Saturday, July 4, 2015

How to stop procrastinating and get to sleep already


Do you get to bed at a reasonable (for you) hour? Do you wash your face and floss your teeth before tucking yourself into bed? Do you make your room as dark as possible and hide your phone in another room? Yes? Then you're my sleep hero.

As I mentioned in my last post, one of my goals for the year to get better at sleeping. Feeling dead exhausted all of the days was one of the first signs for me that something was wrong with my body. I would sleep at night and wake up feeling like I'd run a marathon. I would fall asleep sitting up (I still do). And when things are at their most rotten for me physically, it's all I can do to not to nap three times in one day. Part of this comes from my depression, some from fibromyalgia, and some from having two young kids, working part-time, and going to midwifery school. It's not a recipe for feeling rested.

But I'm not asking for miracles here.


In related news: why I've chosen to become a midwife if I'm so interested in feeling rested? Fair enough, it isn't a career path known for its ample opportunities to sleep. As a student midwife I was often up for twenty four hours before signing off to get some rest, but it wasn't so much the all-nighters that were hard, but the more regular schedule of getting only a little rest at a time. Having slept three hours then getting paged to head to a birth, only to head out for a day of client visits afterwards. But the reality is that I'm made to be a midwife and there isn't anything else I'd rather do. As for the years of irregular sleep that I've got coming to me, well, I will just need to adjust. But at least I can do everything I can to take care of my sleep, even if unconventionally.

This year! This year I can sleep however much I need. My goal is to set the stage for myself to get a good's night sleep every night.  Goals need to be specific and realistic, so here it is: I will make getting a good sleep a priority by getting at least eight hours of sleep each night. Nine would be even better. Since Shira often still wakes up around six in the morning, this means getting to bed each night by ten o'clock, and even if she isn't up that early I love, love, love having some time to myself in the morning. So now I have a new bedtime. 

Exceptions include the following: if anyone invites me out dancing.

With my ten o'clock bedtime by my side, here is a breakdown of how I will accomplish my sleep goals:
   
Stop procrastinating and go to bed

Do you do this, or is it just me? I think it all started when I gave birth. The days were filled with the needs of the girls, but the evening? THAT WAS MINE. That's when I could flop down on the couch with Matty and do pretty much anything I wanted that didn't involve illicit drugs (breastfeeding and all). I began to savour each minute of those evening hours and I started staying up long after I was tired so that I could keep enjoying every minute. As hard a crush as I have on a good sleep, squeezing in an extra episode or chapter was so enticing. I actually fall asleep in mid-sentence sometimes because I push my limits so far some nights. What a dork.

Set an alarm on my phone

It's set to go off each night at ten. The important next step is to actually go to bed when it starts ringing and not just hit snooze.

Say good night to the world

I think my iphone addiction often stands in the way of my getting to sleep at night. I usually go to bed with my phone and read things that I've been looking forward to all day long (like this or this).This has bad habit written all over it. To reach my goal of eight hours of sleep each night I need to keep my phone out of the bedroom. I'm no longer on call anymore so I have no need to keep it in arm's reach.

Develop a bedtime routine

Write the next day's to-do list. Shower. Brush my teeth. Moisturize my sad, dry skin. And peek in on the girls because sleeping children are delightfully sweet. Then go to bed.

Maybe don't drink a coffee at 8 pm

I do this all the time. What am I thinking? This habit stems in part from the necessity of studying or working every night after dinner, but I need to get more creative and step away from the coffee. I love tea (just not as much as coffee), so maybe I could come look forward to a cup of rooibos Earl Grey tea each night.

Embrace the cold

We finally have an air conditioner in our bedroom and I need to turn it on more. I fall asleep so much better when the room is cold and if my goal is to get a better sleep, why not help myself out as much as possible? My resource-saving instincts are to only turn in on during a heat wave, but cooling the room off just before heading to bed sounds like a good compromise.

I think this is a doable breakdown of new habits that will get me on my way to sleeping longer and better. I can't control some things, like the way my fibromyalgia gets in the way of me feeling rested some mornings, but I can control my bedtime. If you're interested in getting a better sleep, you might like these tips.

Do you have any suggestions for me? What is your bedtime routine?

Be well!
xo
 ***
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Friday, July 3, 2015

Goals


I love writing lists. I write them all day long, in journals, on my phone, on random pieces of paper, on blogs. I make lists of life goals, lists of resolutions, lists of things about my day, of food to cook. But this list of health goals has been harder to compile. Writing them down, breaking them down into manageable pieces, that's taking some work. They need to be concrete in order for them to work. I can't just write Eat better and stop smoking and be done with it. It that were possible I would have felt better years ago. I'm really good at making declarations. But declarations aren't making me feel good.

No, I need a plan. Today I'll start with listing the four goals that are going to shape my coming year (five goals, if you count quitting smoking, but I've already written about that here. In related news: I'd love a cigarette). I have this gift of a year ahead of me, wherein I can devote a lot of time to making some real changes. For so long now I've wanted to feel vibrant again, like I'm not dragging my sorry body and mind all over the place. I know I have it in me, I just know it. Do you ever have that feeling?

I've come up with these goals in consultation with my family doctor, my naturopathic doctor, and of course, with Matty, who hears my thoughts on these things pretty much all of the time. He's been around to hear me grieve the loss of my energy and health for years now and he's such a patient listener. He's making his own health changes right now, so I've got myself some in-house inspiration. 

My goals are both straightforward and overwhelming to me at the same time. But I'm not looking for perfection here, just progress. Change isn't static but by nature takes different shapes and follows different paths. There isn't one right way to achieve a goal. Right? Right.


I want to sleep more.

I want to eat nourishing food.

I want to relax and manage my stress.

I want to move my body and feel stronger. 



Sleep

I adore sleeping, but I also love staying up writing or watching old episodes of Grey's Anatomy. I am in desperate need of some regular sleep, something this year off from midwifery school, and the fact that my children are now old enough to sleep through the night, will allow for. It's my goal to sleep a minimum of eight hours each night. I want to develop a simple routine for bedtime. Most of all I want to be able to say good night at the end of each day feeling like it is okay to turn everything off. Sleep is delicious and I need to stop fighting it.

Eat

This goal is both exceedingly simple and the most difficult for me. I love to eat and cook so much, but it's time to face the reality that how I eat might be negatively impacting my health. I've been working with my naturopath to develop and food strategy that might, if I follow it, reduce many of my symptoms. My goal is to eat for energy and health, and not only for the pleasure of a bowl of chocolate covered almonds. I dread food changes because they are hard, so writing about the process of these changes, the good and the bad, will be helpful for me.

Breathe

This one is simple, though not easy. I suffer from anxiety and some pretty low moods sometimes, and then I stop breathing. I get upset and I take out these feelings on my body by allowing only the minimum amount of oxygen necessary for continued life, and not one breath more. When I walked into my last appointment with my family doctor and my naturopath, they both prescribed mindfulness meditation before I could even get two words in. And so it has been decided. I will breathe once more!

Move

I've been slug-like for a while now. Sometimes I'm a slug because my mood is low, sometimes because my body hurts too much to do any kind of activity. Sometimes just because I'm a lazy human. It's in my nature to want to excitedly declare "I'm going to run a marathon next year!" (because I'm an eager slug). No, I'm not. I can barely walk for an hour sometimes without being close to tears at how much my legs hurt. So I'm going to start slowly. Could I ask you a favour? Could you remind me of this from time to time? Go slowly, Danielle. And for the love of all things, please remember to breathe.

***

In the coming days I'll post more about each goal, breaking each down into more manageable parts. Then I will share with you a little more about the process and what I'm learning. I'm doing this to give myself a space to take my goals seriously, and I hope maybe you'll get something out of it, too. I'd love to hear more about your goals and what you do to make them work, or how you also struggle with the work of making change.

Discipline is remembering what you want. I'm sharing these goals, personal and vulnerable parts of myself, because I need to keep remembering.

You guys! Let's do this.

Be well.
xo

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

An ode to cool summer days



I have a love/hate relationship with the summer. I love the nights, the one thousand shades of green, the lake, the iced coffee. What I don't love? The heat. That overwhelming feeling of discomfort I get when I'm exposed in full sunlight for more than fifteen minutes. I'll duck now while you throw things at me for complaining about the sun.



Today I wanted to share with you my goals for the next twelve months, my new year's resolutions so to speak. In July. But I'm going to leave that for tomorrow because I'd rather just tell you that I spent the day with my family, feeling blessed for what felt like a gift of a day at a beautiful Toronto park, Edwards Gardens, (if you are looking for some good Toronto walks you'll find some good ideas here, which is how we discovered our walk this morning), where I was able to walk around without blazing hot sun. Everyone in our little family was thrilled for the cool day while we explored flowers, dragonflies, and streams. We might be the odd ones out, but I'll take the mocking. Give me a summer day that tops out at twenty degrees and I'll give you four happy people.


It's Canada Day here and I hope you spent it well, doing important things like eating outside and lazing around with your day off work (for most of us, anyway). We certainly did.


Be well!
xo

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Even on bad days, I'll still be happy with you



Even on bad days, I'll still be happy with you.

This is a reminder to myself. I've been struggling with some low moods lately, trying to make some overwhelming (to me) changes, wanting so desperately to feel as though I'm doing the right thing.When I make decisions that don't fall in line with the life I want, I get down on myself. It's part of my DNA, being hard of myself, something I've had to maneuver around my whole life. It can be debilitating and confusing, because that kind of negative self-talk in no way helps my cause. My rational brain knows that. The rest of me doesn't. So as a shout-out to this year being about doing things differently, I'm going to work on being happy with myself even on days when my instinct is to dwell on all the things I wished I'd done differently. Positivity is a powerful currency.

Discipline is remembering what you want.

I didn't write that. I can't for the life of me remember which book I read that in (I'm pretty sure it was a cookbook of all things), but I love it. Some days I get all whiny and complainy about not being disciplined enough to accomplish my goals. I mope around longing for the secret the right amount of discipline I need to make the kind of decisions I want to make. Not to smoke. To eat nourishing food. To move my body. To get enough sleep. To do the kinds of things that might help me feel like such a slug (a well-meaning slug with fibromyalgia). But I'm starting to believe that discipline isn't magic but might be all about how we make decisions, and the only way I can make a decision is by understanding what I really want. I want to feel good. Vibrant, even! 

I have a lot of feelings. But I also have goals.

And clearly I am feeling all of these feelings right now. I'm in this in between space, putting some goals on hold in order to pursue other ones. Having goals is vital to this process of change for me (go read this on goal setting if you love to set goals almost as much as you love a good list) and I think I want to use this space to connect with my own goals more often. This blog used to be so much about my life at home with the girlies, and while I still expect to share about my family, I wonder if that's where it is going. I keep reading again and again that change is about the process, not the result, and I need the help to remember that. I remember by writing and sharing and feeling vulnerable. So my vulnerable self will enter this space more often. 

What are your goals? I'll be sharing mine tomorrow. 

Be well.
xo

Monday, June 29, 2015

Ten things


1. The girls have taken to doing rock/paper/scissors for all disagreements, even in the grocery store upon trying to decide which kind of cheese strings to buy. Shira usually just throws out a "paper" and loses to Alyce's "scissors" every time. In the end we went home with both kinds of cheese, so we're all winners.

2. The cats and I have been enjoying some quiet time in the morning lately because Shira has been regularly sleeping in until almost seven (which of course now she never will again because I said this on the internet). I wake up the cats at six and we settle into the living room with coffee (for me) and creepy stares (them).

3. Summer vacation is already in full swing. Our days are filling with summer reading clubs at the public library, wading pools, ice cream, and snail collecting. And to think it isn't even July yet. The girls have a summer bucket list that I'll share this week, but a sneak peak reveals a hefty portion of ice cream.

4. Quitting smoking is hard! I'll report back on that soon.

5. This coming weekend the girls and I are spending the night on a houseboat with my mum and her husband. There will be fishing, campfires on deserted islands, swimming, and other summer-appropriate adventures.

6. This past Saturday Matty and I enjoyed a date night out (thanks, Liz, for watching the girlies!) and we were finished dinner and ready to come home by 8 pm. We managed to stay out until a respectable 9:30. We are old and married and loving it.

7. Shira is reading! It makes my heart grin.

8. I am going to be making this tonight (minus the peaches because they aren't in season yet).

9. Alyce and Shira, two girls who wouldn't know a vegetable if it came knocking on their door, are sprouting. They just won't stop growing. I guess macaroni and cheese is a health food after all!

10. The man sitting next to me at Starbucks (I'm out blogging grading papers for the class I teach) just caught a rather annoying fly in this fist. He was about to squish it when he declared that it wasn't nice to kill a living creature and subsequently walked outside to release it into the wild. I like him.

Be well!
xo

Thursday, June 25, 2015

And it's done


Oh the school year, you've dragged on forever around these parts. It's the last school day for most Toronto kids today and at our house we are celebrating loud and clear. They say the school year is only ten months long, but this one felt more like sixteen or seventeen, like someone added a few months in there when we weren't looking. Only the cats are a little disappointed that summer vacation starts tomorrow. 


I've mentioned before that this is has been a hard school year for Alyce, so in large part our palpable excitement comes from a deep need to leave this year behind. Her second grade teacher was a bad fit for her sensitive little self and it sparked all kinds of problems. (I once made the mistake of explaining to Alyce what homeschooling was and ever since she's been trying to negotiate her own schooling here at home. Not going to work, Alyce, I have babies to catch.)


I had been noticing this year that Alyce didn't draw anymore. Our walls are covered in Shira's artwork (we could wallpaper two houses with the piles and piles of her daily creations) but Alyce wasn't contributing anymore. I thought maybe it had something to do with her school struggles and it broke my heart to think that some of her joy--joy that I had been used to seeing expressed in her drawings and paintings--might be disappearing. I had such a sad heart for her all year.

But as we went through the ritual of bringing piles home school work this week (one of my favourite rituals), Alyce showed me her sketchbook. An artist had visited her class a few months back  and gifted each student with an blank book for drawing and doodling. Alyce actually sparkled when she started walking me through the pages and I saw drawing after drawing filled with colour and most of all, joy. I started quietly crying because that's what you do when you're brought face to face with feelings you had been trying to avoid for so long. I have been so deeply worried about her for so long now and it was weighing on me more than I realized. 


Alyce's sketch showed me that she is way more resilient than I had given her credit for. She's had a hard year but she's okay, she's still my Alyce. I've gone through the book so many times now, turning the pages with a big grin on my face. Much like the grin on Alyce's face when she proudly showed me her favourite drawings.


 And Shira? No, we haven't forgotten about the other one. She glided through her school year, or more accurately, skipped through it. Junior Kindergarten was a safe and happy place for her, and for that I am grateful. She's just as excited for summer, however, because she's convinced herself that summer vacation means ice cream for every meal. Sounds delightful.


Be well!
xo

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

How to date your kids


Lately I've both missed the girlies terribly and felt flustered and frustrated by them all at the same time. It's been close to two months since I finished placement but it still feels like we are trying to find our feet, the girls and I. We all coped through the crazy semester and crossed the finish line with all players still intact, yet we're all a bit different. I, for one, got used to having some new independence, even if that independence came with a nearly constant full schedule of client visits, births, and studying. 

It was the first time in a while that I was out in the world without the responsibility of the girlies and at times that was exactly what I needed after years of parenting young children full-time. I was thrown into a world where I could move about without always calculating how it would impact my children. Of course I was thinking about them throughout the day and I missed them deeply, but I wasn't answering to them in a way that I had become accustomed to. We had neighbours who walked them to school (bless them), a caregiver who picked them up and  made dinner, and of course, another parent home with them all the times that I couldn't be. But I wasn't home running the show all the time and some days it was a good feeling.

The girls too, developed new routines, new ways of moving through their world. When I was back home for bedtimes on a regular basis after my placement ended, Shira started declaring (loudly) that she wasn't used to me and my rules anymore. Papa does it different. (I bet he does, I thought.) While everyone was relieved to have the family together more often, we all had to adjust. There were big feelings all around, more tears than usual, and some ramped up competition over who got to sit in my lap (mostly from the girls, though not exclusively).

Since the first week of May I've been home during the day by myself. The girls and I worked out a new routine for the mornings, I began walking them to school again, but then the day was mine until 3:30. I would work on the course I teach online, read, putter around the house cleaning and fixing things that had been ignored for months. I would be lying if I didn't admit that the past two months have been lovely. Don't hate me. School lets out for summer this week, so this alone time I speak of will be a thing of the past.




In honour of all this time I had on my hands, I decided to spend one day alone with each girlie. To reconnect. To be silly. To eat too much ice cream. As I mentioned above, the girlies spend a good chunk of every waking hour competing for my attention, so a day alone together is a treasure. It was delightful to spend a full day with them without the constant sibling bickering. No competition, no outdoing the other, no raised voices, just the two of us. For Alyce and I it was a chance to talk about some difficult things after a rough year at school. As for Shira, we just played.

So how to do date your kids? If you can swing it, choose a school day, since there are few things better than skipping school. For those of you who gasp at my pulling the kids out of school to eat ice cream, I suggest relaxing. There is life beyond school. If not, a weekend will do, since ice cream tastes like perfection even on a Saturday.

The rest is up to you. I chose to take them out for the full days, filling our time with a mixture of treats (like french fries), crafts (watch out not to let the seven-year-old burn herself on the stove while making paste for paper mache, not that I'm speaking from experience or anything), and playing. I took Alyce to the mall to buy some new earrings and for some lunch, then we had popcorn and a movie at home. For Shira we went to the beach, collected bucketfuls of rocks, and then stopped for lunch on our way home to paint said rocks. While I chose to take each girlie out for lunch, a date day doesn't require any extra money. A picnic on the beach would have blown Shira's mind almost as much as McDonald's did.

The result? Two magical days. I still do bedtime differently than their Papa, but they'll just have to get used to that one.

Be well!
xo