As a woman, wife, and mother, I often get caught up on caring for others, including feeding the dog, doing laundry, cleaning the house, and generally making sure that the household runs smoothly. This is, by the way, in addition to working full-time at a liberal arts college, pursuing an MBA, and being a community organizer.
But I know I can’t do all those things if I don’t take care of myself. I need lots of energy to get through the long days of work, studying, and organizing. Over the years, I’ve realized that there are five key things I need to be well — physically, mentally, and spiritually.
People say sleep is overrated. I say it is underrated! A good night’s sleep means I’m ready to face the next day with enthusiasm. Getting enough sleep is a commitment. It means listening to your body and your mind to know when it’s time to go to bed. Keeping a regular sleep schedule is key. I use Dr. Andrew Weil’s 4–7–8 breathing exercise to help calm my body and prepare for deep rest. It is like magic.
I was the kid who spent every free moment in the library and kept a flashlight by my bed, so I could continue reading after my parents turned the lights out. I *love* to read! But when I started my first grown-up job, I got so wrapped up in the work that I stopped reading. For years, it felt like part of me was missing, and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I finally realized I had to find time for reading. So I started getting up 30 minutes earlier to read with my breakfast. Now, I read in the morning and at night and in long stretches on the weekends. I feel whole again.
When you work from home, which I’m doing this year, in a sedentary job, it’s easy to sit most of the day. This is the worst thing you can do for your body, and especially your brain. Everything is better when you move your body: digestion, mood, muscle tone, cardiovascular health, energy, the list goes on. Most days, I spend some time on the treadmill, but I also try to work walking into my daily routine. I walk to the library, to the coffee shop, with my dog, and often in the woods. It’s a way to connect with friends, my partner, and myself!
“I sing because I’m happy” begins the refrain of the familiar spiritual, “His Eye Is on the Sparrow.” But could it also be that singing makes us happy? Singing, playing, creating. I grew up in a family where music was part of life. We sang before we could talk. My siblings and I sang in choir, played in orchestra, and even had a pop band in high school. I’ve continued to be involved in music, especially leading church choirs, but also sitting at my piano and singing my heart out. I have cried at that piano, but also experienced flow — when you are so engrossed in what you’re doing that you don’t realize the time is passing. So I say, thank you for the music!
Nothing is more important in my self-care routine than taking a weekly day of rest. Some call this Sabbath. Others call it a Holy Day. For me, it’s about unplugging from the constant information flow, slowing my pace, and going inward. I’ll make a dent in whatever novel I’m reading. I might meet up with a friend for a hike or visit a museum with my husband. Sometimes I go to church. And I almost always talk to my mom. Mondays are always better after a day of rest. This practice keeps me balanced and sane.
Originally published at medium.com