I am currently participating in a “winter wellness challenge” at my place of employment. Like many savvy employers know, encouraging workers to make healthy choices and get off our duffs and be active improves not only morale and personal health and welfare, but in the long run improves the company’s bottom line and productivity.
Besides, during the winter months in New England, the lure of hibernation is very strong — so any encouragement we can all have to venture forth and be energetic is a noble effort.
In this particular program, we rack up points based on both physical activity, and various “daily healthy behaviors.” The duration and level of physical activity determines how many points can be earned each day. For example, we can get more points for biking than playing croquette. I did notice that wind surfing will be awarded 3 points, however not a whole heck of a lot of that happens around here this time of year.
I tend to be a fairly active person, so this program does not really change my lifestyle. However, it does push me kick it up a notch to make sure I’m doing something point-worthy each day. Typical R.W., I don’t want to drag my team down and be the schlub with no points. And, yes, ok, that competitive thing does kick in a bit, especially against some of the men in the challenge.
What I do find a bit more fascinating are the Healthy Behavior points. To be expected, we get points for eating fruits and veggies and drinking plenty of water. However, we can also get a point each day for sleeping at least 7 hours at night, and for taking a minimum of 20 minutes of “just for me” time.
For any R.W.’s, especially those of us over the age of 40, getting at least 7 hours of sleep per night is a rarity. At first I thought it would be do-able until I read the fine print: must be consecutive hours. Really? Like go to sleep and not wake up at all, not even to get up to pee, until over 7 hours later? Are they kidding? I understand that getting enough sleep is something most of us don’t do, even though it is vital to being able to function at full capacity, plus wards off illness and prevents us from getting run down. Really, I do understand how important that is. But sleep all the way through the night? This particular point reward plan must have been developed by a man, or at least someone under the age of 30.
That brings me to the “Just for Me” time. Only 20 minutes. Sounds simple enough. Until we put it into practice and look at our average day. This is meant to be literally fun or relax time, just for ourselves, not doing anything for anyone else, no “must do” chores, etc. For those of us who actually enjoy exercising, it is tempting to use that time for the Just for Me category, but since we already get points for that, we would be double-dipping and I’m sure that is frowned upon.
One of my co-workers told me the other day that she went to a doctor’s appointment and had to wait a full hour to be seen. I groaned and started to offer my sympathies, until she stopped me and admitted that it wasn’t that bad. They had very good magazines in the waiting room, so she actually took the time to slow down, relax a bit, and read some magazines. I chuckled and let her know that perhaps she could use that as her Just for Me time.
Then it dawned on me. Is that what we’ve come to? Are we Real Women not getting our own down time until we are forced into it? Has it reached the point where having to wait to be seen at the doctor’s office is our version of quiet time? Do we really spend so much time running and doing that we forget the power of stopping?
There are times when I will carve out a few minutes before bedtime to get out a “just for me” fun fluff novel to read. Just the act of snuggling under the covers, a comfy pillow behind me, and a book in my hand, feels like heaven. Having my one evening a week to do scrapbooking with my girlfriend is a great escape. Grabbing a blanket, putting up my feet on the couch and being absorbed into the world of Downton Abbey on TV feels decadent. And, certainly for me, sitting down to my keyboard and letting words flow is therapeutic.
But I know I’m not alone when I say that these times we take for ourselves are by far not frequent enough. It shouldn’t take a formal program, offering us bonus points, to push us to take more time for ourselves. There is a popular claim that you must do something for at least 3 weeks in order for it to become a habit – and that is part of the theory behind our wellness challenge at work… to get us headed in the right direction to make these healthier habits part of our daily lives. I think many of us have the drinking water and being active thing down. But the “just for me” part? Yeah, we’ve got some progress to make there.