Posted in exercise, food, know better do better, mental health, mindset, physical health

Diet vs. exercise: the balance

The title is bait. They don’t balance. They’re not on opposing sides.

Exercise is not punishment for eating.

What you eat fuels you, affects your hormone balance and contributes to the maintenance and eventual regeneration of most cells. (Not all cells regenerate, and almost all body functions are controlled by hormones.)

I know a growing number of people who changed their diets (just to “healthier”—nothing extreme) and were shocked at how much more energy they had.

Yup. And it seems that until you do it, you don’t believe it, but the sugar, the highly-processed carbs, the alcohol, the fried and deep-fried—as a regular diet, they all have tangible negative effects on your body, in addition to the long-term ramifications.

Exercise stresses bones and muscles, which is a good thing! It helps them to become and stay strong. It maintains or improves cardiovascular health. It sometimes increases flexibility and/or balance (which are both important). It has profound impact on our brains, in terms of mood, of mental health, and of mental acuity. (We have better moods, better mental health, learn better, work better when we exercise regularly.)

So diet does things that exercise doesn’t, and exercise does things that diet doesn’t. Both are important.

Exercise can’t counteract all of the things that happen in our bodies when we eat a lot of junk.

Eat well. Exercise daily. You need them both.

Posted in mental health, mindset, physical health

December is rough

This time of year is, for many people, brutal.

Schedules. Expectations. Hopes. Dreams. Memories.

Parents. Kids. Spouses. Friends. Other communities.

Decorations. Gifts. Meals. Sweets. Parties.

Religion. Other religions. Politics.

Please, for your mental and physical health, first trim the lists, then trim the lists again, then delegate.

Ladies, as a generalization, we are bad at this. Share the load with other people in your house. And when the jobs are done not quite the way you would have done them but they’re good enough, say thank you and leave the job done as it was.

It doesn’t feel good to be berated after doing something for not having done it to spec, or to do something and have someone else redo it. Let it be good enough.

Unless it’s dangerous (electricity and water, or undercooked poultry, for examples), let it be good enough. (I might write more about just this another day…)

Don’t do chores for your old-enough-to-do-it-themselves children. (That is year-round, not just December. And delegate holiday work to them, too.)

I find that giving options works well. On Sunday (which was not a no-work Sunday, sadly), my 7-year-old had three options and he had to choose two: clean his toilet (this is a weekly chore for him), help pull weeds outside, fold the recently-washed napkins, placemats, and kitchen towels. He chose two, was super-happy not to have to clean the toilet this week, and didn’t complain a bit. I was happy to have help in the yard because what he got done takes longer than it takes me to clean the toilet. Win-win.

In trimming lists, trim the to-do. Keep what you need for it to “feel like Christmas” and ditch the rest. Trim the to-go. There are so many events and things to do. There were three things going on this past weekend that I had on the Maybe List that we didn’t get to. The weekend was full enough that I never even looked at the Maybe List.

It’s OK not to do it all*.

Just like at Thanksgiving, you are more important than the stuff. Trim the lists so you can enjoy it.

*Side note about skipping stuff this weekend: I didn’t tell The Kid that any of those things was a possibility, so he wasn’t disappointed to miss them. The Climbing Daddy wasn’t super-interested in any of them (but amenable to all), so there was no sadness other than: we all wish there was more time.

 

Posted in mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Personal creative work

I was chatting with a colleague the other day about writing and teaching kids to write, and how difficult it is. We came to the conclusion that the majority of us are afraid to be vulnerable (and creativity is extremely vulnerable), and that we can’t just do our own thing without comparing our output to others’ output.

Unless we’re directly competing for something that is valuable to us, there’s no need to compare our creative output with others’.

It’s OK for what you create to have flaws.

It’s OK to try but not have your finished product look or sound amazing.

It’s OK—it’s more than OK—to create just for the sake of creating, without intention of doing anything with the final product. You don’t have to record it or perform it or show it to anyone.

(And in the vein of comparison, in the words of a good friend, “Just because you’re the best doesn’t mean you’re good.”)

I am a writer. I am a musician. When I do these things just to enjoy them, when I don’t worry about the judgment of others (or of myself!), they’re fun. Sometimes healing. A good way to spend time.

When I judge them against the work of others, or worse, against what I think my output should be, they’re stressful and not at all enjoyable.

(This is different than constructive work simply to improve. In general, people enjoy getting better at things, even if it’s just incremental as we go.)

I enjoy drawing and painting. I love taking pictures. I’m not great at them. They’re still enjoyable. (Usually.)

There are so many outlets for creativity. Pick something you like, or something you’d like to try, turn off the inner critic, and do it.

A side note on the inner critic: for most of us, the inner critic is the voice of someone else(s) criticizing us when we were kids. (I know far too many people who were told by their music or choir teacher that they can’t sing.) In addition to telling those voices—sometimes out loud—that their opinion doesn’t matter, please see to it that your voice doesn’t become someone else’s inner critic.

Be creative. Let others be creative. It doesn’t have to be good. It just has to be.

Posted in know better do better, mental health, podcasts

Podcast quote: variations on a theme

There’s a short podcast series (four episodes) called UnErased, talking about the history of gay conversion therapy in the US.

It’s captivating.

You’ll experience at least most of the span of human emotions listening to it—or at least, I did.

In the last episode, they spend time with John Smid, a man among the leadership for 25 years—many of them as the top dog—of Love in Action, a giant inpatient evangelical gay conversion program—”ex-gay ministry.”

Unsurprisingly, John is gay. (The most vitriolic anti-gays almost always are.)

He had this to say.

“I don’t like my life to be painted as a villain, and that’s kinda the way I feel about this movie [Boy Erased]. It’s like, I don’t like it, it’s uncomfortable. I don’t like the movie. I don’t like the book. I don’t like what people are saying. I don’t like hearing Garrett talk about it. I don’t like it; it’s uncomfortable. At the same time, there is truth in that I was a forerunner and a spokesperson and a national and international leader that said you must eradicate homosexuality from your life.”

I’ve written here about “when you know better, do better,” and I thought this quote exemplifies that so clearly. No, he doesn’t like it, but it’s real, and he owns it.

(Later in the podcast, they get into some philosophy behind that—with all of the suffering he induced, should he get to just walk away? So interesting!)

 

 

Posted in know better do better, mental health, mindset

Toxic families

The thing about families … it’s most often the people who are unpleasant who “win” because we don’t want to cause problems. We somehow take ownership of others’ bad behavior.

When we avoid saying something or trying to change something, when we show up even though it’s awful and silently wait for it to pass, we’re letting ourselves be treated badly.

“We don’t say anything because s/he gets angry and it just makes it worse” is a sign of an abusive situation.

Stop placating the abusers.

It’s hard. It breaks relationships, because those people are vested in making everything your fault. You can’t have a rational conversation with them. You can’t reason. You can’t say, “When you do this thing, it hurts me,” because they aren’t emotionally equipped to acknowledge hurting you.

This is really variations on a theme from Sunday’s book quote. They’re taking their hurt out on you. It does not help them to heal, and it makes it harder for you to become/stay healthy.

But it’s wicked hard to set boundaries, to take a step back, for three reasons that I can think of.

1- The immediate situation is hard. Standing up for yourself (or for your spouse, or for you kids, or for whomever) when you know you’re going to get yelled at is hard. It’s hard to summon the courage to do it, and it’s hard to withstand the blowback, especially when setting a boundary is a new thing.

2- People who are not on board with you setting and maintaining a healthy boundary are going to blame you for making The Mean Person angry. You ruined the day by making them yell. (I’m here to tell you it is not your fault.)

It’s really hard, when you’ve just summoned the emotional grit to get through both parts of the boundary-setting (summoning the courage and withstanding the blowback) to get more blowback from others in the room.

They do it for so many different reasons, and I don’t want to prattle on about all that right now. Suffice it to say, until this moment, you were acting in such a way as to protect yourself, and they’re acting in a way to protect themselves. Even if it’s at your expense.

3- People at large expect us to “be nice to your family,” regardless of how you’re being treated. (No one tells The Mean Person to be nice to their family because they spin it so they are the victim. Always.) I know of one person who was regularly hit—as an adult—by family, and was blamed by (former) friends for cutting ties.

If people won’t accept physical abuse as a reason not to show up, they certainly don’t accept mental or emotional abuse. (Don’t get me started on girls being blamed for “seducing” their uncles.)

Don’t let those people weaken your ownership of the problem. (It’s so easy to second-guess yourself. Especially if you happen to be in the role of Family Scapegoat and have always been blamed.) No, you are not perfect. But when reasonable and healthy requests are met with ire, it is not your fault.

I’m here to tell you—there are people who believe you, who empathize, who will not blame you. Find them. They are your lifeline in this journey.

Break the cycle. Find support. Get a good therapist. Take care of yourself.

Posted in mental health, mindset

Reducing holiday preparation stress

This post is for anyone who will be hosting any type of gathering this holiday season, especially if it’s one—like Thanksgiving dinner—that has a very definite set of expectations around it.

Lots of things can be good enough and everyone will be happy.

The people who are not happy with good enough are never happy no matter what you do. These are not the people you’re trying to please.

Your people would rather have a happy you than a perfect meal.

Do your best, but let it be imperfect without apology or guilt.

Posted in about me, hope, meandering, mental health, mindset, vulnerability

Toxic Thanksgiving

When you are Other in your family—for whatever reason—holidays are stressful.

I always felt trapped on Thanksgiving and Christmas, because “the holidays are about family” but my family was toxic. There was nowhere else to go when I was living at home, and it took me moving across the country to be able to set a boundary after I moved out.

Thank goodness for books, right?

Our current tradition is to go to a National Park or National Monument for Thanksgiving. They’re not crowded, and all cultural Thanksgiving expectations are eliminated.

What a relief.

We have an advantage here, in that there are so many National Parks and Monuments within a few hours’ drive, so we can go for two or three days without issue. Sometimes we camp; sometimes we stay in a hotel.

Maybe you’d like to break the tradition, too, but you’re not near many parks. Or aren’t interested in them. What do you like? (I hear you, people who answered “sweatpants, book, tea, couch”!) What is relatively nearby?

If you’re in this emotionally disastrous place, if Thursday is a day you dread (or worse, the whole weekend) because of the people you feel obligated to spend it with, I’m sorry. I know your pain. Our reasons might be different, but the hurts still hurt.

I encourage you to examine your obligation and to see if maybe there’s somewhere else for you to go, ideally with someone who is safe. (If not this year, since that’s in two days, perhaps next year?)

If that’s just not possible (and there are a million legit reasons why it might not be—don’t flog yourself), build in some self-care. Take something with you to do. Make sure you have clothes to be able to go for a walk or a run (depending on what you prefer). Maybe plan something with nearby friends for some time in the day when family obligations are lower (in the evening, for example, if you have an afternoon meal). Sometimes just bringing unfamiliar people into the mix puts the bad people on good behavior, which at least will buy you a respite.

You are loved. You are worth it.

 

Posted in books, hope, mental health, mindset, parenting, vulnerability

Book quote: family and belonging

I listened to Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown. (OK, I listened to part of it. But audiobooks and I have a complicated relationship, and I didn’t finish it before it was due back at the library.)

Given my unpleasant relationship with my family of origin, this quote spoke to me. There is something comforting about the end…but I’ll talk about it after you read it.

Also, given that I’m transcribing from an audiobook, I can’t guarantee that the punctuation is as you’d see it in the book.

“Even in the context of suffering … Not belonging in our families is still one of the most dangerous hurts. That’s because it has the power to break out heart, our spirit, and our sense of self-worth… And when those things break, there are only three outcomes …

“One, you live in constant pain and seek relief by numbing it and/or inflicting pain on others.

“Two, you deny your pain and your denial ensures you pass it on to those around you and down to your children.

“Or number three, you find the courage to own the pain and develop a level of empathy and compassion for yourself and for others that allows you to spot hurt in the world in a very unique way.”

That bit at the end—spotting hurt in the world in a very unique way—is like a consolation prize. “You didn’t have what you needed when you needed it, and sometimes you still don’t. People who haven’t experienced it don’t understand it and often, you’re blamed for what was inflicted on you. But you get to have the capacity to help others the way you wished you had been helped.”

Better than passing it on. And hopefully, helping someone else not to pass it on.

Posted in books, mental health

Book quote: suicide

Sometimes, a little tiny bit of something I read or listen to sticks with me.

I’d like to share these bits with you. I haven’t decided if I’m going to ramble on about them or just leave them here for you to take or leave. Probably some of each, really.

Anyway.

Right now, I’m reading Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson, The Bloggess. She has mental health issues and writes about them very honestly. She’s a wonderful combination of hilarious and poignant. Not many books make me laugh out loud reading, but this one has quite a few times already, and I’m less than 100 pages in.

This bit stuck with me earlier this week, a succinct explanation for something that many people have written beautifully about.

“And when we see celebrities who fall victim to depression’s lies we think to ourselves, ‘How in the world could they have killed themselves? They had everything.’ But they didn’t. They didn’t have a cure for an illness that convinced them they were better off dead.”

Due to feedback, edited to add: That’s not one of the parts of the book that is laugh-out-loud funny.