At My Best

Happy 2020! Not sure when it’s no longer acceptable to tell people “Happy New Year,” but I still say it through most of January.

New Year’s resolutions often turn into a joke, but I always appreciate the chance to turn the page and set my sights forward with a clean slate. Of course, I approach every new year with goals and plans–some of them small, others enormous and daunting. Mostly, I want to keep growing and learning how to live this life better than I did the year before. I expect hurdles and challenges and speed bumps because life is rarely easy. But I want to face them with grace and calm and patience as much as I can. Even when life stinks and it’s hard and painful, I don’t want to lose track of the peace and hope that keep me anchored.

With these goals in mind, I know it’s important to take care of myself. When I’m tired and stretched way too thin, I lose my patience quickly. I get caught up worrying and over-analyzing the minutia that don’t really matter. In no time flat, I can spin myself into a cranky ball of stress. It’s NOT pretty! I’d like to avoid that as much as possible in 2020.

To that end, Mom shared a fun exercise with me. The idea came from a clinical counselor who spoke to teachers and staff at her school before students returned to classes after the holidays. Her theme was practical, effective ways to care for ourselves. She encouraged them to recognize the warning signs when they’re neglecting that “self care,” and they definitely apply to me! Irritability, lack of sleep, depression and anxiety are all indicators that we’ve gone off the rails and need to get back on track. According to Courtney Suddath, there are immediate ways to address those issues. She called them “The Big Five”: sleep, food, water, sunlight, activity. I agreed vehemently when Mom told me. YES! The Big Five ALWAYS help. A nap, a healthy meal, eight ounces of water, a blast of sunshine, movement: they are foolproof pick-me-ups, and I want to keep them in mind this year!

The next step is the fun part. Courtney asked the teachers to grab a fresh sheet of paper and write this heading at the top: “I feel the best when I…” In groups, they listed various activities and comforts that gave them pause and filled their hearts with joy and peace. Of course, as soon as I heard about it, I had to do it, too! So Mom and I compiled our own lists. Mom’s is hers to share if she likes; sharing mine will help me remember.

I Feel the BEST When I…

Spend time at the ocean or on a boat. I crave the water. When I see the ocean, I am always reminded how big God is and how incredible His creation. No matter what’s happening in my life at the time, standing on the shore fills me with instant calm. My soul finds quiet next to the water. And going back to when I was a kid growing up in New Hampshire, I’ve always enjoyed swimming, water-skiing, canoeing, kayaking, bouncing over the waves on a speed boat, para-sailing, even floating in the middle of a lake with no real place to go. It may take me awhile to submerge myself in the water, but I get in eventually, ha.

Read a murder mystery. I grew up a voracious reader, and my favorite books were always the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys mysteries and then Agatha Christie when I was in high school. After college as I pursued my career, I would go long stretches without reading fiction. Most of my reading was about sports. But two years ago, I started making time to read fiction again. That spring, I went to the beach on vacation and polished off two books. I haven’t stopped since! Now when I climb in bed after working overnight, I read a book that has nothing to do with sports! Sometimes, I doze off mid-sentence; reading quiets my brain and allows me to sleep better. Anne Perry is currently my favorite mystery writer, and I’ve found a few more authors that I like. I’ve added Star Wars fiction and military history to my stack of books, and I started a 2020 reading list to keep track.

Plan a trip (and take the trip). I’m a planner! I love the process, especially for traveling. From the research to the logistics to the packing, planning a trip to somewhere I’ve never been makes me happy and fills me with great anticipation. The last two Mays, I’ve planned road trips to beaches in South Carolina. Seeing all the details come together (like a puzzle) was so much fun! The excitement of planning got me through the cold winters and long busy work stretches.

Play the piano. That piano would be on my list is hysterical because I used to HATE practicing. I fought Mom when she made me practice as a kid. I dreaded it. But now when I sit down at the piano, time seems irrelevant. From playing scales to working on a new piece of music, I want to make more time to play in 2020 because I always feel refreshed and accomplished when I get up from my piano bench.

Bake cookies to share. My new thing! Baking cookies to take to parties, gatherings with friends and work is one of my favorite ways to spread joy. And it’s turned into a Christmas tradition. I bake a bunch of different kinds of cookies and pass them out wherever I can. Sometimes I even package them up and mail them as surprises. My nieces recently gave me a book of Christmas cookie and dessert recipes, and I had so much fun trying a half-dozen of them last month. Baking with Mom, my brother and younger niece Lauren will remain one of my cherished memories of these holidays. And seriously, who doesn’t love cookies??

Ride a horse. Take a nap with no alarm. Sing harmonies. Play golf. Drink a delicious cup of coffee. Catch up with a loved one on the phone. Visit Grammy Helen. Walk the dog in the sunshine. Eat at my favorite Thai restaurant with a friend. PRAY.

Just reading through the list puts a smile on my face. Of course, there’s no way to eliminate stress or avoid the pressures of real life. There’s no way to guarantee 2020 will be a breeze. But when I need to find joy, peace and calm (and my resting heart rate), one or more of these activities can help me pause and breathe, recharge and reset.

(Try making your own list. I’d love to see it! Xo)

 

 

 

 

7 Responses to “At My Best”

  1. I appreciate these all too rare posts. I hope one of your goals this year becomes to post a bit more often. I hope your new year continues with God’s blessings.

  2. janet alden Says:

    LOVE! And I loved seeing the photo of your paper version with all the colorful “Amy” responses. These are truly wonderful gifts to appreciate and enjoy and I know how much each one means to you. Love you to piece and I treasure and appreciate you and our friendship because you always give your best to me and everyone you know.

  3. Good day, Amy. Thank you very much for sharing your perspective.  I enjoy reading them. Enjoy the day!

  4. Marvin L Bittinger Says:

    Amy: Thank you for such a lovely note. I still think you should gather these articles into a book, adding some stories from your radio experiences. I admire your transparency. How I would love to meet your Grammy Helen (I once got to ride in her car.) Would also like to visit with your mom and talk about her life philosophy and math. Keep writing. God refreshes you with his power.

  5. Ronald A Fisher Says:

    I like the list of things that help you unwind and clear your head. I do some of the same things. Traveling is always a good way for me to relax and yes I’m a planner. one of my best ways to feel better no matter what is to help someone. It may be as simple as giving someone a ride somewhere or taking time to visit and pray with them. Once a month I get to preach and the preparation process goes a long way towards relieving stress for me. I’ve had some physical problems the last 4 years and doing the above things always helps me to feel better and take my mind off of my problems. I hope that you enjoy the read.

  6. Douglas Droze Says:

    Thanks so much for the suggestions and they’re all very practical and thanks for the peek into your life I didn’t know you played the piano, yes the ocean and staring up at the universe while camping in the dark woods always make me feel in awe of God

  7. Carol Murphy Says:

    READ ONCE AGAIN….RENEWED ONCE AGAIN…AM READY TO BUCKLE UP AND TAKE ON WHAT THIS DAY MAY BRING….THANKS, AMY

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