S t r e t c h
“A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.”
I recently decided to join a group of friends on facebook who are committed to being healthy. Team Be Fit Don’t Quit post photos of their workouts, their smoothies and the views they see on their early morning walks. I am trying to get back into a workout routine. There comes a point in your age where you have to face the truth, if you don’t take care of yourself, the consequences are not pleasant.
So one of my sons is trying to keep me on track, and he tells me I need to stretch for at least 40 minutes a day. I try not to roll my eyes as I wonder, where am I going to find another 40 minutes in my day? It is the day that needs to stretch, not me! But his point is well taken. When we do not prepare our muscles for the demand of a workout, we run the risk of injury. But how do we stretch our time to accommodate all of the things we try to fit into our days?
One of the questions we ask prospective nursing students is about their time management skills. So often we see young people who earnestly desire to become a nurse with no idea how hard it is to achieve that goal. The amount of information you have to learn is enormous. This is not about getting through a program and getting a certificate or a degree, passing exams along the way and walking across a stage. It is about understanding how the human body behaves in sickness and in health; recognizing the relevant signs and symptoms, interventions, complications and outcomes. Remembering lab results and medications and side effects and interactions. Responding to critical situations with composure, making sure to apply your best clinical judgment. And all the time thinking of the human being who is needing your attention, showing empathy and compassion to the person and their loved ones who are hovering over you, watching your every move. No, nursing school is not for the faint-hearted.
But how do you manage to juggle multiple priorities simultaneously? How do you determine who gets attention first? How do you make sure you are completing all of your tasks in a timely manner, knowing that the technology you are working with is set up with alarms and red flags to warn you when you are outside of your allotted time frame? And how do you pause for the patient who just needs you to be with them for a moment, as they face their fear, or deal with a tough diagnosis? How do you make time stretch to fit your deadlines?
We like life to be predictable. We love to know what to expect, to be able to cope with our daily challenges, and we get annoyed when we are not able to get through our day, our week, our month according to our plans. When things happen which are outside of our control it throws us off our game and we become uncomfortable, anxious and short-tempered. We don’t like having to change, to adapt, to flex to fit our new reality. But this is where growth occurs. We know we have worked out when our muscles cry out in pain, when we feel the burn, and although it hurts we recognize that this is the price for getting in shape. And although we complain, we are proud of ourselves. Challenging your mind can be just as painful.
Stretching our mind requires us to be open to a new way of looking at things. It requires a new perspective, a different point of view. How many situations in the world could be avoided by simply trying to understand things from somebody else’s perspective? Right now there are people killing their fellow man because they are unwilling to stretch their mind enough to accept another person’s point of view. Stretching our mind demands that we rethink what we know, and admit that there may be things we don’t know that could change our opinion. How many times do you stop and say honestly, ‘I did not know that’ – having assumed we knew enough of a situation to have an opinion.
If we are to grow we must stretch, we must demand more of ourselves, push ourselves further. And we must be prepared for the stretching to be uncomfortable. And you just might find that your day stretches to meet your needs. I have often found that the more I have to do, the more productive I become. And the corollary of that is this: the less I have to do, the lazier I become. So I know I can keep my ‘to do’ list fairly full, so long as I remember to stretch before I begin! And also remember to acknowledge my limits, taking moments to stop, breathe and restore when necessary.
As you stretch your mind and your body, challenge your heart to stretch as well. Sometimes all it takes to be able to accept the unreasonable behavior of another is to send love their way. As that person in your life steps on your last nerve or pushes your last button, pause for a moment and picture a blast of love going out from your heart to them. If it prevents you from going to jail, it may not be a bad thing! In the moment it may be easy to forget your intentions, but being aware of another way of handling things is that first step towards living your life in a new way; stretching into your new self, a self who is more capable and powerful than you ever imagined.
To my teammates – thanks for the inspiration and example! I may not join you every day, but I am 100% better off than I was a month ago! Have a wonderful weekend Facebook Family! And remember to S T R E T C H!!