Recently, I was asked at a conference how I encountered Thich Nhat Hanh. It was 1997 and I was physically and emotionally spent. I was juggling a career and three young boys, while trying to make enough time for my husband. A flier came in the mail for a retreat to learn how to renew ourselves through mindfulness. I attended the retreat and started to see the interconnectedness of my well-being and the happiness of my family. I offer these thoughts for those looking to balance their family life with their own health.
With a daily bustle of school drop-offs, endless emails and meetings, and trips to the grocery store, supporting a family is often a daunting march of balance, stamina and focus. Nurturing a family requires you to think about paying your bills, to choose and cook your dinner, and make sure you have enough time and energy to attend to each relationship or commitment.
It’s often a selfless, thankless routine, so I wanted to offer a few thoughts that have helped me over the years.
- Seeing yourself as interconnected with your family. You play an integral part in their lives. It’s really important to take the time to take care of yourself so that you have the focus, energy, and presence to share with your family.
- Acknowledge your limits. Be aware of the times when you are exhausted, stressed, or overwhelmed. Breathe in and acknowledge these states - just naming them can go a long way. Sometimes, we may also have to learn to say, ‘no’, to set boundaries with our time or work, so that we may be able to have the space to do things we enjoy and love.
- Being grateful for you. Give yourself a pat on the back. Being grateful for all that you contribute. You work hard. You show up for all the recitals and games. You cook delicious food. You create a lot of the conditions to make your family work.
- Recharge and refuel. Carve the space and time to enjoy your food. Set lunch dates for yourself as you would a meeting. Go sit in the park. Listen to your favorite song before you begin your meal. During the day, go take a walk and eat a handful of nuts or drink a glass of water. This will help maintain your blood sugar and mental focus.
- Appreciate what is there. Maybe it's a silly song your child is spontaneously singing or the way your partner says goodbye before they leave. It's often the little things that can be gifts of familial presence if we are present for them.
Your family is not only a biological extension of you, but is also affected by how you live your daily life. Learn the little ways to take care of yourself that work for you, so you can share your full presence with them day by day.
What kinds of tips work for you to recharge and refresh? Please do share with each other.
Photo courtesy of dostrakh