076: How Your Calendar Affects Your Health
What would you say if I told you that just by looking at your calendar, I could tell you if you are improving or harming your health? Sounds kind of crazy doesn’t it?
But it’s true. Your schedule can either help you improve your health or it could be harming your health.
We all live busy lives no matter how hard we try to simplify. Between jobs outside the home, chores and responsibilities in your home, taking care of your family, volunteering, spending time with friends, you have a lot on your plate.
And a lot of the time, the things we put on our calendar are good for our health. Spending time with our family, taking time to move our bodies, and getting together with friends are all things that can boost our physical, mental, and social wellness.
However, if we’re not careful, we could end up scheduling things that are harmful to us and we don’t even realize it.
If you’ve been listening to the episodes I’ve already released this month, then you’ll know we are focusing on our health and wellness. Often when we think about wellness, we tend to think of being physically fit. Wellness, though, really encompasses more. As I mentioned in episode 74, I believe that our wellness is made up of our physical, mental, social, and spiritual health. Wellness covers our whole being.
So when we look at our lives through the lens of wellness, then we have to take into account external factors that may be affecting our overall health and well being. One of those factors is our calendar. As I mentioned earlier, our calendar can either harm or improve our health. We just need to know how to effectively use our calendar to our advantage.
How Our Calendars Can Affect Our Health
The number of activities and responsibilities you have on your calendar
No matter whether you have a paper or digital calendar, seeing a ton of activities and responsibilities listed out can cause extra stress in your life.
When every day is filled with activities, you don’t have time to relax and recharge. And that is such an important part of our health. Even if being constantly on the go is something you enjoy, not having enough rest and downtime can hinder your productivity and keep you from experiencing a full life.
It’s interesting to me that when I researched this topic of busy schedules and our health, all the articles that pulled up were about the harmful effects of overscheduling children. That says to me we do have an epidemic of busyness and unfortunately, it has trickled down to our children.
It’s important we learn how to manage our schedules so we can be good examples to our children and in turn not overschedule them as well. In fact, some of the busyness we experience may be due to our children’s schedules.
I remember when my kids were little. I’m talking about as young as ages 5 and 2. That fall they were those ages is when our schedules started to ramp up. Yes, even that young. I know, I was crazy. However, I was excited about them getting involved in different activities so they could learn new skills and maybe figure out how God had gifted them.
So at age 5, my son began soccer and at the same time, my 2-year-old daughter began to take dance lessons. Yes, at 2 years old! What was I thinking?
Our lives were busy from that time period forward. We also had church on Wednesday nights as well as birthday parties and other events they had to go to. That was on top of whatever my husband and I had going on in our own lives.
Fast forward a few years later when they were about 9 and 6 and my son was taking tennis lessons and my daughter was in gymnastics. We had something going every day after school Monday through Friday. It was very stressful trying to get them where they needed to be because their schedules overlapped.
Finally, my daughter told me she was tired of gymnastics and switched to tennis. That settled our schedule down a lot because they went to lessons at the same time. No longer were we booked up every single day of the week.
Looking back over that time, I’m glad my kids got to experience different activities. It helped them to see what they liked and what they didn’t. However, I wish I had not started them out so young.
So if you’re a young mom listening, please know that you do not have to do what everyone else is doing. Let your kids be kids and be really picky about what you let them get involved in. Just because everyone else seems to be doing a sport or activity, doesn’t mean you have to be involved.
So back to our busy schedules. Having back to back appointments, activities, and commitments is not a healthy way to go. I’ll give you some tips in a few minutes on how you can pare things back.
The types of activities you have on your calendar
This means you may have some activities or responsibilities that bring you a ton of stress. Maybe they were good things you signed up for but as time has passed you realize being involved in those activities no longer brings you joy or fulfillment. They’ve just become a stress factor and something you dread.
Or, it could be the people you deal with during those activities have become a source of stress. Sometimes you can’t help that and still have to deal with them. For example, since my father passed away, I’m my mother’s primary caregiver. While she is still very independent and lives alone, I’m still responsible for making sure everything is ok with her.
She is having knee surgery Monday, so I’ve cleared my calendar for the week so I can stay with her when she comes home. But just getting to do the surgery has been stressful and has added several appointments to our calendars. She’s had lab work, had to get clearance from her cardiologist to do the surgery, and had to take extra medication because they found out she had a couple of infections. It has really been a stressful couple of weeks.
Sometimes, though, the activities on your calendar represent dealing with people who stress you out that you can cut out of your life. Maybe you’re on a committee or working on a project with others and the mood is always stressful or contentious. My advice here would be to take the high road and finish out your commitment if possible then don’t renew your commitment when it’s over.
I’ve served on some committees like this before and I have never been so happy to see my commitment come to an end.
How do we make changes so our calendars will be a benefit to our health?
Assess what activities are most important in our lives right now. What are the non-negotiables and then what are the things you can get rid of?
Often this will require talking with your family. Especially if you have kids. If your schedule is so overloaded that you feel stressed all the time, then it’s important you shed a few activities or responsibilities. So visit with your family or anyone else who you may need their input and figure out what’s most important.
As I mentioned earlier, you’re going to want to finish out your commitments if possible. It’s not good just to abandon them mid-stream without a really good reason. So let’s say your kids are playing soccer and you still have a few weeks left in the season and they are tired of it and the schedule. Finish out the season and then don’t sign them up again. In fact, I’d encourage you to not automatically fill that time slot with something else. Give them a break and then see what their interests are.
In your own life, make a list of all your commitments. Then really think about their value in your life. If you’re unsure if you should continue with them, pray and ask God to give you direction.
One thing I like to do after I list my commitments is to assess how do they make me feel. Do I dread going to meetings or fulfilling assignments? Or do I genuinely look forward to fulfilling that commitment? Are there personalities that make the activity unenjoyable?
Another question I ask myself is does this activity line up with my priorities in this season of my life? Often I’ve shed commitments because I can’t answer yes to this question. It could be that I really enjoyed the activity, but it’s not helping me fulfill my priorities. In fact, it may be hindering me because it’s taking away time I could be doing something else more important.
Now, one caveat to this, I’d say if an activity or commitment brings you great joy even if it’s not fulfilling your priorities, you may want to consider keeping it on your schedule. Because we need to have activities that fill us and bring us joy.
After you assess your activities and have purged some from your schedule, it’s time to think about what activities do you need to add in your life to improve your health.
These are things like exercising, meal planning, taking time for self-care, spending time with friends, and regular time with God. All of these activities can make you healthier in body, mind, and soul. And to make sure these kinds of activities happen, you need to get them on your schedule.
The best way I know to create a schedule that will help you become healthier is to use time blocking. I’ve talked about this several times on the podcast. But I do so because it’s so important. And it’s especially important if we want to cultivate healthy habits.
Let me recap the basics of time blocking. Click here to get a more detailed explanation.
- On your calendar mark out your times for waking up and going to bed.
- Mark out all standing appointments or other appointments and commitments you have a firm date and time for. Make sure you include travel time
- Then start filling in your routines and include your new healthy habits.
You should have a good idea of how much extra time you have during a week.
In my own life, a typical day for me includes getting up at 6 and doing my morning routine until 9. This routine includes coffee, time with God, exercise when I can make myself do it, and getting ready for the day.
Then from 9 to noon, I try to work on The Planning Woman. From noon to 1 I eat lunch and do a few things around the house. From 1-4 I work on The Planning Woman. Then from 4 until bedtime, I do things around the house or other activities I’m involved with.
Being fully transparent here I’ve got to share that this is my ideal day. It doesn’t always turn out this way. However, once I figured out through time blocking that I really have the time to do all the things I want to do, I’ve had a mindset shift and have felt less stressed. Again, there are times when things come up that I have to deal with that cause stress. But because I’ve pared down the outside commitments I’ve made, my life is much less hectic.
So what does this look like for you? Leave a comment and let me know!