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.

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.

Caffeination Nation

I know I said I was back from my hiatus a long time ago and then have posted a piddly amount of posts since. It’s been absolutely nuts around here.

I’m in the middle of moving while starting to work full days. Exhausted might be an understatement at this point. I think I will need someone to peel me off the floor by the end of the week.

Given the sad state of things (don’t even get me started on what I’ve been eating lately), I’ve been relying on coffee every morning. I think a recharge and rebalance is going to be in order after this whole ordeal is over.

Well, that’s my update. More much later after I am no longer relying on quick sources of “energy.”

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!

Park Time

I need to have time to commune with nature, especially when I’m stressed out.  Being out in nature away from our crazy, technology driven lives is what I need to cope.  I often forget that.  When I’m at home, I know where to go.  I have a few favorite parks that I go to when I need some time away and I need to think.  It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a park.  I’ve been to the city park here, but when you’re walking with cars and there is a highway that has rushing cars right along one part of the path, it’s not exactly the relaxing respite that I’m looking for.

In an attempt to get some relaxing out in nature time, I had planned on going on a hike with a friend.  She ended up canceling on me at the last minute and I was torn between going by myself and not going at all.  In the end, I ended up venturing out on my own.  I got a good hour of time wandering around trails.  I got there early enough that I didn’t start running into people until I was back at the parking lot.

Now that I remembered that I need some outdoor alone time, I’m thinking that I’m going to start checking out all the parks in the area when I have some free time on my hands.  Definitely a better idea than turning on some online television and turning into a brainless zombie.

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.

Stress, Tired, and Other Random Thoughts

I’m pretty sure it’s all the stress and the lack of enough sleep lately, but I’m just tired and cranky and some of the fun of this new eating plan has worn off.  Now, don’t let this sway you from trying paleo or primal if you are considering it, I still recommend it.  I’m just documenting this part of my journey.

The first two, two and half weeks of paleo/primal eating were wonderful.  Going to the farmer’s market, cooking breakfast every morning, feeling satisfied and not overly full.  I’m one of those people that loves novelty.  And the novelty of paleo was exciting.

I was also on a pretty good schedule.  Daily walks, eating at set times.  It was all very lovely.  I was working on my sleep, but other than that things were feeling pretty good.

Now, with the onset of stress, things are feeling a bit off kilter.  I’m not drinking enough water or sleeping enough.  The focus is a bit off.  So we’re going to try again.  We’re going to try to get back on this bandwagon and even things out a bit.

First off, sleep.  Again, need better sleep habits and sleep hygiene.  Anyone have any good ideas on how to calm things down??  I think worried stress has me tossing and turning and not sleeping too well.

Next, water.  Drink lots of it.  I never was very good at drinking water and I think it’s more important than ever for me to drink water.  Not only because of how I’m eating, but also because it’s immensely hot and sticky out here lately and I probably need the hydration.

Third, get a hold of my stress.  This one is going to be tough.  I tend to be very sensitive to stress and so calming this one down is going to take some work.  I’m open to any ideas if people have any.  I think that getting the exercising bit back on track will help things immensely.  I’m also hoping that maybe I can get a short meditation in on a daily basis.  I think I need that.  Need the scheduled silence.

So how do people get themselves back on track when life and stress throws you for a loop??

Paleo/Primal Lifestyle Challenges

It’s been a little under two weeks since I started paleo/primal eating.  I had some goals with starting this new way of eating.

    1. sleep better – I don’t sleep well.  I can hear pretty much everything in my sleep and I usually don’t get enough time in bed.
    2. lose weight – I gained a few pesky pounds that I want to lose.
    3. improve my mood – I’m sure some of my mood is personality, but I want to be happier overall.  I tend to be somewhat gloomier at baseline than most people.
    4. have more energy – In the last couple of years, especially in the last year, I’ve noticed that I have less energy and that I’m constantly feeling like I’m dragging and blah.

With those goals in mind, I have been checking in with myself constantly to see if any of these things are happening.  It’s hard to wait for these changes to appear because when you read people’s stories of their transformations eating this way, it sounds like the changes magically appeared by eating paleo/primal.

So far, I have noticed that I sleep better.  I seem to be sleeping more deeply.  However, I am still not spending enough time in bed.  The last two nights, I have managed to go to sleep by 9 PM and have been waking up well after 6 AM.  I don’t know if that means I actually need that much sleep or if I am so backlogged on rest that my body is trying to regain some equilibrium.  Either way, I’m going to try and stick to this getting to sleep at 9 PM and see if my body will adjust and wake up sometime around 5 or 5:30 AM.  My goal is to get to a point where I feel refreshed after I sleep.  I haven’t felt that way in years.  Probably, not since high school.

Sleeping is a big challenge for me.  I am staying with my parents temporarily and this means that going to sleep early is an issue.  Typically, we’re a family of night owls.  Not only that, when I’m on my own, I tend to numb myself with Internet surfing and online television.  It’s all very bad, I know.  My parents just canceled television service altogether, so that should help with the television watching part.

Other challenges:

    1. being patient – I am not the most patient person in the world.  I want things to be done and I want them to be done now.  (Actually, I want them to be done yesterday…)  I think that because I had already cut out almost all added sugar before and had a policy of not eating processed foods, the changes are slower in developing.  Plus, I’m not a very big person to begin with, so I imagine that it takes a while for the weight loss to become apparent.
    2. protein sourcing – I don’t like meat.  It’s just the way I am.  I don’t like the way it smells.  Well, it turns out that if the meat is fresh enough, it won’t smell.  Same goes for seafood.  This makes finding and buying sources of protein challenging.  A few days ago I ended up tossing a whole batch of chicken and vegetables because the chicken just smelled icky.  My mom hauled the whole package back to the store for a refund.  So sourcing protein and eating it with every meal is a bit difficult.  Without tofu and some vegetarian protein options gone, it’s been a challenge.
    3. cooking protein – I don’t like cooking meat or fish even.  Lucky for me, right now most of the protein part of the meal is getting handled by my mom.  (I usually handle breakfast…I love my eggs.)  This means that while it’s fine now, I am going to have to figure out how to cook my protein when I go back to life on my own.
    4. eating out and snacks – we don’t usually eat out, which is fine.  However, when we’re gone from the house for extended periods of time or on vacation, it’s hard to find things to eat.  I’ve come up with some ideas for things to keep on hand while I’m out – beef jerky, nuts, fruit.  The snack part and packing meals is something I have to figure out before I’m back on my own and have to handle cooking for the week in advance and making sure to bring food with me.  The whole granola/protein bar method of filling in the gaps isn’t going to work anymore.
    5. managing stress – I have a lot of stress.  Not only do I have a lot of stressful things going on in my life, but I am easily stressed.  I am trying to learn how to be calmer and less stressed out.  I think that effectively managing my stress will have a huge impact on my lifestyle and on how this diet impacts my body.
I think that eating paleo/primal and changing your lifestyle accordingly has a lot of challenges and requires completely relearning old habits.  I am excited about seeing the changes, but they aren’t as forthcoming as I had hoped.  This is the part that you don’t see or hear about necessarily.  Those before and after pictures can really sucker you into thinking that the pounds will just drop off.  It’s a mental thing.  I think it’s important to share that this whole thing is a lot more challenging than you might think at first glance.  We’re still adjusting and I just have to be patient, but I’ll keep you in the loop.