​Just Five Minutes

Posted by Howard Menaker in Life After Paralysis on January 10, 2023 # Lifestyle, Mental Health

clockHere we go again. The New Year. Time for resolutions. Time to resolve to lose weight, exercise more, visit friends we haven’t seen in years, and take better care of our mental health. That is quite a list. And quite impossible for most of us to fulfill!

So, jumping on the January bandwagon, I am here to suggest a list of one item: Stop.

“Stop what?” is the obvious question. Stop eating junk food? Stop doing things we know make us crazy? Well, yes, but that’s not what I am suggesting. I am suggesting stopping everything, once a day. Surveys show that almost every American feels rushed, overloaded, and harried. The holidays have become one mad dash and the rest of the year feels just about the same. Kids’ schedules look like an airport arrival and departure boards, and obligations fill our days.

We need to stop. Each day, for five minutes, just sit. Close your eyes or look out the window at nature. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply and be aware of your breath. Some would call this “meditation”, but using that word puts an unnecessary obligation on us. We think of meditation as done on a mountaintop by Buddhist monks or in Aspen by New Age gurus, requiring the complete emptying of our minds. But for most of us, our brains, bodies and emotions are too active, and our days too full to run off to Nepal or a silent retreat in the Rockies to wipe our minds clean.

But none of us is too busy to stop for a little while every day. Just sit. The challenges of living with a spinal cord injury are enormous but sitting is something many of us can do. As much as possible, relax, let your mind wander, or even close down for a few minutes. There are many apps you can put on your phone to help this process, or techniques you can read about in books. Try them out. See what works for you. But you don’t have to follow anyone else’s advice or practice.

Stopping is a way to restore your mind and your body. We all get so wrapped up in the busy-ness of each day, that we often forget to just stop and breathe. But you can find five minutes in the morning before you get out of bed. Or five minutes in the evening after dinner. Or five minutes as you drift off to sleep at night. Soon you may find that five minutes becomes ten, and ten may become twenty. If so, great! However, you are not obligated to take even ten minutes each day for yourself, in peace and quiet (but it sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?). You are not even obligated to take five minutes. Those five minutes are all about leaving the obligations behind. But I’m willing to bet that if you begin this exercise, you will feel better and calmer. When I started the practice, I was amazed at how just five minutes made a difference in my days and my emotional health.

Our “To Do” lists seem to grow by the day, and soon we are making a list of all our lists. Of course, life is full of things we MUST do every day. But by adding this one task to your “To Do” list, you may find that your head is clearer, and you can accomplish more.

Stopping is not a cure-all. Taking five minutes for yourself will not ensure peace and happiness throughout the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day. But I’m willing to bet that stopping to breathe and let go for five minutes will freshen your mind and body.

I’m going to stop here. Let me know how it goes.

Howard Menaker is a retired communications and public affairs executive, with over 30 years of experience in international corporations and trade associations. Previously, he worked as an attorney, specializing in civil litigation. He now devotes much of his time serving on non-profit boards of directors, including a prominent theater company and a historic house museum in the Washington, DC area. He and his husband split their time between Washington and Rehoboth Beach, DE.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.