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Wellness and prevention information from the experts at the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing


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Passions and priorities – avoiding being overwhelmed

185421595.OverscheduledCalendarBy Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, massage therapist, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

It was my junior year of college, and I had big plans. On the slate for fall term were 16 credit hours, a campus job, two volunteer positions, a romantic interest, and spots in at least two performing choirs. On the side, I also was to teach a weekly yoga class, tutor Italian language students, and participate in a twice weekly science internship.

Several friends told me that it seemed a bit much. But I was excited and confident that my passion and drive would see me through.

It was an impressive juggling act for the first few weeks, and ultimately my passion did carry me through, just not to my planned destination. I scraped through the term with 11 academic credits, many frayed nerve endings, and an application for academic leave.

The job, volunteerism, romance, choirs, additional credits, and much of my social life disappeared by November.  My attempt to “get it all done” had run me into a nervous breakdown.  I remember feeling confused about why it hadn’t worked out.

Reflecting back, I see that I had talent, inspiration, youth, intelligence and energy on my side. I set goals that seemed reasonable, and planned my time accordingly. The trouble was that I gave equal importance to everything. When things got hairy with my classwork, I didn’t let other responsibilities go — I just stayed up later. Things started to slip and that didn’t fit my self-expectations, so my emotional stress hit the roof.

Years later, the number of responsibilities, passions, and demands on my time hasn’t decreased—quite the contrary. The lesson of that semester, though, has stuck with me: Many things can be important, but only a few can be central. I took spring semester off, and came back with three clear priorities ― school, yoga, and music. Once those were taken care of, my remaining time would be unstructured.

In truth, there was little unstructured time and focusing on three things was almost boring in comparison to my fall semester. But at the year’s end, I was a happy, healthy biology major on top of things. I felt successful, and I had found a new way to approach my passions and priorities.

As you consider resolutions, goals, and plans, what are your top priorities? What is filling your time but not supporting your values? What people, ideas, or activities excite you? Acting on your values provides what I call the “second paycheck.” These are things that money can’t buy, but that have immeasurable worth –  like time spent with the kids, painting, hiking in the woods, or close friendships.

Here is my challenge to you in four easy steps:

  1. Buy a stack of 3 x 5 index cards. Each night this month, draw a blank card before going to bed.
  2. On the front, write down three core values and/or important goals.
  3. On the back, note three small things you will do the next day to meet those values or goals.
  4. The next day, do those three things again.

Repeat these steps until you can’t think of anything else that is important to do. Sound easy? Let me know how it goes!

Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, is a massage therapist with the Penny George Institute. He works with hospitalized patients.


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Accumulating stuff and letting go – reorganizing to relieve stress

By Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, massage therapist, Penny George Institute for Health and Healing

My wife and I consider ourselves to be thrifty folks who place a higher value on relationships and time spent together than on stuff.  Even so, it’s astonishing how many things accumulate in our home.

Perhaps you can relate. With three children under seven, our house was one busy place last summer. Like many families in Minnesota, we spend the summer months getting out as much as we can ― day camps, bike rides, camping trips, swimming, boating and climbing. These activities all require equipment that takes up space.

During the summer months, this stuff can live on the porch, in the garage, or even in the backyard.  But come autumn, we need to find places inside our home for it.  Enter my basement  … dah dah dah Daaah.

Because we had been so busy, our basement maintenance and storage system became overwhelmed to the point that you could barely walk down there. I found myself avoiding it so I didn’t have to look at it.

It wasn’t until a cold, rainy, Friday evening in October that I finally found time to sort, organize, and discard my way through that pile. The emotional weight lifted in putting my things in their place was startling. I remembered how valuable it is to feel this way.

In the Chinese calendar, autumn is about letting go. Leaves fall, summer fades. The harvest is in, and we look back on the year with appreciation for its fullness, and in some cases for its messiness.

Fall is a time to consider what is meaningful in our lives. Ideas, objects, relationships and habits may be reconsidered, revised or replaced with things that are more relevant and life-giving. When we take time to organize, sort, and care for our space and our possessions, we have an opportunity to consider what is meaningful.

For example, while sorting through my basement, I came across several crates of books that I’ve stored for almost 20 years in hopes that I would someday read, reread, or pass them on to my children. I overlooked them many times during these sorting episodes, but this year I found I was ready to begin letting go. I took nine grocery bags to Magers and Quinn, added $140 to my kids’ college fund, and freed up some space in my basement and my subconscious mind.

Now the holidays have just passed with the typical infusion of more stuff. It’s clear that my space and the things in it affect my stress level. When my home is organized, I feel more relaxed, creative, and able to plan, sort, and breathe. Still, I know that stuff is an essential part of living and raising kids.

I wonder, though, what it would be like if letting go of stuff became as enjoyable and habitual as acquiring it?

I would love to hear your thoughts on these questions:

  • What are your experiences with accumulation of and clearing out of stuff?
  • How do you balance acquiring and letting go?
  • How do you handle accumulation over the holidays? Are you happy with that approach?

Here’s to our stuff! Happy New Year from all of us at the Penny George Institute.

Chandler Yorkhall, BA, NCTMB, AOBTA, is a massage therapist with the Penny George Institute. He works with hospitalized patients.