It’s been a rough couple of months here, folks. As you may recall, I’ve had a few things going on.
As I mentioned in my last post, we just finished a month-long stint with my Dad in hospice care, where he spent most of his days sleeping and we spent the bulk of ours checking our phones and emails constantly for updates while we waited for the inevitable. While we certainly knew what was coming, the anticipation of bad news wears on ya after awhile: Is today the day I put life on hold? The day I set everything aside? Will it be later today? Tomorrow? Next week? Month? It’s absolutely draining, and I didn’t appreciate HOW exhausting it was until it had raced past me, kicking dust and leaves into my sweaty, sticky face and leaving me coughing.
Meanwhile, life’s been hucking other curveballs at my face, too.
First up: We had a wedding anniversary a couple of weeks ago. We “celebrated” nine years of sometimes-blissful, lately-often-stressful marriage by attending the viewing of a friend who passed away suddenly. Ted was one of those genuinely terrific guys (insert obvious reference to the relevant Billy Joel tune here) -the world should be really sad to have lost him.
And it was one of those “died in his sleep for no discernible reason” deaths, which is typically code for…well, stuff no one wants to talk about. While I have my suspicions, we’ll never know for certain, and besides, it doesn’t MATTER what happened. It won’t change the fact that he’s gone. And he was a week YOUNGER than me, which makes it all the more…disquieting, ya know?
Stuff like that will cash your mortality check in a hurry. Plus, it sort of trumps any sort of anniversary celebration.
Second: the hubs finished his letter to me – the one where he planned to outline all the reasons that Religion is Bunk.
I haven’t read it yet…more on that later. But it’s there, lurking under the bed like the proverbial monster from when you were five, just waiting to grab your ankles if you DARE use the bathroom.
Suffice it to say that living day-to-day with this level of stress takes a toll – and it was manifestering (like that? I just made it up) as an escalation in my disordered eating habits. I’ve been running 16 miles a week on 1200(ish) calories a day (Okay…maybe 1100. Or 1000. Most days.)
Oh, and speaking of running, even my food/exercise-tracking app is out to get me. I use MyFitnessPal and sync it with MapMyFitness. Normally, these tools work GREAT. But recently, there was a software update…and now, my 4-mile run burns 65 fewer calories than it did before.
Did a lower weight finally sync up? Rectified math error? Dunno. But let’s break it down to what’s truly important here: with the new calculation, I have to run nearly SIXTEEN MILES to burn off ONE pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Sixteen f*%#!%@ miles.
That’s effing MADNESS.
Anyway, I decided I needed to circle my mental wagons around and work on ways to take better care of myself. Before I disappear completely. Or implode from stress overload. Or start randomly stabbing furniture.
So HOW do I nurture myself? While I’d prefer to be independently wealthy and retire to a warm, tropical location, I’m just a few
gazillion dollars away from making that a reality. So here are some things that I know I can do:
Stand up for myself. Saying “no” can be tough. Why? Because we don’t want people to be mad at us? Because we’re afraid people won’t like us if we don’t cater to their beck and call? Or is it simply easier to cross favors off the list so we don’t have to think about them – and the potential fallout of saying “can’t today” – anymore?
Women tend to take on the overwhelming responsibility of ensuring the happiness of others. And we make this a priority, neglecting ourselves in the process. The results include exhaustion, frustration, and resentment. Who’s happy now, chica? Everyone but YOU.
So – repeat after me:
No, I can’t make that work right now.
No, I’m not available.
No, I don’t have the energy to address that at the moment.
No….Let’s discuss this at a later time. I’ll let you know what works for me.
I know the words initially feel foreign, but trust me, it DOES get easier. The world will not vote you off the island if you liberally apply these phrases, I promise.
Or so I’m told.
But in the spirit of “practice what you preach,” I’m doing this, too. Remember that letter I mentioned above? Given all the other white noise drowning out my mind, I actually stood up for myself – I told the hubs that now was not the time for his letter. I can deal with the relationship issues LATER – after the kids go back to school, the election is over, and future bacon sprouts wings and flies right past my window.
Eventually, I WILL have to address this. It’s hanging over my head like the proverbial mistletoe at Christmas, just dangling there cluttering up the aesthetics, waiting for me to unsuspectingly park there while some opportunistic slightly-greasy dude plants a wet, juicy smacker on my lips.
But it doesn’t have to be TODAY. Or tomorrow. I can rest and recharge, and cross that emotional gorge once I’ve cleaned off my windshield and am running on a full set of batteries.
Exercise. Yeah, I know. <blearghhhhhh> But regular exercise DOES help with stress. You can read the science here, or review Dr. Kate’s breakdown:
When you’re stressed, your body releases this stuff called cortisol – it’s your body’s reaction to that whole fight-or-flight thing – so if you’re surprised by, say, a hungry bear in the woods, you have a “burst” to help you run away – fast.
The problem is that our modern-day stress is generally less about things that require physical flight. It’s more along the lines of the annual tax bill, an unplanned job loss, or the unexpected arrival of swimsuit season. (Which, despite arriving at approximately the same time every year, I AM NEVER READY FOR.) We don’t have a physical need for this sudden storing of hormonal rocket fuel. But it’s there anyway – and cortisol kicks you in the knees by weakening your bones, lowering your immunity, and killing your sex drive. The more stress you have, the more cortisol spews out.
So how does exercise help? Exercise is controlled stress. You’re running/walking/Jazzercising/whatever, but there are no zombies waiting to sprinkle your backside with Frank’s Red Hot. So your body thinks, OK, we’ve got some cortisol in da house, and we be chillin’. We good. Since there’s no direct threat, your tolerance for cortisol increases, and it can’t cripple you as effectively as it did before. Essentially, your stress “muscles” are stronger, – you’re more resilient to stress , and it takes a bigger bucket of cortisol to knock you out.
Little Indulgences. Whether it’s a mani/pedi, a massage, or a fancy coffee at a frou-frou java house, there are lots of small treats to be had when you need a boost.
I tend to look at inexpensive retail therapy. You don’t have to spend a lot to get a lift – new earrings or socks can really cheer you up. Just take a look at, well, ANYTHING from Blue Q:
(Warning – adult language ahead. But these are kick@$$ socks):
And speaking of wine…
Sometimes, there’s nothing like getting lost in your own sofa. I’m talking TV, people. And since we are an evolved, organized species, we can watch pretty much anything we want at any time of day. Thanks to Netflix, Amazon video, YouTube, and other avenues, we have a nearly endless buffet of programming to choose from. And, unlike the olden days when we had to actually dial our phones and GET UP <gasp> to change the channel, this is all available instantly. So if you need a quick mental break, it’s there for the taking. And it’s judgement-free, because no one can see you.
YOU DON’T EVEN HAVE TO WEAR PANTS. (Sign ME up.)
Whether you’re into drama, comedy, or somebody-else’s-reality TV, nothing goes better with electronic entertainment than a good glass of what makes you smile and a bowl of something that satisfies.
Don’t get me wrong here – I am NOT advocating eating or drowning your feelings. That just turns your current problem into a fat, bloated, belchy one. (Which is far less entertaining than it sounds.) But sometimes, you need to have a mini-getaway, and small, planned indulgences can make your couch more vacation-like, especially if you’re doing it in the spirit of nurturing your soul.
So here’s my recliner retreat checklist:
Entertainment: For me, nothing relaxes like mindless TRASH TV. Being an overworked intellectual (HAHAHAHA <snort>) I need a break from my exhaustive thinking, re-thinking, and over-thinking, so I amuse myself with the human freak-show circus.
From my recent queue (don’t judge):
- Catfish (MTV)
- Say Yes to the Dress (TLC)
- Border Security: Canada’s Front Line (Season 1 on Netflix)
- Impractical Jokers (truTV, Amazon)
- Coupling (BBC, Hulu) <- one of the most hilarious shows EVAH. It’s like Friends meets Sex and the City. Your life is not complete until you have watched the first three seasons. Go watch it RIGHT NOW.
Beverage: Wine. (Duh.) Red, white, or pink – I’m equal-opportunity and all about embracing the diversity.
Pro tip: In some locations, there are “blue laws” and the liquor stores are closed on Sundays – so you might need to stock up on Saturday just to get through the weekend. Given my life as of late, I had the foresight to prepare. (again – don’t judge):
Note – all of the bottles in this cart were $8.99 and under. The Double Dog Dare reds were $2.99 each – and perfectly drinkable. (Then again, as you can see by my viewing choices, I may not have the most refined palate. But you do you.)
I also liked this one, for $6.99:
I’ve also been thoroughly enjoying mead lately. Generally, I prefer my drinks quite dry, and mead tends to be on the sticky side. But this brand from Nectar Creek fits the bill nicely:
Snacks: Since I spent way too much time obsessing over my weight, I don’t want to pick a noshable that fills me out even more. I mean, stressing over your de-stressor is like worrying about watermelon making you fat. WHICH AIN’T RIGHT.
So I gravitate towards volume-packed munchies that fill up a big bowl for not-too-many calories. The perfect choice for this, as we all know from years at the movie theater, is popcorn.
Ah, popcorn. How I love thee.
The beauty of popcorn is that it’s no longer the dull, dry, packaging-material flavor it was back in the day. Like TV programming, it’s evolved tremendously in sheer variety. There’s a concoction for every craving. Sweet? Salty? Spicy? Yes please. It’s out there, and in versions that will NOT make your butt look big.
Take a look at this snazzy infographic, courtesy of SkinnyPop:
A couple of thoughts on the above:
1. I have had most of these flavors AND THEY ARE ALL DELICIOUS. Just the other day, I found the Jalapeño at Walgreens, of all places. It’s really flavorful with just a hint of kick . I was thinking it’d be perfect with a crisp white, and it looks like the peeps at SkinnyPop agree with me.
2. The only flavor I haven’t had is the Dusted Dark Chocolate, because I can’t for the life of me find it anywhere. This is Great Popcorn Sadness. This shiz needs to be in my life, like, immediately, but for some reason, it hasn’t surfaced in the hippie-dippie part of the Midwest I reside in.
I’ll keep looking.
3. You can’t really go wrong with wine – or mead, or beer, or ginger ale – and popcorn. So mix it up and have fun!
I just have to remember to park on the couch with a bowl and a glass, NOT the entire bag and a bottle…because, after all, chip clips are for quitters, yo. <burp>
How do you unwind? What’s your go-to for chillin’? Share your escapes in the comments!