I often get an itchy “stuck” feeling while working and usually admonish myself, Stay FOCUSED, Elisa!” Most of the time, it doesn’t really work. Really Blog Manager, Carla Foote, cracks the door open on what we all “really” need in such moments.
By Carla Foote
I stared at my computer screen, trying to think of another approach that might work for an article that wasn't coming together. The deadline was pressing in and I needed to figure out my voice and find my angle. I faced a choice—double down and stare longer at the screen, hoping to type words that made sense—or hit pause and take a brisk walk. Most of the time, when I pick "walk," I return to my desk with the inspiration to complete a task. I don't need to stare harder, I need fresh air to release my brain (and posterior) from the stuck position. Definitely true for this particular article assignment.
It turns out my mom's admonition to go outside and play really did have something to do with increased wellbeing and productivity. I'm pretty sure Mom didn't tell us to go outside because she had read research about the value of fresh air (she was a mom before "parenting" was a verb). She told us to get outside because she had three kids and she wanted a break from the noise and mess we created in the house. But whatever her motivation, she instilled in me a habit of going outdoors.
So I regularly walk away from my computer— heading outdoors as often as possible. I enjoyed a delicious extended break in August that included lots of fresh air, walks, swims, boat rides and blackberry picking.
Refreshed and back at my computer screen and desk, I mulled over what worked. An annual summer vacation is a great infusion of fresh air into my life. But in the seriousness of back-to-work that September brings, I am in need of regular doses of fresh air. Daily, not just annually. And real fresh air, not just figurative space.
Because it isn't just my physical body that needs fresh air, it is my soul, brain, emotions and whole being that need rejuvenation.
When God created you and I, humans, he made us whole. With bodies, souls, emotions, brains—a package. Sometimes it is tempting to dissect ourselves and do something physical for our bodies (like take a walk and get fresh air), and then separately do something intellectual for our brains (like read), and something spiritual for our souls (like pray). When actually, the physical is good for our whole selves, as are all the other components of life.
Taking the time for fresh air is a tiny bit of Sabbath in our days - a way to release the pressure of deadlines and screens. And an acknowledgement that staying always at attention is tiring and can be counter-productive.
Some days it is so much easier to choose to stay indoors. I remember one winter day when the temperature was below zero, my friend Mary Lou, who lives nearby, texted me that she was walking, "Want to meet me in the park?" She was crazy and I didn't really want to leave the house but I said yes, because a friendly nudge was a good reason to get fresh air.
Stepping out into the fresh air is easy on a pleasant day, but as summer moves to fall, and fall to winter, I want to keep saying yes to fresh air in my life. Under the hot summer sun or looking out at a frigid winter scene, the compulsion to go outside and play may seem less enticing. Whether I am sweating or shivering, or at just the perfect temperature, fresh air is still good for my body and soul. It's a choice for a small Sabbath that I can make each and every day.
Carla Foote is the blog manager for Really, and does freelance editing and writing for other clients through Fine Print Editorial. She appreciates living in a walkable urban neighborhood in Denver that facilitates easy fresh air breaks.