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Remember when you were a kid and longed for those lazy, hazy days of summer? Vacation started when school let out and the fun began. Routines changed. Time was less structured. Life was simpler. I loved lying in the cool grass and gazing at the sky, seeing shapes in the clouds as they passed. Exercise wasn't a gym class. It was that pick-up game of softball, swimming in a friend's pool, riding my bike, and exploring the neighborhood park. The mind could wander and refresh; the body could "cross-train" without intention; and the spirit could soar with new energy.
As kids, we didn't give much thought, if any, to the health benefits of our summer activities. We just knew instinctively that time spent having fun was essential to well-being.
That time is called recreation for a reason. Summer offered protected time to "re-create" ourselves so we could take on a new set of challenges in the coming school year. For those of you born in the personal computer age (Iwasn't), summer was akin to a personal "reboot."
Today, relatively few nurses can take the summer off. And even those who do will still have the daily obligations inherent in being a responsible adult. There's no hard stop anymore that signals us that it's time to take a break. We have to make a conscious effort to save room for personal downtime-ideally without guilt or the nagging sense that more important things remain to be done.
A lack of downtime at any point in the year can have some very real consequences, including mental and physical fatigue, stress, irritability, and health problems. To sustain stamina, vitality, mental agility, and even a joy for living, we have to periodically disconnect from the daily grind. There's a sweet spot-a balance-between work and play. The challenge is figuring outwhat you need and carving out space on a regular basis to promote it.
To the new grads joining our ranks and to everyone else who might need agentle reminder, I prescribe healthy doses of enjoyable physical activity, sunshine, creativity, unplugging from devices that tether us to obligations, and good old fashioned fun this summer and throughout the year!
Until next time-
Linda Laskowski-Jones, MS, RN, ACNS-BC, CEN, FAWM
Editor-in-Chief, Nursing2011 Vice President: Emergency and Trauma Services, Christiana Care Health System, Wilmington, Del.
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