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We are constantly being given advice on all the urgent activities we must do each day, mostly from well meaning experts in their fields.

My dentist says to brush my teeth twice a day while singing Twinkle twinkle little star, to make sure I brush for the requisite number of minutes.

“If you’re a serious writer, you will block out [so many] hours each day to practice your craft.”

We are advised to exercise, cook from scratch, get enough sleep, pray daily, spend quality time with friends and family, keep up to date on advances and publications in our field, walk the dog, feed the ferret, entertain the cat, not to mention the pesky detail of several hours at work, commuting if that’s necessary, or doing the housework that never comes to an end.

Follow all these well meant directives, throw in a little housework if you haven’t already, and you’ve got about 25 hours in each day.
So unless you want to live like a robot, maybe creating a spreadsheet and checking items off as you race from one to another, something will have to go.

What is really essential? I asked a few people, and the answers I got depended on their ages. My son says the essential thing for him is to check his phone for messages first thing.
My husband says family is most important. Also sleeping and eating. He would say that.

I have decided to make a list of what’s essential to live the best life possible, so here it is. What qualifies me to weigh in on this is that I’ve been a registered nurse for a quarter century, and have seen the results of all kinds of lifestyles.

1. Get enough sleep. Seriously. Your life will spiral down into the toilet if you try to get by on less than you need. Sleeplessness sucks all the enjoyment out of a day.

2. Exercise. It’s essential to keep blood moving and keep the brain functioning. Ideally, walk half an hour a day outside or even in a mall, or if you can’t go out, walk on a treadmill or up and down stairs. If you are stuck in a wheelchair or in bed, you can use stretchy cords or isometric exercises.

3. Touch base with nature. Trees or plants are good to commune with. We evolved outside, and it still soothes, calms, excites, enchants, heals and gives us hope. Take your walk outside, or talk to your dog or guppie. I’m fond of my ferret, who never complains or tells me to quit wasting my time on the computer.

4. Talk to your family or friends. We are social creatures, and need to bounce our emotions off other people to stay sane. You can use books, I suppose, if real people aren’t available. But TV doesn’t work for this; that’s like trying to get nourishment from the pictures in a cookbook.

5. Eat right. Most Americans eat a lot of junk, a lot of high fructose corn syrup, a lot of white flour and sugar. That tears our bodies down instead of building strength, so by middle age we need medicine just to keep going, and within a few years we start to disintegrate, need more meds, and can’t function well, so we find ourselves stuck in front of the TV all day. Eat vegetables.

6. Pray or meditate. We wake up on this planet hurtling through space, and have to figure out what’s up with that as we go through life. It’s kind of like regaining consciousness as the roller coaster groans its way to the top of the high curve, and you look down at the track dwindling into the distance, and you have no idea how you got there. So it’s helpful to try to plug into the ground of our being. My belief is that if we are searching for Him, He will be looking for us, and we will be found.

7. Do something enjoyable, creative if possible, every day. Read to your kids, write a story or work on your novel, practice drawing or painting. Strive to achieve the state of flow, in which time ceases to exist and we become fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus.

You may have other essential activities. Whatever they are, try to focus on what you regard as essential, because otherwise the non-essential but urgent will overwhelm us.

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