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Monday, January 23, 2012

Monday Morning Check In: Take Care of Yourself

Today’s topic is an important one that we often neglect: taking care of ourselves. This is a season when the weather and our activities may compromise our health. I want to remind you today of the importance of thinking about ourselves and taking care to be sure that we are protected from the things that may adversely affect us.

There are five areas that need our attention: health, work, home, lifestyle, and growth. Let us take a closer look at each area, why it is important that we pay attention to our condition in this area, what the bumps in the road are likely to be, and the areas we need to address or shore up.


“If you have your health, you have everything.” Remember that saying? I could not find out the author, so if you know, get in touch with me.

Without good health, we are miserable creatures. We find little joy in our daily activities. It hurts to move; it hurts to think. Good health is absolutely crucial to a pleasant day. Without it we have little energy to face the little kiddos in our charge. As professional musicians, we have trained ourselves to dig deep and find that reservoir of energy to put on a performance or finish a tough teaching day despite our general feeling of malaise.

Poor or compromised health can come from many sources. Generally I think that poor health stems from a compromised system of strength. If our systems are firing on all cylinders, then we probably have the resources to fight off infection and disease. However, if we have run ourselves down in terms of scheduling, poor food choices, and lack of physical exercise, then we have set ourselves up for the possibility that a nasty germ or two will enter our system and take us out of commission for a time.

In the problems we can find the solution. We need to be mindful of our food choices. What exactly are we eating? Is it the best thing for us? Can we substitute some other better choices? Are we paying attention to our body’s needs? Are we exercising regularly, both cardio and strength activities?


Some of you may resemble me: you work all the time. Yes, I admit that I have a problem with this. I have thought long and hard about the possible reasons. I recall one job interview years ago when I announced with pride that I was a workaholic. Although I got the job in that law firm (surprise, surprise), I look back on that memory and shudder. How could I think that such an admission would be a good thing? Being a workaholic shouts out to everyone that I have a problem. I may be a people pleaser, which means that I do whatever I need to do to gain acceptance and accolades. The word was first used in 1968 to refer to a compulsive worker. Admitting that I have a compulsion to do work is an admission that I have a problem, because a compulsion is defined as an irresistible persistent impulse (Merriam-Webster). I understand how I might have thought at the time that offering up the fact that I enjoyed working would make me more attractive in the job market. However, over time I have come to learn that this issue should be greeted with caution and circumspection. Exactly why do I feel a need to constantly fill up my empty calendar (white space) with things to do?

There is wisdom to be gained from stopping. There is the gift of self-knowledge to be unpacked if one stops long enough to look and listen for the kernel of insight. We tend to stay constantly busy, most likely to avoid dealing with some other difficult issue.

Take a few moments today to consider how much time you devote to work. Are you addicted to work? Do you fill up your white spaces on your calendar with ruthlessness? If this is one of your troublesome areas, look at your calendar, find a white space, and write something different there: “White Space Time.”

On a personal note, I had a very busy day scheduled this past Saturday. I had a heavy Artisan Quartet program in the evening, and during the day (starting at 8 am), I was adjudicating a local school district music contest, which would last most of the day.  I was ready and equal to the task (I have a LOT of energy). At the last minute, due to a glitch in the system, I found that I was double booked with someone else. Rather than insist that I continue with the judging because I was the first person asked, I opted to take the day off and let the other judge take over. I thought it would be a good thing to be fresh for the evening’s concert.

It was a great day! I scheduled a nap in there somewhere, although it did not amount to much time. That was all right, because the rest of the day was terrific. At some point in the morning, I took the time to write a list of some things that I wanted to do during the day. Since it was an unexpected “white space day,” I followed my rule of choosing activities that I wanted to do, and not insisting that I do something because it needed to be done.

Funny, but I spent quite a bit of time straightening up my personal bathroom. I set the timer for 15 minutes for a small task, but when the timer went off, I reset it and kept going, all the time knowing that I could stop when the timer went off. I don’t think I spent much more than an hour in there, but I accomplished a great deal and I felt terrific at the end.

Give it a try and let me know if it works for you.


Home involves a place and people. If you are not paying enough attention to either the place or the people who live there, then you will have more strife and stress than you can ultimately handle in terms of creating good health. The solution to this problem generally stems from one thing: TIME. You need to spend time in the place that you call “home” and with the people who live with you (including pets if they are your people, as in my case). How you treat your home and the people in it will say much about how you respect and revere these things.

There. I have said it. Your behavior concerning these two areas reveals your attitude toward these two areas. Consider what your behavior is. Are you a bit slovenly in your housekeeping? I have certainly been there and done that. (See my discussion above about work and you will understand how easy it is for me to claim that I have no time for housekeeping). Although I have found it easy in the past to be flippant about hiring someone to do this chore, I understand in my core that my attention to this area sends the message to my loved ones that I care about them enough to take the time to give my attention to this area.

If you have trouble with housekeeping, go to You will find everything you need to succeed in this area. Take it a baby step at a time.


This area is related to the work area, at least for me. It is also related to the other areas as well. How we choose to deal with the various areas I have listed here constitutes our lifestyle choice. Too many times we react to the events in our lives as if we had no control over their occurrence. I would like to suggest that we are captains of our lives in more ways than we allow ourselves to acknowledge. Do we want to spend our days working to accomplish our goals or to help someone else achieve their goals? Make no mistake about this. I am all in favor of helping others else achieve their goals. That is a function of teaching. If, however, we are allowing ourselves to drift through life without a plan of action, then we are allowing ourselves to be subject to the desires and plans of others.

I prefer to choose the lifestyle I lead. I am a busy lady. That is okay. I like to do many different things. I am a curious person. I enjoy being involved in many different activities and learning about new things. Because I maintain a working list of goals and preferred daily activities, I am confident that I am pursuing my lifestyle choice rather than that of someone else.

What are your goals? Are you living the lifestyle that you desire? In what areas could you improve? Make sure that you have a list of goals for the coming year. Also make sure that you have a system for keeping track of these goals. Is your behavior in line with the goals you have set?


This is my favorite area of taking care of myself. I remember a Star Trek episode in which the Star Trek crew discover a race that have “evolved” to the point that they no longer need their physical bodies. There were only three brains under glass jars. To me, this episode represented the dangers of not exploring the physical and spiritual realms of growth. I have discussed the need for physical attention above, but here I advocate for attention to our growth spiritually and mentally.

I believe that we need to stimulate our brains by developing a program that actively engages our mental facilities. Crossword puzzles, Sudoku, new language learning – all of these activities serve to stimulate our mental facilities. In addition, we need spiritual nourishment. We exist here on this planet at this moment in time for a purpose. It is important that we reveal the purpose for why we are here now and why. However we determine our answers to these puzzling questions, we still need to consider the questions, our answers, and our responses.

Taking care of ourselves is a conundrum. It is a riddle, a puzzle, an exercise, and an answer to many of the issues that plague us.

Let us make a commitment today to spend time throughout the week contemplating the areas I have listed above, what problems we have in these areas, and how we can improve.

Have a great week!


  1. Wow! I've been reading through your blogs and may i say that you are a very busy lady! Your blogs about teaching the violin have been a great help to me, as i will be teaching the instrument for the first time, for beginners. Thanks!

    1. Yes, my husband says the same thing. I couldn't do this if I had children of my own. I like being busy. I have a lot of energy, and being busy fits my energy level. I thrived in Rome, where the energy is crazy. Rome and I fit each other very well.