For the past couple of years I have had a goal: A life in balance. An essential part of this balance has been the ongoing challenge to reclaim my weekends and learning how to relax.
This past week I found myself reminiscing about my weekends as a child. Our family weekend routine began Friday evenings when my mom got off work. My sister, Cindy, and I would pile into the car with mom and we would head to McDonald’s. We would take the food home and chat about our day. Saturday mornings would find us watching cartoons while eating breakfast in our pajamas. Mom was always at work on Saturday so Cindy and I would do our chores and then spend the rest of the day playing with the neighborhood kids or doing arts and craft type projects in our apartment. Sunday was church and mom’s day off so we always spent the day as a family. Often, mom’s best friend, Brenda, would have us over for dinner Sunday evening. She made the best fried chicken and coleslaw ever. 🙂 Obviously, my memories predate my vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Ha ha.
Mom always saved all of her errands for Monday. She worked full time at Woolworth department store and in addition she often worked several nights a week at Hallmark. Sunday was her day to be with us and nothing else.
There is nothing outwardly remarkable in my recollections of my weekends as a child. In fact it all sounds rather mundane. Yet, it wasn’t. It was full of love. It was restorative and relaxing.
Somewhere in my 20’s things started to change. I found myself working several jobs, stressing about everything , and being just plain too busy all of the time. This change didn’t happen over night. It was many years of trying to please others. My mind could not rest and because I was not rested I never really felt like I accomplished or finished anything to the best of my ability. During many wonderful family events I was secretly worried that I was not preparing enough for the upcoming week. Worried about how others perceived my work ethic, and worried about doing things perfectly all of the time. I was rarely completely in the moment. This constant worry showed in my demeanor and in my actions. It was reflected in my mental and physical health. In recent years I have regained the wisdom of my youth. I need time to relax. I need a life in balance. It is a necessity, not only for my career, but for my well being as I age.
While I am still working on finding balance in my life, I have found several things that are useful in relaxing on my time off and regaining balance in my life and in my mind.
Let the work week go: This can be difficult, Many of us are passionate about our careers. In addition, many of us want to be perceived as efficient, valuable employees. This puts us in a mindset where we are always worried about what we should be doing and what should be done. In order to be effective we need to have time away both mentally physically from our job. Away from the pressure, the relationships, and the physical space. Even if we love our career, a couple days spent with friends and family makes us all the more refreshed on Monday.
Get outside: Fresh air and sunshine are vital for our health. Take a walk in a park or around your neighborhood. Fill up the tires on your bike and take a ride. Head into nature and take a hike or go for a run. A couple hours spent outdoors can free the mind and erase a week of stress in no time.
Hang Out with those who matter or call someone: Take time to connect with important people in your life. Be social. Circumstances change and we never know how long we will be able to spend time with those who are most important to us.
Create and release your inner artist: Writing, painting, taking a photo, adult coloring books, are all good ways to release creativity. Heck, painting by numbers can be fun. Do not judge your creations. Remember how fun finger painting was as a kid? I bet a few select works of art even ended up on your parent’s refrigerator door. It’s the process that is fun. You don’t have to share your creations with anyone unless you feel inspired.
Enjoy your home: Cook a special meal or bake a cake. Rearrange a room. Add a new candle or plant. Spend the day enjoying your space.
Feed your soul: If you have a spiritual practice, dedicate time to it. Meditate, practice gratitude, go to church, journal, or read. Do whatever it is that helps quiet your mind and restores inner balance.
If you must work; schedule a block of time to get things done: Sometimes our careers need attention after hours. As a teacher, I know that the hours on the clock do not dictate when I begin or end the work day. The clock only dictates when I will be in the presence of children. This is true of many professions. If you must complete work on a weekend or day off, schedule that time into your day. Stick to a time frame. In five years you will not remember what was so important that you had to work on your day off. You will, however, remember not being fully present at a birthday party once a child is grown or a parent is gone.
I have come to realize that our work and our obligations are never ending. We must learn to set time aside for ourselves and our loved ones. If we do not, we are no good to anyone. It is better to leave things be as they are until Monday than to be distracted and exhausted seven days a week.
As always, I would love to hear your thoughts on relaxing and keeping your life in balance.
Until next time,