balance · self-care

Staying Grounded

The list of things I need to do to feel grounded on a day-to-day basis is long.

I didn’t notice how long the list was until I became a parent with limited time available for self-care.

The things I need to do to feel grounded every day are: read, write, do yoga, go for a run, spend time outdoors, spend time with my family, meditate, and go to a recovery meeting. It was hard to get to everything on the list every day even when I was an adult without kids. Now, it sometimes feels impossible.

Last Saturday, I hit a bit of a wall. I woke up to Jonas’s crying, which is never my plan. I almost always plan to wake up before the boys so I can squeeze in one of my grounding activities before the day gets going. Lately, however, I can’t seem to get myself up and going until it’s absolutely necessary. I’ll hit snooze over and over and over – and I’ve never been a snooze button person! Throughout my life, I have bounced out of bed the first time my alarm sounds, excited to go for a run or write or just get started with my day.

Not these days. I’m exhausted. And I feel trapped, because the strategies I have previously used to unexhaust myself – a weekend away, a mental health day from work, a long run – are much harder to arrange than they used to be.

This past Sunday – the day after I hit my metaphorical wall – I forced myself to wake up at 4 a.m. ON A SUNDAY – a day when there was a chance I’d be able to sleep until the luxurious time of 6:30 a.m. I need sleep, but I decided that what I needed more was an hour to myself in the morning. I hate rolling out of bed and crashing into the day bleary-eyed and half-asleep.

I woke up a few minutes after 4. I sat on my yoga mat and did some mindful breathing and a short body scan. I did six minutes of yoga and stretching. Then I climbed back into bed with my laptop to write. I did this again on Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday and Thursday I found it too exhausting to get myself up that early. On Friday I went for an early morning run, which was a great start to the day. On Saturday, I got myself up before the boys (Tamara goes to market really early on Saturdays), and I squeezed in a few minutes of grounding activities before the boys started to stir. On Sunday, I went for a run early, and then on Monday I was so exhausted from night feedings that I hit the snooze button five times before I finally put my feet on the floor.

It's called balance
tinybuddha.com

What I’m saying is – it’s hit or miss. Some days, I wake up early and use that first hour of the day to center myself. Some days, I’m wiped and I crash into the day with bleary eyes. And that’s okay. I love when I am able to start my day feeling grounded and centered. On the days when that can’t happen, I’m going to practice self-compassion and do my best to incorporate activities throughout my day that will help me to stay grounded. (More on that soon!)

Today I squeezed in a quick run, a few mindful moments, and a little writing time before the boys woke up. I also listened to my mindfulness audiobook, The Mindful Kind, on my way to work. I feel happy and calm and Kerriannish, and that’s a lovely way to start the day.

 

relationships · self-care

Shortcomings

During our adoption home study, a social worker came out to our house and interviewed Tamara and me – a standard part of the adoption process. It was a little nerve-wracking, somewhat awkward, but overall we knew what to expect and it went okay.

Except for this – this one question the social worker asked. For this question, we were sitting together on our couch.

“What do you think Tamara’s greatest weakness is?” she asked.

Now, in job interviews and in adoption home studies, there are rules for this particular question. The rule is – you don’t give a real weakness. You don’t tell a potential employer at a job interview, “I sometimes have trouble getting my paperwork in on time.” (Even if it’s true!) No, you give a weakness that is ACTUALLY A STRENGTH IN DISGUISE. You say, “Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist.” TRANSLATION: I will do excellent work if hired.

So, when I answered, I gave an honest answer that displayed one of Tamara’s strengths. “She is one of the hardest workers I know,” I told the social worker. “Sometimes I have to remind her to take breaks and to take care of herself!”

The social worker nodded, smiled, and then asked Tamara the same question.

Tamara answered thoughtfully and honestly. “Kerriann can be defensive sometimes.”

38744650_2030226297010265_1394111552096829440_n

SCREECH. STOP. PAUSE. SOCIAL WORKER LADY, PLEASE GO HOME SO I CAN GIVE MY WIFE ALL THE DIRTY LOOKS IN THE WORLD.

Defensive?! That is not a secret strength disguised as a weakness! It is just a weakness – an absolutely 100% accurate weakness of mine. I do get defensive, which is evident every single time I tell this story. There is literally no way to tell someone who calls your defensive that you are not defensive. CANNOT BE DONE. Because if you weren’t so defensive – and believe me, I AM DEFENSIVE – then you wouldn’t feel the compulsion to, ahem, defend yourself.

As soon as the social worker left, I calmly explained to Tamara the principle of the “strength disguised as weakness” answer. (Yes, calmly. We were able to laugh about this that same day.)

Now, one of the reasons this story is on my mind today is – I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘character defects.’ This is something that’s talked about often in recovery circles. They can be called character defects, flaws, or shortcomings. They’re sometimes given other names, too, but my favorite is shortcomings. These are things we struggle with – areas where we come up short – in brief, our weaknesses. We talk about them in recovery because we want to be aware of the things that get in our way.

Needless to say, defensiveness is a big one for me, as is perfectionism, numbing, over-sensitivity, self-centeredness, and insecurity.

These shortcomings are on my mind recently because they keep popping up. My theory is this: I’ve been so stressed and overwhelmed for the past year that I’ve barely noticed any of my shortcomings. I was sort of drowning in self-pity and constantly seeking a new job, so my day-to-day inventory of who I am and how I’m leading my life was periodically lost in the shuffle.

Now that I have space and time to breathe, I am noticing times when my shortcomings rise up – times when I am faced with a situation and I fall short of the version of myself I’d like to be.

I’m not writing any of this to make myself feel bad. Sometimes, thinking about the areas where I fall short actually helps me to feel GOOD about myself. I am not a horrible mess; I’m a complex person who does awesome in some areas, average in others, and below average in some. I’m real.

I think the shortcoming that has been bothering me the most in recent history is my tendency to numb. When I get stressed, I become UNmindful. I distract myself, I drink lots of caffeine, I eat lots of candy. None of this helps me to deal with the things that are stressing me out.

I’m trying to go easy on myself this week. Yes, I’m drinking too much coffee and eating too many Cadbury Mini Eggs – but I’m also caring for an infant and have had the most emotionally up-and-down 19 days of my life.

So, instead of beating myself up further, I’m making a few mini-resolutions for myself:

1. Seek out joy and lightness every day. There is always something to laugh at and something to be thankful for.

2. Remember that you are enough. Believing that you don’t have enough of what you need does not serve you well.

3. Be gentle with and accepting of others. I sometimes want to *fix* family and friends instead of just being there for them.

4. Treat everyone like a toddler. I am way more patient with y two-year-old than I am with adults. And doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated with patience and compassion?

5. Let go and let God. Have a little faith. Not everything is on your shoulders. In fact, almost nothing is.

37030154_1990119011020994_8854072271795388416_n

 

self-care · writing

On Writing About Self-Care

Why do we write about the things we write about?

I absolutely love writing about self-care. I love writing blog posts that talk about how I take care of myself and strategies for self-care that others can use.

The thing is – I suck at self-care. It’s not my strength. I am always setting new resolutions about practicing better self-care, and it’s because this is not something I do well naturally.

Now, this is interesting to me. I assumed that people would gravitate toward writing on topics about which they have some expertise. Maybe some writers do that.

Maybe other writers, like me, are drawn to writing about things that we’re trying to figure out. When I write, it helps me to figure out what I think and how I feel about a topic.

This lines up with something I’ve wondered about: the tendency for new parents to do a lot of writing/podcasting about parenting. Now that I’m a parent, I imagine that this instinct is often about new parents trying to figure out what they’re doing and wanting to explore this new (and veryveryvery important) frontier by writing and talking about it.

Recently, I went through all of my old blog posts (346 so far – yippee!), and I assigned each post to at least one ‘category.’ Many, many posts fell into the category of self-care.  It’s a subject that baffles me and inspires me.  It’s a topic I’ll continue to explore.

And, maybe, someday get better at it?

Sigh. We’ll see.

34101976_1927448227288073_996569714186518528_n

self-care

How To Have A Stress-Free Work Week From Someone Who’s Bad At Self-Care

One of my favorite topics to read and write about is self-care, and I think it’s because I’m not very good at it and want to do it better.

Today I’m on Day 5 of a five-day holiday weekend, and I’m feeling pretty good.

Every weekend is a three day weekend for me, since I don’t work Fridays, but I often find that when Monday comes, I don’t feel refreshed and ready for the week. That seems really silly to me. Many people are able to get recharged and refreshed with only a two day weekend. And maybe there are reasons for that – maybe they’re not parents with young kids, or maybe they have better self-care instincts. Or maybe (this is what I’m hoping) they have learned ways to be intentional about their weekends so that those days off from work include activities that are rejuvenating.26230758_1755440331194839_8014070478185042515_n

Lately, I am almost always feeling burnt out halfway through the day on Monday. This is in part due to the structure of my current job. I’m in the car a lot, driving around to meet clients at various locations, and it gets exhausting and irritating real fast. And, since I’m not that crazy about my current job, I get the Sunday blues bad, and I get cranky on Mondays quickly.

So, my work week can get exhausting and stressful really quickly. And it doesn’t help that I do not have the best self-care instincts.  For as much as I love thinking about self-care, and writing about self-care – when it comes to actually taking care of my body, my mind, and my soul when things get stressful, my instincts are terrible. I instantly reach for junk food, caffeine, and candy, which causes me to feel exhausted and cranky.

HOW DO I KEEP THIS FROM HAPPENING?

The only things that come to mind are these:

  1. Plan ahead.
  2. Be intentional.

That’s ALL I got! So they better work.

For planning ahead, the most important habit I want to cultivate is having a date with my planner. I do this sometimes, but not often enough. It’s helpful for me to take a few minutes in the evening or early in the morning to actually think about what I have going on during the work day; maybe I will notice things I need to move around, or times when I’m going to have long breaks. Maybe I’ll be able to plan ahead for troublesome circumstances, like when I have back-to-back clients straight through my normal lunch time.

The second thing that I KNOW I need to do but can never manage to accomplish is to pack everything I need for the day. I don’t like packing my lunch at all. I prefer to decide what I am going to eat when I am about to eat it. But maybe an action item for me can be deciding on some good snacky/lunchy foods to have in the house for work lunches.

And then, there’s everything else that needs to get packed up – my travel charger, phone, work keys, wallet, cash for tolls, water bottle (almost always forgotten), bullet journal – SO MUCH STUFF. I feel overwhelmed by how much I need to take, which sometimes means I walk out the door with none of these things and then feel aggravated later in the day because I don’t have the things I need.

I think another action item for me might be waking up earlier. This is a little funny , to me, because I’m a natural early bird – it’s not that unusual for me to set my alarm for 4 a.m. so that I can go to the gym early. So resolving to get up early isn’t usually a problem for me.  EXCEPT THAT PARENTING IS EXHAUSTING, and sometimes I stay up a little later to either do some housecleaning or to get some writing done, and then I find myself hitting snooze until 6 a.m., which is really the latest I can get up and still do everything I need to do to get myself and Edgar out the door for school drop-off and work. But the nice thing about being an early riser is that I can resolve to get up earlier and I know I can do it. This might be a good strategy for getting more writing time, too, now that it’s summer and I’m getting exercise in the afternoons and evenings.

I don’t know! Sometimes, I think the answer to my stress level is finding a new job. But, in general, I want to be better at self-care – I want to know that even when circumstances suck, I can do the things I need to do to feel healthy and well. 

So – plan ahead and be intentional. Let’s give it a try. And if you have other ideas, PLEASE share!

self-care

Routines: The Making & The Breaking

A few weeks ago, I sat down with my bullet journal and wrote out a plan for my morning and evening routines.

This plan included things that normal people probably don’t have to write down – things like wash your face or brush your teeth. The plan also included The Big Three Things That I Want To Do Every Day – writing, running, and meditating. Oh, and reminders for small acts of self-care or planning – things like laying out my work clothes the night before or remembering to use lotion or perfume.

I am most definitely a creature of habit, though I often struggle to form and stick with healthy habits.

The thing is, routine is good for me. I’ve heard it said that highly sensitive people benefit greatly from a regular routine. I struggle with this occasionally, because I greatly value diversity, spontaneity, surprise. But yeah – when it comes down to it, I am usually the happiest and the healthiest when I have a regular routine.

Image result for routine

I can break out of my routine, of course. I do it all the time. For special events, for parties – but I am noticing that it’s important for me to be honest about what adjustments I can make without sacrificing too much energy.

For example – socializing on week nights. I just don’t think it’s for me. Our farm is about 30 minutes north of Baltimore (more with traffic), and I’m trying to remember to be realistic about what I can commit to on a week night. I made plans on a week night several weeks ago, and honestly? It took me over a week to get back into my groove. And I had SO MUCH FUN during the actual socializing – I loved it!

But the next day, I felt sluggish and cranky. I’d been up too late and didn’t get any writing done or any alone (or just Tee-and-me) time. It threw me way off, and it’s because I wasn’t realistic about what I can handle in my daily routine.

I can be somewhat flexible and spontaneous – ON WEEKENDS, when there is way more wiggle room in my schedule.  NOT Monday through Thursday, with very few exceptions.

This weekend has been really lovely – lots of good time with friends and my little family. And I am ALMOST excited to get back into my morning and evening routines on Monday. (ALMOST. Really, I am never excited for Mondays anymore. But I’m hoping that will change sometime in 2018!)