Tag Archives: Stress

Scaling back

Late Saturday night, I realized I’d spent nearly 10 straight hours doing blog-related stuff and STILL didn’t have a whole week’s worth of posts filed, and I ended up so tired and frustrated, it literally made me sick. It occurred to me that I’ve taken something I started for fun and made it stressful. That’s really screwed-up.

My New Year’s resolution was to do less, live more, and hopefully spend less time battling the stress-related health problems that plagued me for most of 2016. To that end, I’m making some changes around here:

Vegetarian Friday. When I started this feature in 2014, my goal was to try one new vegetarian recipe every week for a year in an effort to incorporate more plant-based meals into our diet. Posting them was a way to keep myself honest. Three years later, a good 80 percent of the meals I cook are vegetarian, probably a fourth are vegan, and I’ve learned a lot about staging food photos. The most important thing I’ve learned is that I don’t like staging food photos. I see no point in doing something I don’t like if I’m not being paid for it, especially if other people are better at it. With that in mind, if you enjoyed Vegetarian Friday, I would encourage you to visit Oh She Glows and Minimalist Baker. If I dream up something really exceptional, I’ll still share it like I always have, but it’s probably not going to be a weekly occurrence.

Eco-Saturday. I’m not getting rid of this, but I’m changing it. Like Vegetarian Friday, Eco-Saturday was supposed to run for a year. Three years later, I’ve gone about as far as I can where I am, so I’m going to focus more on reviews, recommendations, links, and daydreams about things I’d like to do someday. If there’s anything you’d like me to cover, feel free to suggest it in the comments.

Make-It Monday and Tiny Tuesday. You’ll get one or the other each week, but probably not both, because they overlap a lot, and separating them out is starting to feel forced.

I hope that doesn’t disappoint anybody too terribly. At this point, trying to do too much is easily my worst habit, and I’m trying very hard to break it. Bear with me; down time is still an alien concept for me, and self-care isn’t really one of my strengths.

Emily

Advertisements

Sunday Self-Care: Hand me the wine and the dice

I’d planned to make a long list of goals for 2017, but if there’s a lesson to be learned from 2016, I think I found it the other day in the lyrics to a song from one of my favorite Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals:

If death were given a voice,
That voice would scream through the sky:
“Live while you may, for I am coming!”
So …

… Hand me the wine and the dice.
The time is racing away.
There’s not a taste that’s not worth trying.
And if tomorrow it ends,
I won’t have wasted today;
I will have lived while I am dying.

— Don Black and Charles Hart

“Hand Me the Wine and the Dice” is sung at the funeral of one of the central characters in Aspects of Love, a wealthy painter and patron of the arts who is driven, perhaps by the premature death of his first wife, to enjoy every day to the fullest.

After losing so many people I admire last year — some I knew personally, and some I knew only through their work — I found myself thinking about that song the other day.

I’m often guilty of spending so much time regretting yesterday or worrying about tomorrow that I miss today, and it literally makes me sick: I wasted a big chunk of 2016 battling tension headaches and muscle spasms I suspect were entirely stress-induced.

I’m not doing that again.

My goal for 2017 is to do less.

It feels strange — selfish and unproductive — to say that, but just last week, I found myself passing up a volunteer opportunity because I wasn’t confident I’d be healthy enough to pull it off. Taking care of myself isn’t selfish; it’s necessary if I’m to be of service to others.

My hope is that a few months of systematically removing stress from my thought — resting more, being more present in the moment, and giving myself space to enjoy the life I have here and now — will improve my health and recharge my batteries to full power.

If it doesn’t? Well, as the song says: “I won’t have wasted today.”

There’s something to be said for that.

Emily

Sunday Self-Care: White noise

About a year and a half ago, a friend recommended a smartphone app that generates white noise to help people sleep better. She said it was great because it offered a lot of different sounds, which you could mix and match to create combinations that remind you of places where you feel comfortable.

I’d never considered the possibility that I might sleep better if I drifted off while listening to sounds that remind me of places I love, but the idea was intriguing enough that I downloaded the app and discovered my friend was right: It is great.

I spent the first couple of weeks staying up later than I’d planned while I dinked around with the app, trying to find just the right combination of sounds to make me think of wherever I wanted to be right then, but the end result was a nice assortment of places more soothing than my bedroom.

Several combinations were evocative of places I’ve stayed on vacation: the Blue Swallow during monsoon season; the Ocean Park Motel in San Francisco; the Lincoln Motor Court in Mann’s Choice, Pennsylvania. Others reminded me of places or situations from years past: a snow day when I was teaching; a trip to the laundromat on a rainy day; a visit to the late, great Nature Company.

As useful as white noise is for falling asleep, I think it might be even better for relaxing while I’m working on other things. I’m prone to muscle spasms in my neck and shoulders and tension headaches, and I think a lot of that is because I tense up when I’m concentrating. Sometimes I put on headphones and listen to music while I’m working, but the other night, I got the bright idea to take it a step further and listen to white noise.

I can’t say it solved the whole problem instantly, but between that and a cup of chamomile tea, I was a lot less tense and a lot less irritated by the usual barrage of annoyances while I was working. I expected the combination of white noise and chamomile to make me sleepy, but instead, I think it just helped me relax and filter out distractions so I could focus on what I was doing.

I’ll definitely use that strategy again this week and see how it goes.

Emily

P.S.: In case you’re interested, the app I use is Relax Melodies by Ipnos Software. I like it a lot, but I haven’t tried any other white-noise apps or machines or anything, so I don’t know how it compares to other options.

Sunday self-care: Everything in its place

I opened a folder in my photo archive the other night and saw something alarming.

I saw how I used to live.

When we moved from Belleville to Tulsa, I put away as much stuff as I could. Some of it fit in our new house. Some of it didn’t. I piled the excess in a spare room and promised myself I’d organize it eventually.

While I waited for “eventually,” I went about the business of living. I started projects with the intent of using up art supplies. I bought art supplies with the intent of starting projects. I subscribed to magazines I didn’t have time to read. I pursued new hobbies, accumulating equipment and materials each time. Clutter grew like kudzu over every flat surface in the house, and I just couldn’t seem to get ahead of it and stay there.

Looking at old photos, I cringe now, realizing even my occasional attempts at decluttering often ended up looking — well, cluttered. (Case in point: I once decided it would be more efficient to hang all my accessories on the wall above our bed. Just thinking about that wall gives me a headache.)

When we moved to Cape, we lost about 250 square feet, so before we moved, I halved our household inventory, and when we arrived, I unpacked everything and put it away immediately. This little bungalow, I decided, would be my laboratory for learning minimalism and test-driving storage methods ahead of our tiny-house retirement dream.

My life is neither more nor less stressful than it was during most of my time in Tulsa. But back then, I took at least a dozen road trips a year and had dinner out several times a week. I was never home if I could help it. Route 66 was my excuse, but looking back, I think I was trying to get away from the mess. Looking at the state of my house made me feel guilty, so I didn’t look.

Today, my house is generally uncluttered, and despite its diminutive size, it feels open and spacious. Cooking is easier. Cleaning is easier. Living is easier. Breathing is easier. I spend more time with my dogs and enjoy being at home. Decluttering has become one of my most valuable forms of self-care, because my mind and my home tend to sync up. If the house is cluttered, my thoughts are a jumble. If the house is neat, it’s easier to find a peaceful space in my mind.

I needed that peace more than I realized.

Emily

P.S.: If you need to declutter but aren’t sure where to start, I highly recommend Flylady.net. She’s got some great tools for establishing good habits without getting overwhelmed.