After spending the better part of two weeks dealing with Covid, I am finally feeling mostly like myself.
I missed two weeks of Taekwondo, missed lots of walks with Khalee (I didn’t miss two full weeks of walks, those are easier to scale to my current energy levels) and kept my yoga mat rolled in the corner.
I really missed my usual activities. Aside from my enjoyment of the movements themselves, I missed the shape that yoga and walks give my days and the shape that TKD give my weeks. Without those things, my last two weeks have had a ‘stepped out of the normal flow of time’ kind of feeling.
This time last week, I had to sit down after putting in a load of laundry (there are two flights of stairs involved) and trying to do even gentle yoga left me feeling not quite dizzy but definitely disoriented.
And aside from the physiological evidence that I needed to take it easy, I also have read (and heard evidence from friends) that pushing yourself too hard when you are recovering from Covid can lead to complications.
Today though (I am writing this on Monday), I did a little gentle yoga and my walk with Khalee, while somewhat short, didn’t leave me feeling worn.
In fact, the movement in both cases felt GOOD instead of being mostly tiring.
I’m taking that as a good sign that my recovery is on track and that I am easing back to my regular life.
I’m still going to rest when I can and pay close attention in case things get to be too much for me but I’m glad to be stepping back into *my* normal flow of time.
Here we are on Sunday, December 4 and I think it’s an excellent time to plan for a rest.
Martha’s advice on December 4, 2020 was to Take a Nap and I am 100% behind that. Even if it is not possible for you to actually sleep in the daytime, planning a short rest period – sitting still, listening to restful music, taking deliberate slow breaths can make a huge difference in your well-being.
(Note: There’s a great quote from the Nap Bishop in Martha’s post, be sure to have a look.)
By the way, there are some guidelines for taking naps that you might want to have a look at – after all you don’t want your daytime rest to affect your nighttime sleep.
And now that you have been reminded about the hows and whys of resting, I have one more thing to ask you.
Can you plan short daily rest periods?
And/or could you plan ‘time off’ throughout this busy month? Even a few planned hours of deliberate relaxation scattered throughout the month can make a huge difference in how you and your brain feel about everything else on your list.
Seeing as we’re keeping today low-key, here are some relaxing stretches from Doctor Jo:
And next up, we have some yoga nidra – a wonderful way to get some deep rest without actually falling asleep (although, I often do.) This is a short video but if you like the practice there are plenty of longer ones available on YouTube.
I hope the links and videos in this post help you find a little extra rest today but, no matter what you do or don’t do today, please be kind to yourself about how things proceed.
You are doing the best you can with the resources you have.
Be good to yourself. 💚⭐️
In December 2020, Fit is a Feminist Issue blogger Martha created a tradition – a series of reminder posts to take good care of ourselves during this last month of the year when it is far too easy to get swept up in your to do list, no matter what you are celebrating or not celebrating. Last year, it was my turn and after an introductory Go Team post called Give Yourself Some Space, I created a series of reminders called ‘Making Space‘ that offered a suggested short exercise video and a suggested meditation in case you needed an easy way to find space for yourself in your schedule.
For 2022, I’ll be doing the same thing but I’ll also be including a link to Martha’s post from the same date in 2020 and I’ll offer a few extra ideas for relaxation, creativity, and self-kindness here and there.
These posts are not about insisting that you do more, more, more during this busy season. Instead, I want to encourage you to remember that there IS a *YOU* who is doing all of the things and you are worth taking good care of.
Perhaps the things I suggest aren’t what you need in the moment. That’s totally ok. Perhaps you can use something else to create some space, something that will help you feel more relaxed or more in charge of your day.
One of the stereotypical beliefs about aging I recall learning as a kid is that older people don’t need as much sleep. Now that I am an older person, I am questioning this – a lot!
I am sleeping less, but definitely not because I need less sleep. Most days, I am physically quite active. I’m well past the stage of waking up because kids need feeding (or are late getting home).
I stay up too late and wake up too early. Sometimes I can blame the cats demanding food, but not always. There are other reasons too: arthritis pain, tiny bladder, muscle cramps, the state of the world and what that means for my kids (because you never stop worrying even when they are grown).
Sam’s solution of middle-of-the-night Wordle doesn’t work for me. Wordle just leads to Globle, Worldle, Nerdle, Waffle and Flaggle, and then eventually to social media, on-line solitaire, news from around the world, and sometimes Duolingo.
I know from experience that if I could just get myself to bed earlier, I would have a better chance of longer sleep. I get really sleepy in the early evening, but then perk up and stay awake until midnight if I don’t go to bed right away. The 5 am wake-up is constant.
But how to do that? Some of my exercise choices can’t be moved because evening classes are the only option. A book or magazine can help, if it isn’t too interesting – but why would I read a boring one? Camomile tea works well, despite the risk of tiny bladder consequences.
Dear readers: help! What are your suggestions for building an earlier bedtime habit?
Yeah, I know, you have all kinds of stuff that you want to get done.
And I know you are busy and that you are under a lot of pressure.
Maybe you feel like you can’t catch your breath.
I know that *I* have been dealing with a lot of these kinds of feelings in the past few weeks.
No doubt, at this point in history, it is a combination of run-of-the-mill busy feelings and the stress and strangeness of the so-called ‘return to normal’ when things are definitely not normal at all.
We’re all trying to manage a lot of different tasks, a lot of different stresses, and a bunch of competing priorities. Some of that pressure comes from the social soup in which we live, some of it comes from other people, and some of it comes from internal pressure, thinking habits we picked up without even realizing it.
The combination of all of that can leave us scrambling from one task to another, trying to cram everything in, with a plan to rest when we’re done all of the tasks on our lists.
That is not a wise plan.
One problem with it is the fact our to-do lists are pretty much self-replicating. We can’t count on reaching a clear end point when the ‘right’ rest time will be obvious.
Another problem with that approach?
It leaves us feeling like we have to totally wring ourselves out before we rest.
So, I vote no on the whole ‘rest later’ thing.
Instead, I invite you to consider sprinkling rest in whenever you can.
And while we might feel that long rests are ideal, even short ones can be helpful and restorative.
Short rests that you can enjoy are much better than long ones you can never get around to taking.
Try to plan some rest time long before you are starting to feel fatigued. (It can actually be harder to rest once you are already worn down because the energy cost of switching from the task of working to the task of resting can feel like too much work.) It you have decided on rest time in advance it will be a lot easier to actually take it.
And, if you find yourself at a natural pause in your tasks, choose not to scramble to the next one. Instead, extend that pause for a few minutes.
I realize that there are lots of life situations where rest isn’t easy to come by, when things are incredibly hectic, when you are under a lot of pressure, when your time isn’t your own. I still hope that you can take advantage of any opportunity for rest that arises or that you can create – even if it is spending an extra minute in the car, in the shower, or standing still and breathing slowly while the kettle boils.
You deserve to feel good.
You deserve to have ease.
You deserve to rest.
And your breaks don’t depend on proving how hard you worked beforehand.
Here’s a gold star for your efforts to include more rest in your day: ⭐️
Go Team! Get some rest!
And here’s a purple starfish to inspire you to, as my Dad says, “Hove off like a tourist.”
Speaking of being a tourist, I took the photo above in the Interpretation Centre at Terra Nova National Park a few years back.
PS – No matter what you do about your rest situation, please don’t be hard on yourself for how challenging it is to fit rest into your day. Just do what you can and be kind to yourself about it, pretty please. 💚
When my kids were babies, they never quite got the knack of sleeping. For 5 years of my life, I was awake every 90 minutes (or less) until they both were finally (mostly) sleeping through the night.* Ever since then, it takes only the smallest interruption in my sleep pattern to throw my mind back to that time when I was doing the best I could, managing on very little sleep, and just feeling a little out of it all the time. Even a single night of weird sleep sends some part of my brain into a spin about getting stuck in that situation again.
A few years ago, I was having trouble sleeping and I figured out that using a sleep mask was the solution to getting better sleep and feeling more rested. I’m still using a sleep mask but I’ve been through a few different ones since then. My current favourite is an Alaska Bear sleep mask which is not shaped like a bear, covered in a bear print, or made of bear fur and it neither transports me to Alaska nor does it turn me into a bear but it does, despite all of that, it help me sleep.
I’ve been having a good go of it with my sleep since the sleep mask discovery. The occasional bad night, like everyone has, but no recurring issues. Until the last month or so when an external factor has been weighing in.
One of my family members semi-regularly needs my help with a minor but persistent health issue at some point between 1am and 2am. It’s not every night but it may be a few nights in a row, or every second night for a while, or a couple of times in a week. You get the idea.
Technically, I *could* let them deal with it on their own and just get my sleep. But it’s really important to me to be able to support the person who needs my help. And the whole thing is temporary so I’d really rather be there to help and just figure out how to minimize the effects on my sleep until the situation passes.
Solution Attempt #1
Since, under normal circumstances, I go to bed at 11:30 or 12, I tried just staying up later and just managing with less sleep.
That was not ideal.
Apparently, I need at least 7 hours sleep to be relatively human the next day and for my ADHD meds to work the way they should. My meds do make things better even when I am sleepy but the sleepiness is an added obstacle that I do not need while I am trying to focus on the work of the day.
Solution Attempt #2
Then I tried taking what I was calling ‘a nap’ from 10:30 or 11:00pm and getting my family member to wake me when they needed me.
This worked a lot better. I was getting enough sleep overall but I was finding it challenging to get back to sleep once I was up. (I think this is a carry-over from when the kids were small. 99% of the time, once I am up for more than a few minutes, I am AWAKE and I could stay up for hours.)
Even with being fully awake shortly after going to sleep, it was still better than staying up extra late. And I figured out how to optimize that nap – doing some of my before bed routines earlier in the evening so I could shorten the time between ‘I should go to bed’ and actually lying down, making sure that I had the right weight and texture blankets, using my mask but leaving a small light on so I slept well but not too deeply and so on.
Basically, I was using one of my most useful skills – making the best of a tricky situation – and applying it to a temporary challenge.
All The Feelings, Damn It
But, I was still finding it a bit tricky. I didn’t love the fact that, when I settled in at 10:30 or so, I was going to be interrupted so soon.** It didn’t often stop me from falling asleep but it made me feel a bit cranky about the whole thing, even though I have willing signed on to support my family member. I didn’t want to feel cranky and I certainly didn’t want them to think that I resented their need for help.
Obviously, my feelings are valid and I can feel however I feel about the situation. But I didn’t want to get so caught up in those feelings that I generated any extra distress – not for me and not for my family member.
After all, I can’t choose my feelings but I can choose how I act on them. I knew I needed to reframe how I was thinking about the whole situation so I could act more effectively.
The funny thing is, I have read about bi-phasic sleep before. If *you* had told me that you had to sleep in two chunks and that you felt weird about it, my brain would have tossed enough facts from that old article at me that I could have used them to help you reframe your thinking.
My brain did not choose to cough up those facts for me until I saw Samantha’s post.
But as soon as I read ‘bi-phasic’ sleep, I thought ‘OH! That’s what I’m doing!’ and my brain immediately began to reshape the story I have been telling myself about how I am sleeping.
Suddenly, I wasn’t having interrupted sleep, I was having bi-phasic sleep.
I had gone medieval and I didn’t recognize it!
I was getting up after my first sleep to support a family member and perhaps do a little reading or drawing before starting my second sleep.
That reframing puts a whole new slant on things.
It takes away the idea of the interruption as a problem and makes it a structure for my night’s sleep.
And, as mentioned in the article, it removes any anxiousness about being awake in the middle of the night. This is probably not how I will sleep forever but it is one way that people *can* sleep. I’m not sleeping ‘wrong’ and I am not doing something detrimental.
I’m just practicing bi-phasic sleeping at the moment and, by framing it that way, my brain can settle in around the pattern and stop trying to solve the ‘problem’ of being awake at 1:30am.
*If you are warming up your fingers to type some advice about what I *should* have done back then, save your energy because I won’t play. I tried everything. I did all kinds of research. There are all kinds of things you can do to encourage sleep but sleep is neurological thing and sometimes all you can do is wait for the situation to change or a baby’s brain to mature a bit. If you know someone whose baby is not sleeping, don’t give them advice, give them support. Zip over there early in the morning so they can get back to sleep before they fully wake up for the day. Stay late at night so they can grab a nap before the evening circus starts. Run errands for them. Take the baby for a walk so they can do some yoga nidra. Just don’t offer more damn advice. They have tried it already and all the advice is starting to feel judgmental and aggressive. Trust me on this.
**I imagine that everyone hates interruptions and I can’t speak for how the neurotypical brain deals with them. For someone with ADHD, knowing that you will be interrupted (whether that interruption is scheduled or just impending) can put you into the dreaded ‘waiting mode‘ which prevents you from immersing yourself in what you are doing because you know that you are going to have to switch tasks.
Ever since I wrote about doing yoga on my writing retreat last week, I’ve been considering my retreat state of mind.
It’s easier to write when I am on retreat, of course, that was pretty much a given. What always surprises me, however, is how much easier it is to do yoga, practice my TKD patterns, and to get out for a walk when I am on retreat.
I mean, obviously, it’s easier to do anything that I want to do when my schedule is fully under my control and I am the only person I need to take into account when deciding when or how to do something.
(In theory, it should be similar when I am home. Given that I work for myself, I have a fair amount of control over my schedule. My kids are practically adults so they don’t exactly need my supervision anymore. But I am part of a family, a household, so our choices do affect each other, at least to some degree. And given my personality/my ADHD, I will overthink (at least subconsciously) all the possibilities of how I might be disturbing someone else.)
And, aside from the schedule thing, when I’m on retreat, I only have so many activity options available to me. I can write, I can read, I can chat with my friends, or I can exercise. Having fewer choices makes it easier to rotate through them throughout the day.
When I’m home, I have so many things that I *could* be doing at any given time that I often have trouble figuring out what to do when. (Another personality tendency that is exacerbated by ADHD.)
If the above picture of Khalee is my retreat brain, my at-home brain could often be depicted like this:
It would be pretty hard to make my home like our retreat space. I’m always going to have to factor in other people’s schedules and I’m always going to have different priorities competing for my time.
I wonder how I could move my at-home mindset closer to my retreat mindset and help make it easier to get into exercise mode?
I guess I could deliberate reduce the number of choices available to me at any given time of the day.
And I could probably set firmer schedule boundaries for myself so I don’t spend so much time factoring in the possible effects I might have on other people’s schedules.
And I could definitely put fewer things on my to do list each day, to help me have more of that retreat-style focus.
I’m going to give it a whirl and see if these things help make it easier to break out of decision mode and into exercise mode.
How would YOU go about bringing a retreat mindset home with you?
That kind of makes me sound like I’m starting a band, doesn’t it?
If that was my band name, what would our first album be called?
Back on topic:
Wednesday was my birthday and I had a great day.
Usually, on my birthday, I’m trying to cram in so many fun things that I actually end up amplifying my usual feeling that I *should* be doing something else.
I always have fun but I tend to feel a bit tightly scheduled and a bit frustrated.
This year, I noticed that feeling creeping up the day before my birthday and I made a conscious decision to get over myself and be clear about the facts:
I don’t have to limit my fun to one day a year. *
In fact, I can add more fun to every week.
I can even add a bit more fun to every day.
I can take my birthday attitude into the rest of the year.
In a surprise to no one, making that decision took all of the pressure out of my birthday.
And instead of keeping a tally of accumulated fun, I just did what I felt like doing in any given moment.
And that’s how I found myself dropping everything to take Khalee for a walk while the sun was out (instead of at a more ‘logical’ time.)
And, it’s how I found myself sitting peacefully, all by myself in the 5pm darkness, watching the small fire I had set in our fire pit.
Normally, I would have talked myself out of lighting a fire just for me. It’s a little bit of hassle and I didn’t have a lot of time before supper, but I had that bit of birthday ‘permission’ going for me so I crumpled some paper and got the kindling from the shed and settled in next to the fire.
I felt calm and restful and so very grateful for all of the good things in my life.
I even felt a bit more patient about the challenges I tend to encounter
It was a wonderful way to round out a day of giving in to my whims.
And, my birthday gift to myself is the decision to prioritize things like an early evening fire far more often.
I challenge you to do the same. 💚
*To be clear, I do take time to relax and do fun things on a regular basis. But, on my birthday, I give myself permission to maximize my fun.
Sam recently shared an article on the links between too much time and mental health, with the comment that this was not her problem. My immediate thought was “Ha! I’m willing to test this hypothesis!” The study looked at perceptions of well-being and how that rose or fell depending on the amount of free time, controlling for scenarios such as depression, which might leave a person with too much free time.
The basic result was that the sense of well-being rose with about 2 hours of free time, but dropped if the person had more than about 5 hours of free time. But, what counts as free time matters. The sense of well-being came primarily with productive free time, for meaningful activities such as hobbies, social activities, etc. “Wasted” time (undefined in the article, but for me it means things like doomscrolling, social media, and playing computer games) does not have the same effect.
So what is my takeaway on this? I’m mostly doing okay with making time for things I enjoy. I get enough fitness activities to be healthy. If anything, I need to start paying more attention to possible overuse injuries. Right now, I am dealing with what appears to be swimmers elbow. This may be a perfect time to rebalance my activities a bit, especially since the weather is cooling so I will be swimming outdoors less over the next few months.
My rebalance will probably involve more horse time. My daughter is looking seriously at a younger horse for her own riding, since she likes to jump and Fancy, though still healthy and eager, is 19. Like me, she is getting to an age where we need to pay more attention to the risk of injury.
She is still great for flat work though, which suits me fine. Until now, I have been riding about once a week so that my daughter could get as much time in as possible. However, I will likely increase that to two or even three times a week over the next little while. Will I ever reach the 5-6 rides a week that would be optimal for her? Probably not. That is a big time commitment, and would move this leisure activity into the category of becoming a real chore. Besides, as we continue to age, we are both going to need more recovery time between outings.
And I’ll need that recovery time to do all the other things that are meaningful to me – gardening, elder care, cooking, sewing, spending time at my cottage property, possibly even some home renovations. More and more lately, I have been thinking about retirement. Unlike Sam, I don’t find my job as fulfilling as I once did, and I am definitely not as busy. Time spent on work increasingly feels like something that is crowding out the things I enjoy, and I work hard to cram them all in before or after work. Maybe my sense well-being will will improve if I make more free time.
Hmm… this post has taken a strange turn. How about you readers? Are getting enough free time to make you happy? If not, what might you do to adjust?
Diane Harper lives and swims in Ottawa (among many other activities).
I paused my workout plan for a few days this week.
I was sick on Monday and Tuesday so I couldn’t do my HIIT program or my yoga. I could manage to take the dog for very short walks and do a few neck stretches but that was it.
On Wednesday, I kept my cardio on pause but I could do some yoga.
On Thursday, I had lots of cardio at TKD and did yoga when I came home.
On Friday, I pressed ‘play’ went back to my regular routine.
As a storyteller, a writer, and a coach, I am all about the power of words.
That’s why I chose to say that I ‘paused’ my workout plan instead of saying that I ‘stopped’ it.
Stopping has a finality to it. You might start again or you might not.
Pausing feels like it includes an intention to start again.
When I’m coaching people and they choose to pause something they want to eventually continue doing, I ask them about their conditions for returning.
Will they start again after a specific time frame?
Does their return depending on finishing something else? (Another project, or letting an injury heal.)
If they aren’t sure about their conditions for returning, I ask them to pick a date or time when they will revisit their decision to pause. That frees them up from annoying themselves every day with ‘How about today? No?’ and it also helps them stay conscious of their plan to return.
If you have hit a snag in your workout plans, perhaps, instead of coming to a stop, you can make use of the power of a pause.
Obviously, if you can reshape your plans, that’s great. And it’s always a good idea to keep up the things that you *can* do, but go ahead and pause the plans that you can’t follow in the moment.
You don’t need to feel guilty about it. You haven’t failed, you haven’t messed up, and you aren’t quitting. You are being responsive to the reality of your life in this moment.
But by calling it a pause instead of a stop you are keeping the metaphorical door open for your return. You are making a conscious decision to temporarily alter your plans.
Fitness isn’t an all or nothing one-time project, it’s an ongoing, responsive plan.
And it is perfectly ok if some parts of that plan have to be paused from time to time.
(It’s also ok to stop your plan entirely if you find something that serves you better, but this post is about when you WANT to continue but you just can’t do it right now.)
Here’s your gold star for your efforts to increase your fitness by doing what you can and by responding to the reality of your life right now.