Stewardship of Life

My One-Hour Vacations: How I Stay (Reasonably) Sane and Healthy

Posted in It's Personal by Robert Blezard on January 15, 2010

Here’s a recipe for bad health: Take one extremely demanding job that is also high-visibility and high-stress (and not-so-high paying). Mix in a healthy measure of parental, family and personal obligations. Sprinkle liberally with sleep deprivation. Place it in a six-day workweek with one day off (maybe), and turn up the heat. Wait for the pot to boil over.

Studies reveal that clergy to have higher-than-average rates of obesity, depression, high blood pressure, tension and other stress-related ailments. Is it any wonder?

Helping pastors to manage stress and live healthier, more balanced lives has become a priority in a number of denominations, including my own, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. (Click here to learn about the ELCA’s “Live Well” initiative.)

The premise of my blog is that “It’s Personal,” which means primary responsibility for the stewardship of my life rests with the trinity of me, myself and I.

So let me tell you about “My One-Hour Vacations.”

It starts with the recognition that as a busy pastor and a single dad who shares custody of two wonderfully active kids, I don’t have a lot of down time, to say nothing of the all-important “me time.”

Have you ever heard of “me time”? It consists of the minutes or hours we spend doing something just for ourselves; something that renews us, refreshes us, brings us joy. If you don’t have any “me time” in your life, you should seriously think about it.  “Me time” is not selfish, but rather essential to balance and psychological health.

When I counsel parishioners who are upset, depressed or overwhelmed I ask them if they have any “me time” for activities that benefit just them.  Very often, people are so busy working and taking care of others in their lives, they forget to care for themselves.

And like a lot of busy people, I’m always pressed for time. But if you can give me just 60 minutes, I can have “My One-Hour Vacation.” Here’s how:

I go to the local YWCA, where I’m a member, and after changing and stretching I head for one of the machines that works the heart and lungs. For me, the gym is all about cardio, and there are lots of options: the stationary bike, the treadmill, the rower, the elliptical and the Stairmaster, to name a just few. My favorite is the elliptical, which mimics the actions of cross-country skiing.

I mount the machine, set my MP3 player to some hard-driving rock-and-roll and I’m off, gaining speed and noticing as my heart and breathing rates increase. By the time the second song is over, my heart rate is plateauing somewhere over 140 beats per minute, my breathing is strong and steady, and I’m building up a sweat.

I close my eyes and enter fully into the experience. The vast world and all its problems collapse into a singularity of rock-and-roll and the regular rhythms of muscle, breath and heart. Locked inside that black hole, my worrying, fearful, stressful mind is able to shut down for a while and lose itself in the present moment of exercise.

After about 30 minutes, it’s time to rejoin the world. The elliptical leads me through a three-minute cooldown. My heart rate goes back to normal, as does my breathing. After a shower and a change of clothes I leave the Y a new man. Refreshed, revitalized, de-stressed, I tingle with energy. Moreover, I’ve burned about 500 calories, contributing to my fitness and weight-control goals. Total elapse time from car door to car door: about an hour.

So there it is. “My One-Hour Vacation.” When I have extra time, I might do some additional time on the rower or lift weights, as well, for a luxurious “two-hour vacation.” But even in my busy periods, I make it a priority to take at least three “One-Hour Vacations” a week. It’s way healthier than three hours of watching TV.

And because I spend this “me time,” I have more energy and resources to devote to my parishioners and church work. It’s good for me and it’s good for my church.

How do you spend your “me time”? How do you shed stress and stay healthy? Let me know.

One Response to 'My One-Hour Vacations: How I Stay (Reasonably) Sane and Healthy'

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  1. Thanks for some good “food for thought”-no pun intended

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