning? I know I've had a few in my time. How do you feel the rest of the day? Behind, rushed, waiting for the other Things You Forgot to jump up and grab you. Over the years, I've reduced the number of "rush mornings." I hope you will, too. Here's why:
  1. Rushing messes with your nervous system. In acupuncture, everything is about qi. The closest Western counterpart I've been able to find to qi is the working of your nervous system. Having to lunge for stuff and run out the door triggers your stress response. If your stress response is over-stimulated, it can lead to chronic health problems, such as hypertension, poor sleep, anxiety, high cholesterol, and digestive problems.
  2. You lose a beautiful day. I've rushed out the door, on the road, and off to work before I even notice the sun in the sky, the delicate breeze in the air, the smell of honeysuckle, or freshly mown grass, or the beauty of flowers. Rushing makes us change our focus to the things we need to survive. You lose the joy of just enjoying your surroundings.
  3. You affect other people. I hate to be around people who are rushing. I feel in the way, nervous waiting for the frustrated outburst they seem on the verge of having, and unable to help them. If I'm in the middle of a project myself, it's hard to concentrate with a rushed person making a whirlwind around me. If I am doing something peaceful and enjoyable, their fractured energy makes it hard to continue my recreation. If you want to serve your fellow man, try to live your life so you don't have to rush.
We will all have times when we need to pick up the pace. Sometimes we have things we absolutely must do, and the only way to do them is to pack the obligations in and rush from one to the other. There will be times the alarm does not go off, the traffic slows you down, or life just does not go your way. But when you can exert control over your schedule, try not to rush. Savor the time in your life--it's a limited supply!