“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness.” – Albert Einstein
In all honesty, this past year was challenging for me. The demands of my teaching career and my desire to care for my health and family seemed to clash at times. Most days, I was left wondering when I would be able to simply rest. So, when COVID-19 hit and we entered a state of quarantine, I got serious about slowing down and resting. When I made this change, my body began to heal.
These are the steps that I took and continue to take to maintain my health and wellness:
1. Prayer and Study Time
Lately, I have become more intentional about my prayer time with the Lord. In the mornings, I start my day talking to the Lord in prayer and reading a devotional or Bible passage. Sometimes, I will even play some light praise and worship music while I get ready in the mornings. This helps me to focus my attention on God and it gives me the clarity that I need to start my day. As I move throughout my day, I find that I am better equipped to deal with the challenges that come my way when I start my day focused on God.
I make time to rest. If time permits, I will take a nap for at least 30-45 minutes before undertaking another major task during the course of my day. Also, I turn off my electronic devices at least an hour before I lay down for the evening and I strive to go to bed no later than 10:00 PM. This allows me to get between 8-9 hours of sleep each day. This helps me to have better mental focus and more energy throughout my day.
3. Eat Nourishing Food
Everyday, I make it a priority to drink plenty of water to keep my body hydrated. I always start my day with a hot lemon water. Sometimes, I will chop fresh ginger and boil it into the water before adding my freshly squeezed lemon juice.
Throughout my day, I will drink at least half of my bodyweight in ounces daily. For example, I drink at least 65 ounces of water per day. This also allows me to better sense when I am full after eating a meal. Dehydration can make you feel hungry when you are actually thirsty.
I will have an organic fruit smoothie or hearty fruit bowl as my first meal of the day. If it is the weekend, I will typically eat some type of porridge following the smoothie or fruit bowl. Then, lunch is often the largest meal of my day. For lunch, as a vegan, I like to eat plenty of healthy raw and cooked greens, beans, seeds and nuts for protein and other important nutrients. I strive to work protein and iron rich foods into every meal to avoid vitamin and mineral deficiencies. I also take herbal supplements to aid with iron absorption. For this reason, I also try to minimize my intake of foods that have compounds that are iron inhibitors.
For dinner, I will often opt for something lighter like a hot soup or stew followed by another delicious organic fruit smoothie to end my day. Typically, I will not eat anything after 8:00 PM because I try not to eat within two hours of going to bed. This allows my body time to digest the food and it often means a better night's sleep for me.
I strive to focus on the things that I am thankful for. I often make lists of things that I am thankful for on my phone notebook to help me refocus my thinking, especially when I have had a challenging day. This helps shift my perspective and lightens my mood in that moment. In life there will always be challenges. Likewise, each day there are things to be thankful for.
5. Eliminate and Work Smarter
I have had to clear my plate to make room for the most important things in my life. Despite my incredible drive and motivation towards excellence, I am not superwoman! That means like anyone else I have a burnout point, and I am truly not my best self when I am spread too thin. So, I have started to perfect the practice of simply saying “no.” It can be challenging but it is necessary for my overall health and wellbeing.
Within the past five months, I have had to say no to some amazing opportunities in order to preserve my health and maintain my top priorities. In doing so, I have given myself more space and time for self-care. Now, I also have more time to spend with family and friends.
Additionally, removing certain things from my schedule has allowed me to work more efficiently as a teacher. While I enjoy serving others, I recognize my limitations and I choose to make time for myself.
6. Get Moving and Create
When I have time to be creative, I find that I become more creative in other areas of my life such as teaching in the classroom. Before we moved to online learning, this was one of my biggest frustrations. Most days, I never had time to engage in creative writing or to do other creative projects. It seemed like teaching consumed most of my time. This was a point of frustration because writing, among other things, is a stress reliever for me. I enjoy the process and it allows me to relax.
Similarly, I enjoy working out at the gym and going for walks. It challenges me physically and aids in reducing my stress load---my walks especially enable me to simply breathe and relax. I think everyone has something that helps them to ease their bodies and these are two of the main ways that I release stress. Moments of solitude are essential for me, especially when I have had a crazy day.
7. Family and friends
Spending time with my family and friends brings me joy. I love to laugh and relax. So, there are certain family and friends that I gravitate towards because I know that they are going to make me laugh and allow me to let down my guard and be myself. Whether it is over a cup of tea or talking on the phone, this brings me a sense of calm.
Now, as I prepare for a new school year, I am determined to keep this balance to preserve my overall health and wellness. I hope that you will find a way to do the same for yourself.
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