I color in several different coloring books when
I'm feeling anxious. This is one of them.

Last night I watched a new Netflix detective show, "Marcella." It stars one of my favorite BBC actresses, Anna Friel, of "Our Mutual Friend" fame. After two episodes of the show, I was a shaky, anxious mess.

If you don't like scary movies or serial killer plots, don't watch "Marcella."

After the show, I was pacing and jittery. I went for a walk. Only helped somewhat.

So my brilliant husband suggested I whip out one of my three adult coloring books and have at it.

Here's what I colored last night.

If you are anxious or stressed, it's a well-documented fact that coloring has amazing benefits for adults, including better focus and increased mindfulness. In an article for The Washington Post, psychologist Craig Sawchuk at Mayo Clinic said that coloring acts "almost like a volume knob to turn down the sympathetic nervous system, the stress response."

Still not convinced? Maybe a personal testimonial will help. Last night I was sure I would have nightmares because of watching that show, but after an hour of coloring I was calm and relaxed.

I slept like a rock.
The college whose outdoor track I like to use.

This spring, I've rediscovered my love of running or walking on the community college's outdoor track in our neighborhood. It's delightful to get there before the sun gets too warm and feel the breeze on my face and hear the birdsong in the air while I exercise.

I've also been pairing that time with some shameless people-watching. Here are a few things I've noticed about humanity while I pound the pavement:

1. Some people are grouchy. Say hi to them and they will pretend they didn't hear you, even though you know they aren't wearing headphones. I understand that for a lot of people, exercise time is "me time." But still, how hard is it to say hello back when someone says it to you?

2. Some people are toooo friendly. Recently I ran what was probably my best time because there was a guy leaning on the fence who kept staring every lap I'd make, and I didn't want to slow down and risk conversation with him. Now who's the grouchy one?

3. The neighborhood is full of life and beauty. We live in our town's historic homes district, and it is widely known to be one of the largest and prettiest in our state. Right now, there's a construction project going on across the street from the track, so it's fun to watch the crew as I make my way past them each lap. Construction crews are fascinating, the way they all know what to do and how to work together. And the neighborhood is green and full of flower gardens and people walking and biking and skateboarding. Like I said, full of life and beauty.

4. Sometimes people are odd. Yesterday I got to the track early, thinking I'd have it to myself, but there was a yogi with his mat in full downward dog. Right ON the track. I had to think about how I would politely ask him to move, and I had the speech all worked out, but then by the time I got around to him on the track, he had already moved. But as I got closer, I noticed he was only wearing boxer briefs. In public. Yuck!

5. The nurses are fun to watch. Right next door to the track there's a hospital, so a lot of nurses or support personnel like to come out to the track and walk during their breaks. As I pass large groups of them I hear snippets of conversation about what it's like to work in a hospital. It reminds me of stories from my mom, who is a retired nurse.

I could go on, but I'd rather hear your people-watching stories. Leave me a comment and we'll chat to our heart's content.

Over this past fall and winter, I was acclimating to a new job that was almost completely writing-based. I enjoyed it immensely, but was dealing with depression and fatigue at the same time, and so I stopped blogging and writing poetry, essays and fiction for nine months.

I'm here to tell you, I needed that break. And here I am ready to step back into the blogging world again. I also intend to slowly add back in my other writing projects.

In the meantime, here are a few things I learned while on "furlough":

1. It's OK to take a breather. Unless you are facing a book deadline, which I wasn't, you'll find that it's actually quite easy to disentangle yourself from most types of writing. And no matter how much it hurts your heart, if you are burned out, you need the break. Cut yourself some slack.

2. Your blogging friends will still be here when you get back. This was a hard one for me, but I didn't comment on other blogs during my furlough. I simply enjoyed Facebook as a means of keeping up with friends and families' lives, and didn't worry about sticking to "online generosity" of reading, liking and commenting on my friends' blogs. Now that I'm back to blogging, I expect to start re-engaging with my blogger buddies.

3. No one will fault you for taking a break. And if they do, it's their problem, not yours. You know what you need in this season. Keep calm and stick to your guns.

4. You might be surprised by how refreshed your creativity will be post-break. Already my journal is much more interesting to read (if I were to let anyone else read it!) and I'm regaining ideas for blog posts and other types of writing.

5. Even if your break is shorter, you still need days off. This will probably not surprise you. You are a human, not a machine, and the Bible says, "Six days shall you labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing and harvest season you must rest." (Exodus 34:21, NIV) See, even the animals need rest.

Now, happy writing, but also happy resting!