In everything set them an example by doing what is good. Titus 2:7

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Frankly Phyllis

Chill Out!

My kids' school snow days inspired snow angels and forts, molasses taffy pulls, popcorn balls, and hot cocoa with marshmallows. Those bonus days with them helped me get through the winter, but once the kids all left home, the season took on a whole new look. Snow was gorgeous and fun for about a day, and then I was over it! I admired snowboarders and downhill skiers, but fresh powder and parallel turns left me cold. Even when things heated up in my life, I didn't wish for winter. When I went over the top with an idea or a project, I may have told myself to 'chill out," but I sure didn't mean under a pile of snow.

Recently, winter has changed for me again. Now I behold the beauty of bare branches whose shadows keep rhythm with the quiet crunch of my boots as I walk through the woods. No longer consumed with a growing family's needs, I marvel at the majesty of nature's stillness. Over time, I've traded snow angels for lessons from a season I didn't even like: if you don't chill out, you'll burn out.

My neighbor Dr. Chang helped me appreciate winter again. His persistent reminders that I'm in the autumn of my life and that I need to store up energy, slow down, and pace myself so I have something left for my winter years eventually stuck. When he first made that comment, I was offended; I felt energetically productive and in charge. Yet, his consistently kind and caring demeanor indicated his life's work with women held advice I'd better heed. Now, per the doctor's orders, I embrace and learn from the four seasons. With the lesson I've learned from winter, I've begun to identify well-meaning habits that need chilling out.

For example, my adult children and I are close and mutually supportive. Still, I try to avoid imposing on their lives. I could easily get involved beyond what they need me to be, but I step back and give them - and myself - the space to be our own self-reliant people. It's the same in my professional life. Sometimes it seems like people think I have exclusive access to a secret 27-hour day. I have to remind others and myself to just chill out and that calming down isn't bad; we can't be in high gear all the time! Trying to do everything for everyone is a prescription for burnout. Winter teaches me that evergreens exist, but people aren't evergreen trees. Instead, like hardwoods dropping their leaves, we need downtime to regain our energy and rest in order to be renewed.

Overdoing it is easy for women, since we're typically the lynch pin in a relationship. We tend to carry far more weight on our shoulders than is necessary when we try to simply nurture the people we love. Remember, though, there's a season for everything. Winter drops the fluff and flutter of summer and gets to the core of nature's essence. Part of that essence for us as humans is to admit we need to slow down; we need to chill out now and then.

But how do we do this? Try some of these chilling-out methods this winter:

  • Listen to Woman to Woman® shows more than once to pick up on things you missed the first time. You can download them online or podcast them. My visits with "The Brain Guy," Dr. Joel Robertson, airing the last week of December and the first week of January, can give you fresh ideas on how to chill out. Learn what to "feed" your brain so you can achieve your peak performance on the job, in relationships, and in your head -all without stressing yourself out.
  • Walk down memory lane with your parents or kids. An "I loved the note under my pillow when I was 16. . . " to your mom or a "When you were two, you did the cutest thing. . ." to your son goes a long way. Intentional bonding moments like these help us chill out.
  • Play with a child or a pet for 30 minutes to ease stress.
  • Chill out literally - experience the season with a brisk walk! Leave the deadlines and the to-do list at home or at the office when you walk out the door and take in the season's delights. Speak to the neighbors you encounter, and say "hi" when you smile at a stranger.
  • Laugh more . . . lots more. File favorite comics, your kids' funny sayings, and good jokes from your e-mail inbox and post them in your kitchen or bathroom to give yourself a giggle. In addition to lifting your mood, lowering your blood pressure, and increasing your immunity to disease, a good laugh burns five calories! My goal is to laugh so much in one day that I burn off one dessert. A day full of good laughs helps burn off a tasty treat after dinner!
  • Before packing up or recycling your Christmas cards, take out one a day and pray for that person or family. I once prayed for a family and felt compelled to keep their card on my kitchen counter all week and continue praying. I learned months later they had actually been in crisis that week and in need of much prayer. Your own friends and family might be able to use some extra prayer this holiday season as well!
  • Nurture your spirit by connecting with God's Holy Spirit. I chill out by talking with God, usually in my head silently, but sometimes in writing or even out loud, if I'm absolutely stuck. He cares about the seasons of the year and the seasons of our lives. He wraps His love around us like a winter coat; it's warm; it's sufficient, and it's more than enough to see us through. It's God's grace, and it takes the chill out!

    In this brand-new year numbered 2009, whatever the weather, chill out about what matters least and focus on what matters most. It takes a discerning spirit, and it's something God offers freely in your relationship with Him through Christ. You have one life to live, one wonderful life with which to serve God and others with the gifts He's given you. My New Year's prayer for you comes out of that old book in the Bible called, Proverbs. I say "old" because it was written ten centuries before Christ was born, but it has certainly stood the test of time. It's loaded with great sayings based on wisdom resulting from reverence for God. For me, it's like eating a perfectly balanced meal - full of plenty of protein to help you face the day. Here's to your 2009: "Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight" (Proverbs 3:5-6).

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