Crazy Busy: How Down Time Can Save Your Sanity

How do you stay sane amidst the crazy days of life?  I’m voting for the theory of taking a day off from the hustle and bustle, the choices that make us go so fast, so long every day.  Something like this takes planning, though.  You can’t relax by accident.

I call relaxation days “productive.”  They’re amazing in the quality of life department.  Not only do I sleep better when I know that I’ve given myself permission to have a personal day, it’s more than likely going to result in my being able to accomplish more during the week.  That chill vibe lasts a good long while; not being distracted and chaotic leads me to being more focused and creative.  In the world of a writer (read: deadlines) and graduate work (read: homework) downtime allows the blood to slow, the sleep to rejuvenate, the braincells a little time off from the hectic pace of a working family.

How do you begin to relax?

First, experts recommend that you unplug from your virtual world.  It’s supposed to make all that communication and life easier, isn’t it?  Living in a cloud of virtual communication through every moment of your day also leads to greater feelings of isolation, depression and anxiety.  Although you may have posted fourteen times on Twitter and Facebook today, have to expressed meaningful thoughts and ideas in an interchange with someone you value? Turn off the phone and put it in your nightstand drawer, turn off that iDevice, and unwire from the news that flies at you 24/7. Think about renting an old black and white movie that you’ve never seen but always heard of (Casablanca, Rebbecca, etc.)  Even better, lose the boob tube and go outside to a bit of fun in the daylight sun.  A walk in the park, reading a book, or simply taking that much deserved nap – all good choices.

It's the most important thing on your "to-do" list. Self Care.

Brian’s fave way to relax is a little different than mine, although I have to admit that I really enjoy doing it with him.  We put those golf clubs into the car (all three sets, the 7 year old plays better than I do) and head out to a golf course.  Maybe we chose one here near home that is simply beautiful and we truly appreciate.  Maybe we decide to head to Tennessee, Kentucky or even Ohio for the overnight golf experience.  Either way, it’s the time together just talking and walking that makes such a difference in how we see those pressed and stressed weeks.  At least once a week in decent weather, Brian takes his clubs to work and plays nine holes on his way home, giving himself a chance to just be quiet and have his head in the game with no chatter.

If you’re a stay at home parent as I’ve been over the summer, you might suffer from “adult talk” syndrome, or the lack of communication with your own peer group.  Make sure that you schedule ‘you time,’ apart from your role as a parent or working individual, especially if you are at home after the loss of a job or with health problems.  After all, if you lose touch with you you really are – not the spouse of another person, the parent of a child, the worker at a company, the student at a school….those are all things that are part of your life….they aren’t you.  If you lose sight of that, how will you ever feel at peace and fulfilled?  I made a pact with a friend who also has small children, and we traded “day sitting” the kiddos to give the other a much needed Mommy break.  It was my mani-pedi lunch with a friend, getting my sanity back day.  Maybe it’s a rock climbing day, or a day for a hike.  Maybe it’s a spelunking for treasure at Goodwill, or volunteering at the homeless shelter. Like Brian, I am back in my groove of exercise but in a different way.  New to my schedule at school: every day except Thursday (designated “house cleaning” day) I’m at a state of the art training facility where not only can I engage in physical therapy to help strengthen and regain things like my balance (neurology issues and balance are constantly at war, it seems) and the use of all my appendages, I also take part in new classes like Yoga.  My all time favorite stress relaxer?  Kick boxing.  Really.

Here are some of the suggestions for “stay-cations” that engaged people having a day off just having fun and being themselves:

  • gardening
  • four wheel trail riding (love this)
  • workout at club
  • affirmations and riding on the bike
  • snow ski
  • rock climbing (love this more)
  • hiking (amazing relaxing)
  • reading
  • bathtubs with salts, bubbles, wine and candles (my suggestion)
  • massage, mani/pedi
  • shoe shopping
  • avoiding the mall
  • going to a motor/NASCAR/Indy race
  • garage sale shopping
  • cleaning house
  • listening to music
  • going to a play or symphony
  • all day movie marathon
  • sleeping, napping and then more sleeping

Do all things that are “fun” give us a break from the stress?

One friend expressed this idea in dialogue not to long ago, and admitted that listening to CD’s of his favorite preacher made him feel better (used with his permission.)  Still, his depression worsened when he tried to contrast his life in faith to what he was hearing from a very charismatic man – with no context.  He’s not aware of the trials the man faces, only the picture that is painted on stage.  On the stage is a person that is doing his job, even if that is preaching a religious message.  The problem with the sermons that he’s listening to is that they create a false sense of environment that provide his emotions with a rush – and his life is in total chaos.  When his emotions and his reality aren’t in sync, his depression worsens.  This is not to state that listening to a Tony Robbins, Francis Chan or a Joyce Meyer is bad – they are very helpful to encourage you.  There are many of those folks that I like to – but that isn’t relaxing, it’s building expectation that you’ll try harder.

The difference  with a person like Robbins is his follow through with actions that make a physical and emotional change in your life in the role of coach, while still maintaining a pluralistic style of faith that doesn’t exclude your own belief system, questions and crisis. Without the actual work of figuring out his relaxation techniques as a lifestyle change, the temporary fix of his religious materials gives him a false reality from which he tries to work.   It doesn’t have to be that complicated, but whatever you’re involved in to help you relax does need to address the fact that you’re plugged in beyond all ability to cope.

Paradoxically, Dr. Hallowell writes in “CrazyBusy,” it is in part the desire for control that has led people to lose it.

“You can feel like a tin can surrounded by a circle of a hundred powerful magnets,” he writes. “Many people are excessively busy because they allow themselves to respond to every magnet: tracking too much data, processing too much information, answering to too many people, taking on too many tasks — all in the sense that this is the way they must live in order to keep up and stay in control. But it’s the magnets that have the control.”

So in a down economy, how can you take a stay-cation at home that still provides the ultimate in relaxation?

For my money, it’s investing time in myself, the real me. 

I am girl, through and through. Today (Sunday in my world) is a productive day.  First on the agenda was sleeping in.  The seven year old got up, checked in with me and wandered downstairs to pull a blueberry muffin and yogurt out of her drawer in our newly revamped single fridge kitchen.  We’ve downsized fridge count since 4 of our 5 kids have flown the coop and gotten their own.  I slept blissfully until the call of coffee woke me at 9 am – we were out at the fire pit until midnight, so I didn’t feel to guilty, but I did still smell like a giant smore/wood smoke hot-dog.  One amazing cup of java while making my famous and unique egg toast Parmesan for visiting daughter Shea, and then off to the long, long, long shower that smoothed all those achy muscles that were reminding me I didn’t take the anti inflammatory steroid thingy that keeps me mobile and neurologically on the good side of my life yesterday.  Oops.  Took meds.  Drank coffee.  Then, there was lotion, deep conditioning the hair, doing the nails, a lovely massage from my hubster.

I really plan out these pamper moments.  Taking time to engage with my daughter, we make my own lotion, bath salts and incense because of several things – one, it is going to smell just like I want it to.  It’s a great girl bonding moment.  For lotions, I mix essential oils into a natural base of Vitamin E, a goats milk base, and Shea butter – no, not my kid Shea – and then the scent of the week or day.  I am in love with “Sexy for Her” at the moment for me, and Polo Red for that sexy man that I am married to.

Here is the main point.  Yes, we accomplished lots today as a family, like bagging up all of Taryn’s size 4-ish clothes that are now to small for the tall girl.  We cleared out more of the nursery, now that she’s moved across the hall from me into a “big girl room,” and the disaster that it often is begins to take shape.  I have to repaint all her shelves to antique colors instead of primary colors as they were in the nursery.  There was no really stopping or starting place…the pace is okay, whatever it is.  The nursery is about to become an addition to my bathroom and walk in closet.  That opens up another guest room on the second floor.

In the house, there are honeysuckle candles burning, the shutters keep the day’s heat out and the lights low….and it’s like a private little world where we’re all together in the peace that is us.  Phones are off, and other than this short jaunt into writing, I am a girl without a care.  Life is good.  Is it perfect?  Nope, this week is going to be tough.  Full press classes begin Monday; a court thing on Wednesday for the corporation that I own; a thirteen page affidavit to turn in with my resignation to the church where I was trained to move onto the practice of psychology/hospice work; a beloved friend and mentor that is surviving cancer who I must go visit and pray with.  I know that there are tough things out there.  I needed this afternoon to regroup and recharge before a tough new week of life.

How does the sanity of “I’m me, not my circumstances” begin?  By accepting the community and love of those around me.  Once cuddled into my favorite hockey jersey, snuggled with my kids and Brian to watch “Source Code” as the movie of the night, I doubt much that the cares of the world will bother me.  My favorite quote from the Christian bible…abased or abound, in great provision or in great need, I have learned to be peaceful, grateful, content.  I’ve learned that the greatest relaxation you can have to to do this…….

Simply be present, wholly present, in your world, in the now.

No if.

No when.

No why,



or even how much.

Life is an incredible, beautiful journey if you’ll only open your eyes to see it.  In all things, you can find amazing little pieces of joy, of hope, love. Be wholly present in the quiet of your own mind. Allow yourself to soak in warmth and relax your body.  Practice deep breathing with your eyes closed.  Use bath salts and scrub your skin in the shower, until you feel refreshed and your skin breathes in, exfoliated from the grime of the week.

And love. Love yourself relentlessly, and compliment yourself on your strengths. A very smart man once said….

βλέπομεν γὰρ ἄρτι δι’ ἐσόπτρου ἐν αἰνίγματι, τότε δὲ πρόσωπον πρὸς πρόσωπον· ἄρτι γινώσκω ἐκ μέρους, τότε δὲ ἐπιγνώσομαι καθὼς καὶ ἐπεγνώσθην. νυνὶ δὲ μένει πίστις, ἐλπίς, ἀγάπη· τὰ τρία ταῦτα, μεζων δὲ τούτων ἡ ἀγάπη.

It’s in Koine Greek, my favorite language.  It says  “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.  So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”

Where to start if your mind is in a turmoil and your life in a chaos circle? has a great article about stress release technique that begins….

Relaxation technique 1: Breathing to relax and to calm down

The most basic skill you need to allow yourself to calm down quickly and relax is controlled breathing. Taking your breathing under conscious control for some time distracts from other stressful thoughts you might have. Some breathing techniques have fast tranquilizing effect. I suggest the following breathing exercise:

  • If possible, lie down or at least sit comfortably.
  • Close your eyes and concentrate your attention on your nostrils, where air enters the nose.
  • Take a slow and deep breath in through your nose. Notice how the air is cold, entering your nose.
  • Hold your breath for a seconds holding your attention on the same spot.
  • Breath out slowly and quietly through the nose. Notice how the air is warm on your nostrils on the way out.
  • Do this for a few minutes, until you let disturbed thoughts go and feel relaxed.

The above exercise uses several techniques to calm you:

  • Closing eyes and getting in a comfortable position already induces a little relaxation.
  • Slow breathing with a stop in middle reduces the heard rate. It is especially useful when you feel agitated for some reason and need to calm down fast. You might do this at times of pressure, without all the preliminary steps, if there’s no time or place for them.
  • Concentrating on the cold and warm air moving through the nostrils occupies the mind and distracts you from other, negative thoughts, you might have. See also technique #8, Thought substitution for calming and relaxation.

Click the link above for the full article at their website.


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