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?

Stress Management

Holy cow, I have been stressed out lately!  I’m usually sort of stressed out all the time, but this past week has been especially bad.  The problem is that when I get stressed out, every good habit I have tends to fall apart and I end up in a downward spiral that makes my stress worse and not better.  I miss the days when I was younger and stress would just make me sleep.  After a good nap or a long night of sleep, I would usually feel better.  Not so as an adult.  I have come to know the term insomnia over the last year.  Uncool.

So, what are some ways to cope with stress?

    1. Take a bath – It is totally worth the effort of cleaning/rinsing out the tub for a bath.  I like to add an aromatherapy bath packet or some bubble bath for extra fun.  It doesn’t need to be a long soak.  (Let’s be honest, I’m much too fidgety to sit for long.)  Just long enough to let the warm water relax you and to let your mind take a break.  For extra points, light a candle (I leave mine on the counter or some other safe place.  The side of the bathtub is not a safe place.) and turn out the lights.  
    2. Take a nap – Sometimes you just need to get away from your life.  I managed to take a nap today and it was well worth the time invested.  Between the sleep deprivation and my overactive brain, I needed that time out.  This is not as easy to accomplish as it once was, but it is still a great way to catch a break when you can manage it.  Even 20 minutes is helpful.
    3. Get a massage – Most people I talk to are amazed that I get massages on a sort of regular basis.  The most common complaint I hear is that they are expensive.  Well, I’ll tell you this – massages are cheaper than visiting the doctor and they are a lot more enjoyable.  I think that they are well worth the investment.  I am a terrible sleeper and after I get a massage, I get the best three nights of sleep that I’ll have until my next massage.  I have a massage therapist that I go to and I like having that relationship in place.  However, if you are really crunched for money, try snagging a Groupon or Living Social deal for massages.  Using those coupon services is also a great way to try out massage therapists without investing the full amount of money.  You can also ask for people to buy you gift certificates for massages.
    4. Clean –  Being of the fidgety type, cleaning is usually very soothing to me.  Usually sweeping is pretty calming.  Cleaning also clears visual clutter, which can help your mental state.  I always feel more stressed with a messy environment, so cleaning can really help my stress levels.
    5. Talk to someone – Call, text, IM a friend or family member.  Venting can do wonders for stress.  I thought I was going to lose my mind the other day when my plans suddenly changed on me and affected other people who were counting on me.  I ended up taking some time to vent to a friend online and a friend happened to text me during that stressful period and chatted with me over text as well.  I got through that stressful period and I managed not to lose my sanity.
    6. See a therapist – Not everyone likes the idea of seeing a therapist.  Everyone has their reasons.  However, a therapist can be immensely helpful at helping you learn coping skills and helping you gain insight into what might be causing you stress in your life.  Unlike your friends and family, they have a more objective view of what is going on in your life and they have specialty training to help you through stressful events in life.  If you feel stuck or want to make some changes in your life and don’t know where to start, try a therapist.  If you’re attending school, most schools offer counseling services for free or for a discounted price.  The other thing to keep in mind is that therapy is not always a long and drawn out process.  Sometimes all you need is a few sessions.  
    7. Start saying no – You would be surprised at the number of things that you don’t have to do in life.  Usually, I have a running list of things I should do in life.  Turns out most of those things are not shoulds and I don’t need to do them.  So, start saying no and simplifying things.  You’ll be surprised at how much better you’ll feel.
    8. Socialize – When I’m stressed, I tend to isolate myself.  Sometimes I need time alone, but sometimes the distraction of socializing with other people is what I really need.  Socialization helps me also realize that the world won’t end and that other people have problems, too.  Socialization that involves a drink or two can help the stress levels as well.  I’m not advocating heavy drinking, but one or two drinks can be relaxing on occasion.
    9. Hugs – In college, there was a lot of hugging and it was good.  Getting or giving a hug to someone can bring down your stress levels.  I know that there have been studies done on hugging, but I can’t remember where those studies are on the Internet.  Just trust me on this one.  Get a hug from someone you like or give one to someone and instantly feel better.
    10. Go for a drive – I like driving and sometimes the only way to clear my head is to get out of the house and go for a drive.  A drive is good when I need to get out of the house, but I’m not interested in seeing people.  It’s a good way to get some space to think away from the environments that are stressing you out.  You can also turn on some music and sing on the top of your lungs if you want to.  Although, sometimes a quiet, meditative drive is in order.
    11. Seek out some nature – This is something that I crave when I’m stressed.  I have some parks that I know are peaceful and quiet that I like to go to.  I like places with water, but whatever works for you, go for it.  I try to avoid noisy or busy parks because that’s just more stress.  Your backyard can work, too, if you have one.
    12. Drink some tea – There is something inherently relaxing about drinking a hot drink.  You can’t drink it quickly and so you’re forced to take your time.  Of course, if you don’t like tea there is also coffee, hot chocolate, and hot apple cider.  Take your pick and breathe a big sigh.
    13. Take deep breaths – Speaking of sighs, take some deep breaths…preferably clean outdoor air, but sometimes you don’t have choices.  Deep breathing can be very relaxing.  Just make sure you’re sitting or laying down because you can get dizzy (or maybe that’s just me).
    14. Exercise – Sometimes you just need to work your stress out.  A good sweat session can help you release some energy and get some endorphins going.  What’s not to like?  When I’m frustrated and angry, I like boxing and sparing, but really even a good weight lifting or cardio session will do the trick.

All right, I’m ending the list here.  I was trying to make 10 items and then the ideas kept coming, so I kept going.  By now, you’re probably stressed from the length of this list.  Just take one or two and start getting that stress under control!

I’m off to blow off some steam with some socializing (number 8).

Happy Weekend!

Ready for some normalcy

Relative normalcy that is.  I’ve not had the best of schedules over the last few weeks.  Between staying up whole nights or working long days of 14-16 hours and having a completely variable schedule with nights and days flip flopping all over the place, I’m ready for the next few weeks where I get to have a more normal schedule.  Still long hours, but predictable “normal” hours that are mostly during regular business hours.

As fun as the last few weeks were for me, I’m looking forward to being able to follow my circadian rhythm more closely and knowing that I can sleep consistently every night.  I am looking forward to calming my body down and having a schedule (as much as I resist having a schedule…somehow that whole idea of being scheduled makes me feel boxed in and robotic).  I’m pretty sure that between the stress of things that are going on in my life outside work and the unpredictable work schedule with very erratic sleep patterns not to mention the huge sleep deficit have probably spiked my cortisol to unacceptable levels.

I am also looking forward to checking out the farmer’s market.  I thought about doing that today, but I didn’t end up doing that.  Why you ask?  Well, for one thing I was coming off a night shift and even though I was feeling relatively awake after having gotten a good few hours of sleep (the first and last time I got sleep while on an overnight…thank you wonderful mission control person), I wasn’t feeling up to driving or going by myself.  Going new places by myself requires a certain amount of energy and I wasn’t up to it today.  Granted, I’m sad that I won’t be indulging in wonderful, season, local produce, but I think I’ll be okay for another week.

I have managed to continue eating paleo with some modifications.  I added in full fat yogurt the last few weeks because I wanted to get my fruit in and I hate eating my fruit plain.  I don’t know why, but the yogurt helps me eat berries and the like.  I also put some honey in my yogurt.  I know that it probably spiked my blood sugar some, but oh well.  I was also drinking coffee pretty consistently.  Not exactly the baseline I want to be at, but I do love coffee and it was so necessary to keep me awake.  Other than that, I stayed completely paleo.  Yay!

The really weird thing about eating paleo is that now that I’m in the hospital, I find myself faced with situations where I really want to tell people that they’re wrong.  I had someone senior to me tell me one morning about how terrible it was that people had no concept of calories and good nutrition and the like and I really had to sit on my hands and tune out a little bit because I just don’t subscribe to conventional wisdom anymore.  Actually, I never really fully embraced the whole conventional anything.  I’m a funny duck in a very traditional thinking and acting field.  (I do wonder what I got myself into just about every minute of every day…but that’s really not a story for now.)

Not only are patients having weight problems, but almost everyone that I have worked with recently has talked about their weight, eating habits, and diets.  One of the things that I really don’t want to happen to me in my career path is for me to gain weight.  I gain weight every time I’m in school.  I think it must be all the stress and the sitting.  Whatever it is, I’m heavier when I’m going to school.

Last year, I started on a quest to make sure that I was keeping things in check and staying healthy.  I went on a crazy spree of working out twice a day, being at the gym 6 days a week, and eating an almost purely vegetarian, high fiber diet.  At first I was feeling stronger, but then after a couple of months, I felt like I was getting fatter and not leaner.

With paleo, I eat what I want (that is within the boundaries of paleo) and even if I don’t get a chance to exercise, I still do okay.  I don’t feel terrible.  I’m hoping these next few weeks I’ll find a better equilibrium and get some walking in.  Maybe some other soothing exercise.  Sprints and weights will get their due.  In addition, I scheduled myself a massage.  The one great thing about being at school is that I have a great massage therapist.  It’s one of the few things that is getting me through school.  I know it’s an indulgence, but it’s so necessary for me.  Not only is it relaxing, but it helps me sleep, which is huge for me.

Well, this has been sort of a rambling post and I really do need to do some serious work and then get my butt to bed so I can get my body back into a good sleep schedule.  I can’t wait.

Till next time.  I hope everyone is well.

Wordless

Waking up this morning and not having to talk to someone is such a great way to get up.  Just being in tune with all the morning sounds and the silence of the world before things really get going is a nice way to start up a day.

One of the things that I used to do that I haven’t done in a long time is have wordless days.  Maybe not entirely wordless because then that would involve some heavy miming and furious scribbling and that sort of defeats the purpose, but long stretches of time where I just chose not to speak.

It started back in high school more as a joke than for any really serious reasons.  Some kid in my class challenged me to not speaking at all until the end of the day.  After that day, there were days where when I didn’t feel like speaking, I didn’t.

It’s amazing how often we speak and use words when there is no need to.  We fill up the spaces with inane chatter and stop listening.  When I started listening, things calmed down inside my head and I noticed subtleties that I didn’t notice when I was part of the mix chatting up a storm.

I had forgotten how peaceful and wonderful being wordless can be until this morning.

I urge you to try having a wordless day or at least a good few hours of being wordless.  It’s pretty fantastic.  It’s like meditating but you’re still doing everything that you have to do.  Not only that it’s pretty calming.