Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Sleep, Glorious Sleep...

I'm pretty sure I've been fighting something off for the past several weeks. Nothing serious or contagious, apparently, since no one else in my family (or the bonus kids that I care for during the day) has come down with anything. The only real indicator that there is anything wrong comes when I overdo it for a couple of days in a row. And by "overdo it" I mean staying up late to get stuff done and then trying to survive on 6 or less hours of sleep for two nights in a row. My body just can't handle it, apparently. Maybe I'm getting old or I have allergies or who knows what, but the reality is that I know that I'm going to pay for it if I don't get enough sleep. I've just never had to pay for it with a fatigue and a low-grade fever before this May.

Caring for (and nourishing!) our bodies means a lot more than just appearing physically healthy and active. When did sleep deprivation become the norm? How many people do you know that can't survive without their coffee in the morning? I'm not a coffee drinker, but I know it's really easy for me to get into a soda habit so I can get my caffeine kick in the morning. Since I've given up soda, I have to survive without my caffeine crutch, and that took some adjusting, let me tell you.

Forcing yourself to go to sleep might be a little easier if you understand what it does for us. According to this article on the web:

Sleep isn’t exactly a time when your body and brain shut off. While you rest, your brain stays busy, overseeing a wide variety of biological maintenance that keeps your body running in top condition, preparing you for the day ahead. Without enough hours of restorative sleep, you won’t be able to work, learn, create, and communicate at a level even close to your true potential. Regularly skimp on “service” and you’re headed for a major mental and physical breakdown.

I struggled with post-partum depression after my last child was born. I am fairly certain that it was - in part - due to my lack of uninterrupted sleep. It makes me crazy. My kids joke that when I'm tired I turn into "Momzilla". It's probably not too far from the truth. That's not the person I want to be. And honestly, there's not too much that I do after 10 p.m. that can't be done during the day if I use my time a little more wisely (i.e. stay off of Facebook and Candy Crush Saga).

As I move into the summer with a less structured schedule, I will need take extra precautions to make sure I don't get into a late-night habit. If it's important to me, I will do it.

What's your sleep worth to you?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Keepin' it Real

I have been in a funk off and on for the past week. In an attempt to "keep it real" on this blog, I'm going to write about it. Not to get sympathy or advice (PLEASE don't offer either!) but because I know I'm going to have other times when I feel the same way and I need to figure out how to get past this.

Seriously, people. I need a reset button.

I'm going to purge the negative and be a whiny-baby for just a minute. Here's my list of things that are bothering me:
  • My body isn't as resilient as it used to be. I am having some serious problems with foot pain and I know it's partly due to plantar fasciitis and partly due the fact that I have so much weight to lose and partly because I need to buy some better shoes and haven't time or money to put into it yet. It's so frustrating to want to be physically active and feeling like you are too fat to do it. And, of course, I am blaming myself for letting it get this bad in the first place.
  • The scale isn't cooperating. I know that weight loss isn't a nice, steady stream of pounds coming off every couple of days. Yet it doesn't stop me from being frustrated when I don't feel like my efforts are being rewarded fast enough. Despite the fact that I am trying to focus on how I am living rather than what I weigh, I am having to reverse years and years of bad habits and it doesn't always come easily.
  • I haven't been making ideal eating choices or exercising as much as I should while I am wallowing in misery. I'm trying not to feel bad about it.
  • I don't want to deal with some of the personal things stressing me out right now. I just want them to go away and be someone else's problems. I'm tired. Emotionally and physically tired.
Let's be honest. I'm having one heck of a pity-party over here. Self-pity is unproductive and harmful. The irony is that I'm already feeling discouraged and I am allowing myself to be pushed even further down into the dumps by my negativity.

So how do I let go? How can I go back to feeling as powerful and productive as I did 6 weeks ago?
  1. Recognize the Issues - An interesting thing happened when I typed up my list of things that are bothering me. I listed them in the order they came to mind. As you can see, I started off writing about the physical stuff (I hurt, I feel fat, etc.). Then I made my way to the emotional (I feel guilty). Ironically, it's the last thing on the list that made me cry. Unfortunately, I learned the unhealthy behavior of avoidance early in life, so taking the time to recognize that I have some very specific things that are causing me emotional distress right now is critical. When I identify what those are they don't seem as overwhelming and I can see a way to work on resolving them - or letting them go, if that is appropriate.
  2. Recognize Your Power (or lack of it)- I cannot fix a problem I won't admit that I have. I recognize that I am in an emotional downward spiral. I also acknowledge that I am the only one that can get me off this train. No one else can do it for me. That being said, I also do not have the power to change anyone else other than me. I can choose to behave in a certain way that may have a positive influence on those around me, but there are no guarantees.
  3. Release the Guilt/Shame - Unless I have intentionally harmed someone else or sinned against God, then I have no reason to feel guilt. In fact, what I am feeling would be better categorized as shame. It makes it much easier to release the feeling when I recognize it for what it is. I have no reason to be ashamed of my imperfections. I am human, after all.
  4. Remember the Good - One of the benefits of journal-writing (and blogging) is that it is easier for me to go back and re-read my thoughts and feelings from a time when I felt at peace. No one feels great all of the time, just like no one feels bad all of the time. Emotions are living, breathing - and sometimes elusive - creatures that can be influenced by various things in our lives. I will go back and read about the good days; they will come again if I can just hang in there.
  5. Rest Sufficiently - There is no substitute for a good nights' sleep. Sometimes when I have pushed myself too hard for too long, I may need a full week or more of consistent rest. After a poor nights' sleep, the tiniest crisis can seem like an insurmountable obstacle for me. Exercise is harder, quick energy foods (sugars, simple carbs, etc.) are more appealing, and patience is fleeting.
  6. Resolve to Stay the Course - I am committed to improving my lifestyle. That hasn't changed. I'm not going to give up when it becomes a challenge. I'm going to hang in there and keep going at whatever speed I can manage. It's not my pace that makes me a winner - it's the direction that I am moving.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Trailing Clouds of Glory

My mind has been full of a lot of different little things over the past week or two. I keep thinking that I want to write about something specific, but then when I sit down and try to organize my thoughts, it doesn't go the direction I want it to, and so I abandon the endeavor. It's kind of annoying, in a way, I'll admit. But perhaps I just wasn't ready to see the big picture. All of these little things on my mind recently - beauty, heartache, loss, financial and emotional struggles, how we treat our families, allowing down-time for myself - have converged into one big Main Idea.

What are we worth?

One of the things I have been able to realize this past year in counseling is how precious I am. I am valuable because I exist, not because of what I can do for others. If I ever start to doubt that, I imagine holding a newborn baby. I can feel their value, their spark of divinity. In the words of William Woodsworth:

Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:

Regardless of what choices I have made or what I have done with my life, my value has not changed. I am still of infinite worth to that God who created me. I am a miracle.

Unfortunately, life tends to shatter that perception that we have of our own worth. Struggles come, heartaches abound, and sometimes those that should love us the best, treat us the worst. In all of this, is it no wonder that we forget? We feel broken, unlovable, and insignificant. It is the Great Lie that permeates the world around us.

No matter what we do, no matter what choices we make... our value is the same today as it was the day we were born.

How does that change me? Here are some examples:
  • When I am frustrated with my children, I remember that they are precious and their hearts are tender. I am trusted with their care. If I don't treat them like they are valued, how will they learn to feel their own worth?
  • When I am tired from pushing myself too hard to get things done, I allow myself to lie down on the bed with the clean laundry and take a nap. The laundry doesn't matter so much. I do.
  • When I start comparing my physical attributes to those around me, I remember that my body is just a shell. It houses my spirit, but it doesn't define who I am. I can be full of grace and beauty, regardless of my physical attributes.
  • When I am frustrated by my finances (or lack thereof), I remember that it is the price I am paying to put my family first. The joys from those relationships will far outweigh and outlast the satisfaction I would gain from being successful in a lucrative career.
  • When I ache for the grief of a parent's loss, I realize just how precious I am to my Heavenly Father. I remember that God's healing love can help us move forward and continue on, despite the sorrow.

When I am having an off day, this is how I center myself. This is what I remember. I am precious. I am worth knowing and being and loving. 

And so are you.