When I was in grade school, our parish priest would come over to the school to give us our report cards every quarter. For eight years, I heard the same little sermon before he ceremoniously called us up to receive our grades.

“In order to live a good life,” he would say, “you need to work hard, play hard and pray hard.” When you hear something like that 32 times in your life at what were very important moments for a child, you tend to remember it. For me; however, the work hard and pray hard portions of that advice stuck and I forgot about the rest of it.

Well, I didn’t entirely forget about playing, but it wasn’t a regular part of my routine either. It took me some time, and some help from inspiring, playful friends to really get that playing is as valuable as working and praying. In establishing my careers, I became hyper-focused on my work and while I enjoyed my contributions greatly, they were not quite the same as going dancing, shopping at street fairs, hiking in the mountains, or enjoying meals with friends.

What I didn’t understand as a youth was that our parish priest was actually teaching us the components of what I would now call a healthy spiritual first aid kit. Since my youth, I’ve added one more remedy to my kit—rest. And I’ve updated from “hard” to “in balance”. So now my kit looks like: work, rest, play and pray in balance. When I’m out of balance, it is time to pick up my spiritual first aid kit to see what I need.

The symptoms of an out-of-balanced life are fairly easy to recognize. You may notice uncomfortable symptoms like crankiness, lack of efficiency or focus, exhaustion, overwhelm, edginess, perfectionist tendencies, or perhaps you are being a bit rude. When these and other uncomfortable symptoms occur, it is probably time to apply a little first aid remedy.

Knowing which remedy to apply is not as difficult as it might seem. Simply look at your life to see which of these remedies you are not using on a regular basis. Are you not getting enough rest? Create some time on the couch listening to soothing music, watch a movie in the middle of the day, or go for a drive and park somewhere with a view.

Maybe you are not getting enough work time. Consider calling some friends to discuss ways to co-creatively initiate a new income opportunity, hire a career coach to explore possibilities, or do some volunteer work to get you actively involved and feeling the rewards of being of service.

Are you needing more prayer time? Consider taking a spiritual retreat, setting aside specific time each morning and creating your own nurturing ritual, or attending a ceremony that appeals to you to open up your horizons.

Combining remedies can also be helpful. If you need rest, you might want to make sure your mind is quiet enough and you are exhausted enough to rest by combining some rigorous play in nature followed by a nap on a blanket by a stream. If you need more work, try praying in a totally new way that could open your consciousness to opportunities you haven’t even imagined yet.

Because my challenge is remembering to play enough, I consciously create an environment for it. I choose one weekend day—usually the sunnier or nicer day— to get out, away from the computer and enjoy the world. Whenever possible, I schedule get-away time with friends to reinforce me in keeping my commitment to playing, so that I am not inclined to weasel out with some excuse about work that needs to be done. And besides, playing is a lot more fun when I am enjoying myself with friends and loved ones.

How about you? How are you challenged? Are you getting enough rest, work, prayer or play in your life? If you were going through your spiritual first aid kit, which remedy would you grab?

If you happen to be in need of a little more prayer and meditation time in your life, check out our SpiritQuest week in June 😉 SpiritQuest