Now that the majority of us are working from home and our usual schedules have been interrupted, we have a good opportunity to reflect on our daily routines. Some people love routine, others not so much, some like to do the same things every day, others like to mix things up. Regardless of your tendencies, there is no doubting that a daily routine is a good thing.
Catholic author and speaker, Matthew Kelly says: “There is something beautiful about routine. Fools despise it, but the wise seek and embrace it. Routine is at the centre of God’s creation. The planets have a routine, the oceans rise and fall to a routine, and when your heart is healthy it’s beating obeys a routine.”
I hope this article will help you to establish a healthy routine in your life. I won’t be mapping out your day or advising you on how much time to give to work, rest, prayer etc. Rather I would like to I recommend that you reflect on four areas of your life and ask yourself; am I devoting an appropriate amount of time to each of them? Am I neglecting one or indulging in another? The four areas arise from the reality that every human “created in the image of God, is at once corporeal and spiritual” (CCC 362). In other words, you and I are at the same time a bodily being and a spiritual being. The profound unity between soul and body, spirit and matter means that we can examine our spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical well-being.
The most important, and often the most neglected kind of health, is our spiritual health. The ‘soul’ is the “spiritual principle in man” (CCC 363) and it needs to be cared for, fed and watered so to speak. Perhaps imagine your soul as a garden, what do you see there? Is it tidy, ordered, well-kept and thriving with life? Or is it overgrown, neglected, parched?
If you are on the latter side, then a good confession is a great place to start, a good clean up and determination to start again; to start afresh. If you cannot get to confession because of the pandemic, I recommend a good examination of conscience, an act of contrition and the resolve to go to confession at the next opportune time. We’ll then need to make sure the garden is well fed and watered. Jesus spoke about two primary ways that we can feed our soul.
1. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Mt 4:4)
• The Word of God is food for the soul! How much of it do you eat every day?
2. “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him” (Jn 6:55-56)
• The Eucharist is food for the soul! Now, we might not have access to his Flesh and Blood during these times but we can profess our faith in the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist and make a daily Spiritual Communion.
There are many other things we can do to care for our souls, including various forms of Christian prayer, making room for silence and allowing our souls to ‘breath’ in nature, but ensuring that we are anchored in the Word of God and are being fed as often as possible with the Eucharist are essential to a good spiritual plan.
It is good to regularly ‘check-in’ on your heart. How is it going down there? Some of us, prefer to stay clear of emotions, preferring the safety of our rational minds. Others live and breathe in a whirlwind of feelings and don’t like to ‘think’ about it too much! Whether you are more comfortable in the head or the heart, the reality is that your heart matters. Your emotional well-being is important.
The Catechism speaks about our emotions as ‘passions’ and says that in themselves they are “neither good nor evil” (CCC 1767). While it is important that we don’t over analyse our feelings it is also important that we listen to them and give them room for expression.
The bible speaks of a good friend as a rare “treasure” (Sir 6:14). If you have a good friend or family member you can have good honest, heart to heart conversations with then you have great blessing! Check in often and make time for some ‘heart’ time.
Another healthy way to express our feelings and emotions is through journaling. Simply pour your heart out on a page and then why not read it to God in prayer? “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you” (1 Pet 5:7).
It is often said that our mind is a battlefield and so it is. There are so many ideas and thoughts competing for space in our heads and we need to be careful what kind of thoughts we allow to circulate up there! I recommend asking yourself two questions:
1. How much time do I allow for my mind to rest?
2. What am I filling my mind with?
The first question asks, am I ‘stuffing’ my mind with constant stimulation, with distractions, social media, T.V., radio, latest news, Netflix, YouTube? It’s important that we allow our minds to breath and sort through what is important and what is not. It also allows room for deeper thought and reflection.
The second question asks, what am I filling my mind with? Saint Paul knew the importance of keeping the bad stuff out on allowing the good stuff in when he wrote the Philippians with this advice:
“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil 4:8)
Finally, let us examine our physical health. We at a time that while some people are making gods out of the human body, obsessing over weight, diet, physique, fashion, hair and make-up, unfortunately it is not at all un-common for others to neglect their bodily health. Before examining the care we give to our bodies, perhaps ask yourself which side of the spectrum do you fall? Have you prioritised your physical health and appearance to the detriment of the other areas of your life? Or have you tended to neglect your body, which is a gift and essential to who you are?
Three basic questions will help us to examine this area of our well-being:
Do you eat a good, balanced diet and stay well hydrated? Do you fill up on wholesome foods and limit the ones that sting your conscience!
Do you get enough exercise in your day and in your week? If you are not used to exercising, then don’t underestimate the difference a good brisk walk can make!
Sleep is perhaps more important than many people realize. There is an old saying: “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a young man healthy, wealthy and wise.” I’ve often heard it said too, that each hour of sleep you get before mid-night is worth two after. Have a think about ‘when’ you sleep and also how long you sleep for. 8 hours is usually recommended!
Act of Spiritual Communion
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.
-Written by Gerard Hanley