Reclaiming Our Time

Two days ago I was talking to my grandson and he asked me why I don’t crochet anymore. (I used to make him and his sisters hats and scarves every winter when they were young. He’s sixteen now.) I finally had to answer him with the words, ” I don’t know.” Truly, I can’t remember making a conscious decision to stop crocheting. Over the last several days, I’ve discovered I’ve stopped doing several things that I once enjoyed. As I investigated this idea of giving up things you enjoy without realizing it, I found that many of my friends and loved ones have done likewise. The running theme seemed to be, ” I don’t have time to do it anymore. With the job, the kids, the running around, something had to go.”

Those things that had to go were too often the things that helped us to relax, feel useful, feel a sense of fulfillment, and self-satisfaction. Everything from woodworking, sewing, gardening, arts and crafts, painting, needlepoint, collectibles, cook-outs, bowling, and myriad of leisure activities went away because of our busy schedules. Instead of being well rounded, we’ve suffered from schedule stress. (Love that alliteration.)

Who would have thought stress was related to our loss of leisure time activities. Psychologists tell us that children and adults suffer stress from overloaded schedules. Our to-do list have taken over our lives because we don’t schedule breaks or time-off; we don’t see leisure enjoyment as a critical need. Boy, have I been there! Before the pandemic, my schedule consisted of work and providing transportation for the kids.

Many days I left work on my way to the dance studio to drop off or pick up my granddaughter or to pick up my mom from the house to transport her to the store or church. I practically lived in my car. I ate meals in my car, I wrote poetry in my car, I made return phone calls in my call, I did lesson planning in my car, and I took naps in my car. Needless to say when I got home the only thing I was in for was going to bed. This cycle continued day after day, week after week, month after month. It became the norm.

For many of us the pandemic changed all that, but for some heart attack, stroke, exhaustion, depression, and emotional strain was the change agent. I’ve actually heard some people grateful for the break that the Pandemic gave them from the “rat race.” Now that’s sad, yet it does offer all of us an opportunity to reevaluate our schedules. Our time and our priorities should correlate with our needs and our necessities as social beings. Needs meaning the material and physical requirements for living, and necessities meaning our relationships, spiritual, and personal growth.

Establishing routines and reclaiming our time and talents is possible now. As we head back to work, we can begin setting our schedules to include every part of our being. As I have written in the past, I make an effort to “fill my bucket” with things that bring me joy. I may not crochet in the near future, but it won’t be because I don’t have time for it. It will be because I’m doing something else that relaxes me, fulfills me, or brings me satisfaction. The rat race can not longer be my norm. Life is too short. (Another lesson from the pandemic.) No more living in my car. No more over-scheduling myself and my family members, No more saying “yes” to everyone except myself. No more saying “no” to the things that matter. I won’t miss living a well-rounded life because I’m over worked and over taxed.

Let’s use these days of social distancing and quarantine to reclaim and redefine our time. Let’s begin prioritizing our lives so that we enjoy living rather than dread it. If I’ve learned nothing else during this time of pandemic, I have learned that the things I thought I couldn’t live without didn’t matter as much as I thought they did. Nothing matters as much as my family, and friends, and our well-being, and our being together safe and healthy. (Yes, that’s a run-on sentence 🙂

It’s your choice. What do you want out of the time you have? You can reclaim or redefine it in a way that makes you whole and joyful.

Time Smart: How to Reclaim Your Time and Live a Happier Life
Four out of five adults report feeling they are time-poor: They have too much to do and not enough time to do it. And the consequences are severe. The time-poor experience less joy each day. They laugh less. They are less healthy, less productive, and more likely to divorce. In one study of 2.5 million Americans, time stress produced a stronger negative effect on happiness than unemployment.

How Did I Get So Busy?: The 28-Day Plan to Free Your Time and Reconnect with What Matters Most
There’s no doubt about it: these days we are just too busy. With the conveniences of technology, we’re compelled to get more done in less time and end up constantly striving for the next thing – rarely stopping to consider if it’s something we even want. As a result, we end up missing out on the things that truly matter: our relationships, the activities we love, quiet time to reflect and replenish our energy.

Routines in a “New Normal”

As a teacher, routines are everything. Students, especially young students, perform better when routines are well established. They help the children establish good habits ( and in some case healthy habits like brushing their teeth) and feel comfortable with transitions. Children feel and work better when they know what comes next. Routines help them establish trust in their relationships with the teacher and their peers. They also help children trust the environment.

Routines also help with time management. After all there is a schedule of activities that must be adhered to at school and for that matter in most work places in their future. I have found that routines are important to me not only as a teacher, but as a person. Routines help me cope with change and control my stress levels. They become critical in maintaining my mental and emotional health.

I have struggled with depression for many years of my life. One of the ways, I control this is well-established routines. My daily routines reduce my anxieties while giving me things to look forward to. This is how I learned to use things to “fill my bucket” (see Jan. 9th conversation), and establish self-care (see Feb 8th conversation). Routines inform my daily schedule. So, I was thrown for a loop when the Corona-virus changed everything.

The first week of being home wasn’t bad. It was like a vacation break. The second week became more strained when businesses began to close and going out was curtailed. By week three, I was starting to feel the stress. Depression was waiting at the door of my sub-conscious as I began to process our “new normal.” My morning routines gave way to staying in bed. My walks gave way to watching too much daytime TV, my writing time gave way to trying to work from home with virtual learning, my reading time gave way to playing card games on my tablet. My morale was in a slow motion fall; not only mine, but most of my family.

During this time, my husband kept working. His job has not shut down. One day I noticed his mood and attitude seemed upbeat compared to the rest of us. (I won’t lie, that ticked me off.) I asked myself, ‘what does he have to be so happy about?’ I fumed over it for several days, especially when he would come in and ask me how my day was or what I had done all day. Then one day when I was forcing myself to work on rewriting a poem, it hit me. His routine hadn’t changed. His life hadn’t been interrupted in the same way that ours had. (Can you see the light bulb?)

The wheels in this creative head began to turn. The next day I got up, dressed like I was going to work, went to the kitchen table for my devotional time, ate my yogurt, and pulled out my laptop for a day’s work. I felt better. The next day I got up, made my bed, did my hair, put on my favorite earrings, and followed the routine from the day before. The third day, I added a drive to the schedule. My mom and I went for a drive just to see the spring flowers and trees. We didn’t get out of the vehicle; we just enjoyed the view and the conversation. Now we have a new routine. I felt grounded. I felt better.

Our new routines give us things to look forward to, as well as purpose. There are transitions in the schedule which helps the day to move along. There are activities in the day that keep my mind stimulated and my emotions in check. (I even have an answer to my husband’s inquiries when he gets home, instead of resentment.) Yesterday, I made spinach wraps for dinner. (Trying new recipes is one of my favorite pastimes, we call it “Chopped Wannabe)

Routines are important to the entire family. I’m helping my mom and my granddaughter establish “new normal” routines, and we’re all smiling more. Our life has a new schedule. Thank goodness, I don’t have to get up at five in the morning, but I do a have to get up, and I do have to “Cease the Day!” How about you? Is your spirit lagging? Do you feel the blues going on, or see it in your children? Perhaps it time to set some very important “new normal” routines in your family.

A guide to the early morning habits that boost your productivity and relax you—featuring interviews with leaders like Arianna Huffington, General Stanley McChrystal, Marie Kondo, and more.

Self-Care, a Non-Negotiable

Why is it when you say self-care to most people they start talking about manicures, pedicures, massages, man caves, and nights out with the girls/boys? I’m for all of that, but these things are not self-care; they are rewards. In some cases, it’s more stressful to fit these things into your schedule which defeats the purpose of self-care. Self-Care should prevent stress or at least mange it. That’s why self-care should be non-negotiable. After all, how can we be our very best selves if we aren’t taking care of ourselves. How do you define self-care?

Here’s my take on it. Self-Care encompasses all those things which keep you (or get you to the point of) health: physically, mentally, and spiritually. These include things like rest, sleep, hydration, nutrition, intellectual stimuli/input, exercise (especially stretches), healthy relationships, and spiritual enrichment. In other words, self-care is taking care of your authentic self – the you without the masks of your business or social personas. It’s the things that make you thrive; the things that bring you joy, peace, comfort, and health. Wow! That’s a mouthful!

What I’m trying to get at is, we don’t pay enough attention to taking care of ourselves. We spend so much of our time taking care of others that we become the last man on the totem pole. So our families, our co-workers, our civic, community, and church responsibilities all get taken care of while we fall apart in every area of our lives. Unfortunately, I speak from experience. One day I realized my health on every level (physically, mentally, and spiritually) was deteriorating because all of my attention was focused on helping everyone else, even when they really didn’t need or accept my help.

Self-Care has to become a non-negotiable. Hopefully, this realization comes before it’s too late – before the heart attack, before the overwhelming depression, before the loss of good relationships you needed to nurture, before dreams and life goals suffer, and before you lose yourself completely. Maybe it’s time to ask yourself? Is my lifestyle making me miserable? Is it because my life takes the backseat to everyone else’s life?

Even if you have suffered some losses as I have, you can start where you are. Begin a self-care regiment and make it a priority! Get enough sleep and rest. Don’t just fit it in where you can, make it a precedent. Eat nutritious meals at regular intervals of the day and hydrate. (Red Bull and coffee is not a meal!) Your body needs fuel and rest to function properly. Feed your intellect and your spirit with truth and joy. Exercise your body and your mind. Surround yourself with wholesome relationships, people who share your interests and have your best interest at heart. Avoid takers! (That could be a topic in and of itself!)

As I work on my own self-care, I’m finding that I enjoy my life more. I look forward to the things that keep me healthy: reading a good book, enjoying my favorite fresh fruit (mangoes, and cherries), cooking specialty dishes (love my Food Network app) , listening to good music, spending time in prayer and meditation, taking a long walks, catching a nap after work, spending time with my friends, date night with my husband, lunch and conversation with my mom, writing, singing, solitude in my favorite places. My self-care may have come late, but it came just in time for me to enjoy my life and work toward my dreams and goals with real energy.

How’s your self-care? Is it on the back burner? Do you have time for yourself or are you so busy working and caring for others that there is no time for you? Has the needs of others negotiated your self-care away? Think about that image of the airline oxygen mask. Put your mask on first, then you can help someone else put on their’s. It’s not too late to save your life! Choose to be a healthy you. Make self-care a priority.

Self-Care: A Day and Night Reflection Journal (90 Days)
Designing Your Life: How to Build a Well-Lived, Joyful Life