Thursday, September 15, 2011

Good-bye girls--part three


It is a lazy, mucky day, cold and rainy. I did a lot of running around yesterday and got a lot of various and sundry things done. Tomorrow I have a brunch date with a friend, and I'll need to go to Wegman's to get ingredients for weekend baking. Today I will write to you about health.

I was going to combine health and beauty into one post, particularly given my exceeding slim knowledge about how to achieve feminine beauty. But I think I have to address health in one post, by itself, or it will get too long.

In these notes to you, in which I am trying to cram everything-I-wish-I'd-ever-told-you-and-might-not-have, I did succeed in addressing the two most import topics at the outset, those being your relationship with God and your relationships with people. Today I will begin to address the third thing: taking care of yourself.

In order to be healthy and productive, to be able to reach out to others, even to be able to reflect the beauty of God Himself, you must not neglect the care of yourself. There is a fine line you must learn to walk between neglecting yourself and becoming consumed by yourself. You may find it helps you to stay grounded if you think in terms of your body being the temple of the Holy Spirit, the very place where the Holy Spirit dwells, as well as a tool that God uses to do His works of charity towards mankind. When you take care of yourself, you do it to honor God and for the benefit of others. When you keep this in mind, you will not become selfish or narcissistic. Remember how, on an airplane, the flight attendant always demonstrates how to put on the oxygen mask in case of an emergency, and she always (always) says, "Be sure to put your own mask in place before you attempt to help others around you." We are best equipped to help in any situation (certainly not just on a plane!) if we have taken care to be in good condition ourselves, at the outset.

So... on to the topic at hand!

If you want to be healthy, you need to get enough sleep.
I cannot overestimate the importance of sleep. When you deprive yourself of sleep, your mind works more slowly and your body's immunities break down. The logical end of that is that you get sick and can't accomplish anything at all. Staying up late to try to accomplish things is a backwards endeavor. It's like driving north from New York to try to get to Florida.

If someone seems to be getting a lot done by staying up all night, just try sleeping at night and working during the day, and see how much more you accomplish. Psalm 127:2 says, "In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—-for He grants sleep to those He loves."

Jordan Rubin, who wrote The Maker's Diet, says that sleep you get before midnight is four times more productive than sleep you get after midnight. I do not understand why this should be the case, but in terms of my own experience, it certainly seems to be true. If I go to bed really late, it doesn't matter how long I sleep in the next day; I feel rotten. On the other hand, if I go to bed early, I can get up fairly early and feel quite chipper.

This being the case, if you are under a high pressure deadline and need extra time to work, I would encourage you to go to bed at 9 or 10 p.m. and set your alarm for 3 or 4 a.m. After six good hours of early sleep, with ideas cogitating in your resting mind, the time you spend working on your project from 4 a.m. until 7 a.m. will be exponentially more productive than the three hours from, say, 11 p.m. to 2 a.m. would have been. I know this from experience. When I was a senior in college, I scheduled as many classes as possible for the afternoon so that I could go to bed at night knowing I had the morning to get up and finish papers. My writing came out more clear, more fluid and more interesting when I did.

Six hours is a bare minimum for sleep, and if you have to resort to this short a night, be sure that it is on the early end... 10 p.m. to 4 a.m., for instance. If you train yourself to get up and do work early in the morning, you will learn to love it, and you will be incredibly productive.

Eight hours of sleep is ideal for most people. (Since undergoing four pregnancies and the sleep deprivation that comes with four little babies, I need nine to feel decent, but we won't go there.) If you can get eight hours, even midnight to 8 a.m. is not a bad night. But you might find that you feel better if you sleep 11 p.m. to 7 a.m., and better yet sleeping 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Embrace the morning and learn to use it. It is a beautiful time to be up. Everyone else is still asleep, and you can watch the sun rise and spend some special time with the Lord, quietly praying about the day to come. You can also get a jump on tidying and cleaning, pay a bill online, do some prep work for a meal later in the day, apply an Australian blue clay mud mask (remember to wash it off), do a reading for the next class you'll attend, review your notes, etc. It feels good to head out for the day knowing that you've already accomplished something before you even left home-base!

If you get up very early, you might feel yourself needing a nap. Studies have proven that naps increase people's productivity. Naps are nice! Here is a caveat though: I find that afternoon naps sometimes leave me feeling groggy and nauseated (especially if I fall asleep for too long). I prefer morning naps. I also find that it is often preferable to nap on a sofa or in a recliner, rather than in my bed. If I have to nap on my bed, I make sure that I lie on top of the covers and use a throw or an afghan instead of being between my sheets. You want to be careful not to get too hot during a nap, or you may have some really terrifying bad dreams. For some reason, I find dreams that come during daytime naps to be much more vivid and memorable than those that flow through my brain while I sleep during the dark of night.

It is important to have peaceful signals that help you relax when it is time to go to sleep. This is why we had a Very Long Bedtime Routine for you kids when you were little, and probably why we never had any fussing or conflict over bedtime. If you have a habit of working on your computer during the evening (and since you are both students, I expect that you do), try to plan your study time so that you have a non-computer based task to do last.

Turn off all televisions, computer monitors, anything that glows, right before you begin your last task of the night. In fact, you might even want to wash and put on your pajamas at this point, since using the bathroom generally results in a fair dose of artificial lighting. Turn off all the lights you can, except for just exactly what you need for light to finish your last task; a single desk lamp should probably suffice. You may want to turn on some soft, soothing classical or inspirational music at this point, preferably instrumental with no words. Finish your last task and arrange your materials for the morning so you feel peaceful and prepared.

Keep a spot of sanctuary and refuge. For Shannon, this could actually be your bedroom; you could keep all of your work in other areas of your apartment. Laura, since your dorm room is a single space where you study and sleep, your refuge could be between your sheets. I know that you keep your bed neatly made while you are working during the day. At day's end, the act of folding back your covers to reveal your sheets could be your special signal that says, "This is my resting place. My work for the day is done."

Have a drink of water, read a chapter from your Bible, and lie back with your mind full of prayers and thanksgiving.

Wow. I was going to talk about health, and all I got through was sleep. Well, I hope you read this and find something useful to implement. Sweet dreams!

(P.S. This is stuff I wish I could implement for myself, but cannot because I live in a home community with others who render such a schedule impossible. You must live with grace for those around you--and you should live with more grace than I do. But as single women living more-or-less on your own, this is your golden opportunity to discover how to make the most of your natural biorhythms.)

Next up, exercise.

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