I came home sick today. A sudden, severe wave of nausea while I was doing some paperwork was all I needed to convince myself to take it easy and head home for my couch. When you’re planning to work on patients, it’s best if you aren’t expecting to hurl mid-procedure.
So now, here I am, with some unexpected downtime. Taking said downtime feels difficult. I have this need to feel productive, even though I am legitimately unwell. I was thinking I should take the time to at least read a self-help book or something, but I’m going to fight the urge and lie down on my couch for awhile. I’m turning on Netflix and sipping ginger ale.
Okay, and blogging, apparently.
Do you think it’s some sort of disorder that I’m feeling guilty for not being productive, even though I’m sick? Surely I’m not alone in this. Why are we like this? Why is keeping “busy” seen as desirable? Why isn’t taking care of yourself and letting things slide when you need to something that we aspire to? It’s far more common for people to talk about never taking a sick day than it is for people to brag about cancelling social engagements and going to bed early so that they recover from a cold more quickly.
In what is so often a season of extreme hustle and bustle, please give some thought to putting yourself first. In doing so, you might even be able to serve those around you even more successfully because you’re healthier and happier. And you might be able to keep that nasty virus to yourself, which means that those around you will also be happier and healthier, and that’s a gift that everyone loves to receive. That nasty virus? Not exactly the kind of gift that keeps on giving.
I turned forty today.
That felt funny to write and then read, so let’s try it again:
I turned forty today.
I’m not sure what I expected of myself when I was forty, but I know I am not living it right now.
My business is not successful. It’s a struggle right now. Our personal debt is growing as a result.
I am married with two kids, which is about right, and I own my own house, but it’s definitely more cluttered than I ever envisioned.
I am overweight. In fact, I think I weigh the most I ever have, except for when I was pregnant. A few years ago, I could not have imagined being this big again, and yet here I am.
In my mind, I imagine that this is the turning point for the story’s heroine, but life is not a story. In a story, this is where I have an aha moment, where I make the time for daily exercise, where I spent a few minutes each day tidying the house, where I become a marketing genius and grow my business, where I shut down my emotional eating habit and lose sixty pounds, where I inspire everyone around me to be better as a result of my life shift. In other words, I become perfectly and effortlessly disciplined. Er, perfection is not possible, so I need to take a step back here.
How do you live the life you want?
I think it starts with a clear vision of what it is exactly that you want to live.
I don’t think I have a super-clear vision right now. I used to think that I did, but I’m not so sure anymore.
So, for the sake of clarity, let’s take a stab at getting that vision out and on “paper.” In my mind, I envision:
- a husband I love and spend time with on a regular basis (I’m actually not far off here)
- two happy, healthy kids (again, not too far off, but I definitely don’t have the parenting skills to be the parent I want to be, which would involve less yelling, less swearing, more talking things through, more listening (by me and them), more fun, more discipline (not punishment), and healthier family habits)
- a neat, warm, comfortable, beautiful home with artwork and pictures that have meaning for me
- a business that allows me the flexibility to pay off all of my personal and business debt while making a good income that allows me to save for retirement, travel extensively with my family, and pay for my kids to go to university
- a life of physical fitness, where I am practicing yoga, lifting weights, and running races, all with enjoyment, and mixing in cross-training that I have fun doing, while involving my family so that we’re all healthy
- a whole lot of veggies, lean meats, more vegetarian meals, simple meals; fruits, nuts, yogurt, hummus as snacks; green smoothies on the regular; fewer processed grains and more whole grains; homemade desserts regularly; portion control; feeling emotions rather than emotional eating; food journaling daily; using my slow cooker; loving less sugar; drinking a lot of water and being happy to do so
- making more friends who are part of my tribe; they are smart, entrepreneurs or managers, practice yoga, are on a path of self-exploration, practice gratitude, like to eat but also stay fit, understand that family comes first but make the time to gather on a regular (if not frequent) basis; they love science, reading, TWD, and Star Wars
- reading novels regularly, taking time to write a novel a little bit at a time, spending time outside enjoying nature
- creating a beautiful yard that I love to be in with family and friends
- staying on the path of personal growth through daily meditation, daily yoga, morning pages, reading “self-help” books, and personal development courses
Hey, I’m not saying that this is total clarity, but it is clearer.
I can start right now, tonight, by taking the time to meditate, practice some yoga, tuck my daughter in, write in my gratitude journal, and have a cup of herbal tea. It doesn’t get me debt-free and fit in a day, but small steps are better than no steps.
I am not aiming for perfection; I am aiming for life.
Cool mornings, colourful leaves, shorter days. Summer is fading, and fall is coming into its glory.
This year, forget about the coming of winter. Be fierce in savouring the pleasures of autumn. Revel in what brings you comfort as the air turns crisp. Bundle yourself in your coziest sweaters and blankets, wrap your hands around a warm mug of tea, turn on the oven and bake some fall treats. It’s the perfect time to ward off the chill and snuggle into whatever warms you up.
Need a few more ideas for making the most of fall? I have some suggestions:
- watch Sleepy Hollow
- sip some Caramel Apple Spice Cider
- dress for the weather and go for a sunset walk
- bake anything with pumpkin, like these amazing Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
- warm up from the inside with a chai latte
- crunch into an apple
- pick out a Halloween costume
- enjoy some cinnamon rooibos chai
- light a pumpkin- or vanilla-scented candle
- grab a novel and curl up for a good read
- replace your hand soap with something seasonal, like this Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin version
- meet an old friend and spend an hour at a coffee shop
- snuggle up with your honey and watch a scary movie, like Halloween, The Silence of the Lambs, or The Shining
- catch a football game
- watch The Walking Dead (yet again) on Netflix in preparation for the season premiere on October 11th
Do you have any fall traditions that you think everyone else should adopt? Is fall your favourite season?
Sometimes it’s the simple things in life that are the most satisfying. Like right now. I have the house to myself, I’m watching a movie that I chose to watch without having to compromise with anyone else in order to watch it, and I have a stash of Kit Kats and Twizzlers that I don’t have to share with anyone.
Life can be sweet when you choose to notice the little things that bring you joy. Today, as you move through life, make a point of noticing the simple moments that lift your heart. Here are a few ideas to get you going.
- Waking up on Monday and realizing it’s a long weekend
- Beads of condensation forming on the sides of a cold drink on a hot, summer day
- Climbing into a bed with fresh sheets
- A quiet backyard on a windless morning
- Lying in the sun on the living room carpet
- A hotel room to myself
- Finding the chocolate bar you had hidden away and had forgotten about
- The cotton candy-pink clouds of a prairie sunset
- Your kids finally being old enough to read the books you loved when you were younger
- A clean table
- Staying in the tub so long that your toes turn wrinkly
- Waking up before the alarm goes off
- Getting into your own bed for the first time after being on vacation for a couple of weeks
- Your kids telling you that you’re the best mom ever
- Eating the first cookie off the cookie sheet when it’s still warm from the oven
- Taking off your shoes and especially socks after a long, hot day at an amusement park
- Coming across your must-watch-if-it’s-on rom com when you’re flipping through the channels (e.g., The American President) and there’s nothing good on
- Slipping your feet into the water after crossing the scorching sand of the beach
- Realizing that you have 20 bucks tucked away in your nightstand and can use that to pay for delivery
What’s on your list of joyful things?
This weekend, did bury yourself in a novel while parked on the couch, spending your weekend in a lethargic fog? Or perhaps you found yourself binge-watching Season 5 of The Good Wife? Just me?
I’m all for honouring your body and listening to what it’s saying, but sometimes, it’s not really a tired body you’re listening to: it’s your mind being tricksy.
Now, if you’ve been skimping on sleep because you’ve had work deadlines to meet or dance competitions to run your kids to, then the answer is likely that you’re in need of a little extra shut-eye. You deserve a good night’s rest. Tonight, treat yourself the way you would your sleep-deprived child and be firm about your bedtime. Plan for an excellent night’s sleep by powering down your electronics at least an hour before bedtime, taking time to write out everything you have on your mind so that it won’t keep you awake, making sure your bedroom is nice and cool, and listening to a sleep meditation or some relaxing music at bedtime. If you’re using your phone for meditation or music, set it to “Do Not Disturb” and make sure that you won’t be disturbed by light from the screen by flipping it upside down.
If you’ve been getting some solid zzz’s in that 7 to 9 hour range and know that your lack of energy isn’t so much due to tiredness as it is Couch Potato Syndrome, be honest with yourself about it, but be kind to yourself, too. Take some time to ask yourself why you’ve been slack about physical activity. No calling yourself names or making nasty comments about your body. Be honest with yourself, and be your own friend.
Once you’ve sorted yourself out, and maybe said a few nice things to it, like, “I feel energetic when I move my body,” “My body gets stronger when I exercise,” or “I always make time to take care of my body,” take action to overcome your inertia and get moving.
Easy Ideas for Physical Activity
1. Commit to 10 minutes of physical activity. If you want to stop after those 10 minutes, give yourself permission to stop. It’s really okay. Once you’re done your workout, whether it’s 10 minutes or more, pat yourself on the back.
2. Pick an activity you enjoy. It’s been really windy around here lately and I feel sandblasted every time I go for a walk outside, so I’ve been avoiding my walks (and choosing the couch). It’s okay to do something different and play. Dig out an exercise DVD, ride your old stationary bike, climb the stairs in your house, find some free yoga or other fitness videos online, throw on your favourite music and dance around your living room, pretend it’s the ’80s and do some Jane Fonda-style aerobics to a Songza playlist, head to the gym, lift some free weights. Whatever it is, choose something that you’ll find fun.
3. Go for a walk around the block. How much simpler can you get? Turn your face to the sun, listen to your iPod, focus on how good it feels to be outside. If your feet take you farther than a block, that’s great. If not, that’s cool, too.
4. Reward yourself for working out. Hey, I’m not above bribery. Treat yourself to something lovely after your workout. It might be a hot bath with those citrus bath salts you’ve been saving, that episode of Outlander you’ve got on your PVR, or fresh polish on your nails. Whatever floats your boat and makes seems worthwhile to you.
5. Ask for help to be accountable for your workout. Sometimes it feels really hard to get moving and you feel like you want a little extra motivation to make sure you accomplish what you say you want to do. Talk to your husband, call your sister, or e-mail your co-worker and let her know that you plan to workout today (bonus points if you’re specific about what you’re doing, for how long, and at what time). Tell her you’ll let her know once you’ve finished your workout, and then ask her to follow up with you if you haven’t contacted her by, say, 9pm. Heck, you can even leave a comment on this blog and I’ll follow up with you, if you want.
Whatever your obstacles to working out, know that you are not alone. I definitely get into slumps (like right now) where exercising feels like the last thing I want to do, even though I know that I will feel better after I do it. Our brains are funny that way.
Do you have a go-to workout for when you just don’t feel like working out?
My life is so full right now. I’m working on a blogging course and a business course, and my work schedule has been back-to-back, which is awesome. My kids were with my parents for a few days, so I got in a yoga class, went out for dinner with my husband, and enjoyed a movie date with my favourite man another night (although, truly, I did not enjoy Insurgent, which is what we saw. It was that or Furious 7, which I’m sure would have been worse).
I don’t think I’ve watched T.V. for about 5 days, which is pretty awesome, and I haven’t spent more than 15 minutes a day on Facebook. This has definitely helped me make room in my life for the stuff that I’ve been doing, which has been infinitely more energizing than whatever it is that I could have found to watch on Netflix.
What I have neglected – and it’s a pattern for me – is exercise. I absolutely know I feel better when I’m moving my body, and I absolutely had time to engage in fitness activities, but I chose instead to work through my courses.
The question I have to ask myself is why have I avoided exercise? What thoughts are coming up when I consider going for a walk or practicing some yoga? What feelings have I been experiencing when I think about fitting in some fitness?
When I examined my thoughts, I realized that I think that developing my mind is more important than working out and working on my body, that worrying about how fit I am or how my body looks is frivolous. Plus, I’ve had so much trouble maintaining a healthy weight in the past, I’ve had the thought that by avoiding exercise by increasing my knowledge, I can justify being heavier and not being successful in losing weight because learning is always worthwhile. I fear that I will put effort into working out and will not lose weight yet again, and this will support the idea that I’m a failure, which creates a feeling of shame. I also have the thought that working out won’t be worth as much to me as learning something new, because fitness doesn’t really pay off from a financial perspective. (Except it can if it affects my health and ability to work.)
This is interesting, because I realize that my identity is wrapped up in the idea that I’m smart and know a lot. I have underlying insecurity related to my intelligence, even though by pretty much any measure, I am a full-on smarty pants. I feel like I have to be smart to be worthy and to get approval – from my parents (yes, I am approaching 40 and still care about approval from my parents). Huh, who knew those thoughts were all in there?
As I let these thoughts roll around in my mind, I’m considering what thoughts I’d prefer to think when it comes to working out and being fit.
- Fitness is important to me (this is true)
- I make time for those things that are important to me (this is true)
- I want to make fitness a bigger part of my life (also true)
- Fitness increases my health and sense of well-being (yes)
- Choosing to exercise instead of developing my mind will benefit me in the long run because I will live longer, be healthier, and have a better quality of life, which will allow me to have better mental functioning (makes sense)
- I can choose to develop my mind when I’m exercising – thought I don’t have to – by listening to educational podcasts (absolutely)
- It is okay to put my physical fitness ahead of my knowledge and education, because my health and fitness are currently a greater priority than how much I know, and because the time I require to work out still allows me the time to pursue my intellectual interests (you bet)
- I can care about how my body feels and looks without it being shallow or vain (truth)
I’m going to let these thoughts – all of them – percolate for awhile and I’ll be curious about what other anti-exercise thoughts I might have tucked away in my mighty mind.
Do you struggle to fit in fitness? What thoughts are holding you back? Or, conversely, what thoughts make it easy for you to make fitness a priority? Please let me know in the comments section below. I really want to hear your exercise-related stories.
Everyone wants a strong core.
Well, that’s a generalization. There may be people out there who don’t actually consider whether or not they want a strong core.
I am not one of those people.
I’m not talking about six-pack abs, here. I want better posture when I’m working, sitting on the couch, going for a walk. I want to prevent back pain and ensure I can practice dentistry for the long-term, and I know that a strong core is key for achieving these goals.
1. Spend a minimum of one minute in forearm plank position per day.
2. Record the total number of seconds I’m able to stay in plank, while maintaining good form, daily.
3. Do this for the next forty days.
Have you ever tried any fitness challenges?