Life: In the Blink of an Eye

In the blink of an eye, it’s gone from summer to fall.  The moment Labor Day was over, the weather turned cooler and drier.  The air conditioning that I had running constantly the week before due to hot and very humid weather has been idle.  I’m grateful for the silence.

Now that the weather has turned into autumn weather, I feel like the summer passed me by.  Though it’s not really up to me what my schedule is like, I feel robbed of all the wonderful things about summer – the carefree attitude, the sunny weather, the long days.  I never made it to the beach this year and I never had one of the those days that just gives you that warm, happy, languid feeling that happens in summer.

Mostly, it was a stressful summer of worrying about various things that need to be done – one after another.  Not a good way to spend summer.  So, yes, right now there is some regret at how this past summer went, but I also came to realize some things.

I realize that it’s important to make every moment count.  I am very guilty of wasting time.  I do know the difference between taking a beat or taking some down time to wasting time.  Let me tell you, I do a lot of time wasting.  More so when I’m stressed.

So, what would I have done differently?

1. Gone outside more – I spent a lot of time inside.  Sometimes because it was really just too uncomfortable to be outside, but a lot of times because I let the lazy feeling take over.

2. Less screen time – More than ever, I feel the life force draining out of me the more time I spend in front of my computer.  I find that I feel less grounded, less happy, and more disconnected.  Living alone, I use the computer to keep me company and that’s really just a bad habit.

3. Make sleep a priority – I spent a lot of days just being up because I was stressed out and not dealing well with my stress.  Getting consistently enough sleep is important.  I am no longer the person who can scrimp on sleep and still make it through the day intact.  Maybe it’s a sign of aging, maybe it’s the amount of stress I’m under, but I am a mess if I haven’t gotten at least 7 hours of sleep.  That is the bare minimum.  If I get any less, no amount of caffeine will perk me up and I will spend the whole day dragging myself around.

4. Taken a day off – I constantly feel as if I’m not doing enough for whatever I’m trying to accomplish and instead of realizing that maybe a day off would be the best way to use my time, I end up staying home and feeling guilty that I’m not doing work.  I need to get better at realizing that it’s better to be doing anything, whether work or play, than to be snuggling up with Hulu in the evenings because I don’t feel like I deserve a day off and I’m too stressed out to focus properly on doing anything productive work wise.

Autumn has definitely made the announcement about its arrival, but calendar wise there are still a little more than two weeks to go.  Even with the terrible schedule I have, I intend on doing better as I see these last two official weeks of summer out and welcome the autumn.

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Life: Getting out of a rut

I’ve been battling a rut for a while.  Part of it is avoidance of all these big to do things that I have to do, but the rest of it I’m not quite sure about.  The biggest problem with this rut is that I have been feeling run down and constantly tired.  I would like to blame the weather, but I took care of that part of it and bought another air conditioner for my apartment.  I kept telling myself that I should start working out and start eating cleaner, but I just couldn’t really find the energy.  The lack of energy has been so bad that driving is scary.

Today, though it seems that the fog is abating a bit and I have some theories as to why I finally feel like I’m climbing out of this rut.

  1. Cut out the caffeine – I don’t usually have a daily caffeine habit.  I do enjoy coffee and tea, but usually it’s a splurge when I go out to a coffee shop to do work.  However, when I started a month of shift work with erratic hours, I started up a caffeine habit.  Mind you, I set a limit of one cup, but I tend to be sensitive to caffeine and continuing that one cup of coffee a day habit even after the erratic shift work was over was probably a bad idea.  Even though a tiny voice in the back of my head was saying that I should stop, I enjoyed the ritual of a morning coffee.  Last week, I read somewhere (sorry, I’m so terrible at remembering where I read things and linking up…something to work on) that daily caffeine could in fact prevent weight loss instead of promote it.  I would like to ditch a couple of pounds that I gained about six months ago, but I’m not actively trying to lose weight.  Reading that article reminded me what I knew all along about fatigue, adrenal function, and so on, so I ditched the coffee.  Sad, but necessary.  I used the rest of my cold brew as a hair rinse.  At least my hair smelled lovely.
  2. Drink more water – I’ve been lucky that the last couple of days I’ve been able to drink more water, but the reality is that most working days I’m lucky if I can remember to drink a cup or two of water.  I’ve gone whole shifts/days of work without drinking water.  I know this is really bad, but when you are running around all day, going to the bathroom is not on your list of to dos.  Naturally, it follows that you stop drinking water, too.  I’ve gotten in the habit of tucking a bottle of water into one of my giant pockets.  The trick now is to remember to actually drink that water.
  3. Sleep consistently well – Sleep has been problematic for me for most of my life.  I can hear just about everything in my sleep.  I also need about 9 hours of sleep to feel fantastic.  I wish I could be one of those people who feels awesome on 7 or 8 hours but frustratingly, I feel the best with 9 hours.  When I switched to eating a more paleo/primal diet, I started to sleep better, which was awesome.  Problem now is that if I get a couple of nights of good sleep, then the third or fourth night, I end up staying up too late.  There is probably a happy medium of being well functioning during the day and being able to sleep consistently well, but I still haven’t found it.  Something to work on.
  4. Get outside – Life has been busy and there is a whole lot of things that I am not doing that I need to be doing.  That being said, I’m basically hitting snooze a million times in the morning, dragging myself out of bed, and throwing on a bunch of black and rushing to work.  When I get home, some evenings I found myself cuddling with my laptop and sleeping because I was too tired to make dinner or do much of anything else.  I realize that no matter what I need to get outside once a day, twice would be preferable, but let’s start small.  Getting outside gets me the natural light exposure that I need and a much needed dose of outside air.  Being inside all day with not very well circulated air is probably contributing to my exhaustion.  Not to mention the lack of natural light is probably not helping my circadian rhythms either.
  5. Breathe – When things get busy, I have a tendency to get wound up and tense.  I start wanting to micromanage and control every detail about what’s going on.  I often don’t realize this until I’m well into doing it and I find myself walking around with a clenched jaw and stiff muscles.  One of my favorite teachers of all time told me on Friday, “Don’t just do something, stand there.”  At first, I was confused, but he was saying that sometimes you have to stop doing and just take a step back and take it all in.  “Don’t forget to enjoy this,” he said.  After that conversation I realized how much I was working myself up and making things more stressful for myself than they need to be.  So one at a time and breathe.

There are probably a million more things that I could change and do differently to feel better, but those are the things that come to mind that seem to have shifted over the last few days.  I was really floundering for a while trying to figure out why I was feeling so terrible.  Hopefully, things are a lot better from here on out.

How do you get yourself out of a rut?

Do: Read, Process, Discuss

This morning I woke up to find a round up of links on No More Dirty Looks about carbs, milk, brain aging, and exercise.  The round up is a bunch of things that I think people should be talking about and things that I have an interest in, so I’m going to discuss those things briefly here and encourage you to go and read the original post and the links over at No More Dirty Looks.  The quotes below are all from the original post.

  1. “Refined carbohydrates may trigger overeating.” I would argue that it’s not just the “refined carbs” of white bread and pasta that are the problem, but also things like rice, whole wheat items, and other less refined/unrefined grain sources of carbohydrates.  While I have been heavier than I want to be at times in my life, I’ve never had a big issue with my weight.  However, I have noticed that when I ate grains back in the day, I would almost always inevitably keep eating until I was over full.  I used to think maybe it was an issue of mindfulness (and I’m sure that is part of the equation), but I think that where your carbs are coming from makes a big difference in how much you end up eating.  I prefer to make it easy on myself when I eat and just avoid grains.  I don’t have to worry about overeating and my weight stays more stable.
  2. “Hobbies like reading and writing make for a stronger brain later in life.”  Well, no problems in that department here, but reading this made me think of my grandfather.  He worked into his 90s and was always reading and practicing golf.  Not only is he a well regarded intellectual and scholar, but he is also very fit physically and could out hike my aunts and uncles.  I’m pretty sure that his deliberate way of living is why he is still alive today.  I have a suspicion that he’s healthier than I am.
  3. “Skim milk not healthier than whole milk.”  This is really no longer an issue for me since I’ve stopped drinking milk altogether.  However, I did drink milk growing up and had to drink a glass with dinner every night.  I believe we drink 2% milk until I was in high school and started drinking skim milk.  At the time, I thought I was being healthy drinking skim milk, but I have seen over and over again recently that altered foods are far from healthy.  I still eat cheese and yogurt from time to time, but I get these from local vendors at the farmer’s market and they are all of a full fat, whole food variety.
  4. “Mystery solved: How exercise calms anxiety.”  All I know is that I feel better when I have a mental break everyday to walk or run or rollerblade or lift weights.  I used to belong to a small gym that I could go to early in the morning and workout in peace and quiet.  I loved it.  Now, I belong to a chain gym that has great hours, but even at 5 am is blasting obnoxious pop music.  So much less enjoyable.  I’ve been trying to get a walk in before work, but so far that’s proved challenging.  I used to walk after work a lot with a friend or two and that was a great way to get a walk in and get some social time in.

All right folks, I hope you’ll go and read the interesting post and the links found on No More Dirty Looks.  I’d love to hear your reactions to the topics at hand and what you think about my reactions.

Have a wonderful Sunday!

 

Do: Cool Off

I live far enough north, in a place that gets plenty of snow in the winter, with cool enough that people tend to say that an air conditioner is unnecessary in the summer.  I beg to differ.  While the temperatures may not ever really pass the low to mid 80s, the humidity is another thing altogether.

I grew up with central air conditioning and then went to college out west where the air was dry desert air.  Trying to survive a humid summer without air conditioning is just not possible.  So last year, I bought a window air conditioner.  I installed it in my bedroom and for the most part while I was pretty warm elsewhere in my apartment, I survived without too much trouble.

This year, the humidity is much worse and the air just stagnates in my apartment.  No matter how or when I open the windows and position the fan, the apartment is just plain uncomfortable.  The act of breathing causes beads of sweat to break out.

I mused that maybe I needed to buy more fans.  Not wanting to spend money, I came up with the brilliant plan of putting aluminum foil in select windows to reflect the heat.  That worked okay for a while, but then the humidity got even worse.

Finally, after my sister pointed out that buying fans was pretty expensive and not a good way to combat humidity (which is my real problem), I decided to just go ahead and buy another air conditioner.

Well, I’m telling you right now, that was the best choice I’ve made in recent days.  Sure, I’m sad I had to part with a good chunk of change, but now I can stay in my apartment and turn on the lights without fear of becoming too hot.  I can even cook without becoming a puddle of sweat.

I realize that air conditioning is a luxury, but staying cool makes a big difference between whether I can actually be productive or not.

Lesson: If you can control something that makes you uncomfortable, then do it.  Even if it means a little bit of monetary sacrifice.

 

 

Life: Holidays

Happy Fourth of July!  I hope everyone has fun and relaxing plans for their Fourth of July celebrations.  Those of you not in the U.S., I hope you’re having a wonderful day, regardless.

I am fortunate enough to have today off, which doesn’t always happen.  Most holidays involve some time at work.  Usually an abbreviated day, but not an entire day off.  Today, I get the wonderful luxury of doing whatever I want all day.

Now, ideally I would be spending the day doing all the relaxing and enjoyable things that I don’t usually get to do, but I’ve spent my morning so far doing work that I haven’t been able to attend to for the last week.  Part of the problem here is that I have been procrastinating and part of the problem is that there are simply not enough hours in the day most days.

Lately, I realize how important it is to actually celebrate holidays and take the time to reflect, relax, and connect with people that are important to us.  That’s what holidays were meant to be originally, but as we’ve gotten more wired and sped up the pace of life, we frequently neglect to celebrate or even acknowledge holidays.  I’m certainly guilty of this.

Growing up my family didn’t pay too much attention to most holidays, but we did have some things that we did every year for certain holidays.  As I grew older we lost more and more of the ritual things we did for those holidays.  Some were simple things like putting up the cardboard cutouts of goofy looking pumpkins in our windows for Halloween and others were a little more involved like dragging the fake tree out of the attic to decorate for Christmas.

As we slowly stopped doing those things, I didn’t notice the loss too much and I was more relieved that there was less thinking and effort involved.  I was glad that I didn’t need to stand outside with chattering teeth and freezing fingers helping my mom string up Christmas lights and decorate the front of the house.  I also told myself that I was being kinder to the planet by not wasting electricity on frivolous decorating.

These days though I miss those rituals as simple as they might be.  I miss being excited to find my favorite pumpkin cutout that had a fuzzy size that I liked to rub with my hand as I put it up in the window.  (I always put the fuzzy side on the size facing away from the window because I didn’t want that side to fade.)  It’s a small thing, but it helped mark the passage of time and the celebration of autumn and a funny holiday called Halloween.

As I start to have a little more control over my time, I’d like to go back to having rituals for holidays.  Maybe not every single holiday, but having some traditions feels grounding and is a good way to take a step back from the rush of life.

What do you think?  How do you celebrate holidays?  Do you have any traditions that you like?

Life: Monday Musings

Some thoughts that have been floating around in my head.

1. Eating strict paleo is easier when you don’t know about all the paleo substitutions that exist out in the world.  (Technically, all these paleo substitutions aren’t really paleo, but that would be a long discussion and debate.)

2. There seems to be some merit to the gut healing theory.  Personally, after two years of paleo/primal eating, I can eat some wheat based products without feeling completely terrible and in need of a long slumber to sleep it off.  Not that I am going to go back to eating wheat.

3.  I found out that my reaction to wheat is much improved because my sister made these amazing cookies while I was home this past weekend and I couldn’t resist.  I probably ate a dozen of them…maybe I’m exaggerating just a little.

4.  I also made cauliflower pizza crust with my sister this past weekend.  She was in charge of the toppings.  Good thing, since she actually makes things look pretty and tasty. (Hopefully, I’ll be sharing some photos soon.)

5.  My goal is to clean up my act this month and eat cleaner and sleep better, but I’m afraid to actually announce that here because I’m not sure I can or want to be that committed.

6. I’m transitioning to writing one blog, this one, and getting it better organized.  What do you think about the new title format?

7. I like the number seven so I’m going to end here.

 

Life: Sleep Around the Clock

Despite the fact that this was touted to be an amazing month of procedures and an easier schedule in terms of total number of hours, I find myself in a constant haze of never knowing what day it is much less what time of the day it is.  Shift work definitely has its perks, but for me the lack of a good day to day rhythm and constantly being tired isn’t working so well for me.  It’s a good experience, but I realize that no matter how much I enjoyed this, I’m no longer really tolerant of this kind of abuse on my body.

Had I started this journey at a younger age, I probably would have jumped into whatever struck me as exciting and fun, scheduling and bad hours would probably not be given even a glimmer of a second thought.  Where I am now, though, I respect and cherish my body a lot more and the way I think about my approach to life and career is vastly different.

I imagine this terrible sleep schedule, the odd hours awake, and the liberal use of caffeine (and when I say liberal I mean one cup a day, two at the max, and two is very rare) isn’t helping me shed my winter weight.  Weight gain that I blame on the terrible hours I had over the winter with 24 hour calls every three days.

Only a few more days of overnight shifts and then I should be back to a more normal schedule.  I can’t wait to join the world of the living.  As convenient as it might sound, overnight shifts and random  hours of sleep are less than ideal.

More thoughts later…I’m not exactly coherent.

Life: Technology, Stress, and Overeating

Technology makes me crazy.  This is a realization that came to me over the last few weeks.  I think to some degree technology makes us all crazy.  We’ve gone from a culture of sit down dinners with polite conversation to constant conversations through text messages and social media.

If I’m being honest about my own habits, there is something to be said about using the Internet as your stand in roommate and best friend.  Time ticks away without any productive work being done the moment I start checking e-mail.  Yet, as much as I would like to say I’m just going to shut my computer off, most of the work I do relies on the resources of the internet and the ability to e-mail.

I remember back in the day having a computer was both a novelty and a privilege.  Not everyone could afford a computer and when Internet came around, it was limited to dial up.  If you were lucky like I was and had a techie parent or two, you might have a separate phone line just for internet, but most people had to use their regular phone line.  If they were on the Internet, it meant that they couldn’t receive or make phone calls.

I always thought myself pretty balanced when it came to media and technology.  Growing up, my mom regulated when and how much TV we could watch and frankly, I don’t think my sisters and I were much into TV anyway.  Even when I went off to college, I didn’t have much interest in watching television.  There were a lot better things to do than watch TV.

Now, that I live in a cold clime and work long tiring hours, when I get home, Hulu has my TV shows queued up and waiting for me.  I don’t even need a television.  And even with the likes of Hulu and Netflix, people think it’s amazing that I don’t own a television.

So, I make some dinner and eat dinner at my desk while watching a show.  If I’m feeling guilty, I might even try to do some work while eating dinner and watching said show.  Can you say (or scream) inefficiency??  Hours later I’ll find that I’m tired and it’s time for bed and I haven’t done a single thing on my to do list.

Did I mention to you how effective online television is at helping you procrastinate and avoid things you really should be doing in life?  I mean, come on, in a race between do boring things like study or write e-mails to various powers that be and things like eat and watch made up stories about the drama in other people’s fake lives, what would you do?  It’s much easier to watch the fake drama and feel better about your life (albeit your rather unproductive one while you’re watching television shows) than to sit down with the silence around you and actually do some work.

I remember I used to really enjoy the peace and quiet when studying back in high school.  It felt meditative and for a while the sensation of time was suspended.  At work, productiveness is punctuated by phone calls and text messages.  Inefficiency is rampant.  Despite all our technological advances, the actual work sometimes takes longer.  Not because the actual work takes longer, but because we have far more interruptions and distractions.  Of course many will argue that interruptions have long been a part of medicine since the beeper has been around for far longer than most of the technology I’m discussing here.

We’re inefficient and distracted.  Now, throw in the fact that we work longer hours, we’re more mobile and spread out, and technology advancements seem to happen in the blink of an eye.  Well, we need to connect!  And the Internet and electronic technology industry have answers for that, too.  We can talk while we drive (a practice that is VERY DANGEROUS), video chat, share photos instantly, text message, tweet, and facebook.  I’m sure there are a million other ways to connect that I’m missing.  Oh, right, blogging.  Yeah.  I realize that I’m blogging right now and I won’t even try to defend myself.

Even when we do meet people face to face, it is rare to just focus on being with that person or people.  We’re too busy checking our phones for text message or getting called.  Sometimes we’re tweeting or instagramming (oh yeah, there is that one, too).  Even with a good old fashioned camera, I find myself distracted, so with all these options, I find myself wanting to pull my hair out.

I have a friend who texts the entire time she’s at the gym.  It drives me batty and it makes me less likely to want to go to the gym with her.  While, I, too, tend to multitask, I do my best to be present when I’m at the gym or driving or spending time with friends or family.  My terrible multitasking habits tend to crop up more when I’m alone and should be doing work.

So, what does this all mean?  We’re dumber, fatter, more stressed, less productive, and inherently less connected.  You might not like that I said it like that, but that is the plain truth.

Why the soapboxy, ranting like post?  Well, because I’m working on being less distracted and stressed out by technology.  In fact, I wrote this entire post without checking my phone or doing something else online.  Aren’t you all proud of me?  Okay, maybe not.  I’m still proud of myself though.

Life and Other Things Like It

I just spent the last hour or so reading the articles off The Primalist’s regular round up of links, aptly named Primalisms.  I was a particular fan of the last article in the list about a group of long living people in Greece.  The article gave me a lot to think about.

For one thing, in this country (and I mean the U.S. for all the international readers out there) we chase after “cures.”  Have a problem?  Fix that problem.  We often forget to look at the underlying reasons for that symptom.  Sometimes we go looking for the reason why and find it.  When we don’t, medicine likes to dump it into the broad category of unknowns called “idiopathic.”

There is still so much we can’t explain and I’m not saying that calling things idiopathic is wrong.  I’m saying that if something is idiopathic, then we need to look at more than just that one symptom.  What else is going on with that person?  What else can we improve about the way that person is going about life?

This is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  A small piece of the puzzle that needs fixing.  I could go on and on about what need to change in medicine, but today’s discussion is a bit more broad.

So, there is that issue of when you have a problem, we only fix that problem and not anything else.  Medicine often neglects to address things like lifestyle, nutrition, exercise, and the like.  Those are the exact things that rise to the surface when various researchers and studies look at populations of long-living people.

Could I live like those long living people here in the U.S.?  Maybe.  Would my life be better if I could? Definitely.  It would be a huge mental shift.  The thing is that all the things that give these populations longevity are things that feel good.  Think about it.  Hanging with your friends and doing social things feels good.  Being out in the great outdoors feels good.  Waking up when you want to and not to an alarm feels good.

We’ve forgotten what really feels good.  In the U.S., rugged individualism is the name of the game.  We like our separate houses and our privacy.  We schedule social time and limit the time we do it.  We take pride is how much more stressful and hectic our life is compared to the next person.  On and on.  And while we’re doing all this, we’re having uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, and a whole host of other maladies.

This is what I know.  In the last couple of weeks, I’ve noticed that on days when I can get up closer to when the sun is rising, I feel a lot happier in the morning and it’s easier to get out of bed.  The days when I have to get up hours before the sun is a lot harder even if I’ve had just as much or even more sleep.  Doesn’t feel as nice.  During my down time I crave socialization.  I never really had that sort of craving before, but maybe now that I’m more in tune with myself I feel it more.  Of course, the problem with my craving socialization is that everyone else is busy being “too busy.”

And therein lies the problem.

I just wanted to throw some thoughts out there and get everyone thinking.  Go read the article and let me know what you think.

Life Without Internet at Home

Moving is a hassle that I hope that sometime in the next few years I won’t have to deal with anymore.  I’m getting tired of moving every year.  Even with my paltry amount of items, being a single woman makes moving yourself rather difficult.  I’d hire movers if I had that kind of financial latitude, but with the federal government making educational loans a losing game for students, I’m not even close to having anything resembling financial latitude.

I could keep ranting, but I’ll spare you, dear reader.  The subject today is less technology at home.  

Currently, I have yet to order Internet at home.  I’m not terribly happy about the options from the local cable provider, which have changed considerably since I last ordered Internet, and there are still a lot of other issues that need straightening out before I can get to worrying about Internet.

In the meantime, it’s either the school lab, or some other location with wifi.  Currently, most days it’s a lot of coffee shop time.  The good thing about this is that instead of wasting time on the Internet doing things that aren’t productive, I tend to be a lot more productive with my time on the Internet when I know it’s limited to the time I’m spending at the coffee shop.  My priority list goes something along the lines of pay bills, do homework and research necessary for school, and then do things like blog.  As you can see by the lack of posts lately, blogging doesn’t even usually make it into the list of things I get done while I have Internet.

As much as I’d like to make life without internet permanent, I will eventually get around to getting internet service, it’s just low on my priority list for now.  I would like to end up doing work at home instead of having to go out and spend money on drinks I don’t need to be drinking, but it’s working for now since I need the coffee to get me through the day lately (don’t even get me started on how bad that is for me.).

The point is though that I would eventually like to get to a point in life where I am less connected electronically and online and more connected to the earth and people.  It seems like a good goal especially considering that the powers that be are finally admitting that cell phone use will in fact give you brain tumors (and kill you).  You can even be allergic to excessive amounts of electromagnetic radiation.  So yeah…the whole go back to the natural things and get connected to life and not technology seems like a good idea for everyone, not just granola crunching, tree huggers.  

Just some random, on the fly thoughts.  And now I must fly the coffee shop here and get on with other things in life.

Hope everyone is well and staying cool in the summer!