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 food, mindset, motivation, physical health

Election week: no sweets, no caffeine

I have different relationships with sweets and caffeine.

Caffeine, I don’t drink for wakefulness—I just like tea. When it’s cool or cold out, I like most kinds of hot tea—black, green, white, rooibos, herbal. But when it’s hot out, I like iced tea. Plain old unsweetened black iced tea.

If I drink a cup of iced tea daily (or near-daily) on an empty stomach, after several weeks, I start to get heartburn. At the same time, if I’ve been drinking a cup of anything caffeinated daily for several weeks and miss a day or two, I’ll get a migraine.

In the summer, this is easier because I don’t have a routine. I just loosely keep track of how much tea I’m drinking and I’m good to go.

With school in session in person, I have a routine, and drinking iced tea in the car on the way to work is one of them.

I had already been thinking that I needed to start to wean off the iced tea before the heartburn started again, so I brought less and less tea. At the tail end of last week, the heartburn started and I had lessened my intake enough to avoid a migraine. Good timing.

It’s also gotten cooler, so hot tea is in my travel mug. I’m sure there are non-caffeinated teas that make good iced tea; I just haven’t tried them.

So: it’s my first week in a while without caffeine.

Sweets is a more complicated story.

I have a long history of emotional eating, and that eating is nearly always desserts or simple carbs.

While I’m much less drawn to them than I used to be, if I consume sweets regularly, I want more, and it spirals. Quickly.

Being at home most of the time has been a struggle. I’m finally snacking less. For a while, we were doing dessert more often than usual. “Usual” is once or twice a month. We had something sweet to munch on at least that much each week. Plus I was taking from the candy jar at work. (If I’ve ever taken from the candy jar at work, it definitely wasn’t on multiple consecutive days.)

I decided I needed a hard stop.

In no-sugar 30-day challenges I ran a long time ago, I quit all added sugars in all foods, including dressings, sauces, etc. Not this time. Just sweets. Dessert, candy, things of the sort.

Quitting sugar will yield several positives:

  • I will feel better. Excessive added dietary sugars negatively affect mood.
  • I will stop craving. Then I can use my energy for things other than fighting the urge to eat.
  • I will probably take off a few pounds.
  • Fruit will be “sweet enough” again.
  • My immune system will be stronger. Working in two elementary schools, this is critical right now.

I didn’t intentionally line this up with election week—it just worked out that way.

Many people have told me (over the course of time) that doing something like this at a stressful time is a bad idea. In some ways, they’re right. It’s harder to stick to new things when so much energy is going to the surrounding issues.

But eating ice cream doesn’t really make me feel better (especially because I don’t go slowly and enjoy it) nor does it actually relieve the stress. I can deal with emotions in a healthy way instead of trying to eat them.

Day five. It’s been rough but also so far, so good. I know that in another few days or maybe another week, the cravings will be substantially reduced and it will be easier. Until then, it’s worth it.

Posted in ebb & flow, education, follow-up, physical health, thoughtfulness

Reflections on the second week of pandemic teaching

The novelty of wearing a mask has worn off, and more kids are taking them off. I spent a fair amount of time during class this week showing empathy to their discomfort—I don’t like wearing one, either—and explaining why we’re wearing them. They didn’t seem to know. (That could be no one has explained it well. It could be they weren’t listening.)

One student took off his mask to sneeze. “But if I leave it on, the mask will get nasty!” I explained that they can go to the nurse and get a new mask, and take that one home and wash it. They had never considered this.

I also saw the custodian take off his mask, sneeze into his hand, wipe it on his pants, put the mask back on, and continue with his day.

People don’t get it.

One child came at me with “if oxygen to breathe can get through, the corona virus can get through.” Fortunately, I had recently read a bit about this and was able to tell her that the virus is about 200 times bigger. (I think it was actually 250, but 200 was good enough.)

In lighter news, some time this week, I stopped panicking mid-commute as to whether or not I remembered to comb my hair. Having appropriate clothes and combed hair before leaving the house has become a habit again.

We have fall break next week. I suspect the habit will weaken. I’m OK with that.

I used a different lid for my water bottle—one with a straw—and it helped. I realized, though, that part of when I would sip some water was when students had a minute to practice something on their own.

We’re not playing instruments. There’s no minute tucked in to grab a drink. But between classes it’s much easier, and when there are moments here and there, I do take advantage now.

We have a two-part plan in place at one of my schools: we’re playing instruments at home and bucket drumming at school.

Only a few 6th graders were motivated to take their instruments home right away. They started bucket drumming on Wednesday and were excited!

I realized that with masks on and earplugs in, it would be difficult to use voices to communicate, so I looked up a few ASL signs and taught those.

We have a lot of potential with those buckets! I need to come up with a good long-term plan, as I don’t have one yet, but what we were able to do in a couple of days was great.

And parents (or at least most, I assume) are happy that the buckets and drum sticks stay at school. If the kids are drumming at home, it’s been provided at home.

The 5th graders were excited to learn their band instruments, so we took a few days to learn how to open cases, put the instruments together, how to hold them, how to get them back in the case. I put videos for making a sound on their instruments in their Google Classroom where we had class for the first seven weeks of the quarter, with a link to FlipGrid. Half have already sent me a video of them producing a sound on their instrument. They’ll start buckets after break.

And on we go. While I wasn’t scratching and clawing my way to fall break this year, I’m not complaining one bit about having a week off! I’ll always take more time to do other things.

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.