Tim Bergsten created this Ning Network.

I have a problem that I’m betting many of you have as well – I’m really, really busy. Besides my day job to pay the mortgage, my days are filled with side jobs, exercise plans, kid activities, volunteer ventures and even meager attempts to socialize with my friends and husband when I can squeeze it in. While my enthusiasm and passion for so many different hobbies and social activities typically leaves me feeling happy, productive and fulfilled, there are those days when I am simply irritable, tired and desperately wanting to fling myself off the bullet train that represents so many of our lives. Only in recent days, as I find new ways to cope with this symptom, have I discovered the new-to-me concept of “slowing down.” This doesn’t necessarily mean doing less activities or interacting any less, but rather giving myself permission to first identify some small pick-me-ups along the way and not grumble about the time or energy it take to indulge.

For example, due to the recent snow days, I’ve been challenged to make more hours up at work or risk having to utilize a bit more of my vacation hours than planned. I’ve been up at 4-4:30am (many thanks to my five dogs) and some nights not gotten home until after 8:30pm because I’ve got even more appointments and obligations after my ten hour work day. I’m shuttling, scheduling, planning and coordinating myself into oblivion. I’ve come home dragging and snapping at my poor husband, kids and animals before I realized that I was, in fact, wearing myself thin. Sure, I love what I do, but how much can you really squeeze into one day and accomplish before it starts to wear on your body and mind?

I began to realize that this discontent is because while I do get satisfaction in being productive, driving change, and developing new ideas, the fact was that I was being truly less than generous and giving to myself. I let my workouts slip and either became irritable that they weren’t happening or guilty when I got it done because surely there was something or someone else more deserving of my time. My car was filthy from the mud-covered roads to my house, constantly leaving small, annoying dirt smears on my pants as I hopped in and out to work, causing more irritation and minor stress. I hastily threw together lunches and went through several packages of ramen at my desk because I felt I was running too late in the morning to pack real food. I felt guilty if I took the time to indulge these details because it clearly meant I was absorbing time and energy from other surely more important tasks.

It was then I decided that the only real fix was to satisfy the things that WEREN’T always getting done because I put it on the back burner of importance and then let it weigh on my mind as a symbol of nagging failure of my part that I couldn’t seem to squeeze it in my tight, mental calendar of essential tasks.

I finally decided to give myself permission to take my own time. Though I (again) didn’t jump out of bed quite early enough for a longer run, I decided that 20 minutes was better than nothing and ran some quick intervals on the treadmill to satisfy my workout bug. This was in lieu of already declaring myself a failure before 6am and then whining for the rest of the afternoon about how fat I’m getting and how I really should have worked out. Afterwards, I even put in a few minutes toward my recent planking endeavor though my inner crazed maniac was screaming that I should hurry and be in the shower before I have to wake the kids up for school. I made myself a nice salad for lunch with all of my favorite ingredients and though I had to get the kids to the bus stop before I could pack my usual small breakfast, I stopped to fuel up my car on the way to work (even before my usual stress causing habit of waiting for the NO CRAP YOU NEED FUEL LIGHT) and splurged on some awesome, fancy yogurt at the convenience store and jammed to some satellite radio while sitting in the car wash to remove all the annoying muck that was ruining my outfits each and every day. Mind you, it was a bit of mental gymnastics to stop the screaming in the back of my mind that was saying “my-god-you’re-late-what-the-hell-are-you-doing-get-moving-you-slacker”, but my new, more rational brain was saying that I would feel better arriving to work with a full tank, a clean car and a rare treat for breakfast that I don’t normally get. Sure, it might mean I have to utilize another hour of vacation time at the end of the week, but the return on that investment was far more than the cost.

I hope we’ll all take the time to realize that while what we do is certainly important, there is nothing more important than taking care of your physical and mental well-being. I don’t always remember that, but lately, I’ve had to pull from old lessons to keep myself in check. Without taking care of YOU, you aren’t able to contribute elsewhere in the ways that you would surely prefer.

Tonight, I’m going to let the second load of laundry wait and hit the YMCA with my younger son, who likes to play “dueling stair-steppers” with me while my oldest is at a teen group meeting nearby. I might even swing through Taco Bell (GASP) and blare my favorite CD on the way home because everyone needs some time to play.

Have a great weekend, find your own fun amidst the chaos and I’ll be “slowing down” at the Winter Series III ten mile race. No pressure. Slow, slow, slow. :)  

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