Monday, October 5, 2009

Back to Basics

I've been quiet here as of late. The last two weeks have found me feeling depleted of energy with barely enough to get me through the day at the office, let alone work on anything demanding even an ounce of brain power here at home.

When I feel like that I know it's time to scale back to basics, so for the past few weeks I did just that.

Basics no doubt vary from one person to another and although they'll most likely shift depending on one's life circumstances, I tend to gravitate towards a few standards:

Sleep. Power naps after work on weekdays, morning or afternoon naps on weekends, early bedtime all around. I make a point to stay away from anything that gets my mind into high gear before going to bed and try to give myself at least an hour to transition from high-functioning wake to sleep.

Morning pages. A practice introduced to me by Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way 10 years ago, I strive to write them on a daily basis. When I fall off the wagon I notice; I get cranky and easily overwhelmed. On the flip side, when I do them I feel more centered and at peace. Sometimes sleep trumps my morning pages, but I can only sacrifice the pages for so long before the benefits brought by an extra half hour of shut-eye are lost.

Food. Not just any food but decent, as-healthy-as-possible meals. On some days it means two toasts with a piece of cheese for dinner, on others it means ordering a quarter chicken meal with sweet potato fries from a favourite (healthy!) restaurant or temporarily carbing up on Pad Thai. It's all about keeping it simple and as healthy as possible without too much pressure for perfection.

Water. It's easy for me to forget my daily quota of H2O yet it helps with energy and mental clarity. Drinking water is a habit; often it's simply a question of remembering to have a glass by my side for easy sipping.

Quiet/couch time. This is time spent reading a book or a magazine, enjoying a favourite movie or something completely different borrowed from the library, or just hanging out with D. and Cassie. It may involve the odd bowl of chips and for the most part, it involves being curled up in a wool blanket.

A clean house. Home is my foundation. It's where I seek comfort and a space to lay my weary body, mind and soul. When all I see are dirty clothes and fur balls the size of watermelons I feel frazzled, which is not the state of mind I want to create for myself or for others who share my space. So bit by bit as energy levels allow, I tackle the piles and the fur balls - one sock and one dark corner at a time.

Computer-free time. Yesterday I experimented with not turning on my PC. Initially I thought I'd leave it off until late afternoon or after dinner, but about halfway through the morning I silently declared (read: tentatively committed to it without making it known so I could back out at any time) the day to be entirely computer-free. It was an enlightening and productive experiment that allowed me more time to take care of basics listed above. I might touch on this more in a later post.

Although these things may seem simple and easy to accomplish, they can be easy to forget and sometimes difficult to carry through.

When scaling back, one of the hardest things for me to accept is that I might - scratch that, will - miss out on something else. It takes a lot of practice for me to let go of creative projects, toss out expectations and pause for rest and recuperation. Ultimately though it comes down to the price I'm willing to pay for my health and in turn, the health of my relationships. And when I do scale back, I'm rarely disappointed with the results.

Tell me, what are your Basics?


  1. Oh, this is lovely. Have you been reading my mind? I spent some time yesterday outlining my basics (in an effort to get back to them) as I have, too, been feeling frazzled and a little worn down the past few weeks.

    My basics include: alone time (very hard to come by as a single mom), LOTS of exercise, healthy food, water, sleep (again, hard to come by), quality time with Riley, time to write, time with those who soothe my soul, nurturing my spiritual growth, and good books.

    It can be hard to put our basics first, but i'm a firm believer in coming back to them again and again. It's necessary.

    thank you, love. this is just what I needed to read today.


  2. Good list Steph - a lot of mine are the same. I love your idea of turning off -( or not even turning ON) the computer on a Sunday. At first I was like whaaa? but I think it would be very enlightening and I would get some stuff done!
    I think I need to ban the books for the day too though, otherwise I would spend the day reading! and that for me is another form of escape and procrastination.
    Thanks for the idea!


  3. I should take a page from your book and turn off the darn computer! getting sucked in too much lately and I can always find an excuse for being there. Time to turn it off and do more reading, writing, playing and spending time in nature to recharge my batteries! Thanks for the reminder, roomie.