To manage my social media calendar at work, I created an excel spreadsheet with separate tabs for each month. This year, my February calendar ended on Wednesday, February 28th and my March calendar started on Friday, March 1st. Did you notice something missing? I didn’t… it actually took me several projects over the course of several weeks before I noticed that I completely neglected an entire day: Leap Day! Yes! The year 2024 is a Leap Year, so there is a February 29th on the calendar.

Simply put, a Leap Year has 366 days instead of the usual 365 days. Based on the Earth’s trip around the sun, a Leap Year helps us make up for the fact that it takes the Earth approximately 365.25 days to complete its orbit. The extra .25 gets made up every four years (and it can get more complicated) but I’m not here to lead us in a math lesson. I’m here to comment on what that extra day means to me, and in turn, find out how it affects our Assential Therapies families!

The fact that 2024 is a Leap Year means two things for me:

1.) I can send my aunt and uncle a wedding anniversary card this year, and

2.) my husband’s work schedule will repeat itself next year. He works for the fire department and his schedule rotates every three days without deviation. Being scheduled to work in a Leap Year means the 3-day rotation divides into 366 without a remainder—and his shift will repeat itself on the same days next year. No biggie but, when Dad works on Christmas Day, that’ll be two years in a row that you have to plan on his absence.

Thankfully, Santa adjusts his schedule for nearly all families of first responders. So, what does it matter? A Leap Day isn’t going to mess up our circadian rhythm the way that daylight savings can. It won’t affect paychecks (although it could create an extra payroll period for your employer) or anything tangible like that. We don’t get the day off as a paid vacation day, so, no, you cannot stay in bed all day. Nor can you spend the entire day drinking the Leap Day cocktail (invented in 1928, apparently it is the martini’s fruity cousin) because you’d spend the entire following day in bed with a hangover.

Without an excuse to let the day pass you by, that means we should leap into the day with intention. Let’s make it count. We don’t get second chances in life, and we only get this opportunity every four years! You could start a new tradition. You could teach your children the value in making time for yourself, for others, and for the greater good.

How can you make the most of your extra day?

For your body: We have had unseasonably warm weather lately! You could go for a walk in the forest preserve, take your children for a bike ride, or just spend an extra hour at the park engaged with your family. Did the weather just take another cold swing? (It is February in Chicago, after all.) Try one of our wonderful area fitness centers! In Park Ridge, non-members can drop in at the Centennial Fitness Center to walk the track for a small fee (or even play badminton on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings)!

For your mind: Mental health is important no matter what day it is. Giving yourself even a few minutes to meditate during the day can make a huge difference in your mindset. Since we have a whole extra day, that means you should be able to find more than a few minutes to dedicate to yourself; maybe you can find peace and quiet at the library nearest you! Did you know that the Niles-Maine District Library has a little fireplace room tucked away on the 3rd floor? Find it, and maybe you’ll get lost in a great book!

For your heart: Let’s think of your heart in a non-medical way. Helping out your neighbors will certainly fill your heart on this extra day. Volunteering in your community is a grand gesture, and food pantry requests like that at the Maine Township Food Pantry can be an easy place to start. Check out their list of needed essentials, and you can drop off donations have them delivered directly to them.

If you’ve made your extra day extra special in even the smallest of ways, give yourself credit for it. We already do so much in our regular lives, and an extra 24 hours can be exhausting to even think about! Go to bed early if you can. Getting a full night of sleep improves your mood, promotes cardiac health, regulates your blood sugar, restores your immune system, and improves mental function overall. If you use this extra day to keep your body, mind, and heart healthy, then you’ll leap into March with the right foot forward.