Treating Blues like the Flu

February 29, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ve been feeling a bit blue lately.

This isn’t unusual for me. I’ve suffered from depression and generalized anxiety disorder for most of my adult life (who doesn’t, I always wonder), so I occasionally find myself in the doldrums, the horse latitudes, under the weather…

I have learned to master these hiccups mostly without medication over the years through a combination of exercise, relaxation techniques, hypnosis, organization and, of late, through diet and de-cluttering.

But the pillar of my depression and anxiety management has always been exercise. I must move by body every day in order to maintain a level of calm, vitality and motivation. Unfortunately, I injured my knee while skating last month, and then I continued to run on it because it doesn’t hurt while I am moving, it hurts after. So now I have this knee problem that keeps me from being as active as I need to be to feel my best.

Combine this with a pretty hefty tax bill due in April that ensures that all of my family’s extra income for the next two months is already spent on something decidedly un-fun, and you have yourself a recipe for the Type-A blues.

When you have a chronic condition like depression or anxiety, it’s important to remember that it is, in fact, an illness. When I have a blues blowup I treat it as such and I adhere to a regimen very close to what I would do if I had the flu.  I highly recommend this course of action when you are dealing with any sort of situation that has you feeling down in the dumps.

The Type-A Blues Prescription* is as follows:

Get lots of rest. I don’t mean loll around in bed all day feeling sorry for yourself (although one day of this is absolutely allowed). I mean set a reasonable bedtime every night and stick to it. I like to be asleep by 10 p.m., so I start winding down around 8, dimming lights, cutting out the liquids, reading, taking a hot bath. Without adequate rest, the blues can really do a number on my ability to get even the most minor things done.

Cancel social events and appointments. Even though being around others can sometimes lift my spirits, I more often find that the blues make me very anxious about bringing my best self to interactions. At parties, this sometimes makes me drink too much or say something I regret (those two often go hand in hand). In meetings, my mind wanders or I just don’t feel on. I have found that by just saying I’m not feeling well or postponing an important meeting for a later date, I give myself a little space to feel calm and, in the case of meetings, prepare myself to be fully functional the next time.

Drink lots of hot liquids. A psychologist once explained to me that we drink hot beverages in the morning not only to give ourselves a caffeine boost, but also because humans crave a warm feeling around our hearts. I like this idea. When I’m blue, I drink lots of warm tea to elevate my spirit and warm my heart. It’s like a moment of therapy in a mug.

Wear comfy clothes. I subscribe to this most of the time, but especially when I’m down. Comfy clothes make it easy to move, bend and breathe, and are especially nice when cuddling on the couch.

Watch movies or read books that make you smile. One of my go-to blues books is An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal. It’s not a front-to-back read, so when my attention span is compromised it’s nice to be able to flip to a random page and read her warm, sweet observations about normal life. For movies, I love I Capture the Castle (Free on Netflix! It’s based on a book written by the same woman who wrote 101 Dalmations. How cool is that?), Role Models (my favorite raunchy comedy of all time) and re-runs of Friends (sentimental entry).

Stop drinking. I must cut out all alcohol when I have the blues or I will spiral down into oblivion. There’s no negotiating this for me. Alcohol affects my ability to get a good night’s sleep, it makes me feel anxious and jittery, and, despite the calming effect one or two glasses of wine seems to have on my system, it’s actually just depressing me more. You wouldn’t have a cocktail when you have the flu, so trade it for a mug of chamomile tea instead.

Walk meditatively. Being a bit of an exercise junkie, my normal walking speed is faster than many people jog. When I am feeling down and out, I remind myself to slow down, breathe deeply, and take in the images around me. This week, I was delighted by the beauty of the Western Bluebirds flitting around in the pink blossoms of the cherry trees, and I was charmed by the bright red English phone booth outside of our local pub. I normally zoom past these things, but in my slower state I was able to really enjoy the pleasures of my small town. My heart felt happy again.

Treat yourself like you would treat a friend who feels the same way. If your friend had a case of the sads, you wouldn’t berate her for not getting through that pile of laundry. You wouldn’t scold her for oversalting the pasta. You would never tell her to “pull herself up by her bootstraps” and jump back into life. You’d pour her a cup of tea, tuck her into bed and tell her that you’ll call her 3:00 and say she’s not feeling well enough to meet. Do this for yourself.

What about can’t-get-out-of obligations? Many of us have things that we must do every day: Go to work, get the kids ready for school, fight the galactic menace… These things can’t be put off, but you can take it easy on yourself. Have your tea while you’re doing these things. Stop for 15 seconds when things get hectic and breathe deeply. When you finally get your time, baby yourself mercilessly and unconditionally to re-charge your batteries for the next day. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your spouse or friends for help.

Our society rewards those of us who buck up, get on with it and soldier on. I certainly agree that there is a time and a place for this type of attitude, but for now, if life has you feeling down, it’s probably because you need a short time out. Take it. Make yourself feel better. The best way to chase the blues away is to take excellent care of yourself today.

 

*For mild blues take a few of these and call a friend in the morning. If you’re experiencing panic attacks or a major depressive episode, contact your physician as soon as possible. There’s no need to suffer in silence.

Things Every New Minimalist Tries at Least Once

February 2, 2012 § 10 Comments

I have joyfully embraced my status as a nobody, and now, friends, I am also ready to embrace my status as a total cliché.

I have suspected this for months. I visit a lot of simplicity, minimalist and green blogs and I’m finding that my fellow bloggers are beating me to the punch on several topics. (I’m lookin’ at you minhus! I was SO going to write about coconut oil…)

This isn’t a bad thing! In fact, it reinforces a lot of my decisions and also helps me feel connected to a community of like-minded souls when I often feel like I’m on an island surrounded consumer-infested waters.

I also had my fair share of belly laughs when I watched Portlandia for the first time and realized, yep, I do all of that, too. (I did stop at asking for the chicken’s name when I ordered it, but I have asked about the farm. I also may have screamed “bike rights” once or twice while pedaling to the store. There may be a bird or two on some of my things.)

So I’m a nobody and a cliché, and that’s fine with me. If you’re looking to dip a toe into minimalism, here are some things you’ll probably find yourself doing at least once:

  • You’ll run the numbers to see if you can get rid of one car.
  • You’ll make your own toothpaste
  • You’ll make your own laundry detergent.
  • You’ll clean, and clean, and de-clutter and clean. Then you’ll start all over again. 
  • You’ll bake your own bread.
  • You’ll attempt to minimize your wardrobe by “Garanimal-izing” all of your basic pieces.
  • You’ll walk or bike to the grocery store.
  • You’ll take a yoga class.
  • You’ll meditate.
  • You’ll create a plan to eliminate all of your debt, including having a yard sale where you decide to sell everything in your home. 
  • You’ll shop at the farmer’s market.
  • You’ll silently judge others as (insert sneer here) consumers. Then, you’ll chide yourself for not being more compassionate. 
  • You’ll go meat free on Mondays. Then you’ll go veg. Then you’ll go vegan. You’ll swoon over homemade hummus.
  • You’ll obsess over tiny homes.
  • You’ll start a blog.
  • You’ll write an e-book about something.
  • You’ll consider living with just 100 things, wearing the same dress every day for a year, or eliminating all unnecessary shopping forever.
  • You’ll try to repurpose everything you bring home.
  • You’ll read labels on everything to make sure it’s natural, local and not made in a sweatshop. You’ll forgive all or one of these offenses if the item you want is especially a) delicious b) unique or c) adorable. You’ll beat yourself up about it later. Then you’ll forgive yourself because you’re doing “so well” in other areas.
  • You’ll freak out over thezerowastehome.com. No one in your circle will share your enthusiasm.
  • You’ll compost. This may or may not include worms.
  • You’ll re-asses all of your beauty products and eliminate everything but soap and eyeliner. Then you’ll go out and find a bunch of all-natural alternatives that may or may not work as well as your original stash.
  • You’ll read Walden, The Story of Stuff, Your Money or Your Life, Born to Run, The Four Hour Body, and every post by Leo Babauta at zenhabits.net. (You should read The Freedom Manifesto, by Tom Hodgkinson.)
  • You’ll watch Forks Over Knives, Maxed Out, The Story of Stuff, Supersize Me, Who Killed the Electric Car, Zero Impact Man and Dive!
  • You’ll seriously consider dumpster diving for a meal. (See Dive! above). Someone will talk you out of it. Thank them.
  • You’ll breathe more, panic less, find beauty in small things, discover your own path to health and wellness, spend less time shopping and generally just feel more in control of your destiny. (Hopefully this last one will stick).

It’s OK to be cliché! Those of us who seek a more peaceful existence will try all of these things because many wise people who have gone before us have done the same — and some of these things really work.

If being a cliché means that I work less and live more, that I waste less and appreciate more and spend less but have more, then slap a sticker on me and call me a cliché. I’ll proudly wear it on the one organic cotton T-shirt (with a bird on it) I still own as I ride my bike to the farmers market.

 

So Much Rubbish

December 14, 2011 § 11 Comments

There’s not much clutter left in my house, and I am definitely feeling the benefits of more free time, an organized space and the ability to find pretty much anything in the first place I look. These simple gifts are not to be trivialized. Not only is my load lighter, but my mood is lighter. There is an indescribable peace that comes from getting your shit together.

But something interesting has happened – and it was totally unconscious (until I put two and two together yesterday morning in a green tea-induced a-ha moment.) I’m going to share it with you now in the hopes that your comments can offer some insight into what may very well be an active case of obsessive-compulsive disorder.

I’ve taken up running. (This is not the issue. Be patient.) I’ve always been a passionate walker and hiker, but I gave up drinking any alcohol in November (this is also not the issue) and I have found that without my nightly wine I have an excess of energy. Not manic energy or anxious energy, just alert, vibrant energy – and it’s wonderful.

I started running because I also started getting up at 6 a.m. (not the issue) after the last time change and after I quit the wine. It’s chilly at 6 a.m. so instead of walking I just sort of bounced around my route in order to stay warm and that turned into running. I am now running up to three miles, three to four days a week. And it’s wonderful.

I noticed on my run that there is a lot of litter in my town,  (wait for it…) so every morning when I head out for my jog, I take a plastic bag and pick up all the litter on my route. I’ve been filling the equivalent of one regular-sized trash bag per week with Starbuck’s cups, Taco Bell bags, McDonald’s wrappers, liquor bottles, cigarette packs, clothing and grocery bags. (There is a LOT of trash in my town!) I then retire to my home – which is on the second floor of a downtown building with a view of a parking lot, a hair salon, a train depot and an Irish pub — and look out with great satisfaction over my trash-free vista.

I imagine being able to run even farther so that I can broaden my trash pickup to all of the neighborhoods in my town. I want to inspire others to do the same by creating a “Litter Gitter” (working title) patrol with the help of my Town Council. I envision myself on the front page of our paper with a title that reads “Local Woman Says It’s Cool to Be ‘Trashy'” with pithy quotes from me encouraging other runners to grab garbage on their cool down walks…

I’ve Type A’d all over this thing.

So my issue is that I think I just transferred my need to constantly clean and organize my home to a need to clean and organize the entire world.

Is this a problem? Discuss.

An Ex-Consumer Becomes an Ex-Debtor

August 3, 2011 § 1 Comment

My heartfelt congratulations to Jenny at Ex-Consumer! She and her husband Kirk set out at the beginning of the year to pay off their consumer debt of over $25,000 by November. They accomplished their goal a few months early, and she made the announcement on her blog today.

I love getting good news!

Visit Jenny’s blog to see how she did it, and to get inspired to tackle your own financial goals. I, for one, am more motivated than ever to pay off my mortgage…

 

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