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Untangle frazzled nerves, resolve to do less


Last updated 1/3/2008 at Noon

New Year’s is the time for resolutions. We promise ourselves that we will stop smoking, lose half our body weight in ten days, run a triathlon by spring, and pay off all our credit card bills.

Instead of adding to your already overloaded “To Do” list, why not try making a resolution to do less, even if it is only once a week or once a month?

Jewish people devote sundown Friday to sundown Saturday to doing nothing. It’s known as the Sabbath, and when I say it’s a day of rest, I am not kidding: no telephone, no writing, no cooking, no cleaning, no turning lights on and off, no driving, and no shopping. Families spend their time at home reading alone or to one another, playing games, visiting friends, taking naps, and spending time around the kitchen table catching up on what everyone has been up to.

Michael Medved, a Jewish radio commentator, said this about observing the Sabbath: “Shabbat frees you from the tyranny of the daily demands that own the rest of your life. What could more significantly represent personal freedom than learning to let the phone ring without feeling compelled to pick it up? It separates us from our normal bondage each week.”

In “These are the Gifts I’d Like to Give You,” Douglas Plagles had this to say about taking time off: “Sometimes it’s important to work for that pot of gold. But other times it’s essential to take time off and to make sure that your most important decision in the day simply consists of choosing which color to slide down on the rainbow.”

There is no need to turn this experiment into a list of “thou shalt nots,” however. Sit with the family and see what everyone would be willing to forego for one day a week (or a month) and see what happens.

Some ideas to make the day special:

1. Turn off the television all day.

2. Don’t answer your phone.

3. Let your money take a rest too and don’t shop.

4. Take your dog out for a long walk and pay attention to the plants and birds you see. Just getting out of the house and walking can bring on a relaxation response.

5. Take a nap without guilt!

6. Prepare meals the evening before and let them cook in crockpots so there is no cooking to be done.

7. Rediscover books and snuggle on the couch with your little ones or alone and lose yourself in a great story.

8. Don’t let the car out of the garage.

9. Get out the nice table linens or nice dishes and use them. This will give the day a special feeling that it really is set apart from the normal workweek.

Of course, all of these are merely suggestions. Each family has different needs and desires, and a weekly Day of Rest may not be practical. Even setting aside one Saturday or Sunday a month could help untangle the frazzled nerves and overbooked times we all struggle with.


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