Archive for ‘mental health’

May 24, 2012

Moving Is Better than Exercising

I bike to work and do Pilates twice a week at lunchtime in my workplace. Sometimes I feel that I should have nobler fitness goals. This is why I love this blog post by Nick Crocker about Finding Exercise in Life’s Margins at Harvard Business Review.

Weaving exercise and intentional movement into the fabric of my life feels way more possible (though less sexy) than training for a triathlon.

I let our family gym membership lapse because I just wasn’t going. And I felt guilty — for not going, for the expense, for the lack of family pool time. I felt I was a fitness failure. But I wasn’t. Just because exercise is easy — like slowing down on my bike past the flower gardens in Riverside Park — doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

You don’t have to hate exercise in order to get fit, feel good, or even lose weight. (The same goes for time at work — you don’t have to hate it.) Why not love what you do? I love playing tennis. Consistency is more important than breaking a personal record.

Personal brag: my son just won an athletic award this week. He was a triathlete — competing in three varsity sports as a 9th grader. But of one of the sports, track, he said he lacks passion. I say, Fine, drop it, if you like. Just keep moving.

Drop your gym membership too. Just stay active.

Weave fitness into every day. A little moving regularly is way better than a lot of fitness once in a while.

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A guy on the bus seated in front of me was carrying
this bundle of flowers. A rosy outlook only costs $3.99.

March 22, 2012

Going Running

How do you psych yourself up to go for a run? I tell myself, “Come on, girl. You can do it.” I talk to my body like it were a beloved family horse. “Yes, get moving, Ole Paint. Get out of your easy chair.” (I know that’s a mixed metaphor: horses don’t sit in easy chairs! Hey, it’s my blog. Write your own blog and mix up your own metaphors!)

There are a million reasons NOT to run. Here are a few:

Florida flower1. My feet hurt.

2. I am slow.

3. No one else is running. (Everyone else is going out for breakfast, in fact.)

And here’s why:

1. It will feel good when you’re done.

2. You will see some new things.

3. You will model fitness for your kids.

4. When you’re done, you can have a big breakfast.

Maybe I’ll go wake up one of my kids and see if they want to go with me.

I am writing this from a rocking chair on the porch. The kids and I are on a four-day trip to Siesta Key, Florida. It is our third day and inertia has set in. After a few days of vacay, especially in a warm clime, inertia always sets in. I must beat back inertia as if it were a horse sitting in an easy chair. (That’s a horrible image. But there you have it. As I’ve said, inertia has set in and I am mentally lazy, can’t come up with a better image. I could, if I really tried. But I have to go running.)

Come on, girl. Let’s go.

November 15, 2011

Pilates

My fitness app says an hour of Pilates burns 336 calories. I find that hard to believe. It doesn’t seem like I’m doing that much.

This is Jenn, our Monday and Thursday exercise teacher.

Yesterday, at our lunch time work out Jenn said, “You all seem so down, like I’m torturing you,” when we were doing the hundred.

Hey, who has a smile on their face on Monday at noon, trying to hold the plank position? I said, “On Thursday, we’ll be less downcast.”

Also, it cracks me up that we work out in a small conference room right next to the cafeteria kitchen. Constantly in class, we hear the servers and the cooks yelling directives at each other, usually they say, “I need more waffle fries. More fried chicken.” But yesterday, I heard, “I need more broccoli.”

During exercise class, I am often thinking about lunch and so, always open to suggestion,  I thought, “Yes, I need more broccoli too.”

Even though I’m not always happy during exercise class, I am always happy when I’m done with exercise class. Then I can eat guilt-free, (broccoli not waffle fries).

I especially like when I am done with yoga class. That’s when we bow to each other and say, “Namaste.”

October 6, 2011

an upturned tree

Up in the Adirondacks, Sunday morning, I was sipping coffee before my family woke up. I was crabby because I’d have to rally the troops, pack up, leave the country, return to the city, get ready for the week ahead. Even writing in my journal didn’t work the usual magic of lifting my mood.

So I went for a run. I watched the fitness app on my phone, noticing that I was still unable to run faster than a 13-minute mile. Yes, I was in the slow lane; my feet hurt. And I couldn’t get enough breath. I tired easily.

I ran for five minutes, then walked for a minute. Then did that again. The first part of the run was easy. I passed the school house. Then it was wet so I looped around the Cold Spring Road instead of going down to the Stable Inn. I began the walk up the rough-hewn stone steps to the Big House. That’s when I saw this upturned tree.

Hard to capture in a dark, rainy forest, but this wide swath of trees and roots were upturned by Hurricane Irene.

Un-be-liev-able! It took my breath away.

If some special effects geek tried to recreate this 10-foot circumference of a sideways forest floor, it would cost millions of dollars and people would never believe it. But nature did this outstanding damage free of charge. Nature is whack, doing crazy shit. Hurricane Irene must’ve tore up this part of the woods as she tore through Vermont and the Adirondacks a month ago.

I gave up running, walked up the steps back to the house, packed and woke the darlings. I wasn’t crabby any more.

For some reason the extraordinary sight of the upturned tree calmed me down.

Today people are contemplating Steve Jobs’ death. And I’m remembering the upturned tree.

We all will die. I will die. I am small. Whether my death comes by cancer like Steven Jobs, by hurricane like the forest floor, or my personal preference, by old age, I will die. Running away from my troubles on a dreary Sunday morning made me remember that. And it humbled me and made me less crabby.

September 15, 2011

yoga and my manic mind

At the end of yoga class today, when the lights were turned off and the meditative music was turned on, my mind did not automatically rest. I found myself composing Facebook status updates, mulling over possible writing topics, questioning my kids’ afterschool activities, on and on.

Today, in addition to the sound of slamming lunch trays in the adjacent cafeteria, I was also distracted by a baby crying right outside our class.

yoga class from creative commons

Jen, my teacher, said, “Breathe and repeat the word, ‘Inhale’ on your inhale and ‘Exhale’ on your exhale. This will help you block out the noise.”

At first, I didn’t mind the sound of the baby’s cry. Not too much. Until after a while. Then it was really irritating. Inhale. Exhale. Breathe. “Will someone feed that child? Give her a binky!” Iwanted to yell.

The good thing about hearing a baby cry is that eventually the crying stops. Sweet relief. Thank you Jesus!

And eventually, my manic mind stopped fretting too. For a minute at the end of yoga, I drifted. Got silent. Like the baby, I descended into a place of contentment. It was really nice.

I forgave myself and everyone for everything. I felt only love for the whole wide world, even, and especially, that crying baby.

September 10, 2011

Why I Couldn’t Sleep Last Night

I tossed and turned, my sheets wrapping around me and my melancholy.

I’ve said it before, Mommy needs a good night’s sleep. And last night it just wasn’t happening.

Here are some reasons:

  • I had worries about getting up early to buy and deliver breakfast to 22 kids at the church lock-in at 7 this morning.
  • I do too much.
  • Chris, my husband, is returning home tomorrow after a couple of weeks of being away. It’s an adjustment.
  • I am worried about the expense and commitment of getting Chris help with daily tasks of living for his Parkinson’s Disease.
  • It’s 9/11 weekend. It’s depressing.
  • I’m not exercising much, because of my foot pain.
  • I’ve focused too much on the kids and establishing their back-to-school routine.
  • My bedroom is too hot; the air conditioner is too loud.
  • I went to a MeetUp last night for writers who perform; had a couple of beers. Felt a little jazzed.
  • I did not write much.
  • I have anxiety about work and the possible downsizing of our agency.

I guess that’s enough. I finished Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz yesterday. I so identified with his discovery that we are open to forgive and love other people way more than we accept ourselves. The point of everything, every encounter — even our encounters with ourselves in the middle of the night — is love.

That is, instead of withholding love to change somebody, I poured it on lavishly. I hoped that love would work like a magnet, pulling people from the mire and toward healing.

This is tough. I have to find a way to love and forgive everybody, including myself; I need more help. Some problems can be resolved with more help and more love, and some with healthier behaviors. Here’s how I answer myself on last night’s worries:

  • I had to take one of the girls to the pediatrician's office for her ear infection. This was in the waiting room. My thoughts, like cogs, go round and round.

    You delivered the breakfast.

  • You like being busy. Being busy and happy pays off.
  • You’ll adjust to Chris’s return. You have your own travel plans.
  • Just spend the money to get Chris help.
  • This weekend will pass.
  • Exercise any way. Swim. Bike. Run. Do yoga. Do physical therapy for foot.
  • The kids are doing great.
  • Leave the air conditioner on.
  • Decompress with a book or herbal tea, not a beer.
  • Write more.
  • Let go of the work worries; there’s nothing to be done about them any way.

Writing all this has helped. I need more coffee. Maybe later, I can sneak in a nap. (Or exercise.)

July 24, 2011

Creative Writing Improves Health

Through a screen, this is this morning's view as I write in my journal.

I write about feeling unnoticed or unappreciated; I also write about feeling grateful and lucky. Today’s list was long.

One of the things I’m grateful for is this daily habit of writing. I journal every morning.

Here’s why:

Writing provides clarity. I come to the end of my three pages of handwritten catharsis with a deeper understanding of some of the puzzles of my life. Nothing’s resolved, but the clean sheets are hung out to dry. I can see what I’ve got.

Journaling improves health. The physical effects of journaling are similar to the effects of meditating. My breathing slows down. My attention turns inward.

Writing documents the journey. I can reassure myself that things aren’t that bad, or confess that they are worse. My written words, once laid out, give me a benchmark if I should ever look back. But I never look back.

Journaling taps into my unconscious. Writing first thing in the morning, I dump my dreams on the page. They make no sense, yet are telling me something, some bubbled-up, mixed-up message. In looking at my dreams, I take the position that I am every character. I am more than me.

This blog is about health and fitness. Journaling is part of my mental and psychic fitness. It is my therapy. And journaling every morning is cheaper and more convenient than talk therapy. I began this morning habit ten years ago following the path of Julia Cameron’s guidebook, The Artist’s Way. I heard her speak years ago at Marble Collegiate Church. Loved her then. Love her now.

I write a lot more about creative writing at my blog, The Connected Life. http://gettingmyessayspublished.wordpress.com/ There, I document unplugging the kids from their media and all things writing.

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