I must govern the clock, not be governed by it.
– Golda Meir
Time. Time. Time. Who has it and how do we get more of it? It always seems like we are running against the clock, doesn’t it? Or is that just some of us? Why does time “fly” when we are having fun and “stand still” when we are not? What is time? When did we start measuring it? And is it all just an illusion?
There is no doubt that time is an incredible construct that seems to effect many different parts of life in many different ways. After all, isn’t time responsible for our schedules, our stress, and our aging? I remember back to my high school physics classes [Hi Mr. Ray!], when every equation and every variable seemed to be measured according to time… “velocity equals distance over time”… Is there no escaping it?
Now, the concept of time isn’t something I would normally write about but it has been a recurring theme for me and many of my clients and friends over the passed few weeks. So, I thought I would share a bit on the subject, as we inch towards the year’s end.
Confessions of a Physiotherapist
Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have.
– Eckhart Tolle
I will be the first to admit that I have not always been great about using and spending my time well. There have been days when I have wished for more time and some days when I have wished it away. I have had moments where I’ve felt overwhelmed or anxious about what the next moments will bring, and moments where I’ve become fixated on past events. Either way, I have forgotten the importance of staying in the present moment.
When we are not present, we tend to worry more, feel insecure, and experience higher levels of stress and tension. Repeated exposure to the hormones associated with the stress response can cause tissue damage and dysfunction, all while making us more prone to illness and disease. Not cool.
So what can we do about this? How do we stop the cycle of ignoring the present in favour of our past or future experiences? How can we protect ourselves from the physical and mental consequences of stress and anxiety while maintaining balance and joy in our daily lives? Well, read on…
Make Time for Your Body
Live today. Not yesterday. Not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments.
– Jerry Spinelli
The body is a remarkable thing. It is designed to work in many different ways to allow us to interact with the world around us. The body is also one of the primary ways that we notice the physical effects of time. We see ourselves grow from childhood to adulthood and then into our elderly years. Aging can affect our functional abilities, our strength, our stamina, and our physical needs. All of a sudden it can feel like we don’t run as fast or digest as well. Many of us find ourselves surprised by these changes and resolve to do something about it, but what can be done?
Researchers have often studied the effects of variables like food, exercise, sleep, and medicine on the body and its functions at different ages. Studies have found that regardless of age, proper dietary intake and regular exercise are highly beneficial for optimizing and maintaining healthy body functioning in our daily lives. Many of us already know this, but how many of us actually put it into practice?
I know that during times of high stress and anxiety it is difficult to always ensure proper diet and regular exercise. We “fall off the wagon” and sink back into old habits of binge eating and couch potato-ing. We feel like there is no time in the day to meet all the deadlines, answer all the emails, or finish all the laundry – so how could we even fathom fitting in 30 minutes of cardio or preparing a healthy meal? Well, research has also found that when we make time to address the body’s needs with proper diet and exercise, we are actually more productive in finishing our to-do lists and are better able to cope with stress. It’s almost like we can’t afford to not make time for our bodies, am I right?!
So go ahead and make the time to speak with a holistic nutritionist or naturopath to determine a diet that is right for you. Make the time to seek the advice of a physiotherapist to better understand your specific movement and fitness needs for injury prevention and health maintenance. It is extremely important that we treat the body well – as it is an incredible little machine that will work hard for you if you give it what it needs.
Make Time for Your Mind
If you want to conquer the anxiety of life, live in the moment, live in the breath.
– Amit Ray
The mind is excellent for helping us to understand and make sense of our world. It has an amazing capacity to accept and sort through billions of data that come from our bodies, our senses, and the external world. Over time, many of us notice that the mind tends to become less focused or cloudy, sometimes causing forgetfulness and frustration. Some of us say that this is just the inevitable result of aging, but does it really have to be?
Many of these age-related changes can be attributed to the behaviours that our minds have practiced over time. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “practice makes perfect”. Well, research confirms that with repetition of a certain behaviour over time, the mind will actually remodel its neuro-pathways to adapt to and learn that behaviour; making it automatic. So I guess we should watch what we practice, right?
Okay, now take this moment to consider your daily behaviours. What do you usually do on a typical day? What emotions do you usually feel? I’m sure many of us feel stressed about getting to work on time… or keeping the kids entertained… or responding to a million emails and texts and phone calls… or deciding what to make for dinner… and so on. Okay, now stop and consider what a day like this might be doing for you. What feelings or behaviours are you practicing throughout your day? Are they the kind of feelings and behaviours that you would like your mind to make automatic?
When we rush against the clock, we tend to practice feelings of stress and anxiety. These then become learned and automatic behaviours of our minds; placing it in a state of up-regulation and hyper-vigilance. We know that this state can be quite damaging to our mental and physical health – creating and perpetuating bodily aches and pains, interrupting our natural circadian rhythms, causing poor digestion and organ dysfunction, increasing the need for and dependency on medications, etc. The mind becomes automatically caught in a vicious cycle; forgetting what it feels like to be relaxed.
So go ahead and break that cycle. Don’t let stress be the only ‘food’ your give your mind. Instead, make time for it to experience complete rest and relaxation. Make the time to give yourself regular and efficient sleep [see my article: Understanding Common Sleep Problems and their Solutions], make the time to practice mindfulness meditation, and make the time to participate in fun activities, like puzzles or games. Studies have found that through a healthy balance of engaging and restful activities, the mind actually improves in clarity of thought, coping skills, time management, and overall productivity. You will also find that persistent bodily pain significantly decreases when the mind, and specifically the nervous system, is given the opportunity to down-regulate and relax [see my article: Alternative Strategies for Managing Chronic Pain].
Make Time for Your Soul
Live in the present, and make it so beautiful that it will be worth remembering.
– Ida Scott Taylor McKinney
An in-depth discussion of the soul goes beyond the scope of this piece but I thought I would touch the tip of the iceberg. In short, the soul is the very essence of who we really are. It is what makes us tick, expresses passion in our endeavors, and understands the purpose of our daily experiences. It is the part of you that makes you, YOU!
Truthfully, there are many of us who tend to ignore the soul in favour of other things. Some of us spend more time acknowledging the needs of our careers or material possessions more than we do our own body, mind, and especially soul. Take a moment to see for yourself… Do you make time to really enjoy all of your favourite hobbies? Do you allow yourself time to play? Do you allow yourself the freedom to sing, dance, jump, frolic, etc. whenever the mood strikes? What stops you from doing these things?
Sometimes we stop ourselves from indulging in ‘the little things’ because our bodies feel tired or because our minds think of potential repercussions. Sometimes we think to ourselves: “Oh, I can’t because I don’t have the time” or we think “Why bother? It’s just a waste of time”. Well, let me tell you, allowing time to express yourself in a healthy way is never a waste.
So go ahead and change your old habits; make time for your soul! Make time to read that book that you never have time to read; make time to play with your loved ones; and make time to sing and dance to your heart’s content! Engaging in regular activities that ‘feed the soul’ help us to keep our lives in a healthy perspective. We cope better with stress and keep a more even keel in our daily emotions. Over time, you will find yourself leading a happier, balanced, and fulfilling life; and who wouldn’t want that?
Finding and Maintaining Balance
The distinction between the past, present, and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.
– Albert Einstein
As I conclude this piece, I would like to leave you with one final thought: it’s all about balance. We need to make time for all parts of ourselves, not just one. The body, mind, and soul all need daily TLC – so make the time! The research tells us that we can’t afford not to. We can get large ‘returns on our investments’ if we make small and consistent efforts on a daily basis. Just try it and see for yourself.
By now, I hope you can see that time is just a number; just a construct that we have created to measure the variables in life. You have control over it – not the other way around. Einstein believed time to be just an illusion. It only controls you if you let it, and it is not something by which you are bound. You have as much time as you make for yourself. So go ahead, make small efforts to make time yours. You can do it; I promise you that!
Please note that content on this website is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other health care professional. Information provided on this site is neither meant to create or substitute a patient-practitioner relationship; nor diagnose or treat a health problem, symptom or disease. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking professional advice because of something you have read on this website. Always speak with your qualified physician or other health care professional before using any treatment for a health problem. If you have or suspect you have a medical problem, promptly contact your health care provider.