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Say the Magic Word
September 12, 2007
Last week, I wrote about rest and asked readers, “How do you rest when there are so many things you have to or want to do?” I didn’t get any replies. Either you’re not interested, or you haven’t had any ideas that worked. Just in case, here are some strategies that might.
Go see your mother. No, not that mother. I’m talking about Mother Nature. Watch the animals—some of them may work pretty hard, but you never see them check their cell phones for messages. They know how to relax. Or look at the lilies of the field. Jesus said they don’t toil or spin—he was right. There are no workaholic flowers. Spending time in nature is a great way to reduce stress and help your body heal.
Practice peace. Meditation and/or focused breathing have been great healing practices for thousands of years. All you have to do is sit there and focus on one thing: your breathing, a candle, any beautiful object or living thing, or anything at all. Your mind will wander to thoughts of the day, but just let it go, then gently bring it back to your breath. More relaxing than sleep. Prayer can also be a powerful healer in this way, as you focus on your higher power or an object of devotion.
Schedule downtime. It’s just like exercise, blood glucose monitoring, studying for a test, or anything else. You’re much more likely to rest if you schedule rest time in advance. You still might have trouble sticking to the schedule, but at least you’ve got a chance. Lunch breaks often make good rest times, and a few minutes of break after work, before jumping into family stuff, might make your evening go a lot better.
Pay attention. Do you ever notice that your life seems to be flying past you faster and faster? It could be that you’re flying by it instead. Charles Kuralt, who chronicled America’s byways in his show “On the Road,” used to say, “Thanks to the interstate highway system, it is now possible to travel across the country, from coast to coast, without seeing anything.” Unfortunately, many of us race through our lives, from birth coast to death coast, without appreciating most of what we experience.
Practice taking the time to really appreciate the good things in your life. One way is to make a list each night of five things you were thankful for that day. Another is to do it as a family activity: Go around the table and ask each person to say one thing they appreciate that day. If you know you’ll have to write it or say it, you’ll be more likely to pay attention in the first place.
Relaxing on the move. Exercise can be a form of relaxation. Walking, stretching, tai chi, swimming, and many other forms of movement can be relaxing. Just focus on the sensations or the sights and sounds, instead of on the errands you have to do later on. Even housework can be relaxing if we approach it as meditation, focusing on the activity or on our breathing.
Say the magic word. When you’re a child, the magic words are “Please” and “Thank You.” When you’re an adult, especially one with a chronic illness, the magic word is “No,” and the more you use it, the better your life is likely to go.
Canadian doctor Gabor Maté wrote a book called When the Body Says No. He shows that if we don’t learn to say no for ourselves, our bodies will say it for us by getting sick or even dying.
Don’t go that way. We don’t have to do everything, for everybody, all the time. Doing for others is good, but we have to find a balance between doing for others, doing for ourselves, and not doing.
The same applies to good offers that come our way. Your friend gets tickets to a show. You might want to go, but do you really have energy for it? Will you be able to relax? It might be worth a little stress and fatigue, but at least think about it. An invitation is not a summons. Someone offers you chocolate cake. You may want it, but you don’t have to take it. Be polite about it; people will understand. “I’m too tired to go with you tonight, but I would love to next week.”
I hope this helps. (If not, write me for more.) Let me know how it’s going. You can see more articles on slowing down at my Web site, www.davidsperorn.com. Post comments here or send them there.
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