At some point in life, you may have an experience that helps you to redefine your priorities. I had such an experience about three weeks ago, when I took a tumble, head first, down a long and steep staircase in my home. It is a miracle that I am sitting here, able to type this column. I am still bruised, still sore, still waiting to discover what the aftermath actually means in terms of my physical condition – but I’m here. Even though I shudder whenever I think about what happened, and will no doubt have to live with some of the aftereffects of my mishap for quite some time (if not forever), I am thankful when I ponder what could have happened and didn’t.
I am thankful that I received a wake-up call that I have been too distracted, trying to do too much, too quickly, without taking appropriate care of myself. Because it is football season and I have convalesced in front of a television, I have likened my injuries to that of a quarterback who isn’t given adequate protection. In my case, since I don’t have a team to rely on, I need to provide that protection myself – but unfortunately, I didn’t.
So, why not assess your offensive line before you’re tackled and experience your own “fall” of sorts. (Remember, it doesn’t have to be a literal, physical fall, as mine was. Sometimes it can manifest in other ways: illness, irritability, exhaustion, a feeling of being overwhelmed.)
Below are some questions that you can use to determine if you are getting (or giving yourself) the “protection” that you need.
1. Do you get sufficient sleep at night? Seven to eight hours are recommended – and that means sound, uninterrupted sleep. It doesn’t mean waking up at 3 a.m. and staring at the clock until you drift back to sleep sometime before 5:30 a.m.
2. Do you eat right? That may sound simplistic, but eating healthy food is of utmost importance to keep your energy from flagging and to keep irritability at bay. Coffee is great, but it can’t sustain you throughout the day. If you rely on huge amounts of coffee to keep going, it could disturb your sleep (See item No. 1 above.).
3. Do you take time for yourself during the day? If you have the ability to step away from your desk, walk around, chat briefly with a co-worker, drink some water – anything to take your mind off your work for a few moments. It can help you to energize and re-focus.
4. Do you get any kind of physical exercise? It can be a great stress reliever, improve coordination (so you don’t fall down the stairs late at night when you’re overly tired!) and improve your mood.
5. Do you get enough time outdoors? Spending time outside can de-stress you, boost your immune system, and provide much-needed vitamin D. (Remember to wear a hat and stay away from the sun’s rays between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.)
6. Do you allow yourself to have fun? Do you spend time with family and friends? Family and friends can be a great source of support, strength and fun.
7. Do you take care of your spiritual needs? Whether it means spending time at a place of worship, spending time in nature, or engaging in a beloved hobby, feeding your spirit is one of the most important things you can do.
If you can improve these protective aspects of your life, it can help you avoid the pitfalls that result from trying to do too much.
Next, it would be a good idea just to look at your life and review the hierarchy of your priorities. For example, if you were to die tomorrow or find yourself incapacitated for some reason, what would you regret not having done? What dream do you have that has gone unfulfilled? What friends or family have you put off calling or visiting? What trips have you not taken? What books have you put off reading? Who have you failed to praise at work? Who has needed your support, but you have been too busy to give it? What did you do years ago that brought happiness, that you no longer do?
When you think about your life thus far, if you had it to do all over again, what would you do differently? What’s stopping you? We only get one chance at this. Don’t wait until “tomorrow.”•
Jonna Kane MacDougall is assistant dean for external affairs and alumni relations at the IU Robert H. McKinney School of Law. A professional career/life coach, MacDougall can be contacted at 317-775-1804 or firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are those of the author.