Tag Archives: happiness

On your mark, get set …

Tomorrow afternoon, we set sail for a four-day cruise to the Bahamas. I so need some sunshine and relaxation.

Taking time off from my day job was easy. Unfortunately, taking time off from my own to-do list, worries, and work isn’t so easy.

It’s been months since we took real time off to relax, and no matter how much I plan to relax in Europe, I know better. With all the travel and things to do, I doubt we’ll have much time to just be.

Our trip this weekend is different, though. We don’t have high expectations or a long to-see list. I have no itinerary and no plans. We planned for this cruise to be our chance to recharge and refresh ourselves before the craziness coming up. The past few months have been hectic, and the months ahead will be even more so. We need to take some time to ourselves to reflect on what’s coming up and prepare for what’s ahead.

So I’m requesting time off from myself. I need a few days to collect my thoughts. I need time to read a book without feeling guilty about everything else I should be doing. I need to spend some real time with my husband talking and planning for the near future without work between us.

Tony is guilty, too. With his thesis due at the end of next week and graduation quickly approaching, I feel like his computer has become permanently appended to his lap. It’s rare that I’m able to pull him away from his work for a real conversation.

Because the weekends are when I do most of my writing for this site, posting may be light next week. I hope to catch up early in the week, but there’s no telling what my schedule will be like when we return.

After this trip, it’s time to get serious about packing our lives and moving north. It’s time to prepare ourselves for a new home, new jobs, and what will surely feel like a new life. So much is changing so soon. I hope we’re able to stop the clock, if only for a weekend.

Photo by lynnoel

Endlessly waiting

Ever since I was a kid, I’ve had a pretty serious addiction to countdowns. It’s normal when we’re kids, though, right? We’re always waiting for the next birthday, Christmas, summer vacation. It seems we’re always counting down to something.

It’s just that I never grew out of it.

It’s not that I’m unhappy with the here and now. Sometimes I am. But most of the time, I recognize how good I have it now. I enjoy the present. I do. But I’ve always got one eye on the future, looking ahead to what’s next. It’s in my nature to plan and prepare, and how can I do that without anticipating the next big thing? How can I prepare if I don’t keep my eyes ahead?

The problem is, no matter how hard I try to stay grounded in the present, all of this anticipating inevitably steals some of the joy of now. The more exciting the next step is, the harder it is for me to enjoy what’s now without wishing my days away.

I hope I always have a next step to plan for. I hope there’s always a reason to look ahead with excitement. The day that I wake up and realize there’s nothing exciting in my future would be a sad day, indeed. But I need to work on looking ahead to tomorrow without rushing through today.

I need to teach myself to focus more on the present. Most importantly, I need to learn that while it’s okay to plan and prepare, it’s useless to worry about the future. The universe has a tendency to work itself out for the best. My worrying won’t make a bit of difference in the end. All it does is steal my joy in the present.

Each day I look at the calendar and mentally tally up the days until our trip and the days until the next chapter in our lives begins. Each day it gets a little easier as the wait gets shorter. But every once in a while I need to remind myself to slow down. I need to remind myself that someday I’ll look back on this time in our lives, and I’ll wish I hadn’t counted down so anxiously to its end.

Photo by wdecora

Simple ways to save time and reduce stress

As I try to stay sane for the next couple months despite my mile-long to-do list, I’m looking for quick and easy ways to reduce stress.

Here are a few things I’ve tried in the past few weeks that have helped immensely.

Plan ahead.

At the beginning of each day (or each week), take a few minutes to make a rough outline of what needs to be completed and when. It may feel like you don’t have time to stop and regroup before you tackle the day, but making a game plan will help you prioritize tasks, manage your time more efficiently, and keep you on task.

Delegate and ask for help.

It may seem like you’re on your own, but chances are your support network is more willing to help than you think. Enlist your spouse, children, or co-workers to handle appropriate tasks on your to-do list. Once you’ve mapped out your game plan for the day or week, figure out which tasks would make the most sense to outsource.

Deal with it now.

I have a tendency to let a million little things pile up in my life. I leave a ton of emails in my inbox. I let the junk mail pile up on the kitchen table. I wait until the last possible minute to do everything.

If you want to cut your stress instantly, try taking care of those little bothersome things right away. Archive or delete every email as soon as you’ve read it. Throw junk mail into the recycling bin as soon as you’ve read it. Wash your dishes as soon as you finish eating. By taking a little time to take care of this stuff as it happens, you’ll reduce the total number of items looming over you on your to-do list.

Make your health a priority.

You may be tempted to give up relaxation, exercise, or sleep in favor of work or chores. When you sacrifice your health, you’re not at the top of your game, which will lead to less productivity. Take the time to take care of yourself, and you’ll get more done in less time, leaving you with more hours in the day when your work is done.

Photo by charliedees

Setting boundaries to maintain my sanity

With everything that’s happening right now, I’ve been more than a little overwhelmed. I’ve been thinking of ways to cut down on stress and make time for the things that relax me.

The line between work, home, and work-at-home has become too blurry. Chores around the house are being neglected, and I feel like I’m constantly “on the lock.” I’ve decided to set some boundaries for the next couple months to keep me focused and give me time to chill out.

No laptop in bed.

One of the things I miss most when life gets hectic is reading fiction. When I’m stressed, nothing is more relaxing than forgetting about my to-do and immersing myself in a book. Stress also leads to insomnia for me, especially when I’m working right up until I try to sleep. Reading before bed calms me and takes my mind off the stress in the moments before I sleep.

Solution: I’ve banned myself from bringing my laptop to bed with me. For the past week, I’ve been forcing myself to read instead of work or plan, and it’s definitely helping me sleep better and relax a little in the evening. It also gives me an opportunity to spend time with my husband without our laptops between us.

Set time limits.

Since I work full time throughout the week, I do the bulk of my personal planning and projects on the weekends. Since the weekends are my only chance to relax, working too much on Saturday and Sunday cuts back on my “me” time. I feel like I spend all morning working and the afternoons are eaten up by errands and household chores.

Solution: Weekend days are now “work days” with the same limits. I work 8:30 to 5:30 on the weekdays, so why should I be on the clock non-stop on Saturday and Sunday? I’ll spend weekend mornings planning, writing and working until 2 p.m. From 2 to 5:30 p.m., I’ll get household chores done, but the weekend evenings are mine to relax, exercise, and spend time with Tony.

I’m making myself and my family a priority.

I think we all have a tendency to put what we can on the back burner when time is limited. That means that the things and people we love most often get the shaft. I’m definitely guilty of this. If I’m busy, my work out is the first thing I cut. After that, I’m likely to sacrifice time with my husband if I’ve got a lot going on. But why should the things that are most important to me take a backseat?

Solution: The things that are most important to me are non-negotiable. I’m limiting “overtime” when it comes to personal projects. During the times that I’ve allotted to myself and my family, taking me time and being with my husband are the only things on my to-do list.

Have you set boundaries for your sanity? What would your rules be?

Photo by redvers

On accepting my own limitations

Lately, I’d give anything for an extra 12 hours in the day. Between full-time work, daily blogging, my book project, exercise, household chores, and spending time with my husband, there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done. Add to that our travel plans and moving preparations, and I’m completely overwhelmed.

Then there are the projects that I want to do that I just can’t fit into my schedule — the books on my to-read list, the unfinished quilts that have collected dust for 3 years, the piles and piles of clutter that need to be cleared before we pick up and move again, the movies I’ve yet to see, and my poor dog who isn’t walked nearly enough.

I wish I had a solution, but honestly, I don’t. I love that I have such a varied list of interests, and I love that my busy schedule keeps me from ever feeling bored. But I hate the way it feels to see the book on my nightstand, and the bookmark that serves as a painful reminder that I’ve yet to make a dent in it. I hate the feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach when I look at my guest room, crammed full of stuff that I haven’t even touched months. I miss having the time to do my favorite relaxing projects that I love — quilting and reading and photography.

It seems that the only solution is to give some of it up, but I can’t choose. So I end up back at the same place — struggling to balance the things that I must do with the things that I love.

As kids, we’re told that we can do it all. As adults, we face the tough reality that it’s just not possible.

How do you find a balance?

The cure for a case of wanderlust

Tony and I have spent a good deal of our young lives being responsible. We save our money instead of spending it. We take short weekend trips instead of traveling to exotic far-away lands. We spend our weekends at home watching movies instead of drinking at bars with other 25-year-olds.

I’m not complaining. This is the life that I want, the life that makes me happy. There’s only one thing about it one thing I would change: I want to travel more.

Neither of us was very responsible with money in college, but we didn’t travel, either. We didn’t go on extravagant spring break trips or study abroad. It remains my only real regret about the way I handled my education.

Now that we’re so close to finally settling down, it’s made me think a lot about this one aspect of young life that I feel I missed. I know that we’re still young. We still have plenty of time. But I also know how much will change.

Because we know what’s coming, we’re trying to pack a lot of young living into a very short time. It’s why we decided to go to Europe. It’s why we spent much of the summer taking short little trips to the beach and the mountains.

All of this is to tell you that Tony and I did something a little crazy last week. We booked a 3-day cruise to the Bahamas. We’re setting sail in just 52 days — roughly two months before the week that we’ll move and board a plane for Europe.

We paid in cash, and we can absolutely afford it even with the trip to Europe and the move coming up. And yes, we got a very good deal.

We can afford it because we spent the last three years hoarding money, saving as much as we could for what will come once we arrive in Indiana. We’ve worked hard to put ourselves ahead of the curve when it comes to our finances. It won’t hurt our long-term goals to make a few spontaneous decisions in the short time we have left as a married couple without children.

I’m not saying that we’re going to spend the next few months blowing our hard-earned savings. I’m well aware of our limits and our goals. But we’ve got a little extra money, probably for the last time in a long time, and I intend to have a little fun with it. The important thing is that we keep our goals in mind, and we enjoy ourselves without getting too far off track.

We plan to pack a lot of living into the next few months. :)

Photo by rednut

Yes, I’d like some cheese with my whine. Preferably gouda.

You know those dreams where you’re being chased, but you can’t get your feet to move? And when you try to scream, you discover that you can’t? And you know whatever is chasing you is coming, but no matter how much you will yourself to just keep moving, your body and your mind just won’t cooperate?

Lately, it feels like my life has been that dream.

I have no reason to complain. In fact, everything is going gloriously. I’m thisclose to everything I’ve ever wanted.

But that’s not what the dream is about. It’s about inertia. It’s about the fear of moving forward. It’s about leaving the safe comfort of what you know to venture out into unknown territory.

I’m no dream analyst, but I can make correlations about this dream and what’s happening in my life when I’m most likely to have it.

The summer before I moved away from home for college, I had that dream all the time. I also frequently dreamed I was suddenly 9 months pregnant, which I’ve read is a dream about the fear of change, too. It should have been the one of the best summers of my life — no responsibility, nothing but opportunity ahead of me. But I was paralyzed with fear.

Just before my husband and I left our college town to move here for his graduate school, I went through a nearly debilitating bout of anxiety. For the first time in my life, I was frequently awoken by panic attacks.

At the time, it didn’t feel as related to the move as I know it was now. It wasn’t necessarily thoughts about moving that triggered the attacks. It was daily life. A spilled glass of water, a setback in plans, a traffic jam that left us scrambling to make our movie in time. The most trivial little things would lead to the worst kind of terror.

Now, as we face another major life change, another big move, I find myself spiraling down that path again. This time it feels a little easier. I feel like I’m right on the brink of the worst kind of anxiety I’ve ever faced — the anxiety triggered by change.

It doesn’t matter that the voice of reason in my head tells me not to worry, everything will be okay, these are all good things. The logical side of me knows that. The logical side of me is excited about what’s to come, excited about all the opportunity ahead of us. But anxiety isn’t about logic — it’s about fear. Fear of the unknown, fear that I can’t handle what’s to come, fear that I’ll fail.

I’m working on it. Every day is a struggle to keep myself grounded and avoid spiraling down the path of panic attacks and insomnia. I can cope. I’ve always coped.

But this time it’s also a little harder in a way, because I know what’s it like to live without fear. For six glorious months after I began combining exercise with anti-anxiety medication, I felt good for the first time in my life. But now that another big change is upon me, those feelings are replaced once again by crippling fear.

The only remedy is to trust myself. I have to learn to listen to that voice that knows I’m strong enough to handle what’s the come just like I’ve handled every other major change. In the end, it will all be okay. But getting there is the hard part.

Should you join a gym? My thoughts after a full year of gym membership

One year ago today, I vowed to get back in shape for the New Year by committing to a one-year gym membership for $20 a month.

At the time, I was hesitant. It’s so common for people to join a gym, give up within a couple months, and end up stuck with a monthly bill for a membership they’re not using. Since it’s been a year, I thought it might be helpful for me to revisit my decision to join the gym in case some of you are considering the same decision now.

When I joined the gym, I had three goals: I wanted to get in better shape, work out more, and lose 10-15 pounds.

Weight loss

Unfortunately, after losing and gaining back about 10 pounds or so, I am pretty much back where I started last January. This could be due to the medication that I’m taking or my yo-yo eating habits. But the bottom line is, joining a gym did not help me lose weight.

Regular exercise

For the first time in my life, I have consistently adhered to a workout routine for almost all of 2009. There were a couple weeks here and there where I didn’t make it to the gym due to illness or travel, but for the most part, I exercised at least 2-3 times a week every week (usually more often than that).

Better health

Despite the fact that I haven’t lost weight, I’m in the best physical shape of my life. For the first time in a long time I can maintain a jog for about 30 minutes without stopping. I feel great physically. I’m sleeping better, eating better, and feeling better than I did before I started exercising regularly.

Natural treatment for anxiety & depression

Working out consistently has also done wonders to treat my anxiety and depression issues. I really noticed this during the month of December when my busy schedule and holiday laziness kept me out of the gym for almost 2 weeks (my longest time without working out since last January). I started to feel a relapse in my anxiety that has subsided since I started working out again.

No excuses

Is it possible to get these results without paying $20 a month to a gym? Absolutely. If you have the will power to get outside and run every day through rain, cold, and darkness, then you could certainly save the money by working out without a gym membership. You won’t have access to the same array of equipment and weights, but it’s absolutely possible to stay fit for free.

But what I’ve learned in the past 12 months is that my gym membership made exercise convenient. It’s hard enough to get out and get to the gym when it’s cold or rainy; there’s no way I would exercise if it meant running outside. With a gym membership, there are no excuses. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark before and after work, cold outside, or raining — I can work out when I want.

Invest in your health

I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: paying $20 a month for the membership was a definite incentive for me. Because I’m a cheapskate who wants to be sure I get my money’s worth, I started feeling guilty every time I went a few days without using my membership.

Here’s the bottom line: if you’re considering a gym membership and you can work it into your budget, I say go for it. I can think of very few things more important or more worthy of investment than good health. This year I spent $240 to develop what I hope will be a lifelong commitment to fitness, and it’s the best investment I ever made.

Photo by yuan2003