I tend to keep a pretty full schedule. Like many stereotypical New Yorkers — and city dwellers in general — I’m often dashing from one task to another, never seeming to find enough time in the day to get everything accomplished. No wonder it took muscle spasms so painful that I had trouble sleeping to realize the one thing I wasn’t putting on my to-do list was taking care of myself. Between the physical demands of my restaurant job, the few hours a week I spend helping take care of twin one-year-old boys, the mental stress of being the managing editor of Realcity and the end stages of planning a wedding, I often find myself completely exhausted.
For the longest time, I didn’t see this as a problem. This is what you’re supposed to do when you live in New York, right? There was a time in my life when my body responded much better to my abuse, though the ability to take an afternoon nap probably helped matters. Somewhere along the line, though, I got older. My responsibilities increased and not only do I not have time for a nap, I’m rarely able to sleep past 10 a.m. It’s often hard to find time in the day to take care of myself, even when I have the best intentions of doing yoga or relaxing with a book. I realized I needed a new approach that fit into my busy schedule.
One of the most therapeutic things I can do takes only an extra minute of my day and makes a world of difference. On the way home from my babysitting gig, I walk through Fort Greene Park in Brooklyn. It’s a more peaceful way to get from DeKalb to Myrtle than walking on the street. Unlike when I book it down the sidewalk — agitated at slow walkers, head full of things to do when I get home — I take my time. I let the gentle hills lull me and put my mind at ease. With the sun in my face, it doesn’t matter that I have six drafts to edit or that I still have so much to plan for my rapidly approaching wedding. In that five minute walk through the park, I let my mind relax. By the time I exit, I feel a tension lifted from my body and a renewed sense of purpose.
City life can get hectic and as city dwellers, we tend to accept this stress as part of the package. It can sometimes feel like there isn’t enough time in the day to stop and smell the roses. With the sensory overload we encounter in our daily life, its no wonder that we lose touch with what’s going on in our own heads and bodies. That disconnection leads to binging on stress relief wherever we can get it; hence the existence of happy hours and brunch. By lingering over our morning coffee instead of rushing out the door, or taking a short detour through a peaceful park, we can give ourselves a moment to breath. The truth is there will never be enough hours in the day as long as we’re living in a city. There will always be more work to be done, more social obligations, more time that should be spent exercising or eating right. There will always be excuses, but that doesn’t mean we can’t break out of our routines and try something new.