Refocusing – week 4

Hey, hey, hey, it’s been another seven days! That means the first month of my “Refocusing” is behind me. So, how’d I do?

Progress report – week 4

As always, I’m going to give myself a grade on each of my goals individually, then summarize my overall results.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

Oh, I’ve sucked pretty hard at this. Like last week, I’ve been diligently stretching, but getting outside for a walk (or really anything you might call “exercise”) just hasn’t happened. I’m filled with “I don’t wanna!” and the cold weather hasn’t helped.

I’ve giving myself a D, here, and I really need to do better.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

I’m crushing this goal. I’ve stayed under my calorie limit, I’ve been eating much healthier food, and haven’t felt at all like I’m starving myself. Also? My recent stomach trouble seems to be a thing of the past. Awesome all around.

I totally get an A+ for this goal.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

Nailed it! No slips, no days off, I’m rocking everything about this goal.

An A+ for sure.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

This is another goal I’m just completely crushing. Every single day in my house there’s lots of hanging out, playing games, and just generally enjoying each other’s company. I’m really happy I put this goal into the mix, because it’d be very easy for me to focus on all my other goals while ignoring the people around me. Having this goal here means that just isn’t happening. In fact, I’m spending more quality time with others than I have in years.

Another solid A+.

I will create something every day.

Not doing so well with this goal. That’s partly due to me just not being in much of a creative mood, but mainly I’m just not making enough “room” to be creative. I’ve done a little writing here and there, but I just haven’t sat down, pushed aside the mental clutter, and really worked at anything.

I’m giving myself a C here, because I have done some stuff, but I’m nowhere near where I should be.

Results

What should I lead with here? The fact that I feel pretty much amazing all the time? The fact that I lost another five pounds this week, bringing me down to 236 from 251 a month ago? Or the fact that I once again had a week where I slept for a full eight hours every single night?

All that stuff obviously rocks, but I think the thing I’m happiest about is the fact that my anxiety issues are gone. Gone. I don’t mean a little bit less, or easier to handle. I mean I haven’t had an ounce of anxiety, dread, or panic in over a week.

I can’t remember having a week like that, even once, in the last decade.

And all of this taken together, these various and awesome bits and pieces, have made me more patient, less frustrated, and the sort of happy that’s hard to put into words. I still have a lot of work to do, but I’m absolutely thrilled about how things have been going so far.

So how are you doing?

Refocusing – week two

Well, the second week of my Refocusing (as I’m calling it) has come and gone. Let’s see how I did.

Progress report – week 2

Once again, I’ll break down my progress goal-by-goal, then write about my overall results and feelings.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This went much better than last week. I stretched every day, and got out for a “power” walk five out of the seven days. The weather was still a factor, but I’m working on getting over that.

I’m giving myself a B- here. If I don’t get out for a walk, I could at least stretch again. And I haven’t consistently hit a full hour yet.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

Rocking this one harder than last week! Didn’t go over my calorie count even once, and I added a daily multi-vitamin to the mix. I’ve also taken steps to diversify my diet a bit more, so I don’t get into a boring rut that feels like punishment.

This is A+ territory. I really don’t think I can do much better.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

Totally nailed this one again. In fact, I can probably afford to spend a little less time and energy on this, and use those savings on other goals.

That makes this another A+.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

Doing great here, as well. I’m taking the earbuds out more often, and interacting with everyone. I still see some room for improvement, but I’m generally happy with how this is going.

Let’s call it an A.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

This one is a bummer. The point of this goal was to get me creating something every day. Instead, as I mentioned last week, I left it open and vague enough that I can spend my time doing everything but creating something and still call it good.

For example, I’ve been spending about half an hour on Instagram every day. That time totally counts as far as this goal is concerned, but apart from “popularity,” it’s really contributing nothing to my art. I have thousands of followers, get hundreds of likes on every photo I share from my archives, but haven’t actually taken more than half a dozen photos in the last couple of weeks.

That’s, you know, not good.

But that’s not all! Despite my best intentions, I’ve somehow managed to mentally box myself in as a “nature photographer,” and now that the flowers are dead and the leaves are off the trees, I’m having a hard time finding any sort of creative spark for photography. I really just don’t feel like pulling out my camera at all.

That’s, you know, really not good.

So, I’m coming back to this goal with a hatchet and a bad attitude. I need to scrap this vague-ass permission slip, and give myself a specific commandment. Right now, I’m thinking: “I will spend one hour a day creating something.” This puts the focus on doing actual, creative work, but also relaxes the photography restriction. I could write, draw, or craft for instance, and get credit for it.

Not sure yet. But since I started the week with the goal in bold up above, let’s grade myself.

Going by the letter, I have to give myself an A. But if I went by the actual spirit of the goal, this is as solid an F as they come.

Results

Once again, I’ve been in a great mood. I feel awesome, both physically and mentally, and lost another two pounds.

The time change is throwing me off a bit, though. I’ve been tired yesterday and today, but I’m not too concerned about that, as you can probably guess. I’ll adjust.

Likewise, my stress and anxiety is basically non-existent at this point. When I feel either begin to rise up, I’m able to quickly recognize it, and just as quickly adjust my thinking.

I can’t stress enough that I never for a second thought this Refocusing would have this kind of pronounced, instant positive effect on me. And while I realize I still have a long way to go before I’m where I want to ultimately be physically (specifically, I have another 64 pounds to go), I have no doubt that I’ll get there, and much sooner than I would have hoped.

How are you doing?

A good start

Well, it’s Monday, so that means it’s time for my first weekly check-in.

Last week I wrote a post describing my five goals, which I chose to help me focus on my three highest priorities: health, family, and photography. So how did my first seven days go?

Progress report – week 1

I’m going to break things down goal-by-goal first, give myself a grade on each, then summarize any results I feel are related to all of this. You’ll see what I mean.

I will spend one hour a day exercising and stretching.

This has been a struggle, mostly due to the weather. We’ve had several days of rain, and the sort of wind which makes an umbrella useless. So getting out for walks (my go-to exercise) has been a challenge. But at least I’ve been stretching, right?

Ehh…sorta. It was really rough at the start. I didn’t stretch at all the first couple of days, and I honestly don’t know why. Stretching is relatively easy, but I just didn’t do it. It’s not a question of forgetting about it, I just…didn’t wanna. I finally got around to it on Thursday, though, and managed to stretch at least once a day ever since.

I’m giving myself a C on this goal, but only because I’m cutting myself a little slack due to the weather. I probably deserve a C- or a D.

I will use a meal planner to eat healthier.

I’ve been doing really well on this! I’m using an Android app called “Fat Secret” to track my calories and overall nutrition, and it’s made me think long and hard about my food choices. I’ve been eating a ton of greens, choosing much healthier snacks (like baby carrots), and staying focused on my nutritional needs. I’m also drinking a lot more water and finally feeling properly hydrated for the first time in I don’t know how long.

That said, there have been a couple of times at the beginning of the week where I went a little over my calorie count and shouldn’t have.

This gets an A this week. It’d be an A+, but I really can’t ignore those little slips.

I will spend one hour a day on meditation and related practices.

I am totally rocking this goal. As I mentioned last week, these “meditation and related practices” are more involved than I’m comfortable discussing right now, but any way I look at this goal I am thoroughly kicking its butt.

That’s an A+, hands down.

I will spend one hour a day with my family members.

At first glance, I’ve been nailing this goal as well, and doing so for well in excess of an hour a day, but I have to keep something in mind. This goal isn’t about just occupying the same space, but really interacting with (and enjoying the company of) all my family members.

Sitting in a room, watching and talking about a show or a movie totally counts. Sitting in a room, listening to podcasts via my earbuds and phone, while everyone else is watching and talking about a show? Not so much.

I’m giving myself a B, here, because I’m mostly taking the earbuds out and interacting more often (and this weekend I hung out with the family a lot), but there’s definite room for improvement.

I will spend one hour a day on photography.

I’m also kicking this goal’s butt, but only if you go by the letter and not the spirit of the goal.

In my case, “photography” is an umbrella term which includes taking photos, editing photos, posting photos, and reading/watching/learning about photography stuff. And I’ve certainly spent an hour a day (or more) doing some of these things, but the one thing I didn’t do hardly any of was actually get out and take photos.

That’s…not what I wanted. So, this goal might just be too vague. I may need to narrow my focus, narrow my definition of “photography” in this context. For now, I’m going to leave it worded as is, and I’ll try to maintain a better ratio of “taking photos” versus “everything else.”

In the meantime, I’m giving myself a B, here. I’ve absolutely done something photography-related for an hour a day, but I’m leaving an important part of the picture out. (See what I did there?)

Results

I haven’t felt this good, or happy, in years. Maybe ever.

For starters, I’ve slept well every single night this last week. Minus a trip or two to the bathroom, I’m getting good, deep, quality sleep and waking up feeling refreshed and alert. For a chronic insomniac like myself, that’s insane. I don’t think a week of sleep like this has ever happened to me before, at least not that I can remember.

Related: I’m not tired at all during the day. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve gotten tired in the early afternoon and just wanted to take a nap. This week? Not even a little bit. I’m alert, focused, and enjoying pretty much every waking hour.

Oh, and I’ve lost five pounds. And I’ve done it without starving myself or otherwise feeling hungry all day.

Combine all this with much reduced levels of stress and anxiety, and the fact that a lot of my little, nagging aches and pains (including my haunted neck) are becoming a lot less achy and painful, and…wow.

I never, never thought I would experience anything approaching these results so quickly. And didn’t really expect some of them (like sleep) at all. I’m still in the honeymoon phase of this plan, so I need to keep in mind that my results are probably skewed a bit due to optimism, but damn, son!

So that’s how my first week has gone. An overall grade in the B range, and huge positive returns for the effort.

Winter and mental illness

I have a mental illness.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like to talk about it. Not because I’m ashamed, or afraid of what people might think of me. I’ve long since stopped caring about that. I don’t discuss or dwell on my mental illness because it brings me down.

It sucks, there’s little I can do about it, and running through all the ways it affects my life is an exercise in self-abuse.

But this winter…worries me.

I’ve never really noticed a seasonal component to my mental illness. Some people struggle once the weather turns cold, but I don’t. Or, at least, I didn’t.

I’m worried things will be different this year.

Since I took up photography, I’ve been getting outside more and more. I’ve been taking long walks with my camera, stalking flowers and trees, and loving every minute that the sun beats down on me. I’m loving it so much that it’s hard for me to describe just how awesome being outdoors has felt, without sounding like some kind of deranged hippie.

And that’s great, of course, but it’s the flip side that bothers me. When the weather’s been rainy and nasty, my mood’s gone alarmingly downhill.

Every day of gray skies and drizzle this year has found me on the couch, tired, and miserable. Without the sun above, I feel like I’m six feet below. It’s an awful, relentless feeling that I can still work around for a day or two, but a whole season?

I already hated winter, but for purely practical reasons. It’s cold, wet, and “shoveling snow” ranks right up there with “lumbar puncture” on the list of things I never want to experience again. This winter, though? It feels like it’s going to be double-plus ungood.

So, I’m writing a list of things I can do to keep my mental illness at bay this winter, or at least dial back the dread. It’s not a given that things are going to be shitty once the snow’s on the ground, but having a set of activities to help keep my brain happy if they do sounds like a reasonable precaution.

Things I’ve put on it? Watching movies I’ve been meaning to see. Reading books I’ve wanted to read. And yes, getting outside, despite the ice and cold, is also on there. Meditation and a deeper commitment to what you might call my “spiritual” practice appears as well.

I’m still working on the list, still trying to fill it out, but just getting it started has made me feel better about how I’ll handle my mental illness this winter.

So, if you’re struggling too, why not make your own? If you do, leave a comment with what you’ve chosen to put on it.

We could all use some new ideas.

Wednesday Wupdate

It’s Wednesday again, so let’s continue the tradition of me hurling a bunch of gibberish at you about how my week’s been going. Think of these Wednesday updates like the “merchandising” restaurants do, where instead of throwing out their old, gamy food and taking a loss, they turn it into the “Chef’s Surprise” special.

Only instead of suspicious seafood, it’s my life.

That Instagram thing is going well.

“Broken and Beautiful.” I took this photo last week while walking through a local park.

I’ve somehow made it to three thousand followers on Instagram. That’s…really awesome. People seem to like my stuff, I’m often one of the “Top Posts” for my town and many of the hashtags I toss my stuff in–it’s cool. And to be honest, I kinda needed something like this to happen.

I hear a lot of artists rattle off the line “create art for yourself, don’t worry about what other people think,” but I’ve yet to personally meet any artist who isn’t secretly a needy little victim of impostor syndrome who desperately craves the approval of others. Myself included. I don’t need much, but I do need a little love from people who aren’t related to me before I can mentally say: “Okay, I am actually kinda good at this.”

Alex is a teenager today.

I foreshadowed this on Monday, but my daughter turns thirteen today.

It’s kind of freaking me out.

Changing priorities.

Despite the sleep and family health issues last month, things have generally been going well. There is the looming threat of winter and how that’s going to affect my mental health (I have a post about this sitting in my Drafts folder that I’m hoping to get out soon), but overall? I think I’m in a better place today than I’ve been in quite some time.

Which means that I’m starting to re-evaluate some of my priorities. Projects I’ve had kicking around, things I’ve been “meaning to do,” habits I’ve wanted to change–now that I no longer need to just live day to day, I’m taking some time to organize and plan.

If this smells a little like vague-posting, it’s because it is. Even I’m not sure what “organize and plan” means here, or which “priorities” I’m really talking about. I just know that I’m staring down the barrel of some hard choices as to what I’m going to focus on, versus what I’m going to kick to the curb once and for all.

Once I figure out which is which, I’ll let you know.