By Detra Clark, LCSW

In therapy I often reference with my clients what is known as the cognitive triad. This states the way we think, affects how we feel and our feelings affect our actions. SLOW DOWN ... If we've heard this once, then we've probably heard it a thousand times, but does it actually make us approach our life any differently? Perhaps for the moment or for the day. I would like to challenge you to start thinking of your minutes, hours and days as priceless blessings that you will never get back; because that is exactly what they are. A good friend of mine shared an article with me that she read about viewing the daily tasks, and events that fill our calendars as a reflection of fullness in our lives rather than busyness. Webster's dictionary defines the word "full" as not lacking or omitting anything; complete. With that definition in mind, I consider myself very grateful to have a life full of people, family and events that surround them. A significant part of our emotional health surrounds our relationships with others and the way that we care for ourselves. I would like to share 10 simple, but often overlooked considerations for appreciating the fullness of our lives while maintaining emotional balance.

1. Schedule prayer, reflection or alone time that is non negotiable. This time is just as important as the conference call, Monday-morning meeting and coffee date you scheduled with a friend. It allows us to refocus and recharge before giving of ourselves to others. No one likes drinking from an empty glass ... we'll always end up thirsty.

2. Be intentional by writing down all activities planned to avoid overextending ourselves. If we fail to plan, then we plan to fail.

3. Begin viewing our day-to-days through eyes of gratitude for the job we are blessed to have, the weddings, birthday parties and graduations of those who value their relationship with us. Their inclusion of us in such monumental moments in their lives should really shift our perspectives to one of appreciation. The phrase "it's always something" really is true. Without the "somethings" life could easily be nothing.

4. Prioritize: Let's be good stewards of our time so that we can say no to the good and yes to the best. I read a devotional last week by Renee Swope that really made me stop and think. She said, "Say no to many things so you have energy and emotion to say yes to those closest to you."

5. Say no without feeling that you have to explain yourself. This is different than No. 4 because if you're going to beat yourself up for saying no, apologize a million times and feel guilty, you might as well have said yes. Personally, I think it's more work and more emotionally draining when we punish ourselves for being unable to be all things to all people. Sometimes the answer just has to be no. Period, and that's OK.

6. Get moving! Movement and getting fresh oxygen into our bodies is therapeutic in nature. A brief walk, yoga session or whatever you enjoy doing that requires you to be physically active can be so beneficial in clearing your mind and rechanneling your energy.

7. Set your own pace. If you were running a marathon, you would not win by running at someone else's speed, whether faster or slower. Winning comes by setting your own pace and running the race set out before you. We are all called to a different purpose in life, so live yours out with intentionality, grace and your own style. Keeping up with someone else is just exhausting.
Be you!
8. Look for opportunities to serve others. Cliché maybe, but definitely true. Life is so much richer when it's not all about us. Giving back and helping out is a win-win for everybody. What a wonderful gift to look beyond our own needs and struggles, and see the needs of someone else.

9. Eat well and rest well. We are what we eat, and so much of how we function from day to day is really impacted by our food intake and sleep hygiene. Two hours of sleep and a sugar-filled coke to counteract the sleep deficit usually won't get it done. These poor choices alone can affect your mood, cortisol level (stress hormone), appetite and energy level throughout the day. Bet you are fun to be around! Think of your body as your car ... how far would you get on an empty tank and a flat tire? Your body operates very similarly. Be good to it.

10. Have some fun. Do not be afraid to pencil in the fun stuff! Give yourself something to look forward to. This is an obligation to ourselves that we should fulfill to sustain our own mental health and well being.

Starting today, let's change the way we think about life and the many facets that come with it. I began by discussing how our thoughts affect our feelings which then in turn affect our actions. I plan to look for the many opportunities in my life to celebrate and appreciate the whos and whats and count it all joy. How can you change your thoughts to reflect a life of fullness?