advice · self care

Some Fabulous Little Reminders from Dr. Julie

I just started reading psychologist Dr. Julie Smith‘s book Why Has Nobody Told me this before? Everyday Tools for Life’s Ups and Downs and I’m really enjoying it. I’m not finished yet, so I can’t do a full review but I do really like her style. The book is full of low-key but helpful reminders that we can build our capacity to deal with most of our everyday challenges and that we can develop the tools to work with our emotions instead of trying to fight them.

Just FYI: She is very clear about the fact that while there are lots of cases in which people need long-term therapy there are also many people who just need access to tools and guidance to help them manage their own mental health and that she is addressing the latter group.

Anyway, as I was telling people about this book recently I was surprised to discover that many people have never heard of Dr. Julie. If you’re one of those people, here are a few of her YouTube shorts that are a pretty good introduction to her kind and encouraging approach. You can find more on her channel.

Enjoy!

(I’ll post a review once I’m finished the book!)

A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘This is really important.’ In the still image, Dr. Julie is seated at a wooden table and there is a pyramid of playing cards stacked in front of her.
A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘This 60 Mindset Trick Will Change Your Life’ and in the still image she is sitting a table with a coffee cup and book in front of her and there are shelves behind her.
A video from Dr. Julie Smith entitled ‘Stop Waiting To Feel Confident! Watch This. In the still she is sitting at a table and there are white shelves behind her.
fitness · self care

World Kindness Day 2022

Welcome to World Kindness Day 2022!

As you probably know from my previous posts, especially these ones about World Kindness Day 2021 (about kindness to others) and World Kindness Day 2020 (about self-kindness), I am a kindness cheerleader.

I just want people to be kinder to themselves and each other. I want society as a whole to be kinder to its individual members. I want governments to be kinder to their citizens. I just want more kindness in the world.

Like Brooke Jones, VP for the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation says in her blog post, I want us all to Make Kindness The Norm.

(For some reason, I can’t insert a caption under the image below. The image is from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation and here is the image description: A red heart and text reading ‘Believe there is good in the world’ with a weathered wooden background. most of the text is black but some of the letters are white so an alternate message of ‘Be the Good’ can also be read. At the bottom of the image is text reading ‘Random Acts of Kindness Foundation’ )

A red heart and text reading 'Believe there is good in the world' with a weathered wooden background. most of the text is black but some of the letters are white so an alternate message of 'Be the Good' can also be read. At the bottom of the image is text reading 'Random Acts of Kindness Foundation'

I know I am not alone in my cheerleading mission and in my belief that kindness matters but I also know that there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world. It’s hard to maintain hope and it’s hard to feel that your small, day-to-day kindnesses matter.

That’s why I was so happy to find this video by John Green a few weeks ago because he does a terrific job of summing up a lot of things that I haven’t been able to express succinctly. He’s not talking about kindness directly, he’s arguing for meaning and against nihilism, but his conclusions apply to kindness, too. I especially like his point about how the big picture may be a challenging one but that we don’t live in the big picture, we live in the day-to-day. And in the day-to-day, all of those little connections (or, one could say, kindnesses 😉 ) matter.

I can add a caption here so I will – This is a video from the Vlog Brothers YouTube channel. It’s entitled ‘Against Nihilism’ and the still image features John Green, a white middle aged man with a beard and glasses sitting in his home office. He is facing the camera and he has an intense expression on his face which reflects his passion for the subject.

So, even if there are a lot of terrible things going on in the world, it’s still worth it to be kind, to seek kindness, and to encourage kindness. It okay to do it because it helps you feel good, because it helps the people you are kind to feel good, or because it just seems like the right thing to do.

(Hmm, I can’t add a caption to the photo below either but it is another photo from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. This image shows a small child with brown skin and curly hair sitting in a white chair. They’re wearing enormous glasses and smiling big enough that their eyes have closed to make room for their grin. They’re wearing yellow pants, suspenders and a blue shirt that reads ‘I’ve got nothing but love for you.’ The text to their left reads ‘The world is full of kind people…If you can’t find one, be one.)

And since being kind, as the video below suggests, is supposed to help reduce stress and bring you ease, there’s no reason not to keep trying it.

Again, I can add a caption to this video even though I couldn’t add one to the images. Anyway, this is an animated YouTube video from the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation entitled ‘The Science of Kindness’ and the still image shows a person with light brown skin with their long hair up in a bun on top of their head. They are wearing white pants and a grey long sleeved shirt and their hands are behind their back. They have a speech balloon with a heart in it above their head.

I’ve got lots of links in my previous World Kindness Day posts about how to be kind to yourself and others so I’ll just include two more links here:

The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has a downloadable calendar for teachers or for anyone who wants to add more kindness to their days on a regular basis.

And since I don’t know how much time or energy you have today, I’m just going to link to my results from a YouTube search for Kindness Meditation so, if you are inclined to meditate, you can have an easy way to find one to try today.

And, my friends, as always, be kind to yourself about the whole thing – life, the universe, and everything – if you aren’t up to putting kindness out into the world today then turn that kindness inward and give yourself a break. You are doing the best you can with the resources you have. 💚

advice · fitness · illness · rest · self care

A short post about not very much

I’m writing this on Monday night.

I’ve spent the day feeling under the weather (and appropriately it has been very VERY rainy) and trying to sort my to do list into:

– things that I feel up to doing today

-things that must be done today (by me or by someone else)

-things that can most definitely wait

-other stuff

Resting, very low-key yoga, and an online meeting made the cut…a lot of other things did not.

I can’t, however, tell you how I decided which was which. (It’s not a secret, I just have no idea!)

How do you decide how much rest you need when you don’t feel well?

How do you decide what stays on your to do list and what you can let slide?

PS – Here’s a useful reminder I drew a few years ago. You don’t even need to feel sick to take it to heart.

A photo of a small square card on a patio railing. The card has been painted yellow and has dark blue lines extending outward from the centre to create the impression of a top-down view of a flower. ​Blue text on the drawing reads “you don’t have to be and do all of the things. Choose the ones that feel right, the ones you know are yours. (That’s enough)”
Image description: a small square card on a patio railing. The card has been painted yellow and has dark blue lines extending outward from the centre to create the impression of a top-down view of a flower. Blue text on the drawing reads “you don’t have to be and do all of the things. Choose the ones that feel right, the ones you know are yours. (That’s enough)”

fitness · Seasonal sadness · self care · training

Checking in one month after knee replacement: Sam is gearing up for a winter of rehab

They tell you that recovery from total knee replacement is a long haul of physio and rehab.

I’m here to say it’s just dawning on me how true that is. It’s not that I didn’t believe it before. I did. But now I’m feeling it too. That knowledge is real in a way that it wasn’t before.

There were big gains in weeks one, two, and three. Not so much this week. This week I might have overdone it. Too many tiny walks? Too much mobility work? Possibly going to a Tafelmusik concert in Toronto might have been too much. But the music was beautiful and I had a lovely visit with my daughter so that was all good.

Handel’s London, Experience the energy of baroque London, a lively metropolis where musical influences intersect.

I had hoped to report that I could turn the pedals over on my bike my now, but I can’t, yet. And yes, I know there are no fixed timelines for these things and that people regain mobility as different rates. Still, in my head it seemed reasonable to be back on the trainer in a month and I’m not there yet. I mean, I’m there, but I’m not making full rotations of the pedals just yet.

Weirdly, I am so close when I do it backwards. Weirdly backwards everything is easier. I’ve been doing walking backwards without crutches drills for physio and I don’t limp walking backwards.

Why is pedaling backwards easier? Here is one explanation:

“Pedaling backwards after knee surgery is often easier because of the hamstring activation. When you pedal an exercise bike forward the quadriceps is likely more active and the hamstring is likely less active. By pedaling backward after knee replacement surgery your hamstring is pulling the lower leg back which often improves knee flexion.”

YouTube video about starting on a recumbent bike after knee replacement

The other hard thing is simply pain. I’m surprised that a month out things still hurt this much. I take pain relief medication regularly, not the narcotic stuff–the narcotic pain meds ended more than a week ago. But I’m still waking at night with pain some of the time and by end of the day things hurt a lot.

It’s also fall of course, not my favorite season, and I’ve been brainstorming ways of coping given that my options are somewhat limited this year. My friend Todd is similarly scheming and I’m enjoying reading about his plans even if I’m jealous that they include running.

What am I up to that’s positive?

🍁Well, I’m seeing more of friends and family. I’m out and about more than I was.

🍁Today I get to start driving again. Cars aren’t my favorite things but it will be nice to be independently mobile.

🍁I’ve joined a new gym that has aquafit classes and I’m looking forward to that over the winter. Aquafit isn’t my favorite thing but it’s a thing my healing knee can do once the incision heals fully . And I do love being in the water.

🍁This week the blog’s Catherine Womack comes to visit. She’s giving a talk at Guelph’s Philosophy department called “Epidemiology Food Fight: a fat feminist takes on values in nutrition science.” That’s October 6th, 430 pm.

🍁I’ve dug out my light alarm clock.

🍁I’m very happy to be planning my return to work. I miss the university. I love fall semester even though I’m not a fan of fall overall.

🍁I’m thinking I might start my November gratitude practise early this year and make it a fall thing, beginning October 1. Gratitude is good in its own right and it makes me feel better. Right now I’m thankful that I got to have knee replacement surgery and that I have lots of support through the healing process.

Bright red and orange leaves

covid19 · fitness · self care · yoga

Tracy goes back to hot yoga

Image description: Ohm symbol commonly associated with yoga.

Long time blog readers will know that I absolutely adore hot yoga. I cannot explain why yoga in a hot room feels so much more satisfying to me than yoga at room temperature, but it does. And so it was a huge sacrifice when I felt the need mid-pandemic to take a stand and leave the hot yoga studio that I’ve been a dedicated member of for over a decade. At the time, I felt that they were making decisions concerning COVID that put their yoga community at risk and violated legal requirements that had been put in place based on recommendations from Ontario’s science table. I wrote about my decision here.

Well I’m happy to say that after more than ten months, I am back at hot yoga at the same studio. I don’t regret taking the position I did last October. Back in October I said, “I don’t know if I’ll go back or if they’ll have me back.” But now I feel that one of the things I’ve learned over the course of the pandemic is that I value relationships that I have built over time and I do not take them for granted. I may have disagreed, even strongly disagreed, with the official position of the yoga studio. But I am not willing to let their position on a temporary situation have permanent consequences for my well-being. To do so would have been a case of cutting off my nose to spite my face.

I have been feeling the itch to go back for some time now. So when I got a notice that they were offering a deal on ten-class passes, I purchased a couple. My goal is to incorporate it back into my life slowly, starting with a class a week. Last week when I went to my first class since October I consciously chose to go with one my favourite instructor. I got there early enough to take up my preferred spot near, but not right in, the hot front corner, and lie in savasana for a few minutes before we started. It was a yang-yin class, which meant it was only vigorous for half an hour, then completely and deliciously stretchy and slow for a half an hour. It felt so right to be back in the hot studio.

I know many of us had to switch up our routines during the pandemic, and some of those routines are permanently altered. But I’ve talked to lots of people who have been extremely eager to get back to their gyms and yoga studios and what have you.

Did you experience any big interruptions or changes in your fitness routines over the past couple of years? Have you gone back to anything that was put on hiatus? If you have, I’d love to hear in the comments about how it felt to go back.

advice · camping · fitness · habits · nature · self care

To Get More Active, Inconvenience Yourself

I went summer camping with 5 friends recently. We went biking, swimming, kayaking, and hiking—regular outdoor physical activities one might do while in The Nature.

During this time, I noticed how often we were up and moving around to do simple tasks and chores throughout the day, even when we weren’t out out doing the recreational exercise activities.

When we wanted to go to sleep, we had to put up a tent. When we wanted to make a fire but ran out of wood, we had to scavenge or head to the conservation office to buy more. When we wanted to brush our teeth, it was a walk or a bike down the path to the loo. Whenever I misplaced bug spray or sunscreen, I was up rummaging around to find what I needed.

A campfire at night with wood on the ground
There’s exercise to be had in scavenging for firewood!

Not everything was within easy reach when you are camping: there’s often a little added effort to find, get, or make whatever you need. Without all the conveniences of home, we were moving, walking, bending, and stretching in short bouts all day long.

Like most people, I often establish habits and use tools that maximize convenience and comfort when I am at home. How much more physical activity might add up in my days if I intentionally made things slightly less easy for myself? What if I chose to knead bread without the mixer, walk to my mailbox rather than stop after my commute home, use one tissue box at a time rather than plant them in many rooms of the house?

Wall-E holds a plant next to a spaceship
Wall-E Theatrical release poster (fair use)

The animated Disney movie Wall-E tells a story of how, in the future, people have every luxury thanks in part to the machines they invent; consequently, they become totally inert and lazy. The moral of this cautionary tale is that excessive convenience and comfort will diminish our ability to think and act and move for ourselves.

Of course, my tent-trailer and Coleman stove camping experience was still relatively easy and convenient, but I realized that adding some purposeful inconveniences in my daily life could lead to a little more physical activity that I might not even notice.

What are some small inconveniences you maintain for a little more physical activity each day?

fitness · health · season transitions · self care

Sweaticating. Yes, I made that word up.

Just to be clear, I’m not complaining about the heat. We don’t get enough good weather here as it is. I don’t want to complain and risk a weather deity’s vengeance.

So, this is not a complaint.

It’s an observation.

I’m just observing that it has been especially warm and humid (for this part of Newfoundland) this past week or so and I am not acclimatized to it at all.

In fact, it often leaves me feeling a migraine is hunting me and it could catch me at any minute.

And that’s just about as fun as it sounds.

So instead of trying out new exercises or adding a bit more time to my usual routine, I’ve just been sweaticating.

According to the lexicon of my 9 year old self (and that self’s friend Rochelle) sweaticating is when you are so warm that everything you wear sticks to you and you mostly feel like lying around eating popsicles.

A woman reclines in bed saying ‘I’m sweating’ while fanning herself with her hand.
She’s just sweating, not sweaticating but she does look like she could use a popsicle. Image description: GIF of Alexis from the TV show Schitt’s Creek is reclining in bed fanning her armpits with her hands and saying ‘I feel like I’m sweating.’

Popsicle lounging what I *feel* like doing but since I’m an adult (or a reasonable hand-drawn facsimile, at least) I know that lying around eating popsicles will eventually leave me feeling much worse.

So, while I have eaten my fair share of popsicles and I have done a nice bit of lying around recently, I have also been following my bare minimum self-care plan.

What does that look like?

Taking Khalee for walks after supper instead of in the late afternoon.

A light haired dog on a leash stands on grass near a wooden fence
I picked this photo because Khalee’s expression cracks me up but that particular evening it had rained a bit so it wasn’t quite so warm. Image description: Khalee, a light-haired dog in a harness and leash, stands next to a fence. Her body is pointing away from the viewer but head is turned back toward the camera and she looks like she is asking ‘Are you going to catch up or what?’

Doing some writing on my patio under the shade of a tree.

I set up one of my outdoor tables so I can stand and write/draw. Foolishly, my first attempt had me facing my neighbour’s fence. This view is way better. Image description: My notebook is open on a white table that is attached to my patio rail. My pencil case and pen are covering most of the lined page of my notebook and I have a travel container of iced tea on the wooden railing above it. There’s an orange lawn chair and an empty fire pit amid the grass beyond the patio rail. (The firepit is on concrete slabs but the grass is too long to see them in this shot) Tree trunks, lower tree branches and a wooden fence are in the background.

Yoga, stretches, slow-motion TKD patterns, and other low-key exercises outside once it gets dark.

A nighttime photo of a patio lit with string lights.
Night yoga for the win. Image description: An inviting nighttime photo of my patio. My railing is lit with string lights and a small patio burner, my yoga mat stretches out from the right hand side of the photo and in the far corner is a chair with a red cushion and a table with a flowering plant on it.

I’m not following my ideal plan but I am doing what I can and taking good care of myself while (mostly) avoiding that predatory migraine.

How about you?

How are you taking good care of yourself these days?

PS – If things haven’t been going so well on that front, why not give it a whirl today.?

Start small, rest a little…maybe have a popsicle.

A GIF of a dog eating a popsicle
A GIF of a small brown dog in a striped sweater eats a yellow popsicle that is clutched between its front paws. The words YUM YUM are at the bottom of the image.

advice · commute · covid19 · ergonomics · fitness · habits · planning · self care

Habits to Offset Being an End-of-Day Grump After Back-to-Work Commuting

Shortly after coming home from my work commute the other day, I found that my partner (and cat) could barely stand to be around me. I was being a total grump—tired and irritable. Why?

I had spent the last two days commuting by car (an hour each way, plus more travel between sites), then sitting for hours at desks that were not my own. Being vehicle- and desk-bound used to be my work-a-day norm. But, after only a few days back at work, and despite all the travel, I felt unusually sedentary and yuck.

A woman hunched over her laptop while seated at a desk
A woman hunched over her laptop at a desk. Posture posture posture!

I have worked from home during most of the COVID-19 pandemic. This means I’ve had the luxury of walking or exercising before or after work (most days!), and taking short stretch breaks anytime I’ve needed to in a private and comfortable space of my own. More control over how, where, and how much I sit.

You may be thinking—with all this privilege, 5 hours in the car over 2 days is not, relatively speaking, a big deal. Boo hoo, Elan. (At first I thought that too.)

Yet, because I am trying to be mindful and notice things more, I realized maybe I hadn’t prepared myself sufficiently for what back to work would feel like for my body.

Reminders are for people who need reminding. Here is a brief list of reminders for how I might show up more prepared for my return-to-work days a (and be less of a grump around those I love afterwards).

  • Leave 15 minutes earlier than I need to and park at the far end of the parking lot to have time to walk and stretch before sitting in the office.
  • Bring more water and veggie snacks than I think I will need in order to stay hydrated (and avoid the snack machine).
  • Schedule in-person meetings to end 10 minutes before the hour, and use that time to get up and move around, perhaps reacquainting myself with the buildings and their outdoor spaces.
  • Assess the ergonomics of my seated position in my car and in my hoteling office work spaces—try to notice my posture and pack what I need to adjust myself.
  • Make time to stretch before getting back into my car near the end of the day.
Cats and trucks lined up on a highway
That’s me, third car on the right.

What else could help me to manage feelings sedentary and grumpy during return to work? Please share your ideas in comments below!

health · planning · schedule · self care · traveling

Go Team! May 31: Your future self will thank you.

Don’t worry, this isn’t going to be one of those posts about how your hard work now will pay off later.

In fact, this is a post about trying to schedule LESS work for yourself.

I just got back from my first work conference in many, many years. The event was held in British Columbia and I live all the way on the other side of the country in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I have a lot of stress around travelling under normal circumstances (I’m not afraid of flying, I find being at the whims of the airline schedules nerve-wracking) and that stress was intensified by concerns about Covid.

And, of course, flying across the country, across multiple time zones (there is a 4.5 hour difference between home and BC), added another layer of trickiness to the whole process. My flights to BC found me getting up at 2am to be at the airport form my 5am flight, and after complications, delays, and waiting for flights, I had been up for 26 hours by the time I got to bed that night. My flights home were less complex but I took off in Nanaimo at 3pm Sunday and got home at 11am on Monday – a schedule that included a 5 hour wait in Toronto airport in the middle of the night.

I’m home as I sleepily write this on Monday night and I am finding myself grateful for something my past self did for me.

When I booked those flights, I thought about how I would probably be extra tired right now from traveling, time zones, and from several days of peopling, and I put a note in my calendar to protect myself this week.

Part of a paper calendar page with notes in blue pen about returning from a conference and keeping schedule light.
My calendar entries for May 30 and 31. The dates are in grey text on the left side of the page and the days are under one another rather than next to each other going across the page. The note on Monday reads ‘Back from SCCC’ and the note on Tuesday reads ‘Keep schedule light’

It might not seem like much but that note to ‘keep schedule light’ made me mindful of taking good care of myself. Every time I turned to add something to this week in my calendar, I had a reminder that my capacity was going to be reduced right now and that it would be a good idea to schedule accordingly.

Obviously I have certain commitments and obligations this week, and I have to keep preparing for my black belt test on the 19th, but I managed to avoid adding very much extra to my schedule and I feel very relieved about that.

So, Team, I would like to invite you to help your future selves a little.

If you have busy or stressful times ahead, how can you give yourself some extra space in your schedule?

Can you avoid taking on extra things at that point?

Is there anything you can drop or reschedule?

If you don’t have a lot of control over your schedule, can you give yourself permission to take some things a bit slower or do them in a easier or more straightforward way? (i.e. Even if you can’t take a break, can you cut yourself some slack?)

Sometimes, giving yourself a little extra space can be as straightforward as reminding yourself after a long weekend that you can’t get as much done in a 4 day workweek as you can in a 5 day week and to consider that fact when you make that week’s schedule.

This may take some practice. We’re all very used to pretending that we work at the same capacity all of the time and then just gritting our teeth and struggling through our low-capacity weeks.

In fact, if it hadn’t been for the fact that my flights home were on two separate dates, I probably wouldn’t have thought to cut myself some slack this week. But I am so very glad that I did.

And no matter whether you manage to cut yourself a few moments’ slack, to go easy with your self-talk in a busy time, or if you can organize your schedule to accommodate your lower-capacity times, I think you deserve a gold star for your efforts.

Taking good care of ourselves in this cult-of-productivity world is a challenging thing and your efforts count.

PS – Your future self will thank you for anything you do to make their life easier.

A drawing of a gold star with rounded points.
A photo of a drawing of a cartoonish gold star with rounded ‘points.’ The colour is darker, almost orange toward the edges of the star and the entire star is outlined in black. The background is made of thin black diagonal lines. And the drawing is resting against lined paper.
nature · self care

In her next life, Bettina wants to be a surfing hippo

That’s it. In the title right there.

I don’t know if any of you have been watching what a friend of mine described as “peak millennial”, the new Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”, narrated by Barack Obama. If so, you’ll know what I’m talking about. If not, here’s the official trailer, and right away at 0:05, you can catch a glimpse of my new favourite animal: the surfing hippo.

The official trailer of the Netflix documentary “Our Great National Parks”.

These wonderful beasts live in Loango National Park in Gabon. They hang out in freshwater lagoons during the day, but at dusk, they stroll down to the beach to catch some waves. They then drift along the shore with the current to where they know the best juicy grass to grow, and graze on that overnight.

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a pretty desirable lifestyle right now. When I was in high school in the UK, I was a lifeguard and part of our training included surfing to really get to know our local beach and its currents. I loved it, and one of the very few gripes I have with where we live right now is that it’s awfully far away from the sea. Catching those waves was always so much fun and really gets your mind off of everything going on around you, and as we know, things are hard right now.

Just watching these majestic creatures drifting through the water and playing in the waves last night made me feel infinitely more relaxed (a Yoga with Adriene session just before may have helped too). If I believed in multiple lives, I would definitely want to be a surfing hippo in Loango National Park in my next one.

I’ve only seen one episode so far, but if you need soothing, I would highly recommend “Our Great National Parks”. Stunning pictures of epic nature, animals, and Barack Obama’s calming voice, it’s a winning combo in my book.