Why Bother Stepping Away?

Why Bother Stepping Away?

I have been experiencing more stress than I thought. Normally, I carry the pressures of my job with ease. The routines I practice to maintain my health; exercise, meditation, eating well and getting a good night’s rest, usually keep me balanced. But this week was different. Though I wasn’t sure what I needed, my body told me I needed something more to get me through the week. So, when a new friend of mine suggested that I take Friday off from work, I considered it to be just what I needed.                 

           Stepping Away

I’ve become quite fond of Mrs. C., a relatively new employee and fast friend at my school. After she retired from a different district in another  state, she and her husband moved to our community. Starting out as a volunteer art teacher, she was soon hired to work part time as an aid in my classroom. 

Her enthusiasm, humility, cheerfulness and insights makes her a blessing to work with. She is not only aware of the needs of my students, but she is attentive to what I need too. 

For instance, every spring, I work with the music teacher to produce a musical performance depicting the history of Idaho. It is a lot of work. There are lines to memorize, songs to sing, poems to write and costumes to create. And then there are the rehearsals. 

On Tuesday, two days before the performance, I rehearsed the play one more time with my students. Mrs. C. stood nearby to assist wherever she could. The boys were restless, the girls were nervous and forgot their lines. I was tired and my patience was nearly gone. But we made it through our rehearsal and when I turned to Mrs. C. to ask how she thought it went she said,“Oh, it was lovely and they will do great, but I think you should take Friday off.”     

We filed back to the classroom and got back to work, but Mrs. C’s words stuck in my brain, “You should take Friday off.” 

I considered her remark. Taking a day off is never easy. There is no guarantee of finding a substitute teacher and if I were lucky to get one then there are the lesson plans to create. My first thought was that it is too much work to take a day off, but by the end of the day, I’d changed my mind. The thought blossomed into a plan.  

First, I approached my principal who approved my request. “You haven’t taken a personal day all year. I think you should take Friday off,” he said. 

Then, someone chose to substitute for me and I created an easy plan for them to follow.  Thursday the day of the play arrived. The boys settled down and took their parts seriously, and the girls remembered their lines. The performance was a hit. And now today, Friday, I am not going into my classroom. Instead, I am staying home.  

At first I was a little embarrassed that Mrs. C. saw my stress. But now I am only grateful.  Mrs. C. was right. I needed to take the day off.

Why bother stepping away? It is worth it to step away from our work when possible. Whether we know it or someone else points it out to us, taking a day off is simply what a body sometimes needs.

Why Bother Knowing When You Are Distressed?


Why Bother Knowing When You Are Distressed?

The other day, my husband noticed that someone was flying an American flag upside down. I am not sure these people understand the message that an upside down flag relays, but according to the American Legion, “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.” 

What Are Your Signs of Distress?

Sometimes we do experience dire distress from ordinary living. But more importantly, we need to recognize the signals our bodies send when under stress. 

 Before recognizing my own stress and some of its symptoms, I’d always associated stress to something only high powered executives suffered from. I was wrong. Stress occurs in everyone at sometime. The old, the young, men, women, rich or poor, no one is immune. 

Shortly after I became the mother of a newborn, I lost so much weight that it alerted a friend of mine. She noticed my gauntness one day and said, “You are way too thin,” and handed me a giant homemade chocolate chip cookie. I savored its tasty morsels while ruminating on her words. 

I was a tightly wound and nervous new mother. I’d stayed alert to the needs of my newborn while neglecting my own. The damage I’d done to my own body had gone undetected by me until my friend’s words woke me up. If I were to be the good mom I was trying so hard to be, then I’d need to learn how to take care of the one and only body that would carry me through the rest of my life. That was a lesson I learned a long time ago, and one I’ve never forgotten. 

Stress or tension is nothing we can avoid, but we can pay attention to our body and the messages it relays when we feel overwhelmed. When the demands for me at work are high, my body accelerates. I want to move fast in order to get everything done. But I’ve learned that when I feel the tyranny of the urgent ramping up inside of me, I actually have to do the opposite; slow down. Running on the adrenaline my body produces under pressure only defeats my productivity.  As contrary as it feels for me to move unhurried, that is precisely what I need to do. Then, eventually, my mind complies with what my body is saying and synchronization between mind and body occurs. The result is productivity, the very thing I’m after.

Knowing my natural tendencies is the best way to know when I am in dire straits as well as how to prevent self inflicted tension. My inclination is to do things for myself and by myself.  Asking for help is hard, but I’m learning that it is okay to ask. 

I gravitate toward overcommitting and set high expectations for myself. But then I pause, and think twice. Are these expectations realistic? Are they necessary? Scratching one or two of these expectations from my list leaves space for a moment or two of leisure; contrary, yet vital for anybody like me. 

Why bother knowing when you are distressed? It is worth noting whether you’re flying your flag right-side up or upside down. If it is upside down, then listen. Your body is trying to tell you something.