“We are never more fully alive, more completely ourselves, or more deeply engrossed in anything than when we are playing.”

~ Charles Schaefer

Once in a while, when the stress builds up and you’ve been working too hard for too long, you might try implementing a technique that Stephen R. Covey calls “Sharpening the Saw”. Go to bed early, sleep in late – or both. Take an extra-long shower or soak in the tub. Set aside an afternoon to go hiking, swimming, or enjoy a long bike ride. Spend some time at the zoo, in the mountains or just take a nap in a hammock. Make your number one priority be YOU for a day or two.

Like a coach in a football game, I sometimes call time out on my life by choosing to loosen up and take it easy for a while. I realize that I can’t be on my “A game” all the time. I must let go of expectations, take a break, and recharge my batteries. Occasionally I may even use a vacation day and stay home from work for a “mental health day”.

Ultimate Frisbee, Just Dance, volleyball, basketball, a water fight, Charades- anything that reminds you to laugh and be playful is revitalizing. If you’re in a more contemplative mood, maybe taking a pottery class, painting with watercolors or arranging a bouquet of flowers would feel like a better fit, to fill your bucket.

Once a week we spend time together as a family. One night I took my two sons to the game center at a nearby university. We spent three hours playing ping pong, pool, and bowling. We had a really great time! We started the evening with bowling two games. It was interesting to see that there was no method to our madness. Both boys did something crazy each time before throwing the ball – jumping up and down, dancing, singing, turning around backwards, and throwing the ball between their legs etc. It was hilarious. There was a lot of laughter, sarcasm, and high fives. None of us broke 100 even though we all got a few spares and strikes.

Next, we played a game of pool. The boys played each other and kept getting the other person’s ball in the pocket instead of their own. After about 15 minutes one of them got the eight ball in, so the game was over. I got to play the “winner”. This time three or four turns would go by before any ball would go in, and when it did, it was usually followed by the white ball. After 21 minutes, someone finally got the eight ball in, and we moved on to ping pong. We were MUCH better at this game. It was a relief to play something that was so fast moving after the tortuous pace of the pool matches. It was such a fun evening: goofing off, teasing, dancing, laughing, acting crazy and enjoying each other’s company.

When you’re feeling stretched to the breaking point, stressed, or overwhelmed, the important thing is to tune in to your feelings. Ask yourself what you really need at that specific moment. Then, whether it’s skydiving or gardening, tune in to the answer and give yourself permission to PLAY! Your inner child will be grateful.