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 about me, ebb & flow, mindset, motivation, parenting

Keeping The Kid engaged

I have a trait. (Whether it’s a blessing or a curse is up for grabs.) I’m interested in a lot of things. There are many skills I would like to attempt to acquire.

As a result, there is way more to do than time (or sometimes energy) to do it.

The down side? I often feel time-deprived. And I sometimes (not always) have trouble sticking with a task when it’s at a hard part (learning new skills always has hard parts) because there’s something else I could work on instead.

The up side? I’m never bored.

The Kid has some of this same quality about him. There are things he can talk about longer than you can listen (space and space travel, Minecraft, LEGO) and many many other things that he shows passing interest in.

Because we didn’t go to camps this summer, I decided to try to give him some “slow and steady” perseverance in skill acquisition. The badge system worked well for certain things for a while, but it wasn’t going to work for this.

So I made a chart. We all participated.

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It’s in a frame so we can use dry erase on it. Each day as we do one of the things, we cross it off. Doesn’t have to be a ton of time. A little bit of attention each day.

Each day that the entire list gets marked off, one of the pictures at the bottom gets crossed off. (I had just discovered those pictures when I was making the chart, and that system was born entirely inadvertently as I picked out ones I thought The Kid would love and/or laugh at.)

We did seven days on then a day off (so these were weeks but not Sunday-to-Saturday weeks), and while he needed to be reminded sometimes (often), he did it.

So did I. It was great for giving me a kick in the butt on days when I didn’t feel like doing stuff.

(The Climbing Daddy did it the week he took off and many weekend days, but not on work days, which is to be expected.)

Yesterday was Trophy Day. The Kid was so excited coming up on Trophy Day. (He’s the one who made it more like a holiday and less like that’s just the picture you cross off that day.)

I didn’t know what I was going to do when the board was complete, if anything, so I just took all the symbols and made a certificate. He was thrilled!

In making the certificate, I named the “event” the New Skills Challenge. It hadn’t had a name before. He was extra-excited to complete a “challenge.”

Results?

He did the typing test in his typing “game;” improved accuracy 7% and WPM by 1 since taking the same test near the end of the school year.

He can play a little bit more on his trumpet; mostly, he sounds better on the same songs. (The Climbing Daddy had to start over on a new instrument, as we no longer had a sax to use, so The Kid started over with him.)

He crochets single stitches quickly and feels ready to try a granny square. (He is learning this from a friend and from YouTube—I don’t know how to crochet.) He is excited to have a jellyfish kit waiting for him when he has a bit more skill.

He is learning to write in cursive. Needs to trace words still and is doing much better with forming the letters than when he started. (Kids should learn cursive for a bunch of reasons that I’m not going to tangent into right now. It’s not a useless skill.)

Between typing and cursive, his spacing issues in printing have decreased. (The typing error he made most often was not using the space bar. When I told him that it’s the SPACE bar and it should be his favorite, he rolled his eyes.)

We’re working on Spanish together and he’s picked up a few words, but he’s pretty resistant to it.

He reads often anyway, so that was on the list as an easy win every day.

After receiving his trophy certificate, I told him we have two more weeks until school starts—do you want to do two more weeks?

Yes!

I think we’re going to set some small goals and see if he can work towards them, instead of practicing aimlessly. I don’t know if that will be helpful or initiate a bunch of negative emotions (anxiety, frustration, pressure). We’ll talk about it and see where it goes.

In the mean time, he’s proud of himself for the work he’s put in and the skills he’s started to hone.

And I haven’t heard “I’m bored” yet.

(Me? I’ve been playing piano, trombone, ukulele. You see a bit of my writing. Also writing the book and in a journal. Definitely not all three any day. Spanish through a website and books and talking to The Climbing Daddy. Photography you see the results of here—some days it’s taking pictures and some days it’s just working through my online course. Soon to add editing. Exercise has been running, strength training, sometimes pool-related. This list will be pared down next week when work starts again. How am I going to pare it down? I still want to do it all…)

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.

Posted in about me, motivation, parenting

We accidentally hit the jackpot: badges

A week or so ago, a few small factors combined into something amazing.

The whole is definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s been like discovering the combination of chocolate and peanut butter.

Unless you’re allergic.

Anyway.

Off and on for years, I have been doing puzzles at sporcle.com. (I like the logic puzzles the best!) The Climbing Daddy has started puzzling there in recent weeks and has become invested in the badges he can earn.

The Kid has been doing puzzles with him and became equally invested in the badges.

At the same time, we were training for a virtual 5k. The Kid is not a huge fan of running but wanted to get the medal—do you see a pattern?—and was quite whiny when running.

While we were out running one evening, I told him that if he kept running, he would earn a badge. He didn’t believe the badges would be real; I told him I’d make them.

Now. I’m not super-artistic. I enjoy making and drawing and creating, and I do a solidly OK job. (And I’m good with that, as I don’t want to put in the time and work to be better … and because I’ve gotten a lot better at embracing “good enough”—but that’s all for another time.)

But I also knew I didn’t want to be making and cutting out and keeping track of a bunch of little badges. Or worse, big badges. (Have I mentioned that this child keeps everything? What’s that? Yours does, too?)

So I decided just to draw them all on a piece of card stock (paper would have sufficed). He chose the shape. I guided that decision, because there are not many shapes that I can somewhat consistently draw. Or that I was willing to draw repetitively.

He asked: could there be a picture in each? Sure.

You can see my high-quality drawings. But you know what? He loves them. And “I refuse to do it because I feel like I suck at it” is not something I want from him, so I’m not going to model it.

I covered the page mainly because I didn’t want to have to draw more later. That turned out to be great, because now he’s excited to fill them.

I had planned on just doing exercise badges, but The Climbing Daddy had an idea for a not-exercise badge (the one for sanding*—he did good work learning to use the sander when they made a table a few weeks ago), so two sections: one “exercise” and one “other.”

*The two-sided tape is beyond my level of “good enough.” The Climbing Daddy had cut it out and not glued it down yet, and The Kid was thrilled to have the great idea to use a piece of double-sided tape. Deep breath. Not my badges.

In addition to the badges we started with (and the couple that we figured at that point would get added soon) we keep adding more.

He loves them.

And it turns out, I can throw out nearly anything “for a badge” and it’s worked so far.

The other day, for example, he chopped up chard for dinner as his “kitchen skills” activity for the day. The meal that was going into—chard with chickpeas over rice—is one that we’ve eaten often. He’s helped prep and cook it many times. Everything else was already prepped (rice and chickpeas made, red onion diced). I was reasonably sure that with minimal help, he would be able to make it.

So I told him it was his job to make dinner, we would help a little if he needed, and he would get a badge for it.

And he did. He was nervous—what if it’s not good?—but he didn’t fight it.

He loved getting another badge. Maybe not as much as he was proud of preparing a meal.

7-mile bike ride? Check. Running in the morning? Check.

I’m sure there’s a limit somewhere, but we haven’t found it yet.

Also, I’m not offering badges for normal day-to-day things, which probably helps them to maintain their awesomeness and makes them different than your typical sticker chart.

“Mom? What happens when I fill all my badges?”

I’ll get another piece of paper and make more? It’ll be the expansion pack.

He’s so tickled now at the idea of an expansion pack.

I have no idea how long this will last (or for how long I will be able to think of new but still attainable feats), but for now, it’s been fantastic!

Posted in about me, exercise, mental health, motivation, physical health

Another morning habit I won’t keep

I finally hit the wall. Which is funny, because I’ve mostly been sitting.

For the past six weeks, I’ve been going for a walk almost every afternoon, to get some sun and fresh air and get out of the house. Until recently, it’s been nice out. Now that it’s officially “hot” (100+ degrees), I’ve started using a sun umbrella and taking a water bottle.

We’ve been biking three to five evenings each week with The Kid.

We’ve been lifting out in the garage usually twice a week.

We’ve been running sporadically.

But I still don’t feel … active enough? I think there’s just not enough days with heart rate up. The bike rides tend to be slow, walking in hot weather with an umbrella is average pace. Neither of those raise heart rate.

Also, I’ve been waking up around 6 most mornings, usually just before or with The Climbing Daddy’s alarm. The Kid wakes up between 7 and 7:30. So I have an hour or more most days between when I get up and when the chaos begins.

Twenty of those minutes go to journaling; that still leaves time.

So I decided to go out and run. Not far—1.5 to 2 miles. If some day I’m inspired to run more, I will.

Today was the first morning to run. Today, of course, I woke up close to 7. Tired.

Laying in a puddle of sleepy shame, I decided to start tomorrow.

I got out of bed to go to the bathroom. The act of getting out of bed and starting to move was all it took. I decided that I could run today and that I would feel better if I ran today and didn’t postpone it for another day.

So I went. It was cool (relatively) and sunny and lovely outside. I did a slow-even-for-me mile and a half.

The run itself was fine—not amazing, not terrible—and the feeling of getting it done is excellent. The mood-boosting benefits of the run are always welcome.

As an added bonus, when I got home, I texted a screenshot from the tracking app to a friend. (We often text about exercise things and will congratulate or encourage each other. Kind of long-distance exercise buddies.) I included the text: “Almost didn’t do it. Feels good to get it done.”

She replied, “You inspired me. I was literally putting on my shoes to walk the dog, but I think we’ll run a bit now.” And they did.

Gotta start somewhere. I started today.