July 24, 2017

When Life Gets Weird

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By Crabby McSlacker

So it looks like it's going to be another summer of Not Blogging Much, which I guess is better than Not Blogging at All.  Because, yeah, life's getting awfully weird and distracting of late. 

But how about I at least make time for a quick update, an epiphany, and a question for y'all?


Quick Update:

Many thanks again for all the support, encouraging words, prayers and healing vibes sent in my Mom's direction.  And you know what? You guys must have some impressive clout with the Universe, because she's getting better! While the treatment has been rough going, it seems to be working quite well.  All the nasty radiation and poisonous chemicals are doing what they're supposed to, and my mom is a hearty soul, so once she's done with the last of it, I expect her to be back playing tennis and otherwise being a superhero. (She plays tennis with a group of women who are all also in their 80's, how cool is that?)

However, unfortunately another family crisis has erupted, one of those complicated wrenching ones, so flights home were cancelled and troops mustered and the Lobster has even flown west to join me. But hoping this one resolves happily as well and things get back to normal. Shortly after we get home, we're off for a trip to Croatia, one planned a year ago. So our fingers are crossed that life is done tossing monkey-wrenches at our loved ones for at least a little while.

The Epiphany:

You know all that advice about the importance of self-care during times of stress? "Put on your own oxygen mask first!" How many times have we all heard that?

Trouble is, for many of us self-improvement inclined folks, the "to-do" list for self-care can become an endless encyclopedia of demands, capable of producing more stress than it eliminates. (I should stretch and do my physical therapy exercises! I should cook more whole foods! I should meditate more! I'm not getting enough exercise! I'm getting the wrong kind of exercise! I need more sleep! And what about my novel? My Spanish lessons? My blog?)

So I'm finding that for me, the answer is to simplify and customize. What are the keystone self-care strategies that give me the most bang for the buck? The silver lining of stressful times is that it's a great laboratory for psychological investigation.

My stress level was way high, and now it's only slightly high, so what were the magic ingredients?

I thought about it and there were two. One obvious, and one not so obvious.

1.  Having my wife nearby. Duh, right? But with her work, which requires a lot of travel, we're frequently apart and it's not usually a big deal. But when I'm not at my best? Turns out, being together is a HUGE deal.

2.  Cardio. Walking, it appears, is just not enough to keep me sane.  Logistical challenges tempted me to skip aerobic exercise for a while, thinking it might be optional. But no, as it turns out, it is not optional at all. Huffy-puffy exercise is fundamental to my well-being.

Happy on the trail after a run.

It's the opposite of a vicious cycle--once I got back to running, my sleep got way better, my appetite for healthier food instead of convenient snacks came back, my thoughts have stopped racing as much so meditation is more appealing, etc.  I feel myself again.

I know I need to get back to HIIT, to weights, to more meditation, to creative outlets, to a whole bunch of other things. But they can wait. Turns out the important thing is being with my Person, and getting my heart rate into a strangely specific range at least a few times a week.

The Question:  What are your self-care fundamentals? I suspect we're all very different on this, which is why generic stress reduction advice can seem so unhelpful. I'm totally curious what other folks have discovered:

What keeps you sane when life gets weird?

30 comments:

  1. Yikes, I'm sorry you have so much on your plate to deal with!

    For me, getting enough sleep is crucial. That's first and foremost. Then it's figuring out how to keep up with healthy food choices and activity. Generally that means relying on fast healthy takeout, because I prefer to use that time spent cooking to maybe read or otherwise relax at home to try and keep my head on straight.

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 24, 2017 at 6:36 PM

      Sleep! You're so smart about that OTF, that's one I think all the experts agree on as fundamental. And there are so many more healthy takeout options than there used to be that's another smart strategy. Thanks!

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  2. Crabby, good for you for taking time to do what you need to do to be you. Sorry to learn about the current misfortunes. I hope all gets resolved quickly and well.

    I need time for me alone with me, and stretches, and I must have my meditation/talk to the Universe time daily or my world is skewed.

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 24, 2017 at 6:37 PM

      Love your priorities Leah, they seem very sensible! And thanks so much for the good wishes.

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  3. My Partner is very important to my well-being. Admitting I am doing too much is hard. Being open to giving myself permission to regroup is important to me too.
    Hang in there Crabby! :D

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 24, 2017 at 6:39 PM

      Thanks Sherri! And yeah, isn't it amazing how much comfort an awesome partner can be? (As to doing too much, it's not generally in my slacker nature, and I define "too much" fairly liberally. But not feeling guilty about what I can't get to it is definitely helpful).

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  4. I am so glad to hear that your Mom is doing better. Hope that things continue on that way!

    I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed by life lately myself. I am not so great at the self-care, but I do know that I will feel better if I do exercise at least a few days a week. And also it helps to remind myself that I can't always do everything; sometimes you have to stop and think about what is really essential and let the rest go for the time being.

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 24, 2017 at 6:41 PM

      Thanks JavaChick!

      And sorry life is tossing you curveballs as well. We seem pretty similar in our priorities--exercise doesn't seem to be as negotiable as I once thought it might be. Hang in there!

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  5. Hi!
    I'm so sorry to hear that you're having tough times these days, and so much complexity going on!

    Big hugs, and I hope things get better soon!

    xo, Dave

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 24, 2017 at 6:41 PM

      Hey thanks so much Dave! Hugs received and very much appreciated!

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  6. If I was left with only one stress management tool at my disposal, I would keep the regular (mostly daily) bouts of huffy-puffy exercise (love that term). It is my go-to for keeping my head screwed on straight, for getting my thoughts to untangle, for getting the various fibers of my being to all start pulling together in the same direction rather than flying about in random chaos. It's the foundation from which all else becomes possible.

    I'm glad to hear that your mom's doing so much better, and hope all aligns so that you can still make the Croatia trip. Sounds like some serious decompression is in order.

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    1. We're so similar in so many ways Lindy! And I often find myself repeating your mantra/affirmation: "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down." I think aerobic exercise may be an important part of the stabilization mechanism for me. And thanks so much for all your support!

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  7. Prayer and church, as you can probably guess, are high on my list. Glad to know your mother is doing better, and i'll keep praying for her.

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    1. Thank you so much for your prayers Messymimi, I think they are mighty powerful!

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  8. Apparently, as if so often the case, my comment from the iPod last night didn't actually post. Drat.
    I'm glad to hear your mother is getting better, and hope other things will improve soon.
    I wish sleep was under my control; if it were, it would be the most important self-care thing I could do. Instead, regular yoga is the most important when I'm under a lot of stress, because it's the most likely to get squeezed out.
    Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    1. So sorry Mary Anne about the blogger/IOS problem, wish I weren't so clueless and could fix it!

      I know what you mean about sleep, sometimes it's elusive no matter how perfect your "sleep hygiene" is. And I think you're not alone in finding yoga to be foundational. Glad that works so well for you!

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    2. I skipped mentioning huffy-puffy, because usually my walking doesn't lead to sweat and heavy breathing. I've just come back from a two mile rather up and down hike in woods filled with cobwebs and gnats, discovering that when I can't open my mouth to breathe I make a lot more noise breathing than I'm used to!

      Mary Anne in Kentucky

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    3. Crabby McSlackerJuly 25, 2017 at 6:11 PM

      Cobwebs and gnats? You make the hike sound SO appealing Mary Anne! (And I'm impressed!) Too many creepy crawlies can cause me to bail on a hike.

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  9. So glad your mom is responding well to the treatment! It's crazy how poison can make someone better. As for the other issues, I'm sending calm, calmmmmmm vibes your way - dang, when it rains it pours! Hopefully the deluge is over.

    Side note: huffy puffy made me laugh! My husband always comments on my breathing (I do believe huffy puffy would be an apt descriptor) when he runs with me. It's cardio, you're supposed to be huffy puffy! :)

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 25, 2017 at 6:09 PM

      Huffy puffy is how I do cardio too Shelley, I prefer to think that my legs and heart are strong rather than that my lungs are weak! And thanks so much for sending more good vibes, I could sure use 'em.

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  10. Cranky, my thoughts and prayers are with you and your Mom. I'm also dealing with my sick 82 year old mother. My mom is very stubborn and a bit of a handful. In any event, I'm working contract assignments so that I can take care of her and I'm between assignments right now so I'm working on a few things around the house and listening to audio books and I'm trying to get back into regular running which helps with the stress.

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    1. Crabby McSlackerJuly 25, 2017 at 6:13 PM

      Hey thanks Carolyn, and sending similar thoughts and prayers backatcha for your mom. Hope the running and audio books help, both sound like excellent coping strategies!

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  11. Hi Crabby;

    Wife and Cardio are just two options. How about 30 minutes comfortably sitting in the garden or back yard and just soak in the sun!?

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  12. You look so great and so does that trail. What a gorgeous place to run.

    I call my spouse The Human Valium and my closest friend Human Xanax. I swear it's their brainwaves. I hope things even out for you soon.

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  13. Hey thanks Larkspur!

    And yes, Human valium and xanax, how lucky are we to have those prescriptions reliably refilled? Glad you have yours handy too!

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  15. I am sorry that you have are having tough times and you rightly said company of the partner is a HUGE deal. Hope your things gets sorted back to normal quickly.
    All the best

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  17. I'm sorry to hear that you are having problems. But hey, you know what you have to do. Sometimes I wonder why it is so hard to be alive.

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  18. Crabby, Life has those pitfalls. but your attitude in the face of problems shows your real character. Thank you for all of your hard work!
    I will keep reading!

    prayers,

    -Sarah

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Thanks for commenting, Cranky Fitness readers are the BEST!

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