Monday, October 11, 2010
One of my sparks teams is having a weekly challenge to relax. As part of this challenge, we are encouraged to choose one or more of the following challenges:
"1. Take a nap at least one day this week.
2. Go to bed earlier than usual at least two nights this week.
3. Read a book for pleasure at least three times this week.
4. Do your exercises and then STRETCH exercise at least 3 times this week. To me stretching is like relaxing.
5. Limit the time that you are on your computer at least 4 days this week. Let us know your plan to do this.
6. After a long day, relax take a walk or and have a chat with a friend or else phone someone who is an encouragement to you at least three times this week.
7. Find at least one SparkArticle on SLEEP and post the link here and make comments on the article that you read.
8. Let us know on this thread what makes you RELAX. What is relaxing to YOU?
9. Take a SparkBreak Day and do no sparking but the essential...spinning the wheel and tracking for instance.
10. You name what you plan to do for Relaxation."
I have opted for 3, 4, 8 and 10 and possibly 7, though I think I have already read all the sleep related articles that sparks has.
This challenge came at a good time for me. I've been under a LOT of stress... for years, really. I told my mom-in-law that things would quiet down after the wedding this summer and she said "you always say that and it never does." I'm always running from one big demand to the next. I've had friends and family both tell me to slow down.
And to be honest, I don't know how. If I learned one thing on the cruise, I am not very good at truly relaxing.
Oh, I take time out for me. I read at least a little bit almost every day--it's necessary for my mental health and well being. I spent Sunday hanging out with good friends and "helped" with a cider pressing (I say "help" because they had for once way more people than they had expected--usually they have 10 or so and this year had almost 40, so there wasn't much for me to actually do). I spent Saturday being lazy with my husband. I do best at relaxing activities that demand mental participation--things like reading a good book, or playing a video game, or working on some kind of crafting project--things that don't leave my mind free to worry and fuss and think through problems.
But even so, I'm not very good at relaxing. Even when I'm reading, I don't sit still easily. I almost always have something in my hands when I watch television. I'm always aware--even more so when I'm home--of the million things I should be doing when I'm doing something else, whether it's cooking lunch or reading a book or cleaning a bathroom. I can't even relax physically--I can feel the ball of tension in my muscles, especially in the back at the base of the shoulder blades but up into my neck and skull and down into my lower back, even my legs and arms. I don't know how to get rid of it. I've had massages. I've tried hot baths. I've tried working out. I've tried stretching. I know that physical tension not only aggravates (and sometimes out right causes) my headaches, but it also contributes to my carpal tunnel issues. And yet it so hard for me to relax those muscles.
My mind is equally, if not more, chronically tense. I have a hard time getting my brain to shut up. Even when I am exhausted and trying to go to sleep, I have a hard time stilling my mind. I learned as a young child to tell myself stories before going to sleep--when I was a kid I think I did this mostly to entertain myself when mom and dad made me go to bed, but as an adult, it forces my brain to focus on something other than responsibilities and deadlines and other worries. I struggle with meditation--the only kind that I have any luck with so far are what I think of as moving meditations--things like beading, or knitting, or yoga, or weirdly enough strength training--basically activities where I'm concentrating on doing something and sometimes how I breathe, which leaves little room for worrying about that phone call I should make or what I'm struggling with in my writing.
Why do I have so much trouble truly relaxing? I don't know. I don't know how to slow down. Whenever I have free time, I tend to fill it--for example, we had a free weekend next weekend and now I'm thinking seriously about doing an SCA demo and helping a friend with a beading project. Both of which will be fun, don't get me wrong, but fun doesn't mean relaxing.
Part of it is probably my personality and part of it is probably muscle and mental patterns "learned" over many years of being in school. I always worked hard. Even when I wasn't working as well as taking classes in college, I was under heavy course loads and studying all the time. Then I started grad school and that kicked into over drive. I worked 80 or more hour weeks--I had no free time. I had almost no social life. I ate poorly and never got enough sleep, and yet was always behind. I pushed my body to the breaking point and beyond; I burned out mentally even as I injured my body (carpal tunnel and tendinitis) badly enough that I couldn't even handle basic home chores like dishes or opening doors. Then I backed off somewhat--I am no longer physically able to pull those kinds of hours, even if I could handle the stress--but the workload is overwhelming to the point it's hard just to get started most days. And then I have everything else going on, all my other responsibilities--my MIL's illness, family visits, my grandmother isn't getting any younger, my friend that got married, my officer position in a group I belong to (because someone had to do the job and no one else volunteered), household chores, etc. Oh, yeah, and taking care of me has to fit somewhere in there, too.
One of the things we do for the stress relief team is record our daily stress levels on a 10 point scale, with 10 being stressed halff out of your mind and 1 being completely relaxed. The lowest score I've ever given myself was a 5. On the cruise I probably dropped down to a 3, but I can't maintain that at home--and even on the cruise, where I had no responsibilities or anything I *had* to do, I never dropped lower than a 3. I just don't know how any more.
But by not relaxing, my body and mind doesn't really get a chance to recover. So I need to learn somehow not just to take time out for myself, but to really relax when I do so. I'm not sure how to go about doing that, but I'm going to try.
Saturday, October 09, 2010
Grr. We came back from vacation to having tons of fruit flies in the apartment. I don't know where they came from or what attracted them, as we didn't have any food in the house, but it's making it hard to keep fresh fruit and tomatoes in the house. Even cooking is a pain. I've set my homemade fruitly traps and they've helped, but we still have them everywhere. The kitchen is the worst but there are a lot in other rooms, especially the bathrooms.
We often have fruit flies in the fall for some reason, though never as bad as this year--perhaps because we are able to respond to them before they get this bad when we're home? The only things I know that helps is to run bleach in your drains, avoid having standing water (so no pots soaking or anything if you can help it) and to put out fruit fly traps. Mine are simple. I take a container--I prefer bottles because they are disposable and have a narrow mouth--and fill them with a sweet fluid. Cider seems to work the best, but any aromic juice will do. Then you cover the top with seran wrap, secure it with a rubber band if needed, and poke a few holes in the top. That way the fruit flies smell the cider and enter the bottle, but they can't find their way back out and die. Simple, eco-friendly (especially if you reuse or recycle the container) and it works.
But so far all we've managed to do is thin the fruitflies a bit--and there are plenty left. Grrr.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
First of all, I beg everyone to understand and forgive me. I gave up last night of trying to catch up on everyone's blogs--I realized that I have over 75 blogs on sparks that I am subscribed to, and while not all of those are still active, it was still far too many for me to catch up after not following them for essentially months. I would get caught up on a few, and then go to catch up on someone else and the first few would post some more..... it was like trying to dig a hole in sand. It kept filling in as fast as I could read them.
So I went and resubscribed to everyone and am starting fresh, with new posts. This is not because I don't care what happened over the summer--I just don't have time.
Also, a few of my friends have apparently changed their names? Anyway, sparks cant' find them any more. So if you've changed your name over the summer, could you let me know?
My knee is doing a lot better--in fact it was starting to feel significantly better I swear the morning after I wrote my last blog. I did manage to pull a muscle in my thigh, however--doing nothing more than shifting in my seat on the couch, of all things. I didn't pull it badly, but I keep aggravating it doing things like getting out of the car or kneeling to deal with laundry, so it's still pretty sore.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
I have a question....
Background. Last Thursday, I did something to my left knee-- I have no idea what. I was sitting with my leg propped up and when I stood up it hurt like crazy--I could barely stand, let alone move. Eventually it got better though it was kind of achy.
Friday it was feeling better. I went to the gym for light exercise (walked on treadmill) and then got invited to play soccer, so I did. I warmed up, played hard, was feeling fine. I figured I would be a bit sore the next day from the exercise, but no big deal.
Except my knee was REALLY sore Saturday. As in barely able to move sore. The rest of my muscles were sore--especially my thighs--but in a more normal manner. So I took it easy.
But my knee is still pretty sore. It's not as bad, but it stiffens up if I sit down for any length of time and even when it warms up it hurts and sometimes it's not very stable--not sure how else to describe it, but sometimes it doesn't want to support my weight. It hurts a bit in the knee cap, but mostly it hurts around and behind the knee, and into my upper calf.
Could I have strained a muscle that supports the knee or something? Should I do something more than naproxen, rest, and ice?
I was just getting back into a regular exercise routine and this has really poked holes in it--unless it's much better tomorrow, I probably will break a 14 week streak (130 minutes a week) and as it is I won't be able to make my monthly goals for September. But I would rather restart my streaks and worry about next months goals than really mess my knee up.
*edit* I remember after I wrote this blog that I did wrench my knee a bit while playing soccer--I remember turning and feeling it and thinking that I'd hurt it, but it didn't hurt and I forgot about it. But adrenaline can do that. So I probably have a mild sprain, which can take some time to heal.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
In the post-vacation crash, I'm finding it a bit of a struggle to feel positive about my body. My hip hurt a fair amount while on vacation (all that walking, I imagine--but, to be fair, I WALKED. I danced. I even climbed a pyramid. 4 years ago, I wouldn't have been able to do any of that. So that's a definite good sign). My clothes are all feeling really tight this week and while it may be bloating, it's hard not to blame myself for what I ate on the cruise, and for the fact that I didn't work out like I had planned.
(And the chicken pot pie I'm eating for lunch is not helping... I had read that they were bad for you, but I hadn't realized HOW bad until I bought this one.... over 1000 calories and almost 2000 mg of salt! But my teeth are still sore--hopefully that's normal--after my dental work this week and I'm getting tired of soup and the chicken pot pie is soft. And I haven't had one in years. And now that I know how terrible they are, I probably won't have another one for years).
But... thinking positive here...
*As I said, I may not have been as active as I had planned but I did walk--I took stairs, I danced, I even climbed pyramids. Sure, I didn't make a single yoga class or anything like that, but even being able to do what I did is a sign of progress.
*I played soccer Friday night. I didn't play all that great--but it's been 13 years since the last time I played (!) and I kept up. I even had a couple of half way decent plays, once I started knocking the rust off the old soccer skills. And I will probably get to play again at least a couple of more times this month--I can't afford to play in a regular season (too much money and I don't have the time) but they are down a girl with a pulled hamstring so I'm subbing in.
*Exercise was really hit and miss the last 2 months--I just haven't had time to hit the gym regularly and while I made up some of that with exercise dvds, it wasn't all that consistent. And when I first came back from the cruise I got hit hard by PMS and curled up in a ball on the couch for several days feeling terrible (more so than normal). But once the PMS backed off, I found myself right back at the gym on the treadmill. Yeah, it wasn't an uber-intense work out (after all, I hadn't been exercising regularly for months) but I still worked up a pretty good sweat and was pretty tired by the end. In the past, I would probably have let it slide.... or even stopped exercising all together. Even now, there's a part of me that is tempted--after all, it's not like I don't have other things to do with my time! Important things, even. But... there's also that part of me that is saying "we need to get the luggage out of our livingroom so I have room to use my exercise dvds." That's new. And kind of cool.
*Even on the cruise, though I can't claim to have eaten all that healthy of choices (I did after all have desert at least once a day--something I rarely do at home--and I did have some mixed drinks and I didn't always pick the healthiest options for entrees) I did always eat fresh fruit and/or vegetables with my meals. And I drank water. I had a lot harder time tracking how much water I had, so I'm guessing at how much I drank, but I drank water. Since I still don't much like water and still prefer just about any other beverage (other than milk and coffee, neither of which I'll drink) to water, that's an improvement.
*Oh, and speaking of water, apparently this week is water week! So I'm challenging myself to:
drink 8 glasses of water every day (which I should be doing anyway)
Water my plants at least once
And take a relaxing bath
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