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Open space

Open space…it is rare these days, especially if you open your calendar or dayplanner.

I left my last job because it demanded that I give all of my open space to the company…that I basically was on call all the time for whatever “emergency” the company deemed necessary to do immediately. There was no regard for family time, self care, or just plain old breathing room. If you weren’t in the hospital or in jail, there was no other reason important enough to decline an invitation to resolve their latest crisis.

I landed in the hospital a few years back and I firmly believe it was due 100% to the fact that I had zero breathing room. There was never a moment in my day where I felt like I could just sit still and “be.” There was always something I could be, should be, needed to be doing which meant there was no time for being still, reflecting, resting, recharging, or filling my tank. Everything on my to do list became “necessary” and there was “nothing I could possibly cut out.”

We all know that “life happens” which meant, with a cram packed schedule already, there was no wiggle room to fit in the unexpected. This caused anxiety to skyrocket and the stress was beyond what I could handle. My body protested and my immune system went on strike causing me to get an infection in my throat called epiglotitus. It is life threatening in that it causes your throat to swell, closing off your airway. It is the closest I have ever been to dying and it still causes me great anxiety just thinking about the incident. I spent 3 days in the hospital on heavy duty antibiotics and I obviously survived but it was a major wake up call to me that I needed to take a very hard look at my lifestyle.

I didn’t make changes overnight and I struggled with my health and the same insane schedule for several more years until my life took an enormous shift. I married a man who recognized my problem and, when I became paralyzed with the belief that I didn’t have a choice in how my day played out, he was willing to step in and do something about it. He gently forced me to take a hard look at why I thought I couldn’t say no when someone “needed” me and then helped me actually say “no” when I needed to. This was a whole new territory for me and it was through his support that I was able to do it at all.

About the same time I started a bible study by Priscilla Shirer called “Breathe.” I met with a friend of mine every week and we worked our way through the book together, sharing our hearts and ideas. I began to declutter my day planner until I had it pared down to the most important things (my priorities)… that was the plan anyway. I didn’t quite make it to that ultimate goal until much later, but that part of the story brings in a whole other topic and will have to be told another day. God was working on my heart, preparing me to make more big changes later.

The best things that came out of that study were things that I could immediately start working on. I began to build some new healthy habits and those are still working for me today. Here are a few..

On Sunday, make a list of all the things you need and want to do for the week.

Review your priorities and fill in your schedule with those most important things first.

Each night, before you go to bed, make a schedule for tomorrow.

Leave open space in your dayplanner every single day for the unexpected…even if nothing unexpected pops up, sometimes what we have planned takes longer than we anticipate and if not, use that time to rest, reflect, recharge…do NOT cram something else into that empty space.

Put self care on your schedule EVERY SINGLE DAY. This does not have to be anything major…a bubble bath, a cup of coffee out on the porch, a walk around the neighborhood…self care means you do something all by yourself to refresh your spirit. And don’t be like me and tell yourself you don’t have time! MAKE THE TIME to keep your mind and body healthy!

Do you have breathing room in your daily schedule? Do you see it as a necessity or simply a luxury?

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