My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Archive for the tag “lifestyle”

My last day of On Ramp

I recently completed the On Ramp course at West London CrossFit. After a half-year break from CrossFit, I needed a way to ease back into training and I’m very glad I chose this way! I really feel ready to get back to regular classes. My skills are back up to par and I even corrected some mistakes I’d been making previously without even knowing it.

Everyone graduates from On Ramp by running the same WOD (workout of the day) that they completed day one. The trainers recorded both times so we could see how much we’d improved in On Ramp. I wasn’t sure if my time would drop because I had done this workout a number of times before this round of On Ramp. I was pleasantly surprised to see a drop of a little more than a minute.

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On Ramp was designed to introduce people to all the essential movements and skills of CrossFit. However, it was also a great refresher for me. If you’ve taken a break too, don’t be afraid to come back. Don’t quit just because it’s easier. Talk to your coach about refresher options if you need a little help getting back to your best habits.

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Ramping Up

So I’ve now completed half of the On-Ramp program at West London Crossfit. I’m really glad I arranged to retake this class as a way to return to Crossfit training. I’m trying to get back to my best habits and I know it’s better if I do it in small steps like the ones provided by On-Ramp. I’m getting a refresher in all the basics, (warm up, lifting, mobility, etc.) and now my form will be much better when I join the regular classes again. I’m sore from class but I feel good. I’m slowly starting to feel stronger and more confident.

I’ve gotten a pretty universal reaction from the coaches and Crossfit regulars. They look at me quizzically for a minute and then say something like, “You still train here?” I smile and tell them that I took a break but that I’m back now. Everyone is welcoming. Two more weeks of On-Ramp to go and then I’ll be back to CrossFit training. I’m looking forward to it.

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Taking a Break

I will be taking a two-week break from the blog for personal reasons. My posts will resume on June 21st. Not to worry, I’m fine. I just need a rest.

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Back to the Gym

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My gym bag has been taken over by kitty!

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve been taking it a bit easy in terms of my workout routine. My anxiety makes me more prone to injuries and my depression exhausts me. Now that I’m back in treatment and starting to heal, I need to practice healthier habits. Right now I’m mostly just going for walks with Nick, doing yoga and occasionally hitting the elliptical and bike at the gym, so I’m not totally inactive. However, when I think back to the times in my life when I’ve felt the happiest and the most stable, I’ve been working out more often and with more intensity. My workouts release positive chemicals in my body and make me feel I’ve accomplished something. So now it’s time to set some proper goals.

At my best times, I workout five to six times per week for an hour. My workouts consist of CrossFit, cardio at the gym, swimming, biking, hiking, and yoga, (it sounds like a lot, but if I don’t change it up, I get bored and stop working out.) So from now until my summer break starts, I’ve got four weeks to achieve five one hour workouts per week. I’m going to start with lower impact workouts and work my way up to a full variety of exercises.

Week one :

Monday – Yoga.

Tuesday – Cardio at the gym.

Wednesday – Yoga.

Thursday – Cardio at the gym.

Friday – Day off.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week two:

Monday – Cardio at the gym.

Tuesday – Yoga.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Cardio at the gym.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week three:

Monday – Bike ride.

Tuesday – Yoga.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Cardio at the gym.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

Week four:

Monday – Cardio at the gym.

Tuesday – Crossfit.

Wednesday – Swim.

Thursday – Yoga.

Friday – Bike ride.

Saturday – Hike.

Sunday – Day off.

I think this is a reasonable plan and I feel confident I can accomplish it. I’ll update you as I work away at this. #dowahtworks

Celebrate

So I think I’m through the worst of my depression. It took a lot of counseling and support and self-care to start feeling like myself again but I’m getting there.

Now that I’m coping better, it’s time to start cleaning up the fallout from my depression. First on my list is reconnecting with my family and friends. When I’m depressed I’m not myself and I know they feel that. I’m going to block off some one on one time for the people I love and let them know how much I appreciate them. This is especially important in my relationship with my husband because he provides so much support for me.

Next I need to take care of myself. I need to make sure I get enough sleep and down time to stay healthy. I’d like a haircut and a pedicure. I’ve also gained some weight so it’s back to healthy eating and more trips to the gym.

Finally, I need to get to the chores that have piled up. My house looks like a small hurricane passed through it. My car needs a wash. My garden is ready for some spring cleaning too. Although these aren’t my favourite chores, have a clean house does make me happier.

The real sign of my wellness is that I feel ready and even excited to tackle these tasks. I’m going to end this post here and get started!

Planning for Down Time

Having anxiety and depression makes you really good at schedules. Keeping regular sleeping, eating and exercise times helps me stay healthy and positive. Working a highly structured job keeps me grounded. Each item I finish on my schedule gives me a sense of accomplishment that is critical to my mental health. Basically, structured time stops me from ruminating on negative thoughts.

Being a teacher means I also have regular holidays and time off. This down time, even a three-day weekend, can be disruptive to my ability to deal with stress. For many people unstructured time off is a holiday. For people suffering from mood disorders, this blank space can increase anxiety because we don’t know what to do or it can increase depression because we don’t have anything to do.

So now March Break is upon us and I need to figure out how to stay healthy for nine days off work. Here are my top tips:

  • Try to keep the agenda light for your first day and last day off. The first day I find I need to decompress and take some time just to sort out my thoughts. I have to adjust my thinking away from my ultra-organized, working brain or I’ll never relax. Just as important is some down time at the end of my holiday. The day before a return to work can be fraught with anxiety. Avoid stressful tasks and conversations as this can make going back to work even more unpleasant. This is a good day for low-key plans like yoga or going to the movies.
  • Look at your yearly holidays and strike a balance between travelling and staying home. Not every holiday has to start in an airport or car. Travelling can often be a source of stress so for this March Break, Nick and I are staying close to home and doing smaller day and overnight trips. In the summer we plan to do our more long-term travelling.
  • It’s OK to plan some work for each day but use moderation. If your to do list is as long as it is on a work day, you’re doing it wrong. Holidays are a time to do less, not more.
  • Plan in fun activities too. Make plans with friends and family that you’ll enjoy. Block off some time to do your own thing as well.
  • Be flexible. Change plans as you need or clear out some extra time for yourself. Don’t feel guilty for wanting to drink a cup of tea and read your book. I’m going to be reading Ready Player One on my March Break.
  • Don’t get rid of all your unstructured time. A bit of boredom or uncertainty can be good for the brain. It forces you to problem solve and seek your own happiness.
  • Don’t forget to do those healthy things you do every other day: eat healthy, sleep well, breathe deep and have fun!

So now I’m ready for my March Break. I hope you are too. Plan ahead and be well.

Quagmire

Right now I’m stuck in depression.  It’s been almost six weeks. My lungs feel like they’re full of mud and my brain feels stuffed with cotton. Everything feels heavy and difficult.

I can’t tell what pains in my body are real and which ones are caused by my depression. Every time I workout I come away with more injuries that just aren’t healing. I’m carefully warming up and cooling down but no matter how gentle I am, I end up hurting. I’m just so tense that even basic exercise feels terrible.

I’m also exhausted. Sleeping more doesn’t help. I’m maintaining a regular sleep schedule, (going to bed at the same time each night, no screens, food, or exercise three hours before bed). I can fall sleep just fine but I wake up a number of times each night and can’t get back to sleep easily. I know I’m not rested enough as a result.

I struggle to think of anything that makes me happy, even though I know those things still exist. Having depression doesn’t destroy kitties or chocolate or cooking challenge TV shows, but it horribly makes them less enjoyable than they used to be.

Most people will tell you to stop talking about or thinking about what makes you depressed. That advice is only helpful if you can identify a source for your depression. Like I said before, sometimes depression is purely caused by an imbalance in the brain that goes beyond what you experience day-to-day. Plus, that’s a bit of a flip solution. If you don’t believe me, try to stop blinking. You might do alright for a while, but it’s uncomfortable and when your attention wavers even a little, you’ll blink. Remember that the next time you are tempted to tell someone with depression to ‘just get over it’ or ‘think positively’.

I’m trying to keep moving. I’m going to therapy and seeking out ways to feel better. The goal isn’t even to feel happy right now. Right now I’d settle for feeling normal. I miss feeling like myself.

Depression is Different

So as I’ve discussed before, I have generalized anxiety disorder. With the help of my doctors and my support system, I am now medication free and doing well. However, my treatment isn’t over. People with anxiety often suffer from depression at some point, (and vice versa.)

I am experiencing my first battle with a major depressive disorder. I’ve felt depressed before (who hasn’t?) but this is something I’ve been dealing with for over a month. According to my doctor, the diagnosis of depression is usually at least two sustained weeks of depression or more. Health Canada lists the possible symptoms of depression as:

  • Feelings of despair and hopelessness (check.)
  • Detachment from life and the people around you (check.)
  • Always feeling tired or having no energy (check.)
  • Crying for no apparent reason (check, one day I cried brushing my teeth; that doesn’t even make sense. I love good oral hygiene!)
  • Not being able to concentrate or make decisions (check.)
  • A loss of appetite or a change in sleep patterns (check.)
  • Headaches or stomach upsets that occur frequently (occasionally.)
  • Thoughts of suicide (no to this one, thanks to visits to my doctors and talking with my support system. If you or someone you love is experiencing thoughts of self-harm, get help. Tell a doctor, a family member or a trusted friend, failing that call a crisis center. Know that you are not alone and there are people who want to help you.)

So what caused my depression? Like most mood disorders, the answer to that is complicated. My family has a history of depression so I am at higher risk. I’ve also had a lot of stress at work and a substantial amount at home. These stresses build up and make everything else difficult to manage. For example, my RMT, (registered massage therapist,) is no longer practicing. That may seem like a small change but he was my RMT for almost five years and his care helped me through some of my worst bouts of anxiety. Finding a new RMT is daunting and no one I’ve tried so far has really been able to provide the care I need. I suppose I’d have to label the cause as ‘stress’, despite how complicated the situation really is.

Regardless of all this, it is important to remember that depression doesn’t care how good or bad your life is. Depression can happen to anyone, anywhere and sometimes there is no reason we can attach to it. That’s because depression is an imbalance in the chemicals in the brain. Although it can be triggered by tragedy, (e.g. the death of a loved one,) or stress, it can also occur for no other reason than the brain is imbalanced.

I have been working so hard to overcome my anxiety but depression feels so different and a lot of my coping mechanisms aren’t really transferable. If anxiety is fight or flight, depression is lay in a hole and try not to exist. I am scared by the fact that sometimes I feel like I can’t access any of my positive feelings. I feel like I’m forgetting what it’s like to be happy. I’m going to keep working on it. I’m reluctant to go back on antidepressants because I worked so hard to be healthy enough to not need them. However, if at any point I feel like I can’t control my mental health or that it’s having a negative effect on my personal and work life, I’ll make an appointment with my doctor to discuss medication. It’s important for me to be able to admit when I need help. I’ll keep you updated on how I’m doing as I go.

Psst…cancel some plans

So in an earlier post I talked about how giving into my more introverted side helps me control my anxiety. Most of the time I am a go, go, go kind of person. I do yoga every morning. I have an incredibly busy job teaching students with special needs. I attend a lot of meeting on my lunch hour or after school. I hit the gym, make plans with my husband or go out to see friends most nights. However, I cannot (and should not) maintain this pace when I am feeling anxious. I’ve done this in the past and I have made myself sick. So now, I watch my moods more closely and sometimes I preemptively cancel some plans.

There’s nothing more satisfying than doing nothing when you were supposed to be doing something. Once I’m through the awkwardness of actually cancelling plans, I feel a real rush that’s equal parts relief and  self-indulgent joy. Luckily for me, my friends and family all know I have generalized anxiety disorder, so if I need to cancel plans because of anxiety, I can just be honest and they understand.

The dos and donts of gracefully canceling plans

So I want to set a challenge for all the over-worked, burnt out extroverts and introverts. Take a look at your calendar for this month and consciously decide to cancel something. Don’t pick a major event, (please don’t skip your sister’s wedding or refuse to pick up grandma at the airport.) Pick something you don’t really need to attend and call or email to cancel. Want some help gracefully cancelling some plans? Check out this article from The Frisky. Most importantly, once you’ve cancelled that plan, DO NOT schedule something else. Leave that time free for yourself. Do something by yourself. Do nothing by yourself and enjoy.

 

Time Constraints

How many times have you said, “There just aren’t enough hours in the day”? Maybe the problem isn’t the length of the day but the amount of stuff we cram into it. As a society, we schedule, (and I would argue, overschedule,) ourselves and our families far too often. It is important to get a lot done in the day, but what about the joy of doing nothing?

Remember being a kid? Remember being bored and having to look for stuff to do? I might be getting a bit nostalgic here, but I think boredom is good for us. I think it inspires creativity and problem solving. That’s when a couple of sticks become swords, or drum sticks, or relics of an alien ship that crash landed on Earth.

I am in no way suggesting that you shirk your duties or ignore the people in your life who depend on you. We all have stuff we have to do. However, what if we provide ourselves a bit more unscheduled time? We might be more relaxed and even more happy. I’m going to try to increase my unscheduled time over the next little while and watch for the effect it has on my life and my mindset.

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