Last week I received an e-mail from a dear friend thanking me for continuing to remind everyone that there is always value in making an effort no matter how small it might seem. If you participate in available activities at whatever level you can, you will almost always be glad you did, even when that effort is sporadic. This has been a recurring theme throughout these blog posts. But consistency of effort has also been a theme. And here we are in the middle of summer when consistency in any aspect of our lives seems elusive. If we’re not busy travelling, we’re hosting visitors. When I first moved to this tourist town I remember being told, “if you live in the Black Hills, everyone wants to come and visit you”. Many of my friends make their living during the summer months which doesn’t allow much time for anything else. As the saying goes, we all need to make hay while the sun shines. Sprinkle into this mix that kids (including children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and friends) are out of school and you have a recipe that’s guaranteed to throw your usual routines off-kilter. So how do we reconcile the need for consistency in our practices in the face of so much disruption?
My first suggestion is to do what you can. If you find some space in between commitments take advantage of it. Bring your visitors to a class or if you are the visitor, ask where you can find a class. It can fun to try something different. And if you don’t like it, you never have to do it again! Takes all the pressure off so you can just have fun. Still all the traveling and hosting can be exhausting. But according to an article in the Harvard Health blog, exercise beats caffeine when you’re feeling tired. One more reason to squeeze it in whenever you can.
Maybe you can’t fit in a class, but you can probably manage a walk. Even 15 or 20 minutes is enough to revive your energy levels and bring some color to your cheeks. If you’re out of town and don’t know where to go, head for some trees. There has been a huge amount of research lately touting the benefits of connecting with nature. A recent book called “The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier and More Creative” by Florence Williams cites numerous examples from this research. Summer is the perfect time to take advantage of these benefits. Greenery abounds. Even in inner cities. Ms. Williams says that even if you can walk down a city street where trees are growing you will feel the difference in your mood. Another article in the Harvard Health blog echoes this sentiment and takes it a step further. The article refers to an analysis published by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences which shows that time spent in “green” places is linked to longer life in women. “Specifically, there was a 13% lower rate for cancer mortality, 35% lower respiratory disease-related mortality, and 41% lower rate for kidney disease mortality in the women living in the areas with the highest levels of green vegetation.” Green things are growing all around us no matter where you live. Smile as you walk by them. It just might extend your life!
Another suggestion: remember that anything you do is better than nothing. One thing we know is that summer will end. Even if the weather doesn’t change much, the kids will go back to school, travelers become less frequent for a while and routines can resume. Anything you’ve done during the hiatus will be helpful when you get back to your regular activities. Coming back and regaining your former strength, stamina and flexibility will be that much easier if you’ve been able to practice at all, even intermittently.
Which brings me to my third suggestion: be patient and gentle with yourself. Doing a little here and there can be frustrating. You might recognize that you’ve lost some of the gains you made during regular practice. Getting them back might seem daunting and be a bit slower and more difficult than you hoped. Take heart. You got where you were once, you can get there again. Of course, if you’re recovering from a physical setback modification may also be in order. But no matter where you are, set your expectations aside and focus on the process. Try setting goals related to process rather than specific achievements. In other words, rather than saying, “I will be able to touch my toes in six weeks” try making your goal something like “I will practice regularly for the next six weeks”. The term “regular” can have any definition you like (e.g. daily, every other day, bi-weekly, weekly, whatever). Just make it something you can maintain on a consistent basis. Try to be consistent for as long as you can. Another thing you can be sure of is that life will throw curves into your best intentions. When that happens, go back to the suggestions above and return to consistency when you can.
Finally, relax and enjoy the novelty of change. Accept what is and go with the flow. Life is finite. Time is precious. If you can’t do everything you want to do, don’t beat yourself up. Just do what you can. Focus on the positive. Do what you can with what you have now and you will always be right.