Feeling exhausted? Me too. Falling-asleep-on-the-couch-at-7-p.m. exhausted. Muscles-aching-like-I-just-ran-a-marathon exhausted. Snapping-at-my-family-over-missing-lunch-boxes-and-Who-ate-the-last-piece-of-cake? exhausted.
After a full year of pandemic teaching while raising a family, taking graduate classes and finishing a novel, it’s hard to keep pushing. Which is why, my word for this summer is ‘renew.’ Our responsibilities may be different, but since I’m probably not alone in feeling exhausted, here’s my summer game plan.
‘R’ is for ‘Rest.’ Instead of constantly pushing myself to do more, I’m going to schedule at least an hour each day to rest. Not with my family, although that’s fun. But time alone, just for me. Sitting in the sun. Reading a book. Listening to music. Or just closing my eyes.
‘E’ is for ‘Exercise.’ Without it, I feel crumby. Last summer, I challenged myself to start jogging again and made it up to a couple of miles. Time to lace up my running shoes and head back out the door.
‘N’ is for ‘Nature.’ Whether weeding my garden, walking through the woods or watching a hummingbird dip its beak deep into a flower, nature rejuvenates me. Stop, breath, and take a look around. Whether it’s staring out the window, at a houseplant or spending a week camping in the great outdoors, nature is a natural mood and energy booster.
‘E’ is for ‘Eat well.’ I’m a sucker for a perfectly grilled hot dog with all the fixings, but the older I get, the more I realize how important it is to eat nurturing food – fruit smoothies, salads loaded with veggies and protein and less (OK, a lot less) sugar.
‘‘W’ is for ‘Worship,’ which nourishes my soul. It’s great to be back in church again, surrounded by piano, guitar, drums and voices. But worship is more than music. Studying with a rabbi during college, I was surprised to discover that the Jewish sense of worship includes working, learning, and using our talents in a way that honors God.
Curiously, many of these words are actions as well as objects. Resting is something we do, but it’s also a state of being. Ironically, resting requires action to cease from it. Exercise also requires action, although of a completely different kind. Too much rest can run us down just as fast as too much activity. To be truly healthy, we need balance.
‘Nature’ and ‘eating well’ go together too. The more time we spend in nature and the more natural foods we eat, the more support we provide for our minds and bodies. And while many moderns identify as non-religious, most of us worship something – success, wealth, family, celebrity, health, happiness, a home or car. To be truly healthy, re-examine what you worship. Does it bring you joy? Peace? Lasting contentment?
“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens,” Jesus said in Matthew 11:28. “And I will give you rest.”
So that’s my summer game plan. What’s yours?
Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir, Redeeming Ruth, writes from a little house in the big woods of mid-coast Maine. She is also the author of the children’s picture book The Best Birthday and four other books celebrating the holidays in a way that builds children’s faith.