3 Ways You Can Actually Get Rest through Play

According to Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.” This weekend I found a temporary fountain of youth—at a pumpkin patch!  Celebrating the birthdays of two of my nieces and my daughter, we visited a small-town Nebraskan pumpkin patch on Saturday.  This experience was what I needed to infuse live into me.

Rest and play

My overnight work schedule has been challenging.  Getting naps throughout the day are hit or miss depending on how fussy or not my teething 8 month old daughter is on a a particular day. Balancing work and life has like trying to battle 16 monkey ninjas on your own. Our three year old has regressed over the past few weeks, meltdowns are on the rise, I only get to see my wife about 30 minutes most days, and the list of struggles goes on and on.

The purpose of this post is not to complain, but rather give a bit of context as to why my content has been irregular recently. I am thankfully for people providing guest posts in the midst of my chaotic schedule. I will be publishing more guest posts to help give me a break during this season. Rest. I did not appreciate sleep until I lacked it. This post will focus on a few ways I have been able to discover how to get rest during a grueling schedule. If you are in a similar or more serious situation than my family I hope you find value in these tips.

Play and Positivity

A common factoid you may have learned in school is that it takes less muscles to smile than it does to frown. If you never heard this amazing fact, please check out the link in the related resources section at the end of this post to read about the science behind smiling. This weekend I smiled.

Traveling on a zip line, sliding down the barn slide, pedaling a cart, and chasing my kids on the pumpkin patch playground incited smiles. We need playtime help reset our mindset. Going into work on Monday I was much more motivated and cheery. Playtime leads to positivity.

Observational Play is Still Fun

According to Angela Schwindt, “While we try to teach our children all about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” During the breaks between pumpkin patch activities I got the chance to watch my children caper with their cousins. The joy and excitement in their faces caused me to beam with gratitude. I rarely have the opportunity to simply rest and observe them in the middle of play.

Overcoming from a recent sinus infection and my continual job hunt for work from home opportunities has drained much of my energy the past few weeks. This weekend provided me the chance to pause and have fun watching my kids play!

Recapping the Day is Restful

Another way to fit in play during a busy schedule is to reflect on the revelry throughout the day. We had a three hour drive back home so I spent some time replaying the fun our family had in my mind. Next, my wife and I talked about our favorite moments. I asked each of my children which activity they enjoyed the best. “Pumpkin, I have a pumpkin daddy!” my three year old exclaimed from his car seat. Looking back, I saw a wide grin on his face and the orange vegetable proudly held in his hand.

Pumpkin Patch

Memory gave me the ability to play again while sitting down in the car. As I recapped the day, I regained my energy that was completely drained during the week.

Make it a priority to get daily playtime. It is necessary for a healthy body and mind. Play renewed my endurance. Rediscover joy in life by embracing playtime. A work and life balance is important. How do you plan on resting and playing this week?

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3 Rest Stops for Our Pilgrimage Towards Holiness

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According to the National Sleep Foundation, humans are considered the only mammal that willingly delays sleeps. For more interesting facts about sleep here is a link: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/25-random-facts-about-sleep. Sleep is an issue that pervades all of human life. As a father to four young children, I oftentimes determine the success [or failure] of a day over whether my children successfully or unsuccessfully take their scheduled nap!

The stresses of life, dealing with sick family members, and limited sleep due to my new work schedule drain me on a daily basis. The exhaustion last week became so overwhelming that I almost gave up hope. But the thing about tiredness is that is oftentimes causes people to forgot and lose strength to continue.

On the verge of wallowing in a lake of lassitude, I suddenly remembered the words of Bishop Paul Swain that he said at a confirmation Mass. Specifically referring to the sacrament of confirmation, but I believe his words apply to the rest of the sacraments as well, the successor of St. Peter said, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.”

In the past, I associated the sacraments as offensive weapons against sin, however, recently I have come to view the sacramental system as a means to shield and sustain oneness from the endless assault of the Enemy’s attacks. Below I wish to explore my experience with how the sacraments of confession, Eucharist, and marriage help provide spiritual rest for my pilgrim journey.

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Confession Crossing

Growing up I remembered the summer vacations my family and I went on involved a ton of driving. If the rambunctious nature of sons is any indication of what I was like as a kid, I imagine my parents looked forward to taking a pause in the long drive to allow my siblings and I to run out our energy. As a parent, I learned that a periodic rest stop sometimes solves a fussy situation in the car. Pope Francis once declared, “Always remember this: life is a journey. It is a path, a journey to meet Jesus. At the end, and forever. A journey in which we do not encounter Jesus is not a Christian journey.”

Too many times I forget that life is more of a pilgrimage—toward Heaven. Life is not simply a tourist attraction for me to amass as much pleasurable and exciting experiences as possible.

Without Jesus as the focus of my journey I lean toward being a tourist of the world instead of a pilgrim in the world. Confession is the sacrament that provides me an opportunity to rest and receive God’s graces. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “This sacrament reconciles us with the Church. Sin damages or even breaks fraternal communion. The sacrament of Penance repairs or restores it” (CCC 1469.

Recently, I received the sacramental graces of the medicine box. I felt a large burden lifted from me and have the strength to be able to encounter the busyness of life with a calm assurance that God will sustain me even during tough situations.

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Eucharist— Fuel for the Road Ahead

While Confession heals the wounds of my sins, the sacrament of the Eucharist provides me nourishment and strength for the journey for the rest of the week. In the book of Exodus, God listened to the plea of his people, traveling in the wilderness, a plea for food to sustain them during the tumultuous journey. As amazing and unmerited the gift of manna in the Old Testament, Jesus instituted the sacrament of the Eucharist as a fulfillment of this prefiguration in Exodus. Jesus decisively teaches us in John 6,

Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.48I am the bread of life.49Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died;z50this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die.51I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world.

After receiving the body and blood of Jesus Christ every Sunday Mass, I gain the strength to make it through the trials of this world. According to the Catechism paragraph 1391, “The principal fruit of receiving the Eucharist in Holy Communion is an intimate union with Christ Jesus. Indeed, the Lord said: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.”226 Life in Christ has its foundation in the Eucharistic banquet: “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.”

Reading this passage makes me reflect on the popular adage, “you are what you eat”—receiving Jesus in this sacraments helps transform us into the best [i.e. most Christ-like] versions of ourselves!

Matrimony—Momentum for the Journey

G.K. Chesterton is considered a king of wit and satire—especially among Catholics. His quotes on marriage frequent social media. Ironically, I actually shared the below memes on Instagram recently!

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Wait! “I thought this article was about theological REST STOPS for our pilgrim journey—not holy hand grenades,” one might say. I agree with Chesterton, oftentimes marriage is like going to war—sins of pride, impatience, anger, lust, greed, and sloth [to name just a few]—become casualties. However, war does not always involve active or constant movement. Rather, a large part of war entails strategizing against the enemy—and that involves resting and planning. The sacrament of marriage is a gift from God that allows spouses to acquire the graces of rest and perseverance.

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Marriage as a sacrament involves total commitment towards one’s spouse. Husband and wife do not split responsibilities as in a 50/50 contract. Instead, marriage is a covenant—an oath that involves 100/100 dedication of the husband toward the wife and vice versa. Honestly, I sometimes struggle to view marriage this way. Throughout periods in my wife and I’s marriage either she or I would have to “more time and effort” than the other “put in”. Keeping a tally sheet and IOUs does not lead to a fruitful marriage. Only by donning a servant mentality did I truly receive the sacramental graces of matrimony to acquire true peace and rest.

Rely on the Sacraments for Rest!

To close, I wish to again ponder the words of Bishop Paul Swain, “Sacraments [the sacrament of confirmation] are not the end or graduation of the Catholic life, rather sacraments act as theological rest stops to give us strength.” Do you take advantage God’s oasis’ for holiness? If you are married do you take time to see God work in your spouse? Is there any ways you may be able to deepen your participation in the sacrifice of the Mass? Let us use the rest of Lent as a time to grow in holiness and thank God for the gifts of the sacraments—theological rest stops for our pilgrim journey!

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3 Incredibly Simple Tools to Incapacitate Anxiety 

According to Derek Beres, a Los Angeles-based author, music producer, and fitness instructor in a 2017 article Why is Anxiety Increasing in America?,

Anxiety is one of those phenomena that non-sufferers sometimes claim, ‘it’s all in your mind.’ That’s simply not true; panic attacks are also a somatic experience. With a growing awareness of what creates anxiety and a captive online community searching for solutions, we’re learning more about what those triggers are and how they interact with our mind and body.

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While I am far from an expert on the psychology or neurology, I do have knowledge about anxiety from my own personal experiences. Suffering from anxiety and depression myself I learned methods to combat worry and constant anxiety. As a father and husband I learned that the bustle and complexity of family life ultimately points me toward growing in the virtue of patience and gentleness instead of being a burden to my career endeavors. Facing a barrage of continual interruptions, meltdowns, and challenges from my youngest son–who was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder– some days I feel like giving up. Ironically, enough, this is the seventh attempt to finish this paragraph already this morning [my two-year old wanted me to get a particular toy-car from under the couch and then he proceeded to open the fridge and point to the pickle jar for his second-breakfast snack! :)]

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Sadly, I momentarily allowed the stress wanting to post today’s article sooner rather than later to get the better of me. Suffering interruptions and being compelled to exercise patience I believe actually strengthens my message rather than weakening it. I am reminded by the words of St. Maria Faustina on the subject of suffering, “O, my Jesus, I understand well that, just as illness is measured with a thermometer and a high fever tells us of the seriousness of the illness; so also, in the spiritual life, suffering is the thermometer which measures the love of God in a soul.” Below I am sharing three incredibly simple tools to help to incapacitate anxiety.

Disclaimer: Please remember that the battle against depression and anxiety must be continually fought so while these tool are effective they may not all apply to you now, but I promise you it would be wise to keep them on your utility-belt for the future.

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  1.  Checkpoint victories: Recently, I learned that the best way to develop a strategy against stress, anxiety, depression, and fear of failure is to focus on miniature goals. As an avid runner in high school, I utilized this practical strategy when finishing a 5-6 mile training circuit. Focusing on a point close ahead [i.e. a stop-sign, a large tree, or the corner of the block] I made checkpoints for me to continue running towards. As a result of these minor checkpoints, small victories led to the major victory–finishing a training session without stopping or setting a personal record during a race.

While many of you may not be a runner, and some may even despise exercise [believe me I understand some days I dread working out and simply lack the energy to do so!] the idea of setting short-term and minor goals is something that is transferable to managing daily anxiety. “Focus on two or three specific goals instead of trying to succeed at mastering many, many things at once. This will help reduce your stress,” my manager told me yesterday. Today, I am heeding his words by incorporating these three tools today and for the rest of the week.

Even as I write/wrote this post, I am making bit-sized victories as my kids demanded/asked for my attention. Consequently, the involuntary writer hiatus count is up to 18–it may be up to closer to 30-40 by the time this post is complete that may depend on whether my kids place nicely together the amount of times I decide to help of my favorite literary creature the Thesaurus for inspiring me to come up with fancy phrasing/names such as the involuntary writer hiatus count [as opposed to the boring “interruption-count”]

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  1. ♬ Make a list, check it twice ♬: No, I am not referring to the Christmas classic song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. Thank goodness, right! We already have Christmas in July specials do we really need Santa in Springtime? The second tool to incapacitate anxiety is to make a list of all the blessings in your life. A simple way to incorporate this into the work day is to put a blank Post-It note on your desk. Next, as the day progresses [if there is no time in the morning] start to jot a names of people that bring you joy. Include as well any material goods that you are grateful for as well: shelter, sunlight, water, food, clothes, and other simple joys. Trying this yesterday allowed me to re-orient any negative and anxious feelings towards a mindset of thanksgiving.

 

  1. Acid Attack:  According to research [see link for more information: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/tamara-star/post_13013_b_11766146.html] , eating citrus fruits is a practical tasty way to lower anxiety. Noticing a fellow co-worker eating an orange everyday on her morning break piqued my attention especially because she shared her daily struggles with anxiety and depression. I tried this simple strategy this week–and it worked! The citric acid and taste of the orange calmed my stress. I even kept the orange peel and smelled a few times the oil from the peel and scent of citric acid continued to provide soothing relief.

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Well, I finally finished this post. Anyone interested in the grand total for the involuntary writer hiatus count: it reached 30–and no, I did not visit my friendly online Thesaurus again, that was all my children–impressive to say the least! Hopefully, you find these tools invaluable in your war against anxiety. Once again, it you do not find them useful currently, please keep them in your anxiety armory for the next skirmish against stress. After all that writing, I am famished, I think my second breakfast will consist of a couple oranges! Thank you again for reading.

 

Thank you for sharing!

Satan’s Secret Weapon: The Snooze Button

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I recently read that the average American person hits their snooze button about three times a morning. Unfortunately, on some days, my rate is almost double! Well, I wanted today’s topic to include an example that nearly everyone can relate to–the desire for more sleep. What is more, the snooze button is a metaphor for my spiritual life, at least as of late.

Procrastination is a condition that all humans suffer from at some point in our lives. Some suffer from this more than others. One might say, “Now hold on for a sec Matt! A little procrastination is not bad— I mean we should not work too hard in this life, right?!” Procrastination is most definitely less heinous than murder or terrorism. However, I maintain that the devil’s clandestine ploy against God’s faithful often takes ordinary disguises.

Laziness Leads to Lukewarmness

Lately, I have been lukewarm in my faith life. I mean I still uphold the basic tenets of the Catholic faith: going to Sunday Mass, occasional confession throughout the year, and a weekly reading of the Bible. But I still have a deep aching in my soul for more. What is my problem? For one I failed to follow through at times in my spiritual life. I tried to wake up for 6:45 A.M. daily Mass, but I hit my snooze button several times on my phone and overslept.

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A New Testament passage that appeals to my current situation is the Agony in the Garden scene. Here Peter, James, and John suffer from sleepiness as well. Instead of having a cellular phone alarm to jolt them back to consciousness they are awakened by the Word of God— Jesus. According to Mark’s Gospel, Jesus had to provide the sounding alarm for his apostles to wake up not once, but rather three times! The same amount as the average American hits the snooze button. We really have not progressed too far in 2000 years on that subject. Humans constantly let God down by procrastinating and failing to follow through on promises to Him. In Luke 22:40, Jesus warns his closest friends, “Pray that you may not undergo the test”.

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No Rest for the Wicked

What this means is that Satan is never going to take a break from trying to sever our relationship with God. The great tempter is rarely overt in his attempts to lead us astray. The closer we get to God, the more sneaky and creative the devil needs to be in attempting to achieve his goals. Who knows what types of graces I may have received during the 6:45 AM Mass. Unfortunately, my chance for today is past. Alas, I must try again tomorrow.

My hope for those reading this post, especially if you are a marginal Catholic that is hesitant to trust the Church or simply stuck in a lazy period of your spiritual life, to please look for people in your life that you can turn to help keep you accountable. Ask a parent, spouse, neighbor, best friend, child, or co-worker to come to Mass with you. For me the only time I succeeded in waking up on time (AT 6 AM!) was when I went to a Catholic men’s faith-sharing group.

The best way to fight Satan’s secret weapons (the snooze button in this case) is actually through stealth. Publicly the Catholic Church is always clear that the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession are the best ways to ward off the devil’s temptations. And make you war against the elusive evil one public. Ask people to help and pray for you. I certainly will. And I hope you pray for me as well!

Related Links:

https://thesimplecatholic.blog/2018/12/18/satans-sinister-weapon-dosage-of-despair/

https://www.catholicgentleman.net/2015/11/spiritual-combat-weapons-for-your-arsenal/

 

Thank you for sharing!