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When my kids were growing up, we had the sweetest Australian Shepherd/Husky mix dog, Dolly.  She was frisky and so unique with a husky tail, one blue eye and one brown.   As she grew older (lived to be 17!) and slowed down,  she spent more and more of her time lying in the sun, doing nothing.   When we’d return home after a day at work/school, Dolly would jump up as soon as we turned into the driveway and immediately start running around the yard, chasing the birds or a “potential” rabbit out in the grass, acting busy as if we’d caught her in a moment of laziness and she didn’t want us to see that she wasn’t being productive!

Surely animals don’t have the “relaxation guilt” that humans do, but I could so relate when I’d see her jump up and run.  Why do we feel guilty when we’re not productive?

Personally, I’ll have to say I was raised that way.  Growing up in a farm family with 7 siblings there was always something that had to get done and we were often reprimanded if we were sitting around.  Believe me, I was called lazy way too often to count.   I am grateful that I was raised with a focused work ethic; our western society has a “work ethic” to be admired and yet we don’t see the value in providing a balance to that hard work.   Why is it so difficult for us to relax?

VALUE – in our western, achievement oriented society, we get a lot of kudos for getting things done.  If we produce at work, do well in school, stay late at the office, and make life easier for others, we feel good about ourselves.  People compliment us and parents tell us they are proud of our hard work.   Don’t get me wrong, I value a good work ethic as well, but let’s start putting a value on “down time” to balance that out.  I remember reading something by Brandon Burchard about pushing the limit and going the extra mile, not settling for an 8-5 work focus.  But he also added that when we push like that to achieve our dreams/goals, we must make a point to take a week long break every 3 months.   A break where we totally unplug. That break is part of the equation.  Somehow we forget to do that.

CARETAKER – many woman have the “nurture” gene and feel guilty when they aren’t making someone else’s life better.   We feel guilty if we make our exercise class a priority, or if we tell our kids we can’t take them to their friends’ house because we’ll be in working out.  So we skip class and do what our kids need. Many couples don’t do date  night because the cost of a sitter seems too expensive or an extravagance.  And surely getting the laundry done and kitchen cleaned up is always more important than watching a favorite TV show once a week?!  That is a value of our society and one WE MUST turn around.   We really have to start putting a value on balance.  Yes, we want to work hard and achieve our dreams but we also want to spend time with loved ones and put our feet up once in a while.  I like to remind my clients of the instruction given by airlines, “In case of emergency, put the oxygen mask on yourself first and then assist your child in getting their mask in place.”  Doesn’t that sound backwards? Shouldn’t we put THEIR mask on first?  We all understand that we need to put our mask on so we stay conscious long enough to help our child.  Let’s try to also understand we need to take care of ourselves in order to provide value to our loved ones.  If nothing else, we’re being good role models.

CAN’T SAY NO – It’s hard, I know!  When we tell someone “no”, we feel like we’ve let them down, like we’re failing somehow and that yep, now we have less value.  We worry about what they think of us and feel bad that we didn’t step up to save them. I’ve learned so much from Chalene Johnson about “balance.”  She advises when someone asks us to take on another task, to respond with, “Thank you so much for thinking of me; let me check my calendar and get back with you.”  That gives us a “space” to really assess if we want to add one more thing to our plate.  It makes us pause so we don’t say yes out of obligation.  We can think about whether we have room in our life to do that right now and respond later with a “yes” or “no.”    Saying yes out of obligation will only lead to resentment and we’re no good to anyone, including ourselves, when we act with resentment.  Say NO!

Working hard is part of our society but we can start balancing that out, one little activity at at time.   If guilt is preventing you from taking care of yourself, that guilt is going to affect the energy you give off and you’re not going to help anyone with that! So take care of yourself and know that by doing so, you are taking better care of your family as well.

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Christie Ryan Fitness