[Note: I actually wrote this first draft at the beginning of September to coincide with returning to the blog after my summer absence, but then my husband started a new position at work that dramatically changed our lifestyle… so guess what?! I have been starting over yet again 🙂 Now it is obviously November and I am just now able to finish and post this draft. Why?? Because I have been desperately trying to regain and maintain the basics 🙂 ]
When was the last time you had to start over? Like re-starting a workout routine, re-starting a healthy lifestyle, re-starting the communication process in a relationship, re-starting school after years of being at home or in the workforce, re-starting a car that has hopefully been fixed. In a life that is full of mayhem and madness and things that breakdown or get in the way, it seems we are always in the midst of re-starting something.
And, at least for me, I find that starting over is often harder than starting something to begin with. When I start something fresh and new, there is usually a lack of expectations with the unknown. I can get away with less stress or pressure because I can comfort myself with the awareness that it is new and I just have to try my best. But when I am re-starting something, I have built-in expectations of what it was like before and how it should be now. I put more pressure on myself to do just as good or ever better, and I am hesitant to start or have a higher tendency to procrastinate; I’ll try again tomorrow right?!
This summer was one of those times for me. All of a sudden in June, I found my life taking an unexpected turn that landed me in and out of the hospital and eventually on home healthcare. I had to have constant care and help with my boys, and it was a challenging and humbling time to say the least. By the time I was released from medical care, it was mid-July, and my summer was almost half gone. On a positive note, we found out that we are pregnant with our third little one (which is super exciting) but is also a starting over of sorts 🙂 It took until August to really start to feel like myself again, and here we are at September [now November] and I am just now truly getting back to my “normal.”
During our summer vacation this year, which providentially came at the end of July, I found myself incredibly discouraged at my lack of progress in regaining my stamina and strength and shared my frustrations with my mom. Starting over was a lot harder than I had planned, and I was upset that I had not bounced back and was not writing and producing and moving like I was before. However, in saying all of this out loud, I had an epiphany that I want to continue to remind myself of, as well as share with all of you.
Whether you are in the process of starting over or not (if not, I’m sure you will be in some way in the near future), it is so important to always START by going back to the basics. If the basics are not intact, then starting over will usually be unsuccessful or unnecessarily difficult.
Back to the Basics
Every time I think of going “back to the basics,” I hear Baloo from the cartoon Jungle Book singing the “Bare Necessities,” as shown in the cute graphic at the beginning of the post. While I may not agree completely with his overall message (there is a time and place for moving beyond the basics), Baloo was encouraging the young Mogli not to worry about bigger and better things until he had established his bare-necessities, or the basics in life. In the jungle, this mostly revolved around food and fun, but the same principles can apply to us as well.
So what are the “bare-necessities,” or the basics that we should seek to establish before going beyond and starting something new:
- Eating: Our bodies need a specific amount of caloric intake to function at their best. If we are eating too little or too much or not enough of the right things, our bodies will not be able to function optimally. So, the first thing to look at is what your are putting in. There are a variety of ways to do this from hard copy food journals to apps you can use on your phone (I really like FatSecret) and there are multiple methods to determine what your intake should look like. While I will not claim to be an expert on this type of information, I encourage you to be intentional about what you are eating and if there seems to be something off, inform yourself and address it.
- Sleeping: In addition to food, out bodies need a specific amount of rest and sleep to function at their best. As a parent, I find this is the most difficult of the basics to keep under my control since I have outside influences that somehow always need me at night. While my body begs for a nice 8-10 hours of sleep per night (and could blissfully do it if allowed), I have probably been operating at an average of 6 or less every night for the past 2 years since my second son was born. I hope to be able to work on this aspect a little more in a few years, but for now, I do everything I can to guard what little sleep I can get in hopes that it is better than nothing!!! I encourage you to do the same; take a look at your sleep habits (much like those eating habits) and see if there are things you can do to help promote this area in your life. Maybe it means setting a non-negotiable bedtime (with good intentions) for the whole house or finding a bedtime routine that helps usher you into a more peaceful and relaxed state before bed (like reading instead of watching TV); maybe it means not having caffeine after 6pm or trying to do chores first thing in the morning to avoid the late night buzz and business; or maybe it means recognizing that sleep is occupying too much of your time (I might be super jealous) and it would be ok to dial it back since you have some to spare.
- Moving: If you are eating and sleeping properly, you will have this lovely thing called energy that your body will want to release. And actually the reverse is true as well: if you want to eat and sleep properly, your body is able to do these things best when you are also using up regular amounts of energy (that use the calories and rest you are taking in). So, to make this cycle happy, we need to move during the day and keep our bodies active. This can take so many different forms: walking, running, chasing your kids or dogs or cats or all of the above, dancing, playing sports, doing yoga, hiking, swimming, the possibilities are really endless. The point is to get up and get out and utilize all that you have been putting in to make something happen. When we start moving, it is amazing the rewards our bodies give us, not only by burning calories and getting us worn out so we can sleep well, but also by working with our hormones and chemicals to elevate our moods. Overall, as long as the movement is healthy and safe, it is a great thing all around!
- Connecting: When we are eating, sleeping, and moving, we typically want to share those things with others. This is so important because as you might have noticed, humans were not created to be alone (in fact, they often suffer in isolation). So, we also need to ensure that we are making connections, both with God and each other, a priority as one of the great basics of healthy functioning. By spending set time with God focused on Him and what He is doing in our lives, we can find spiritual stability and filling to make it through each day. By spending set time with others, we can experience the encouragement, support, comradery, and accountability to keep growing, keep healing, and keep maintaining the basics so that we can also move beyond and invest in the bigger things we want to do.
When these basics are alive and well in our everyday experience, we can move on to bigger and better things. We will be “firing on all cylinders” and be truly at our best for whatever we pursue. I call this setting myself up for success from the very beginning, which means I have the best foundation possible to be the best me possible and do the best work possible. And I can actually think about moving beyond into something extra and enjoyable… like blogging 🙂
Application Challenge: Assessing and Addressing Your Basics
Whether you are starting over or not, I encourage all of us to take a moment and inventory our current basics? Are you fully stocked on the bear necessities? Are you eating, sleeping, moving, and connecting on a regular basis? Awesome!!! But if you are not, I would encourage you to make these a priority as much as you can in the here and now.
For me, it meant taking the pressure off myself to get back to things like writing and extra-curricular activities until my basics were built back up (hence the MIA status). To do this, I focused my energy on establishing eating again, guarding and getting as much sleep as possible (sometimes this is still a struggle with my little ones), finding ways to move throughout the day even if I cannot exercise like I was, and connecting with the Lord through music and devotionals and little bits of truth to feed my soul.
And if you are in a phase of life (newborn anyone?) where one of these aspects is not realistic (like sleep), keep this in mind and give yourself grace as you seek to start anything new. If possible, keep non-essential starting overs to a minimum to maximize the resources you do have until your basics are somewhat or even fully restored. I do not recommend taking on any new big challenges when your basics are lacking… focus on building them up as much as possible. Remember, there is a reason they are called the basics… we need these “bare-necessities.” ♥