In the town where I live and work there is a shoe cobbler who takes the time to restore and repair leather goods. His belief, as stated on his website, is “that if you care for and repair items made from quality materials with skill and love, they will last for years.”  Shoe cobblers are a dying breed, but their statement serves as a useful metaphor for our own lives. Just as we value our homes, our cars, and yes, even our shoes, seeking ways to regularly maintain and repair them, so, too, do we need to give the same attention to our physical, mental, and emotional health. Yet why does it seem that we do not neglect changing our car’s motor oil every 5,000 miles or getting our pet’s rabies shot as scheduled but we are quick to relegate our own needs to the bottom of the to-do list?

It comes down to priorities. Our days are crammed with “musts”: prepare that presentation for work, take our child to his violin lesson, feed our family and on and on. There never seems to be enough hours in the day to take care of all of the “musts”. So we muddle through and avoid adding an item to the list that would allow for some pampering or a mental break, feeling it’s one less burden, one less to-do, and one less obligation.

A vehicle has scheduled maintenance for a reason—it allows it to be more efficient and mechanically sound. We follow through on the maintenance because we want to avoid the negative consequences at all cost: tires that might result in a flat or ticket for lack of tread, inefficient fuel economy that will cost us more at the pump, and worst case scenario—a seized engine that means outlay of thousands to purchase a new car. If we forget to get our vehicle inspected/our insurance paid we face fines. Yet there are consequences for ignoring the much-needed maintenance of our lives: fatigue, stress, health complications, to name a few.

How we can fit a small bit of restorative maintenance into our daily routine?

Many scoff at the idea of a power nap, feeling the 20-30 minutes it takes would be viewed as an inappropriate use of time, especially if at work. Yet studies have shown that these short naps taken in the middle of the work day actually increase productivity, alertness, and cognitive ability while benefiting our stress reduction, heart, and blood pressure.

Meditation, too, rarely makes it on our to-do lists, yet it helps to restore our mental and physical health and therefore, shouldn’t be viewed as optional. In just 20 minutes, meditation lowers cortisol levels and reduces stress.

Remember, your car can be replaced but there’s only one you.