When It Absolutely, Positively, Has to Be: Five Tips to Do a BIG THING

Photo Credit: Escultura


Usually, my blog is about taking time out, getting rest, and honoring your needs. I usually advocate taking more time off than you think is necessary, and avoiding the mindset that you “have” to do much of anything if you are tired or need renewal time. 

But sometimes, you have to show up, no matter how you feel. I call this a Big Thing. If someone is sick, or you’re out of sick days, or there’s something that is too good for your overall goals, well-being, or future for you to sidestep it, you have to be there. How can you have the show go on when you want to drop the curtain and beg off?

  1. Do as many health-enhancing habits as possible while you are overextended. If you must work long hours, invest the extra time or money into eating healthy food. Be sure to get at least a tiny amount of exercise, even if it means five minutes of stretching while you listen on a conference call. Sleep as much as you possibly can while still getting your Big Thing done. Naps are great tucked in after lunch (pun intended).
  2. Set limits around your Big Thing. Set some kind of limit on how far you will push yourself. If there is a new baby, or a sick family member, organize a sitter for a few hours each week. If you have a big project at work, put in a few hours on a regular schedule for a break–a nap, a movie, an afternoon off–stagger the time among co-workers if necessary. No one works well with no breaks at all. And whenever possible set a deadline. “If I have not solved this problem within three weeks, I will set it aside for a week before I deal with it again.”
  3. Ask for help, and take help that is offered. For some reason, asking for help is anathema to some people. But most people want to help their friends, family, and co-workers, knowing they will need help one day, too. So if your mother offers to make some meals so you have time to take your daughter to rehearsals for the school play, thank her profusely–and accept! If you have a co-worker willing and able to accept your phone call list while you handle your budget shortfall, thank her, and take her out to lunch when the crisis is over. Most people suffer more from stress than necessary simply by not taking help that is offered.
  4. Give yourself permission to let down in something. If you are at your parents’ house every night while Dad recovers from hip surgery, don’t worry about your normal housework. Or the dishes. If you live alone, and can’t get someone to help you, use paper plates or order the healthiest takeout you can find to save time on cleaning up later. Maybe the weekly pizza get-together at work can be shelved until you have the newest promotion done. Or you can cut your exercise time in half for a few days a week until you learn French for your trip to Europe. While you don’t want to abandon all standards or healthy activities, don’t beat yourself up if you let a few things slide here and there in pursuit of the greater good. 
  5. Reward yourself when The Big Thing is over. My weak point is rewarding myself for an accomplishment, so I want to be sure to preach about it. If you and those around you have worked hard on anything, whether the ending worked out as you hoped or not, reward yourself for your effort. Take the office to dinner when big sale is over–whether you broke any records or not. When the kitchen is finally renovated, invite friends over for a celebration cooking extravaganza. When you spend a month helping your son prepare for his finals, go to the beach for the day when it’s done–with an extra treat if he aces it. If your Big Thing is something that is not rewardable, like taking care of a sick relative who dies, you still need to rejuvenate. Take time off work to sleep, think about your loved one, or get a massage and talk to friends. You have worked hard for something, and you need to refill your reserve tank so you can enjoy the rest of your life.
Big Things can come in all shapes and sizes. When you decide something is worth more of your energy than you have to give, make sure it’s worth the hours you are taking from your life. Then use these tips to allow you to do your Big Thing and come out the other side still ready for action.
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Part Five of the Five Taxations: Maybe ‘Stand Up, Stand Up’ Is Not Always Best

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Today is Part Five of our Five Taxation series. First, a quick review:

Part 1: Goldilocks and the Five Taxations: An Introduction
Chinese medicine advocates balance in everything. Even activities that seem harmless, or are considered positive by most people, should only be done in balance. Too much of any activity will cause an imbalance somewhere else.

Part 2: I Can See Clearly Now: To Observe Over a Long Time Harms the Blood
Our eyes are sensitive to overwork. Because of the connections they have with the Liver, Gallbladder, and Wood Element in Chinese medicine, overusing your eyes can hurt your health over time.

Part 3: Get Up and Boogie: Excessive Lying Down, Which Damages Flesh
Lying down too much means you cannot be getting enough exercise. Inadequate exercise leads to a host of problems, including blood sugar issues, poor circulation, obesity, and has been linked to dementia and poor stress management.

Part 4: Sitting Needs Moderation 
“Oversitting” is at least as bad as “excessive lying down,” with the same issues plus more problems with posture.

And today’s entry, “excessive standing, which injures bones.” 

These days, standing is in vogue. There are standing desks, standing meetings, and advice to never, ever, ever sit.  

As with most things advised in our modern world, Chinese medicine would disagree with such an all-or-nothing approach. Standing for long periods is hard on the blood vessels in the legs, increasing the risk of carotid atherosclerosis ninefold, as well as contributing to varicose veins. For many people, it can aggravate back, foot, or knee pain, especially if the surface they need to stand on is too unyielding. It can also cause fatigue if there is no option to sit or rest.

Chinese medicine sees standing too long as harmful to the bones. The bones are governed by the Water element, which also includes the Kidney and Bladder systems. More than the organs that filter and excrete urine, in the Chinese medical system they also have a major role in maintaining you jing, or essence–which deals with your reproductive health as well as your “reserve energy”–the well you go to when you’re exhausted but need to keep going. Anything that taxes this system will make it harder for you to overcome stress, especially long-term, unrelenting stress that eats at your peace.

So what’s a person to do? Don’t look out too much. Don’t sit too long, don’t stand too long, don’t lie down too much, and don’t walk a lot (our next and final taxation)–unless you can levitate, there’s only one answer left someone seeking the wisdom of a millenia-old system of medicine. Do a little bit of all of them. Sit sometimes, stand a little, lie down to rest, and walk enough for exercise, but not to exhaustion. Our bodies are made for lots of different activities. In our computer age, we have made sitting and exercise-for-exercise’s sake our primary movements. How about we try other things? Walk with a friend, or walk or bike to get from Point A to Point B. Stretch to rock climb, or reach something from a high shelf, or to dance to music. Lay down on the grass and look at the clouds. Or let your eyes rest, and listen to the birds and the breeze and the sound of children laughing. Stand to greet others, or to give your seat to someone who is tired and needs the rest. If you want other ideas, this article might be helpful.

Chinese medicine is about balance. Instead of latching on to one activity, how about filling your life with the variety of all activities that bring you health?

Articles used in writing this post:
http://www.hazards.org/standing/
http://www.ericcressey.com/6-tips-for-people-who-stand-all-day
http://healthland.time.com/2011/04/13/the-dangers-of-sitting-at-work%E2%80%94and-standing/