Posted in about me, connections, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, tips

Wandering and staying focused: a working plan

In a conversation on Zoom this morning, we chatted about staying on track with work and life. A system I guess-and-checked my way into is working really well for me right now and seemed to resonate with others, so I thought I’d share it with you. Take what resonates, leave the rest.

First, I made a list of things that in my ideal life, I would do every day. It’s not a to-do list—there’s no way I can actually do all of these things every day. I left the list out on my desk for a few days and added to it and made notes as I thought of them.

I edited the list and organized it by section. This is what I ended up with:

Body

  • foam roll
  • move (walk, run, bike)
  • body weight exercises
  • stretch
  • Alexander Technique

Writing

  • prompts
  • book
  • blog
  • newsletter

Household

  • laundry
  • food
  • paperwork

Other

  • photography
  • music
  • Spanish
  • read
  • Forward Link
  • connect

I printed the list and put it in a picture frame (surely I’m not the only one who has extra picture frames hanging around?), because dry erase markers work well on glass. I keep it on my desk. If my desk was located differently in my house, I’d hang it on the wall next to my desk.

Any time I do something from the list, I check it off. On Monday, I check on the left side; on Tuesday, I check on the right. On Tuesday, I make a slightly larger effort to get to things that were neglected on Monday. At the end of Tuesday, I erase it all.

Wednesdays, the schedule here is off, so I check things on Wednesday and then erase it at the end of the day. Thursday and Friday are paired, Saturday and Sunday are paired.

Why did I make this list?

Because I’m working from home in a self-directed pursuit, I needed some structure. But I know myself well enough to know that a schedule wasn’t going to work; it’s too easy to get derailed. I found myself finishing a task and wandering around the house, wondering what I was forgetting to do next, and looking for a snack.

The list keeps me grounded. There are lots of options, for a variety of focus levels. All of them are good ways to spend time—I won’t feel like I’ve wasted an hour on any of them.

How did I make the list?

The first two sections—body and writing—I broke down into specifics, because these two are the most important and the easiest to blow off. Funny how that works. All the body pieces and the first two writing pieces I strive to do every day.

The blog sees a new post three days per week, but I’m writing or editing more often than that. It’s nearly daily.

The newsletter is every other week (sign up here) but I kept forgetting about it until the last minute. So I don’t need to work on it every day, or even close, but this keeps it on my radar which improves the quality of both my time and the newsletter.

Household. Just things that get backlogged. Except food, these aren’t things that need to get done every day, but again, they stay on my radar, and it feels good to check them off when I’ve done them. “Eh, I don’t feel like doing any of these things, let me go throw in some towels” is still forward motion.

In the other category are things I want to do regularly but don’t need to be as specific about, because any variation within them works for me. For example, under photography, some days I’ll take photos, some days I’ll work on the online course I bought a while back, and some days I’ll work on editing. If photography was my main thing, I’d have those listed separately, but it’s not, so I don’t. A day when I do any one of those three things is a good day.

Connect is a reminder to connect with people outside of my house. This was a thing before COVID, because traveling teachers can easily make it through the day without interacting with other adults in any meaningful way.

I’m working on connecting more via phone or video call and not relying on text as much. I hate making phone calls (though I love talking to most people most of the time once we’re talking) and have been pushing through the dread of dialing. Sometimes the calls have been short—I only have 10 or 15 minutes and just call to check in—but still, they’re something.

In the frame, there is room around the list to write things I want to remember—specific tasks that need to get done, things that pop into mind and just need to be recorded somewhere obvious—and that has jogged my memory quite a few times already.

Using some of this, I’ve created a morning routine that doesn’t involve screens. 

We already have a “no screens in the bedroom” policy (unless The Kid is sleeping in our room and needs a sleep meditation to get to sleep), so I’m already not on my phone before I get out of bed.

In the mornings, I’ve taken to coming to the living room before The Kid gets up and the day gets busy. I’ll do some foam rolling and stretching (check off two things right away!), and then in my notebook, I’ll do some writing or a writing prompt (check a third thing!). The whole process only lasts 20 minutes or half an hour, but it’s grounding for the day and gets everything moving nicely before I get sucked into screens.

Could I spend more time than that on any of those things? Of course. But I’m giving them all some time, which I was not doing before, and if I want or need to return to them later in the day, I can. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. Either way, it’s OK.

I’ve used this plan for two weeks and I’m very happy with it. Hopefully there’s something here you can use, too!

Posted in audience participation, exercise, food, gratitude, know better do better, mindset, physical health, thoughtfulness

Full enjoyment can include moderation

Tomorrow (and every day, but for now—tomorrow), I invite you to practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is a word that has lost meaning because it’s used so much nowadays, but we are not, on the whole, even mediocre at it. Yet.

If you’re enjoying a meal full of your favorite foods tomorrow (or any day), instead of enjoying it by eating more and faster, enjoy it by eating less and slower.

Pay attention to the food while you’re eating it. Most of the time we take a bite, then talk with people at the table and stop noticing the food as it continues to go in.

I’m not saying ignore the people you’re with (which, hopefully, is limited to people in your immediate household this year). Simply: pay attention to the food. Instead of “needing” to gorge because it’s so good!, take time to notice its goodness. Be as aware of the second and third bites as the first.

Consider the possibility of being completely satisfied with the meal without being overfull.

This is completely counter to the culture, where Thanksgiving (and every day, but for now—Thanksgiving) is a celebration of excess. Where we give thanks for what we have and go shopping to have more. Where being overfull and uncomfortable is a badge of honor and being moderate is being a buzzkill.

Maybe the culture has it wrong. Be the change.

P.S. As I’ve preached before: exercise is not punishment for eating. Exercise because it makes you feel good and/or because it’s part of self-care. Eat, in this case, because you enjoy it. (The rest of the time because you want to fuel yourself for maximum energy and health and/or because it’s part of self-care.) They aren’t opposite sides of a scale.

Posted in exercise, mental health, mindset, parenting, physical health, podcasts

Running with The Kid

The Kid has an enormous amount of energy.

To be honest, it’s exhausting.

But it’s who he is and, for the most part, it’s good for him. As a general rule, we all are too content to sit. He often can when he needs to and the rest of the time? In motion.

He received a small indoor trampoline for his birthday last fall, and while not aesthetically pleasing, it was a welcome addition to our living room. He used it frequently.

By mid-July, the beginning of our 5th month of shelter-in-place, I noticed that his energy was waning. He was more content to sit and almost never used the trampoline. Easier for me, sure, but a definite red flag.

School started online in early August, and while he doesn’t have hours upon hours in front of the computer, he does have hours of school work, and no playground to run around on.

This is not evidence that we need to go back to school. This is evidence that I need to do more to keep him moving.

I decided to bring him in to my morning running routine. We started with a plan of two weekday morning runs per week and one run on the weekends. We chose a short loop in our neighborhood dubbed The Cat Lady Loop and two mornings each week, we’d go out and run three quarters of a mile. He can usually do that distance without complaint and we didn’t need a ton of time to get it done.

We did two runs as planned that first week, decked out in bathing suits so we could swim for 10 or 15 minutes when we got home.

Over the weekend, we ended up hiking instead.

The Kid has a couple of podcasts he listens to regularly, including one called The Big Fib. The Big Fib is in the midst of a several-part series and he was anxious to hear the next episode, telling me he couldn’t wait until Thursday when it was available.

Thursday morning last week, I downloaded the new episode onto my phone and we listened to it while we ran a new route.

Together, we easily went just over a mile without any of the usual “this run is too long” complaints.

“Mom! That wasn’t even hard!”

In our post-run swim, we talked a bit and he suggested we go three mornings before school instead of just two. At first, we decided Monday, Wednesday, Friday, but then we decided to change Friday to Thursday. So we could listen to the new episode of The Big Fib on our run. The episodes and our time running nearly perfectly line up.

Yesterday, we easily ran a mile while listening to the new episode. Wednesday, without a podcast, we ran a mile on a new loop, as yet unnamed. No problem.

This weekend, we’re going to try the Starbucks loop (without a stop for a drink)—1.6 miles. He’s done it quite a few times with a fair amount of walking. I will definitely bring podcasts for that one but with him running more consistently, I’m curious to see how he does compared to last time, maybe a month ago.

This week, his energy is higher. He’s bouncing on his trampoline again. He’s walking around to tell stories again.

I’m relieved. And I’m happy to have a morning running partner. Even if we’re only running a mile.

♦    ♦    ♦    ♦    ♦

As an aside, here are the podcasts he listens to:

  • The Big Fib
  • Brains On!
  • Smash Boom Best
  • Big Life Kids Podcast
  • Eat Your Spanish
  • Tumble Science Podcast
  • Wow in the World
  • Stories Podcast
  • Storynory
  • The Alien Adventures of Finn Caspian
Posted in about me, ebb & flow, exercise, mental health, mindset, motivation, physical health

Depression prepared me for shelter-in-place

First: this is my experience. It might not match yours.

I’ve struggled with depression for about as long as I can remember. In relatively recent years, I’ve learned how to manage it.

Mine seems to be connection-related. When I feel well-connected to important people, my brain chemicals stay happy. When I feel disconnected from people, my brain tries to kill me. Occasionally literally.

There is a limit to how much control I have over being connected to people. Everyone is busy. There is no village. (This is a highly destructive side effect of our “rugged individualism” and so many of us struggle with it.)

What can I do that doesn’t involve other people?

I can run. High-intensity exercise in general is helpful, but running seems to deliver the most immediate and most reliable hit. People in my circle know that if I’m struggling, an entirely appropriate suggestion is to go for a run. It doesn’t magically make everything better, but it does improve my mood and tidy my mind.

The thing is—I don’t love running. It vacillates between pretty good and tedious, depending on the day. I don’t run long distances. (Two half marathons taught me that 13 miles is too many miles.)

On the other hand, I love how I feel after I’ve run.

Between the couch (or the bed) and the post-run goodness, I have to get changed (ugh), I have to wear socks (ugh), I have to run (ugh), I need to wait until I’ve cooled off before I can shower or change or I will get out of the shower still sweating* (ugh), I need to get dressed again (ugh).

(*In the summer here, it takes at least 20 minutes after coming back in the house to stop sweating, but since we put in a pool, I just jump in after a run and refresh that way and that’s definitely not at all ugh.)

There are a lot of places for this to get derailed.

As a result, I’m quite used to forcing myself to exercise when I don’t really feel like it.

Speaking of “when I don’t really feel like it”…

High-functioning depression requires so much powering through. Getting tasks done when I don’t feel like it is a way of life.

Enter shelter-in-place.

I will not be in a good head space if I stay in my house all day.

I get up and get dressed every week day. This still affords me “lazy Saturdays” if I want them.

The weather was gorgeous when this all broke in March. It was easy to go for an afternoon walk and a run some other time and a bike ride with the family in the evening.

And then it was summer.

Afternoon walks stopped.

I learned to get up and go for a run first thing in the morning. And to do something outside in the evening when the sun was low or set. Whether I felt like it or not, because my mental health depends on it.

This is what I’ve been doing all along. The what and then when look marginally different. When I go back to working at work, running in the morning will stop, because I have a limit on how early I’m willing to get up. I don’t need to worry about that now, though. All I need to know is that this morning, I dragged myself out of bed and went for a run.

 

 

 

Posted in connections, exercise, food, mindset, motivation

Keep sharing! Ignore the haters!

There are quite a few memes circulating, as usual, that no one cares about your bread/run/anything they’re not doing.

I assume the person posting doesn’t care about them*, but that’s not generalize-able to “no one” or “everyone.”

I know personally half a dozen people who have made recipes in the last month that a friend shared on social media.

We made scones a week or so ago. A friend had posted pictures and in the comments, there were lots of recipes shared. I picked one of those recipes. We made scones. I posted pics and shared the recipe. The other day, a friend posted pics of scones they made from the recipe I shared. The next day, another friend posted pics of scones they made.

This doesn’t even count the people who see and make the recipes but don’t post about it.

I’ve had four people I can think of tell me that they were inspired to exercise in some way because of something I shared about me or us exercising. (Joined the run series, decided to go for a walk, did some pushups, whatever.)

So yeah. Keep posting. You never know who you’re going to inspire to do the same.

*I had a big tangent to this thought and will share it with you tomorrow.