Grab 2022 by the throat and yell, ‘Not this year, you don’t!’

How to take back your time so you can prioritize what matters most – your health

By Beth Krah

When was the last time you took time out to not only breathe, but to exhale? Since the onset of COVID-19, I feel like I’ve needed someone to slap me upside the head just so I would stop holding my breath and relax a moment.

My work revolves around infection prevention measures, so although I wasn’t working the same demanding hours as first responders, I too was completely overwhelmed as I tried to keep up. I have the utmost respect for all of you and everything you’ve had to deal with during this time. COVID certainly gave the rest of the world a better glimpse of what you do every day, and I pray you see the difference you made – and continue to make – in our lives.

As long as there is a gap between what you care about and what your life reflects, you’re going to feel anxious, exhausted and out of balance.
As long as there is a gap between what you care about and what your life reflects, you’re going to feel anxious, exhausted and out of balance. (Photo/Getty Images)

But I think it’s time for a heart to heart.

Important questions and realizations

Jan. 1 comes barreling in with its New Year’s resolutions and thoughts that maybe this year, you’ll be more organized, or take time out for yourself. But deadlines loom, new protocols are put into place, budgets tighten, and you find yourself wondering if this year will be just like the last two.

If you’re old enough to have done this for a while, you know the drill. Personally, I always try to be more organized, but realistically, I can’t get my head out of October’s paperwork, and by the time I resurface, it’s June and Hobby Lobby is pulling out their Christmas decorations again.

But for first responders, emergencies are your life. How can you possibly take time for yourself when you’re so short-staffed and the public cry continues to get louder? Is time for yourself even attainable?

Maybe you’re trying to find more balance in your life – appropriate time for family and work. You multi-task, work harder and try to be more efficient, but at the end of the day, you’re left even more exhausted. You selflessly serve others, and while that is critical, if you don’t take time out to get off the hamster wheel, pause for a moment and exhale, you will find yourself depleted and more susceptible to depression and at risk for a stroke or heart attack.

Take back your time

The path to a healthy balance is not more productivity, doing more and waking up earlier. It’s more about enjoying the life that you’re living now – not being concerned about the past or worrying about the future. As long as there is a gap between what you care about and what your life reflects, you’re going to feel anxious, exhausted and out of balance.

In a recent EntreLeadership class, Christy Wright, author of “Take Back Your Time,” suggests we need to work smarter, not harder. She says, “Life balance is not doing everything for an equal amount of time, it’s about doing the right thing at the right time.” In other words, you get to decide what is right for you at any given time, and that may change as situations evolve, but it must include time for your own health.

If you live by your calendar, then put time in it for you. Focusing on YOU is important. You matter to the rest of us. You need to be healthy so you can stick around longer.

Here’s my suggestion: Take a pen and paper, toss the phone off a cliff (momentarily, of course) and be still. Jot down everything swirling around your head: your to-do lists, your reminders, your schedule. Having it on paper helps keep it out of your head.

Wright suggests thinking through the following points to see if you can recuperate some of your time:

  • Decide What Matters: Each season of life has its own challenges. What matters most to you right now (aging parents, family illness, career move maybe)? Give yourself permission to change your mind as things fluctuate.
  • Stop Doing What Doesn’t Matter: Are there any distractions in your life that you can ditch or any activities you’re involved with that just aren’t that important? What can you delegate? “When you stop doing the things that don’t matter, you’ll be amazed at how much time you’ll have,” Wright says.
  • Create a Schedule that Reflects What Matters: Are you passively living life and reacting as things are thrown at you, or are you purposely calling the shots? You weren’t meant to do everything; you need to do the right things, at the right time. Are you scheduling time out for relaxation and getting sleep?
  • Protect What Matters: Set boundaries around those things. Say no more often and protect what matters most. Is that your family, a hobby, or your job – or is it taking time for yourself by getting away from everyone else for a day so you can breathe? Only you can decide what is important to you at any given time.
  • Be Present for What Matters: Do you worry about the kids when you’re at work, or worry about deadlines when you’re playing with your kids? Do you remember your drive home or did you just arrive there as you sifted through work issues in your mind? Live where your feet are. “You will give yourself the incredible gift of experiencing your life while you’re in it,” Wright shares. “You can create the most impressive schedule in the world, but if you’re not present for it, you’ll miss it.”

Get in the driver’s seat

I felt a strong sense of relief when I started applying this in my own life. I wasn’t meant to do everything. Similarly for you, this approach may require you to relinquish some of the things that are tying you down. There are so many good things you can be doing, but if the timing is not right, it becomes the wrong thing.

Start by living your life in the driver’s seat instead of the passenger seat. Are you crazy enough to grab 2022 by the throat and say, “Not this year, you don’t!” Then go fishing and breathe a bit.

I pray that your 2022 is truly a fresh start as you focus on your health and being able to enjoy that journey.

Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal – Winter 2022.

About the author

Beth Krah is the founder and CEO of The Krah Corporation, LLC (dba Krah Health Solutions). Krah has served the healthcare community for over a decade providing upstream infection prevention measures with a special focus on EMS/fire, disaster preparedness/response, mobile medical care facilities, and the military. She is currently a Director of the Board for the National EMS History Museum (NEMSM) and a contributor to Carolina Fire Rescue EMS Journal and Healthcare Purchasing News.

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