It’s been a long time, friends. Almost four months since I’ve popped in here.
And I’d like to ask you, how are you? And I don’t mean a half-assed answer to a half-assed question, the way we tend to respond good even if we are anything but.
Of course I hope that you are good (or well if we’re being grammatically correct…but who follows that rule anyway?) I’m asking this question in the way one would on a lazy Sunday morning over coffee with nowhere else to be.
I really want to know, how are you? How is your heart? What do you need more of? What do you need less of? What challenges are you facing? What are you hopeful for?
As an American, I feel constantly pressured to be good, and when I’m not, I feel guilty. But it feels terrible to be inauthentic.
My blog is a virtual place where you can just be. Because the truth is, we are everything. Perhaps nervous, but hopeful…tired, but ambitious….we can be good, but not only…and I want people to know it’s okay to be as you are, feel as you feel. You don’t have to pretend here.
So I genuinely hope you tell me in the comments how you are & what’s new in your life, especially because I want this to be like a conversation with a friend and not just a one-sided dialogue talking about myself.
And since we’re chatting, I’ll tell you how I am, starting with where we left off in August. I came back to the US feeling rested and restored after a summer in Italy, back to work for another semester of teaching at the university.
I’ve been struggling this semester (only 3 more weeks though!) My classes start at 8:00 a.m., requiring me to rise before the sun at 5:30 a.m. at the very latest in order to get to class on time (I’m ALWAYS late, and as the instructor I CANNOT be late so the only way is to get there freakishly early to account for variable like weather or traffic). And not only the early mornings…my job sounds good on paper, but if you want to know my reality read this post by History in High Heels on “The Truth About the Academic Job Market.”
Sidenote: I was going to write a post about my experience as an adjunct instructor, but honestly it brings up a lot of painful, frustrating emotions & regrets about my career. It could be therapeutic though, but would it be interesting to you? (Leave a note in the comments if you’re interested in knowing more about the reality of working in higher education and why I’m getting OUT). Hint: the students are lovely, university politics are ugly.
What happened as a result of my forced early mornings (usually I teach afternoon classes) is I got myself back into a state of extreme sleep deprivation. I would try to get myself into bed early, only to lie in bed awake and frustrated for hours until I finally dozed off at midnight, my natural bedtime. I was in an endless cycle of sleep deprivation, which made me stressed out to the max because I had too much to do (both work and my own ambitions), but I just generally didn’t feel well. It’s not that I lacked motivation. I had plenty of that, but I could never push through the constant brain fog. Like LEGIT zombie status. And when I’m stressed and sleep deprived, my body craves sugar and carbs for energy…but then I have no will to work out (know the feeling?) And mood…let’s talk about that. I lose every ounce of self control when I’m sleep deprived, and things that are not a big deal ARE.
I started feeling so miserable that I decided BASTA! I am not going to continue living my life this way. I need more than positive affirmations…I need to DO something different to start feeling rested and energetic again. I decided to let myself off the hook from making progress on writing my book (that I’ve been working on for years now!), my food blog, this blog, learning Italian, and about a million other things I want to do (seriously, I have enough ideas for a million people!)
I am happy to say, after a few intentional changes in my diet and sleep & exercise habits, I am feeling SO much better.
Here’s what has been working for me:
BEDTIME ROUINE. I’ve also gotten insanely strict about sticking to routines, which is SO against my nature. I’m a very intuitive person so I like to go by how I feel at the moment. Not tired? Stay up. Feeling inspired? Create. Like that. But that was getting me nowhere. I have been trying really hard to stick to the same bedtime and wake up time every day, even weekends. I try to stop using the computer and electronics by 6 p.m. (whoops need to finish up this post!) and then take a warm shower or go in the hot tub, stretch, do my 5 Minute Journal, and read until my eyes droop. Not pressuring myself to fall asleep helps too. And even though its use is controversial, I’ve found melatonin to be extremely helpful in getting me to fall asleep faster, if needed. (MIT does confirm a small dose of melatonin is safe & effective).
NO PROCESSED FOODS. I would say my diet is healthyish. In Italy, I ate 99% homemade food, and back in the US I ended up getting busy and therefore lazy with my meals. (And processed American foods are loaded with lots of suspicious mystery ingredients like “natural flavor“). A few weeks ago I bought a thermos to bring to work (I love to eat hot food in cold weather, but I hate the taste of microwaved food), so meal prep is saving my life. I’ve also been experimenting with temporarily removing (actually reducing) sugar (except for fruit & maple syrup), dairy, and gluten (except for last night when I ate a pizza – ha). Well the point is I’m making sure organic vegetables are the foundation of my diet and what I eat the most of.
Note: I love gluten. I love carbs. But I did the Whole 30 last year and found that I didn’t feel as groggy in the mornings…so I’m trying to reduce my gluten intake, and also because of pesticides used on wheat in the US that are restricted in Italy.
JOYFUL MOVEMENT. I enjoy lots of different types of exercise: hiking, yoga, dance, light weights, etc. but I find it really hard to do when I’m tired. The funny thing is, one summer I worked at a kids camp in the middle of a heat wave with no AC in our accommodations, and 24/7 responsibility for hundreds of kids. To beat the heat and get a moment to myself, I started running early in the mornings before camp started, and I had energy ALL day long! Just knowing that I’ll feel better and have more energy keeps me motivated to work out when I don’t feel like it. (Not to mention warms me up during these cold winter days!)
Sleep, diet, and exercise…these are my three keys to being positive & productive.
I wanted to share all this because the next time you’re having a hard time and feel like you need to be more “positive,” it’s so much MORE than that. Being rested, eating well, and moving MAKE me positive without forcing it. I feel like I’m finally coming back to my playful, creative self, and it FEELS SO GOOD. I almost have as much energy as my puppy in the picture!
I’m working a lot of exciting things related to this blog that I can’t wait to share! Hint: It involves food, language & YOU!