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Archive for the ‘health’ Category

I’m kind of having a bit of luck with getting back into the habit of blogging regularly, because I’ve been stuck at home for two days now.  Consequently, I have lots more time to write since I’m not, you know, working.  On the down side, however – I’VE BEEN STUCK AT HOME FOR TWO DAYS NOW!

Let me be clear:  I love being at home.  I’d love nothing more than  to be at home full time every day.  However, I do not like being stuck at home.  I’d like to be able to leave at will – but of course, if I could, then I’d be at work.  But it just keeps snowing and snowing, the roads are crap, and of course schools are closed.  So here I am.

It’s not so bad, really.  I’ve had time to do my WiiFit body test and yoga (of course, I was up at 5 a.m. again, so I had that out of the way before it was even time to get up, but still) and to read some blogs, and to do a little cleaning.  One problem I have re-discovered, though, is food.

When I’m at home all day, structure tends to go right out the window.  I suppose it’s because I’m out of my normal routine, so it feels like a free day, as though I don’t have to worry about what or when I eat.  Normally, that throws me way off schedule and off-plan, but I’m fighting really hard to stay on both today.  I’m just getting back into good habits and it’s critical that I not sabotage them now, especially as I am feeling really good about how I’ve been doing.  Also, my arbitrary six-month goal deadline helps me to feel a sense of urgency that keeps me a little more focused.  So I’m really trying hard – but I’d forgotten how difficult it is.  It doesn’t help that there’s more “bad food” in the house than usual right now, because E.D. is still recovering from wisdom-teeth removal and I stocked up on stuff she can and will eat.  Mostly, that equals crap, unfortunately.  So far I’m doing all right at leaving it all alone, but again, I’d forgotten how hard it was.

So I know that I’ll need to really plan carefully and be prepared for this, when I’m at home full-time.  I’ll need to be prepared for the difficulty and the temptation; be very mindful and aware that a change in routine does not cancel out the need for healthy habits.

Yesterday went really well, and I was extremely pleased.  I stayed on plan with food.  I did a treadmill workout during the Biggest Loser.  I stayed at low speed – 3.0 for most of it – and almost zero incline, and I only did 30 minutes.  It isn’t much, compared to what I used to do, but right now I’m trying to establish my limitations.  I didn’t have any joint pain at that level – I did have some back pain, but it was minor.  I was careful to stretch and took a hot bath afterward, both of which have been critical in the past for avoiding excessive soreness and inflammation.  And today I felt fine.  Now, the last time I had a real problem was at 3.5, with a little more incline, and I think I went for about 45 minutes.  So I’m going to work my way up and see where the cutoff is.  I did notice that at 3.0, I noticed some stiffness in my hip joints, so I suspect my upper limit for speed is going to be fairly close – at least, until I’m back on the medication.  I am also hoping that regular yoga is going to give me a better range of motion in my hips, so maybe I won’t have that problem.

It’s going to be a long process and I’ll probably be constantly making adjustments for the rest of my life.  But at least I’m working toward it.  I feel good about having done both the WiiFit yoga and the treadmill, and I feel great about my nutrition.  I did great with water as well, so all in all, it was pretty much a perfect gold star day.  I’m hoping today will be another; it’s gotten off to a good start.

One of my dilemmas has always been whether or not to get up early to exercise.  On the one hand, I need the exercise time and love starting off my day already having worked out.  On the other hand, I am so chronically sleep-deprived that I eventually end up doing more damage to my health through sleep loss than I make up through the exercise.  So my plan is this:  if I’m up anyway, as I was yesterday and today, then I’ll go down and work out.  If I’m not, then I don’t worry about it, I’ll do my evening workout as planned.  At the rate I’ve been going lately, that will mean I’m doing a morning workout at least two weekdays if not more, which is not a bad percentage, but I won’t lose any more sleep than I already am.

So that’s the plan, and so far, so good.  And now it’s time for lunch, which I need to carefully orchestrate.  Peace…out.

Oh, and as an afterthought – the Biggest Loser?  Not many thoughts on it; too early to really tell much about it.  Except that I was disgusted by the total lack of class in the opening sequence, particularly the part where they superimposed the words “Have you got the guts?” over a picture of one contestant’s belly.  I was actually offended, and that’s not that easy to do.  I’m not sure why; it just seemed crass, insensitive, sensationalist, and without any legitimate purpose.  I know a lot of people believe that pretty much sums up the show in general, but I do believe in what they’re doing.  I just wish they wouldn’t lapse into such idiocy at times while they’re doing it.  Oh, and I love the little Orange team mama from Ardmore, Oklahoma (been there, and have family there, BTW).  She’s a firecracker!   Can’t wait to watch her in action.  She and Jillian make a great team, I think.

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Well, today is actually Day Two…but it’s just begun, and I’m actually going to be talking about Day One (yesterday).

I’m sitting in my kitchen, snowed in with a couple of kids who’ve been paroled from school for the day due to the same snow that’s preventing me from getting out of my driveway to go to work.  There are two of your three strikes…the third is a crushing headache that’s keeping me from functioning at a normal level.  One part migraine, one part sinus infection, and about a million parts sleep loss and stress…it’s been brewing for a while but didn’t really hit me full-strength until yesterday.  So, while I wait for my medication to kick in, I thought I’d write a quick summary of my week so far.

I’m not much of a believer in New Year’s Resolutions, but I can’t deny that the beginning of a year is a pretty decent time to re-evaluate where you are, where you’re headed, and how you plan to get there.  For me, it’s been an opportunity to take stock and realize, with nauseating dismay, just how far I’ve strayed from the healthy lifestyle I had been living.  Last year brought a lot of changes and stresses that I won’t go into right now, and I pretty much let myself be totally derailed.  I kept telling myself I’d do better once I wasn’t so stressed – but that’s a complete cop-out and a massive self-sabotage to boot.  Stress never goes away, it only changes form, ebbs, and flows.  If you use stress as a reason not to succeed, you guarantee failure, and that’s what I’ve been doing.

I have a host of reasons to be healthy.  The usual suspects – my family, whom I adore; my own self-respect and self-value, etc.  I also have a few that are a mite less common – an autoimmune condition that is only going to be worse if I ply my body with sugar and other simple carbs and the chemical-laden crap we know as processed food.  Excess weight will make the pain and reduced functional capacity worse.  I’m also perimenopausal – which I attribute in large part to the erratic quality of my nutrition and activity levels over the past couple of years.  So…it’s only going to get more important, every day, to take proper care of myself.

So I’m renewing my focus on the great trinity of healthy living:  proper nutrition, healthy levels of activity, and sufficient, good-quality sleep.

Yesterday was Day One.  It was…interesting, as Day One of any new habit-building process always is.  I did really well for the majority of the day in terms of nutrition.  I did have a lapse mid-morning when I mindlessly plucked a mini-Reese’s cup from a co-worker’s candy dish and ate it, not even thinking about what I was doing.  The fact that I could do that without it even occurring to me that it was a problem is a good indicator of how far I’ve gotten, mentally, from where I once was.  Still, it was only one, and I realized eventually that I shouldn’t have done it and made a note to be more alert and conscious of what I was doing – which is totally the point.  One mini-Reese’s isn’t going to hurt anyone – but mindlessly eating anything is a huge, giant, blood-red flag of danger…or should be.

After that, I did beautifully, up to a point.  My water intake, although forced, was adequate.  I ate according to plan…during the day.  Unfortunately, the headache that had set in early yesterday morning only got worse and worse, and by mid-afternoon I was having a hard time staying upright.  My wonderful husband took pity on me yesterday evening and went to get dinner from KFC.  This was good, because cooking would have been excruciating, but also bad, because naturally I ate KFC for dinner.  Not on the plan.  Not even in the same universe as the plan.  So that was a deviation, but I’m not beating myself up too much for a couple of reasons – I wasn’t capable of doing much else, and (shockingly)  when I put all the information into the food tracker, I wasn’t as far over my limits as I’d expected.  I was about 300 calories over – not great, but not as bad as I’d expected – and well within limits on fat, carbs and protein.  So all in all, not a total train wreck, just a minor fender-bender.

Now, I am well aware that nutritionally speaking, KFC is not okay regardless of what my number totals were for the day.  Nutrition honestly can’t be reduced to numbers in a column, no matter how much we’d like to try.  Dinner was a wash, nutritionally, and I acknowledge that.  But under the circumstances, it could have been worse, and I’m not wasting time or energy on feeling guilty.  Guilt is the most worthless emotion there is, in my opinion.

Activity yesterday sucked, though.  Mostly because of the headache, partly because I was extremely stiff and achy.  I’ve noticed a distinct connection between the arthritis flares and my hormone levels, and right now things are bad.  I’m also off the Enbrel, pending resolution of an insurance issue that I have been assured is only a miscommunication and will be cleared up – but meanwhile, I’m unmedicated and definitely feeling the effects.  So I didn’t feel well, and I didn’t move much.  That is something that I have to get a handle on – I am going to have more days when I don’t feel well than when I do, and I have to get into the mindset of exercise as a panacea to those issues, rather than something that will exacerbate them.  I’m working on that.

Today, I’ve tried to start the day off right.  I woke up at 4 a.m. unable to go back to sleep because of sinus problems.  I got up, did some heat/ice therapy, and then went downstairs to hit the WiiFit.  The body test came out great, way better than I’d have expected – I was 28 today, which was sort of awesome – and I did about 20 minutes of yoga.  Not a lot, but all I could manage before the headache started to get worse and I figured I should lay off.  I’m hoping to be able to do a lot more by tonight, when hopefully the headache will have abated.  If not, well, 20 minutes is a start.  I need to remember to log that on Sparkpeople.

I did discover that some of the nutrional information is waaayyy wrong on the nutrition tracker at Sparkpeople, so I’m trying to input my own information wherever I can, when I know it.  That’s going to be a long process but it’ll be worth it.

Tracking is something sort of new.  I haven’t done it much in the past, because I’ve used meal plans where I know exactly what the values of the foods are.  I think, though, that since I’ve drifted so far from the right mindset, tracking will help me to stay focused and be really regimented until I get back into proper habits.  It’s not so much that I need the information as just that I need the focus that will come from spending significant time each day inputting that information.  It’ll keep my head where it needs to be.

Today, I’m going to devote to the third facet of the trinity – sleep.  I’ve been horribly sleep-deprived for weeks now, from the stresses of holidays and putting the house on the market and getting college arrangments made for ED and various other things.  Today’s 4 a.m. wake-up was an example of another reason – my sinuses tend to get really bad in the early morning, and once they wake me up, my mind kicks in and I can’t get back to sleep.  I plan to get back to progressive relaxation techniques and meditation to try to combat that hamster-brain effect.  Today, though, the medication is definitely going to take care of any wakefulness…so maybe I can at least get my body some rest.

In fact, I can feel the medication kicking in right now.  Combined with the snow that just…keeps…falling, it’s making me very sleepy, so I think this is it for this post.  Hopefully, Day Two is going to go much better than Day One.

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Happy Friday!  God, I am so glad this week is nearly over.  It’s been…bizarre, to say the least.  January is always a crazy month but we seem to have packed more than the usual amount of insanity into just the first week.  Hopefully next week will settle down some.

I feel great today.  I’m still riding a high from my workout last night, and I haven’t missed a morning’s yoga yet, which always makes me feel better.  I’m very happy with how things are going, though I have got to work my meditations in.  I missed yesterday’s.

At the same time, I’m trying to sort of temper my enthusiasm, because it seems that starting off so strong leads to a loss of motivation when that enthusiasm starts to wane.  So I’m trying not to jump in so eagerly and do too much at once.  I’m trying to view this not in terms of results, either, though I am still weighing in daily.  I’m trying to just look at it as habit-building.  I know that’s what I have to do, and the only thing that is going to keep me at this long-term.  So I’m trying to just step back, take a deep breath, and pace myself.  It’s hard, when I feel so motivated and strong, but I know it’s the right approach.

One of the things I’m excited about is a new challenge on Jillian’s website.  It’s called the Destination Me 2009 Challenge, and what I love about it is that it integrates everything.  You have a food goal, a fitness goal, and a “life” goal, because it’s not about an ultimate weight, it’s about the changes you want to make in your life.  That’s exactly what I’m trying to do, so I’m actually participating in this one.  I don’t care if I win – though how cool would it be to fly to L.A. and get a “beating” from Jillian herself? – but the process is going to be really good for me, and help me stay on track.  I’ve added the Challenge Road Map to my Vision Board (it’s the yellow paper on the middle left side):

vision-board1

so I see it every day.  I love that there are mini-goals (which I set) to work on each week or two that will advance me toward my ultimate goal (which I also set).  This is sort of the way I like to do things anyway, but it’s very cool that it’s all sort of organized and laid out for you to help you plan.

I just feel that right now is a really important time for me to take control of my life.  Last year was very haphazard and difficult in a lot of ways.  I didn’t feel that I had much control over anything, and to be honest I didn’t have a lot of desire to try.  It just felt like it wasn’t worth the effort.  I know a lot of that was emotional and chemical, and I am really beginning to grasp the underlying physical reasons for that, but it’s still a feeling I want to avoid.  Right now, I’m coming off a vacation that gave me some much-needed time away from a lot of my stressors, and in a situation that makes it necessary for me to really be careful about my health, so what better time could there be to really get things together?

My life may change enormously this year.  Things are occurring, even as I type this, that may mean my life will turn upside down this year, in a simultaneously good and difficult way.  If it happens, it will be a wonderful thing for my family in the long term, but it will entail big changes and lots of effort in the short term.  For the past six weeks or so, I’ve been holding my breath, waiting to see if that will happen, as though I can’t make changes or get myself together until I know.  That is ridiculous.  It is nothing more than a pathetic excuse to be lazy and self-indulgent, and avoid taking responsibility for myself and my world.

So that needs to stop now.  No matter what happens in the coming year, I have got to do the right things for my body, or I’m going to have major problems.  And I need to put the same focus and determination into the rest of my life – work, relationships, self-awareness and accountability – because that’s the only way I’m going to be happy, strong, and centered.

So that’s my theme for this year.  Responsibility and Focus.  Two things that have not, I fear, been strong points for me.  But if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past two and a half years, it’s that people can change.  People can grow and improve and become more than they were.  It has to come from within them, and nobody else can do it for them…but they can do it.  I can do it.

On that note, I hope that everyone has a strong, healthy, peaceful weekend.

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I’ve had some concerns expressed about whether I’ve been curled up in a corner somewhere, mired in depression, since it’s been so long since I posted.  🙂  I laughed because (a) it was sweet, and nice to know someone was worried about me; and (b) it’s such a very possible scenario.  But I haven’t been.  I just don’t want to talk about anything but Twilight and I know everyone’s sick of hearing about it haven’t had a lot to say.  That response, however, prompted some concerns about bodysnatchers and pod-people.  So here goes, and not a word about Twilight.  Oops.

Things have been all right.  I have been working out steadily this week; not burning any barns, but doing well.  Eating has been good, not perfect, but good.  I’m trying to be sensible and clean without pushing myself farther than I’m capable of sustaining.  Right now my energy levels are unpredictable and my moods are as well (hello, winter!  we got our first real snow this week, too) so I am being cautious and taking one day at a time.  But I’ve been pleased with how things are going.  I’m not thinking much about the scale as it’s really not what’s important at the moment.  Just trying to keep myself on an even keel is the real area of focus.

I had an epiphany the other night…morning, really.  I had this odd dream** and woke up at about 2 a.m. to a realization.  Well…not a realization as such.  But…sometimes, things will appear to me in a new light that doesn’t really show me anything I don’t know, it just makes it easier to understand what I was having trouble processing.  A new perspective, I guess.

I was reminded that the weight on my soul is the weight of layers of accumulated grime, that I have allowed to accumulate.  I am not obligated to bear those layers.  I can choose to remove them through actions and behaviors and thought processes of my own.  I came to some hard realizations about what has been bothering me, and a renewed understanding of my own tendency to find reasons why my misery is someone else’s fault.  I despise that tendency in myself (and others!).  I’ve struggled with it all my life and, while I am so much better at controlling it than I used to be, sometimes I do (like everyone else) slip into old behaviors.  And – what a surprise – those seem to be the times when the depression and anxiety rear their ugly heads!  So which comes first?

For me, I think it comes down to a certain fatigue and malaise inspired by stress, weather, and diminishing natural light.  In response to that fatigue, I feel less inclined to do the hard things – like work to be the best person I can.  So my mind slips into well-worn paths, such as the ones that lead me to blame every bad thing in my life on someone else.  That feels easier, because I did it for so many years.  But in the end, the effect it has is to make me feel that my life is not under my control – to feel helpless and ineffectual and (by association) worthless and stupid and…insert litany here.  It perpetuates the cycle of self-loathing that held me down for so many years, and not only made me miserable, but caused me to make a lot of other people miserable too.

But I have chosen not to be that person anymore.  And when I woke up the other morning with this light bulb moment, it was exactly that – I do have the right, and the ability, to choose who I will be, and how I will respond to everything in my life.  No, it isn’t the easy path – but if walked carefully, one step and one day and one decision at a time, it is the path that strips away those layers of unhappiness and resentment and anger that are weighing down my soul.

The truly beautiful part of the epiphany – and I am sharing this because it was so lovely to feel that I can’t help but gush about it a bit, and because I want it in writing so I can refer back to it later – was the vision of my soul as a beautiful thing, a lovely, weightless, shining thing, under all the layers.  Not stained, not torn, not broken or heavy and ugly, the way I’ve been feeling.  That’s not my soul; that’s just all the crap I’ve allowed to build up on it.  The soul itself?  Beautiful and free.

I don’t have a natural, built-in tendency to like myself.  So to feel that way about myself – for what is my soul, ultimately, if not my self? – was slightly wonderful.  I didn’t have to lead myself to that moment of self-love – it was there, just waiting for me to be clear-headed enough to feel it.  Wow.  Just wow.

It’s hard to explain, but it was just sort of like coming to the surface after being submerged for days in muck.  I suddenly was able to understand that I don’t have to feel that way.  Am I suddenly happy and perky and bouncing around all over the world?  No.  Let’s not be completely ridiculous.  But I am calm.  I am…sort of at peace.  I’m also not fighting the “why can’t I get past this” and “what’s wrong with me” and “God, I thought I was beyond feeling this way” that I’d been struggling with.  I know what steps I need to take – what actions, and inactions, of mine have been contributing to these feelings, and what I can do to ameliorate them.  I know that I will still be dealing with these issues, probably at least for the rest of the winter – but I also know I can deal with them.  And I know that, while I’m not “past” these problems – I’ve made progress.  I’m not right back at square one.  I’ve learned; I’ve grown; I’ve changed.  Not to perfection, but better than I was, at least.

In the end, taking responsibility is hard, but it’s also very freeing.  Because it sucks to admit to myself that yeah, my unhappiness is mostly as a result of decisions I’ve made – but it also means that I have the power to change it.  I am completely not at the mercy of my environment.

As for the chemical part of the equation – no, that’s not something I’ve caused to happen.  It isn’t something I can fix with behaviors.  I can improve it, and I am doing some things I know I need to make that happen, but ultimately there’s a certain inevitability about it.  And yes, it is possible that I may need to look at medication again.  I’m not fighting against that realization, either.  I’m just suddenly very calm about the whole process.  I’ll do what I need to do.  If that involves medication, then so be it.  If there is weight gain involved (probably one of the main reasons I’d like to avoid medication if I can), I will not like it, but I will deal with that as well.  But for now, I’m okay.  I feel at least moderately in control again, and that is a very peace-bringing sensation for me.

And I can’t change the things that other people are doing that are creating some of the stress for me.  That isn’t going to stop because I’ve chosen to be more adult and responsible and self-aware.  I realize that.  But I can change how I react to it, and that’s what I’m doing.  I do not have to be miserable and unhappy because of others’ actions.  I have the ability to supplant that reaction in myself with more positive and beneficial ones, and I am going to.

I also have a list of reasons why I’m going to put forth the effort to do all this.  There are a number of things on that list, and my husband and children are pretty darned high up there.  But the number one reason?  I keep coming back to that vision of a bright, shining, beautiful soul floating free.  It deserves that.  Which translates to “I deserve that”.

When you wake up at 2 a.m. feeling something, generally that’s a feeling you’ve been suppressing, but that’s been fighting to get free.  I’m really excited that, this time at least, it was a good feeling.  It turns out, evidently I don’t hate myself after all.  Cool.

So there’s my update…that’s where I am…and I hope that everyone out there has a wonderful day.  Oh, and in case you’re wondering?  You know, since it’s Thursday and all?  Yes, I am very thankful for this epiphany.  🙂

—————-

*I’m going to start using song title for all my blog posts.  Nothing like getting some 80’s music running through the heads of my poor unwitting readers…

**I think I’m going to start a dream interpretation blog.  I looked up the meaning of some of the things in this dream and was stunned at how well it fit with the whole epiphany I had after I woke up.  Fairly interesting, but probably only to me.  🙂

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Okay, I must confess, my title is a total rip-off from my friend, B.  Paraphrased, but completely plagiaristic nonetheless.  She deals with many of the same neurochemical issues I do (you know, depression, anxiety, a nebulous free-floating societally-induced self-loathing, things like that) and one of the things she says sometimes that makes me giggle is, “I’m living the Great Depression”.  Doesn’t sound funny, but I giggle, because I get it. (Though I wonder how it is that even during the worst of her issues, she’s still such a wonderful person, while I tend to be such a cranky, whiny b**ch?)

I’m not really depressed, as such.  Just sort of…recessed.  I lay in bed for a good five or ten minutes this morning, trying to think of a reason to get up.  I came up with “Because I have to” which is not a reason nor technically accurate…but hey, it did the trick, so that’s a good sign this isn’t full-blown depression.  (In the years of my Great Depression, “have to” wouldn’t have begun to cut it.  There were lots of days I just didn’t get up.  And I know I’m not alone in that.  Anyone else remember days of unwashed hair, unbrushed teeth and pajamas at 2 p.m. – and not because you had the flu?)

But I’m definitely feeling the effects of something.  All the signs that I’ve come to recognize so intimately over the years are there.  Complete lack of motivation to do anything other than breathe (and sometimes that’s even a bit iffy)…wanting to do nothing but sleep all the time…alternating between eating everything that doesn’t run away from me and not wanting to eat anything ever again…a complete inability to care very much about anything, except in a very negative way…

I’ve heard it said that “depression is merely anger without enthusiasm”.  I like that quote.  A lot.  Because when I get this way, I tend to be depressed until I can summon up enough energy to be actively angry.  (Yeah, I’m a FUN date.)

Fortunately, this has been going on long enough (what?  about 25 years now?) that I recognize it pretty quickly.  That doesn’t mean I can just switch it off, but there are steps I can take, and just knowing what’s going on keeps me from some of the more self-destructive knee-jerk reactions.  Unfortunately, the most destructive thing I do is just a long slow slide of inactivity and neglect that ends up with every aspect of my life being at least moderately damaged.  Knowing this, but being unable to completely mitigate it, makes me feel even more sad and desperate.

Some of it is situational, and I recognize that.  But most of it – nearly all of it – is chemical.  I can’t blame it on the season – we all know about S.A.D., right?  – because we’ve had more sunshine in the last few weeks than we have most summers, and I’ve partaken of as much of it as physically possible.  Yeah, it’s not as strong at this time of year, but I’m pretty sure quantity has made up for quality in my case.

I do think I’m part bear, though.  Hibernation would make my life so much simpler.  Ah, well.  Heave a sigh and move on.

I know what I need to do.  I need to be uber-careful about how I am eating, and avoid sugars, refined carbs and processed foods like the plague. (Note to self:  TOSS the rest of the Halloween candy!)  I need to be  hyper-diligent about taking my supplements, particularly my StressTabs.  I need to minimize caffeine.  I need to be extremely structured about sleep, because sleep deprivation is the number one contributor here.  I need, above all else, to be consistent and diligent about exercise, but keep it to a level that energizes me rather than exhausting me. (That’s a little lower level this time of year than normally, and I have to be conscientious about making that adjustment without completely going sedentary.)   I need to force the water, because at this time of year I want only warm, soothing things, not cold, refreshing, body-renewing water.  (You’re right, this is a great time to go Ayurvedic and sip my hot water through the day, yeah?  Hm.  Glad you thought of that, thanks.)  And I need to meditate…count my blessings…exercise my ability to affect my own mood by being present and focusing my mind.  I need to focus on what’s right and good about my life (which is most of it), rather than dwelling on every negative I can dredge up from the depths of my subconscious.

I need to do these things.  The thing is, it’s hard to summon up the energy to do the things that I know will give me the energy to get out of this hole.  It’s cyclical, really, isn’t it?  Where do you come up with that initial $50,000 investment that will net you $4 million by retirement age?  You know, when the bank balance is already at $43.50 and you still need to buy gas and food for a week?  Hmm.

Fortunately, though, it’s not that cut-and-dried, and that’s probably one of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the last few years.  Unlike money, energy really is something I can manufacture within myself, and build on.  Yes, the chemical issues make it much more difficult, and sometimes I feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.  But I can do it…I know I can…and I’m very blessed because I have people in my life who get it, who know where I am because they’ve been there and maybe still are – so I know I’m not alone.  That helps.  It helps to feel that you’re not defective or crazy or worthless or stupid (all the things your treacherous mind tells you that you are at 4 a.m.), but just dealing with a physical issue, like a lot of other people.  And I’m so blessed, because this can be overcome.  I know this.  I’ve done it.  I’ll do it again.

So today, I will confess that I have been struggling…and officially Dropping the Ball…in just about every way possible.  And I will choose not to continue to hate myself for that and despise what I am, because that just fuels the cycle and exacerbates everything.  I will choose to acknowledge, to note areas I need to improve, and know that I can do so – and do it.  And I will choose to love and cherish and respect myself, despite these failings, because I deserve that.  No matter how badly I may have slipped and failed, I still deserve it.  Failure is human, and it’s not the end of the story.  Not even close.  Because everyone fails, and it’s not failure that defines you.  It’s what you do after that.

Just call this my emotional bail-out package.  🙂  Time to recognize the recession and do what I need to do to get out of it.

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Why, hello, there!  Happy Hump Day!

This week, there’s a lot going through my mind.  I’ve got a lot going on in life right now – nothing bad, just a lot of things – and that typically triggers a period of major overthinking for me.  I end up obsessively analyzing every single detail of everything that happens around me, to the point that I am incapable of real, productive, rational thought.  I call it “hamsterbrain”, because my mind is literally racing in pointless circles, just like a hamster on a wheel.

The sad irony is that, although I end up in this state as a result of trying to do too much and be too many people, the end result is that I become incapable of accomplishing anything.  Work languishes, the house accumulates clutter…I fall behind on everything, which increases the stress of an overfull plate, which increases the hamsterbrain, and the cycle accelerates.  I think this is true of many of us.

I’ve got a plan for handling it, though.  I’m going to focus on simply Being Present.

We’ve all – or most of us have – heard this said, generally in the context of yoga or meditation.  Be present.  Be still.  Feel your body, your mind, your spirit.  Allow yourself to be yourself, to be where and who and what you are in this very moment, and nothing else.  Focus your entire awareness on every cell of your body, your breathing, internal and external sensations.  You can, by doing this, be completely aware of what is going on around you, without overreacting to any of it.

Okay, so that’s great if you’re sitting on the floor with your shoes off in a dark, quiet room, or even on the porch swing in the sunshine.  But how does that fit into the course of a normal day?  It’s hard to be aware of your body when you’re driving in rush hour traffic, for instance – you really sort of need to be aware of the traffic around you, actually.

Being present isn’t just about meditating or holding a yoga pose.  It’s about being one hundred percent involved in whatever it is that has (or should have) your attention, at any given moment.  That may be scrubbing a bathtub, or climbing on the monkey bars with a little one.  That may very well be rush hour traffic.  It doesn’t matter what it is; give it your full attention, without attaching an emotional reaction to what is happening.  (Unless it’s the monkey bars.  Feel free to giggle like a 4-year-old there.)

To my mind, one of the nastiest, most annoying words spawned by society in the past couple of decades is “multitasking”.  We say it like a mantra….like a prayer.  We offer it up like a paean of worship to the Gods of Distraction and expect to be patted on the back for our skill at it.  “I’m great at multitasking.  I can text my kids, drive to work, balance my checkbook, put on my makeup and listen to a podcast reading of Women Who Think Too Much, all at once!”

Okay.  But why would you want to?  You’re risking an accident, an inaccurately balanced checkbook, messy makeup and a teenager who’s thrilled that you just distractedly agreed to let her take your car to South Padre for the weekend with nine of her closest friends.  Oh, and you didn’t learn a great deal about Thinking Too Much, either.  Trust me on that one.

But that’s how we roll.  That’s how we get through our days.  Emailing, IM-ing, texting, all while eating our meals and working and reading and having phone conversations and doing internet research.  And probably watching TV.  Is it any wonder that A.D.D. is so prevalent, and becoming more so?  Is it any wonder that we’re obsessive-compulsive when we feel we have to be just to remember if we turned off the fire on the stove, because we were talking on the phone and helping a child with homework while we were cooking?

So my suggestion, which I am endeavoring (and often struggling!) to take, is to slow down.  Put your full attention on what you are doing.  If you are cooking a meal, take the time to be there.  Smell the aromas, feel the textures of the food you’re preparing (skim over this one if it’s raw meat, probably), focus on each step of the process.  (Chopping celery, I have found, can be surprisingly soothing; possibly it’s the rhythm.)  If you’re helping your child with homework, point your mind directly at the problem.  Don’t detach and wonder if you ironed that blouse for tomorrow yet, or if the car was on empty and you’re going to have to fill up on the way to work.  If you’re having a conversation with your spouse, don’t do something else at the same time.  Really focus on every word, on every nuance, on every expression.  He, or she, deserves it.  So does everything else you do.

Yes, this is hard.  I know that.  I struggle with it.  But when I manage it, it is so worth it.  I have never enjoyed a meal as thoroughly as one that I focus entirely on eating.  No conversations, no thinking about work, no TV, no book.  Complete focus on each bite, on the taste and texture, on visualizing how it is going to benefit my body.  [You know, sort of like after a couple of glasses of wine, how everything suddenly seems much clearer and more intense?  Or is that just me?]

A couple of tips that might help, if you’re finding it hard to let go of multitasking without panicking about what you’re missing:  Set aside a certain time of day as “thinking time”.  I have found it helpful to do it right before bed, because then I can go to sleep more easily knowing that I’ve set down my concerns.  Make a list of all of the things that are going through your head, that you’re afraid you’re going to forget.  Be it a project at work, something the kids need for school, some advance preparations for dinner, picking up dry cleaning, whatever.  Write it down.  Keep a special notebook or pad just for this purpose.  Give yourself a set time period – fifteen minutes should be about right, but YMMV.  Write down everything you can think of – and think hard.  Put those worrying muscles to good use.  And at the end of the fifteen minutes, stop.  You’ve probably thought of everything at this point anyway, and anything more is really just encouraging perseverative thought.  So take another fifteen minutes to be present (in the meditative sense), to get yourself out of Worrying Mode and into a calmer, more relaxed state.

And then trust yourself.  You’ve written it down, and you can take care of it when the time comes.  For me, that’s the following morning.  I’ll wake up, and as soon as I get moving and am really awake, I will go over my list.  If there are things that need to be done immediately, I will do them.  If there are things that I need reminders of for later in the day, I’ll program reminders into my BlackBerry or leave a voice mail for myself at work.  And then I can let go of them.

If you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you forgot to do something – turn on the light, write that down on your list as well, and then turn the light off and let it go.  Spend another fifteen minutes being present – usually, that will segue neatly into sleep without any conscious effort on your part.

Along the way, you’re going to come up with things you can’t control or can’t do anything about.  Most of us worry more about the things we can’t do anything about than we do our to-do lists.  In that case, I’ll repeat the mantra I’ve found so helpful:  Worry is praying for something you don’t want.  (Someone very wise said that.)  So when I find myself doing that (as in, when I’m lying awake at 4 a.m. idly worrying that a bear will somehow find its way into our house and we’ll be trapped with it between us and the door – I kid you not.  That is how hard I will work to find something to worry about) then I say a real prayer.  And I ask for what I do want, as in, for my family to be protected.  This won’t work if you don’t pray, but you can very easily substitute by simply taking your worry and turning it around.  When you’re focusing on a lost job, manhandle your brain into a 180 degree turn and spend fifteen minutes thinking about how good it is going to feel when you find a new one.  Imagine the scenarios in which that will happen.  Daydream your way through the successful job interview.

It is possible to control your wayward mind; it just takes practice.  But with that practice, and with that self-regulation, comes an enormous sense of peace and serenity and freedom.  With that sense of calm and freedom comes greater focus and productivity…and that cycle escalates, as well.  But in the right direction.

Today, take time to be present in whatever you are doing.  Take time to regulate your breathing, to gently set aside the things that are not a part of your current task, and give yourself to the task at hand.  If you can do that even part of the day, I think you’ll find that you end the day with a greater sense of peace and security and accomplishment.  And the more you do it, the more you’ll be able to do it.  At least, that’s the theory.

And have a wonderful Wednesday!

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At least I got the week number right this time, right?  🙂

In the past week, I netted a 0.5 pound loss.  Not what I’d prefer, but I’m not remotely disappointed.  It wasn’t the most perfect week.  Very good in many ways, but not perfect. This one, so far, has been much better, and I plan to keep it that way.

My only real struggle is going to be Saturday night, when we’re having a slumber party for YD’s birthday.  There will be pizza.  There will be some form of cakelike substance.  There will, no doubt, be chips and cookies and whatnot.

But perhaps not.  Let’s see.  I can buy the ingredients for them to make individual pizzas.  That’s always fun, and I will just not make one for me.  I’ll have salad or something.  There’s the pizza problem taken care of.  Cake…well, gotta do the cake, but perhaps we’ll do ice-cream cone cupcakes and, again, they can decorate their own.  Another fun activity, and I just have to restrain myself from nibbling on leftovers as they never eat all of theirs.  Instead of chips, I can pop a ton of popcorn, because that’s not too unhealthy and I won’t eat too much of it.  And instead of cookies, I’ll have bowls of fruit out.  Juice instead of sodas…

Yeah.  This could work.  We’ll be going to the movies – High School Musical 3 comes out Friday night, so that’s the centerpiece of the party – but we’ll only be getting popcorn there, too, and I am (shock, gasp) not that much of a fan of movie theater popcorn.  Sunday morning, I’ll have to make something terrible for breakfast (come on, pancakes or cinnamon rolls are always a staple of slumber-party morning-after breakfasts at our house) but I don’t struggle much with breakfast; it’s my easiest meal of the day.

And as for exercise?  Heck, how can you get better exercise than a HSM Dance-A-Thon?!?  We are so gonna rock the house.

A healthy party that doesn’t seem like a healthy party.  I will trick them into doing healthy things and they will never suspect!  Mwahahahahaha….. (that was an evil laugh, BTW.)

S.L.A.P.  And if you recognize that, you’re as big a MizFit fan as I am.  🙂  (Or possibly you’re actually MizFit.  But that would only apply to, like, a very small percentage of potential readers.  Like, one.  Reader, not percent.  Um.  Anyway.)

In other areas…I’m being very careful with my food, and very diligent with my workouts.  Tonight is The Biggest Loser, so big workout night for me.  Tomorrow night will be my night off, because I can tell my body’s ready for one.  Then I am going to try very hard not to have another night off for a while.  Saturday, I hope (not plan because my plans never work out) to get my workout in super early, so it’s out of the way and I don’t stress over missing it because of the party.  That will depend on how much party prep I get done Friday night though.  If I have to have a night off on Saturday, it’s not the end of the world.  I’ll just feel better if I don’t.

I’m feeling pretty good about things.  The healthy mindset and habits are becoming well-ingrained again, and I feel that I’m settling in for the long haul.  Not crazy-gung-ho passionate, but steady and committed and (most importantly) consistent.    Goalz?  I haz them.  (Too much icanhascheezburger.com for me, clearly.)

So here’s to a great, consistent, steady, productive week.  Hope everyone has a wonderful one!

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