Halfway point

Hey, wow, it’s February 16th. Huh, that was both quick and slow.

Surprisingly, the “not being on social media” feels like more of a challenge than actually being disciplined and getting on my yoga mat every day. I’ve been pretty successful at keeping that up too. I’ve only missed two days this month so far.

It’s funny, though. I think I’ve been on Fazebuuk since 2007, maybe? I’d have to go on my profile to check and that is verboten this month. But it definitely feels like one of my tools. I realized I didn’t have someone’s up to date email address in my actual email but that I could probably get it from their FB profile, which I couldn’t go check. So, oh well. It wasn’t crucial. Then there are the birthdays I’m missing. No big deal, I guess. My sister referenced something my brother in law was doing this month that I had no idea about, so that was interesting. Then there were the moments when I wanted to check Twitter, or I thought I could look something up on Instagram… Like wow, nope.

What’s more concerning/revealing is what happens when I have a beat of downtime. A spare moment while cooking? Not able to be on FB! So what happens? I awkwardly handle my phone and then put it down, a little bit shocked at the mindless urge. The same upon getting home, or brushing my teeth before bed. And then I think, “Why do I need to do that??” I don’t. It’s why I chose this as this month’s theme. I might have to continue for 2 or 3 months to really break the habit. Breaking a habit is much harder than starting one.

So I’m definitely seeing the benefit of not being on my phone so much. I have time to sketch, read, chat with my husband. Real life things, go figure. I was sketching tonight during the downbeats in my cooking, so I was walking back and forth (not hard, they’re in the same room) between the stove and my desk.

I’m still trying to decide what March will be. There are a lot of experiments and habits that would fun or beneficial – how about Reading March, where I have to read X number of pages in a book every day? I was also talking about Muscley March, which would be a more realistic “hulk up” experiment, geared more towards building my lean muscle mass. I’m already toying with the idea of Artistic April, where I’ll need to do some artistic work every day, whether sketching, painting, sculpting or writing. I’m still deciding if practicing the piano would count in that one.

So this thematic year seems to be rolling along nicely. I’m also discussing doing a “Clean Eating” month. Not that we eat terribly, but to really go full on in stopping eating sugars etc. Maybe even cutting out alcohol. I was suggesting doing that during a really good local produce month, ie the summer. :/ Maybe August?

Anywho, that’s my mid-month update. I’ll be travelling soon so I’ll hopefully have a chance to blog about it – domestic travel but to a lovely city I enjoy so it should be nice.

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Success! On to February…

Yay! Celebrating my successful completion of the 30 days of yoga with a feel good dinner of salad with a side of salmon salad (with dill pickles in it) and a kombucha.

I was able to maintain my discipline pretty well throughout the month. There really wasn’t any day that I wanted to skip it, though there were some days when it got going that I wanted to stop. But I didn’t and now I have 30 days of daily yoga (and a couple of days of doing yoga twice) in my new year. It feels good. I’m going to try to keep it up.

So, next month’s theme is Social Media Blackout February. According to Wikipedia:

Social media are computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. The variety of stand-alone and built-in social media services currently available introduces challenges of definition; however, there are some common features:

1 Social media are interactive Web 2.0 Internet-based applications.

2 User-generated content, such as text posts or comments, digital photos or videos, and data generated through all online interactions, is the lifeblood of social media.

3 Users create service-specific profiles for the website or app that are designed and maintained by the social media organization.

4 Social media facilitate the development of online social networks by connecting a user’s profile with those of other individuals or groups.”

“Some of the most popular social media websites are Baidu Tieba, Facebook (and its associated Facebook Messenger), Gab, Google+, MySpace, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Tumblr, Twitter, Viber, VK, WeChat, Weibo, WhatsApp, Wikia, Snapchat and YouTube.”

So, that means no Facebook, which is one of my major time sinks. Also no Twitter, which I’m not on that often any more (mainly because I got exhausted from all the snarky political posts). YouTube will be interesting, because if I want to keep doing daily Yoga with Adriene, I’ll have to use YouTube. Also, my husband and I watch educational things on YouTube like PBS Space Time and the Crash Course series.

One could argue that it depends on the intention behind it. I often find that I turn to my social media feeds automatically as some sort of mild entertainment when I’m eating or sitting on the couch with my husband while he watches videos related to his interests on YouTube. I’m also using it to see what my friends and family are up to, to give birthday wishes (because who doesn’t like seeing their notification numbers blow up on their birthday?), and to follow my science and deep thoughts feeds (and the memes feeds). It’s become… habitual, which is what made it a prime target for my theme-of-the-month goal. I estimate that I could reclaim a good 2 hours of prime brain time per day. What will I do with all that extra time? Probably complain less about having no time. ;)

But what do I really want out of it? To break a habit. To not dilute my attention day to day. To reclaim that time for something more meaningful and productive for myself, whether that’s more sketching, reading, writing, painting or spending more time connecting with my loved ones.

As an introvert, using social media for social ends does save me a lot of energy, but it also takes energy and it keeps a constant stream of “stuff” going into my brain. I’d like this to kind of be a detox for my brain, energy, and spirit.

So I’ll be putting a note up on Facebook tonight and deleting it off of my phone (by far the main place I do any of my social mediaing anymore).

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Also in my last post, I mentioned making decisions about going back to full time. I kind of sat with the idea that I’d be going back full time for a few days, and then I switched my mindset to the idea that I’d be sticking with 80%. I was relieved by the idea that I’d be keeping my day to myself. So I said to my boss that I wanted to stick with it and she was supportive. I like that day too much. Let’s see what I can do with it. :)

Happy realization

Last week, when I was talking to my therapist, she asked me how my face was feeling. And I honestly couldn’t remember the last time I’d had a bad prickling day.

I’m sure all I would have to do is look in my agenda and I would have written it down, and it would probably be a lot more recently than I think. But it’s really nice, after two years, to be experiencing more normal days than not.

What gets the credit? Probably my ergonomic set up at work, and my constant mindfulness to sit up into the correct position. I find my home set up not very comfortable now, and it kind of has slowed down my enthusiasm for writing. We’re working on putting together a more ergonomic desk set up for me at home.

Maybe it’s also due to my now working part time. I’m treating my day per week of not-working as sacrosanct as I can. It is meant for me, my things, my rest and quiet alone time. I get disappointed if, in a moment of enthusiasm/optimism/trying to get things done, I use my day for appointments or running errands or doing active housework (running the Roomba doesn’t really count, but washing the bathroom does… laundry is somewhere in between…). I limit my screen time and don’t play video games during the day. I try to do some physical activity – often yoga, a walk, or a run. I feed myself fresh fruits and good tea. I get up in the morning and don’t sleep all day, although I will lie down and have a nap, if I feel like it. It’s about feeding myself and supporting myself. I really look forward to those days.

But now I’m thinking of bumping back up to full time… After that last paragraph, maybe I’m convincing myself that wouldn’t be a good idea. I know my colleague who has worked her entire career at part time would say wisely, “It’s just not worth it. Don’t go back if this is working for you.”

But it is definitely fantastic to suddenly turn around and realize that the pins and needles have almost entirely subsided. Perhaps I should give it a bit longer and not run headlong back into a wall…

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I’m also trying out an approach to this year, to have a theme for each month. This month, January, I am following Yoga with Adriene on Youtube for her 30 days of yoga offering, which she’s calling True. So far, I’ve successfully done the daily yoga and I’m certainly feeling it. I’m also proud of my commitment to it and making it a priority. It has been good – I like her style and her approach, and I do feel better once my practice is done. I think that something is shifting a bit for me, which is also my motivation/intention for this practice.

I’m considering what my theme for next month will be. My husband suggested Hulk Up February. ;) I’ll keep you posted.

The sound of no app tracking

Does untracked exercise actually exist?

In recent months, in my attempt to improve my health and well-being, I’ve been using various tracking apps on my phone. There is my calorie app, and my two running apps, and my walking app (which is a variation on a theme). I’ve been keeping up with my walks, aiming for every day but not clinging stubbornly to that idea, especially if the weather is inclement. But I do get a little satisfaction when I get my weekly tally of kilometres travelled, minutes active and calories burned.

So when my phone started to lose battery charge more quickly than it should when doing these mundane things, there was a moment of panic.

Well, perhaps not panic… but maybe an unhealthy attachment?

In this era of health optimization through data gathering and crunching, the loss of that data stream feels like an enforced blindness. But that’s not a healthy way to get healthy. That dances far too close to disordered thinking – the hunger to push those numbers higher dovetails nicely with the hunger to push calorie numbers lower; to challenge the body to do more exertion with less intake – to cut out all that is unnecessary and only ingest what is perfectly nutritious and adequately caloric.

And how will you do that math if you can’t see the 5 minutes of stair climbing calorie burn compared to that tall holiday spice flat white? (an acceptable caloric splurge, given the protein and calcium content)

Maybe it’s just me, in my dual quest – part trying to get myself back into a shape that I used to have, part trying to be healthy so that I can’t blame that for my continuing facial tingling. But the pattern emerging through continued observation of when the tingling occurs places the majority of the blame on posture, with a not insignificant percentage being associated with stress response.

You know what’s not helping my stress? Trying to maintain absolute control over my exercise and food.

The problem is that I just don’t “feel like” doing a gym workout. I use my running app so I can listen and “participate” in a story as I run. And afterwards, I’m happy and proud of my accomplishment. But the lethargy is strong in this one. At any given moment, I’d prefer to curl up with a book, my knitting, a tea, or some computing device. I really don’t want to do exercise for exercise’s sake. How boring. Which is why I have to schedule it – if it’s an “appointment” or a “meeting” then I have to do it. It’s best if I don’t actually think about it at all, and just suddenly find myself in exercise clothes and poised to do a boring, repetitious task which will make me feel pain and will make me sweat, but in the long run is “what is good for me”.

I’d compare it to having to eat your broccoli, but I actually like and occasionally crave a good pile of 2-minute-steamed broccoli, with a grind of salt over top and a tiny splash of lemon or lime juice. Mmmm, maybe I’ll add that to my dinner plans tonight…

I’m tired of blaming a lack of discipline when I feel like most other things in my life are achieved through discipline. I’ve metaphorically dragged myself by the scruff of the neck to and from work some days. I have discipline.

Maybe I am addicted to watching those numbers change. Or maybe that’s what I’ve been using for motivation. Either way, I’m looking at replacing my phone so that it can be fully functional again. But in the meantime, I’m observing what not tracking my calories and exercise is doing.

I don’t bury myself face-first in my calorie tracking app as soon as I’m done a meal, guessing volumes and masses. I’m not gaming how long a walk needs to be for me to feel good about eating the food my body is telling me it needs. I’m not multitasking setting up my activity tracking app as I’m heading out somewhere with friends or loved ones.

But I still think about it. I still look at my meal and think that I could have made a lighter calorie choice. I feel guilt for not scheduling a run on a perfectly sunny day off. I feel guilt for not doing yoga five times a week.

Or maybe I could be less hard on myself? I read somewhere that an analysis of the various tracking apps showed that they can be completely inaccurate – the “calorie in versus calorie out” being, at best, incorrect, and at worst, having no correlation to reality. Much like the “calorie burn” on a treadmill or elliptical machine – they are a rough guide and should not be relied on as truth. Maybe when I get my new phone, I’ll be more selective about the tracking I do with it.

Otherwise, I’m enjoying getting back into running, although I am trying to be careful not to drive myself back into my injured state. I do feel so much better after a yoga practice. It’s lovely to go for a walk and explore what’s happening in my environment day to day, as the seasons change. And there’s nothing wrong with reading a book in a sunbeam sometimes, while drinking a nice cup of tea. I just need to remember that.

Weird things while I walk

Don’t you just hate it when you drop your beat… er, beet.

Beet, mmm, drop(ped)! (You’ll have to wait until minute 3:09 for the payoff though) ;)

I promise a more complete post soon, maybe an update, maybe a ramble. Probably a bit of both. :) I fully intended to post this little ditty more than a month ago, so I’m way overdue.

Happy last day of August!

Another small adjustment

I’ve been back to work for about six months now, and it has mostly been going alright. I still am experiencing the prickling, but it hasn’t reached the levels I was feeling before. My desk is ergonomically set up, and if I drift back into bad habits, like hunching forward to read on my screen or type, it definitely spikes the feeling. But now I can sit back comfortably and getting my spine aligned properly seems to make the prickling calm down.

My therapist’s suggestion to leave my desk every noon hour has been really important for managing it too. Luckily, with the nice weather, I have been able to go for walks. I’m hoping to increase that to going for a 30 minute jog on some days. I’ve also been getting off the bus one stop early and walking about 20 minutes home as often as I can. Some nights it isn’t realistic just because of timing (or weather) but I’ve been enjoying the wind down time, especially this spring. The route I take is lined with lilacs, apple trees and honeysuckle bushes. If anything can encourage you to breathe deeply, it’s those delicious scents. The walks also help my prickling calm down at the end of the day.

I am trying to follow my neurologist’s advice to focus on my mental and physical health right now. I’m counting my walking as physical activity (as I was finding my gym workouts were making me dizzy and nauseated, and feeling on the brink of fainting), and I’m focusing on eating proper, healthy food – good veggies, quality (pescatarian-approved) protein, fruits, water, good grains. I’m not specifically dropping any food group, but I am prioritizing plate space for colourful veggies rather than rice, potatoes or bread.

And I’m trying to approach my prickling feeling in a yogic way, almost as if I was meditating. Instead of focusing so much on the feeling, I’m trying to just notice it, take steps to calm it (as mentioned above), and then move on. I don’t want to drag it along with me anymore. I want to step past it, acknowledged, but giving it no power. This is, of course, a work in progress, because some days I just can’t do that. I’m not that much in control.

The final aspect, of which today is the first day, is that I’ve cut my work time down to 80%. Now I will work full days Monday through Thursday, and I will have Friday through Sunday off. My pay is impacted, of course, and my pension and all of that stuff, but with my previous two Leaves with Income Averaging, I’m used to my pay being lower by 20%. It’s just that I’m spreading the time off over the whole year instead of concentrating it into two months. My manager and I will keep up an open dialogue, because if it turns out that I’m trying to do 110% of the things in 80% of the time, that is counter-productive and I’ll go back to full time and try a different tactic.

So, what am I doing on my first non-work Friday?

I got up and did my morning yoga practice, ate my normal breakfast gruel (1 tbsp each of chia seeds, hemp seeds, ground flax seeds, and raisins, 1/3 cup of oatmeal, and a shake of pumpkin pie spice, soaked overnight in 1 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, and topped with a sliced banana and 1/3 cup of wild blueberries). I lay down for a bit on the couch, scrolling through Fazeb√łk, to let my breakfast settle, and then I went on a 6km (slow) run – my first outdoor run since last September. It wasn’t pretty and my fitness app isn’t even recognizing my speed as a “run” (according to it, I did a “brisk walk”… :P). I’ve got my novel open behind this browser window, because I’ve had a couple of ideas for it, and this is kind of the entire reason I’m taking this time. I feel like most nights, after fighting the prickling and trying to actually do good work, I don’t have the energy to stand at my easel for a few hours or sit at my computer for a few (more!) hours to work on my stuff. So, if I’m not doing my personal hobbies, how can I be de-stressing?

A couple of wise friends (plus my husband) reminded me yesterday not to overprogram myself, and to allow whatever takes up my time to take it. And not to stress out if I don’t actually add a page or touch a paintbrush. It will happen. I will try to keep that in mind.

So that’s my little status update, course change, micromovement – call it what you may. I’m looking forward to seeing how this changes my health and well-being. :)

Here’s the song I was listening to when I started this post. :) Hopefully I’ll be posting again more regularly (but I’m not going to make that a goal!)

A little bit of light…

That’s the way I was describing it in my head on my way home from work today. It’s like a little bit of light has made it past the blockage and my spirit is soaking it up like the trees’ tiny leaves are soaking up the sun right now.

It’s not to say that I’ve been stumbling around in the dark. I’ve just been looking down for so long recently, I hadn’t realized that my field of vision had constricted to grey asphalt and keeping on going.

I had a good weekend, mostly free of the ongoing pins and needles feeling in my face. I spent time with my family, laughing and talking. And then, this morning, I put on a new dress that I’d bought a few weeks ago and it was so comfy. I was happy.

I was also letting other people’s positive words sink in a little further, reinforced by my family reminding me of other kind words.

Not everything going on right now is going the way I hoped. I’m still waiting on payroll to get to my files. I’m still waiting for a decision from an internal department on teaching yoga to my colleagues. Today is definitely one of the first days I’ve felt normal (i.e., positive and happy and energetic) in ages. But my life is still good.

Sorry for the long silence. I’ve been trudging along with my head down for a while and I didn’t really have much to say. Hopefully this feeling will continue for a bit.


Here’s a picture I took over Easter, of a bumblebee visiting my mother-in-law’s redbud tree. :) It’s good to have light again.