Praying for Sleep

I’m not particularly religious, but if I were, I’d be praying to whatever deity for sleep, which has eluded me for months now. 

I started tracking my sleep in January, but I knew that, for at least a couple months prior, I wasn’t getting enough sleep. From January to now, I get an average of about 4 to 5 hours of sleep each night. Sometimes I get as much as 6 or as little as 3, despite being in bed for 7 to 8 hours total.

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The light blue lines are periods of restfulness and the dark blue is deep sleep. Ugh. 

I’m not wide awake, though. There’s not a million thoughts running through my head (okay, that happens sometimes) and I’m not staring at my ceiling every night wondering why I can’t sleep (that happens sometimes, too). Instead, I’m tossing and turning and just restless in general. I’m exhausted, but I just can’t get comfortable enough to fall asleep and stay asleep.

My shoulder pain may be partly to blame, and I assume stress is also to blame. I’m doing everything I can to reduce those (seeing a chiropractor, more self-care, etc.), but there’s only so much I can do. I feel like I’ve tried everything people suggest to sleep better. I’ve tried:

  • Going to bed early
  • Getting up early
  • Going to bed/waking up at the same time every day
  • Turning off screens at least 30 minutes before bed
  • Reading before bed
  • Drinking herbal tea before bed (relaxing, yes, but I usually have to get up to pee)
  • Diffusing lavender and other calming essential oils in my bedroom
  • Getting more magnesium
  • Exercising regularly
  • Meditating
  • Not drinking caffeine after noon (more on this later)

I even got so desperate that I tried taking melatonin and Zquil. Neither worked. In fact, both of them made me feel exhausted but also completely wired (I’ve had the same experience with muscle relaxers in the past). And one of my main motivations for doing the Whole30 in January was to improve my sleep. While I saw a whole slew of other non-scale victories, better sleep wasn’t one of them.

So, desperate times call for desperate measures. In addition to praying to the Universe for sleep, I’m also giving up caffeine. Because caffeine can stay in your system for so long, I stuck to the hard and fast rule of no caffeine after 12 p.m., but that hasn’t helped. And I had previously tried going a couple days without my  morning coffee, but didn’t notice a difference so I quickly gave up. This time, I’m going to stick it out for a couple weeks at least and see what happens.

It’s the only other thing I can think to do. So I’ve traded in my beloved, caffeinated, bulletproof coffee for a decaf version. As of this posting, I’m four days caffeine-free and these four days have been entirely unpleasant. The first day I had a mild headache. No biggie.

By the second day, that headache was a full-blown migraine with a side of nausea for good measure. I was grateful to have a light workload because I spent most of the afternoon just laying on the couch. I ate very little and watched a whole lot of Netflix. I thought things were really looking up when I fell asleep relatively quickly and wasn’t tossing and turning, but then Penny started whining.

I checked the clock. 2:45 a.m. Ugh. I got up and let the dogs out. She definitely needed to go, so the whining was justified. I put them back in their kennels and went back to bed. Couldn’t get comfortable. I turned on some meditation music to help me fall back asleep. Didn’t work. Played a dumb game on my phone for a while until I was tired again. Finally fell asleep around 5. Alarm went off at 6:30. Decided to sleep in an extra half hour. Slept until 8 instead.

Despite the lack of sleep (I should be used to it by now), I actually felt a little better on day 3. My headache and nausea were gone. I made my decaf bulletproof coffee and ate a banana for breakfast to play it safe. Now I just have to wait and see how much sleep I get.

img_3230By the way, if you aren’t sure what bulletproof coffee is, it’s a pretty popular morning drink. It’s traditionally made with regular (ie caffeinated) coffee with grassfed butter and coconut (or MCT) oil blended in. Previously, I simply added ghee to mine, omitting the coconut oil, although I have done both in the past. More recently, I’ve added collagen peptides (check back for a post on this later) and ghee, and starting this week, I use decaf coffee. Then I top it off with a little dairy-free creamer and use a frother to mix it all up. It’s a delicious morning tradition I just couldn’t part with (hence the decaf).

Have you ever struggled to get a good night’s sleep? What are your best tips for falling–and staying–asleep? Are you a fan of bulletproof coffee or do you prefer yours black? Let me know in the comments!

PS: This post contains affiliate links.

Happiness Boost: Curate Your Social Media Feeds

Facebook. Instagram. Twitter. SnapChat. Etc. Whatever platform(s) you use on a regular basis, you probably spend more time on them than you’d like to admit (I know I do). If you’re like me, your social media feeds probably have a big impact on your mood (especially if you follow any news sites. ugh.). It’s not just the news, though. The posts from your friends and family (or even complete strangers) can put you in a bad mood, too. We’re constantly viewing everyone else’s highlight reel and wondering why our lives can’t be like that.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” –Theodore Roosevelt

We get stuck in a cycle of comparing our real lives to everyone else’s highlight reel, and that’s a surefire way to dampen your mood and make you feel like you don’t have enough, you’re not good enough, etc. The first step to a better experience on social media is understanding that few people show their real life on there. Some show their “behind-the-scenes” so people understand that the pretty Instagram photos don’t show everything, but many don’t. So you have to take everything you see and put it in perspective.

That food blogger who always takes pictures with perfect lighting on a marble countertop may have none of that. I’ve seen the behind the scenes of a few food bloggers who use a small piece of marble and set it up next to a window with lots of natural light to get the perfect shot.

Here’s the thing. You can’t let other people’s seemingly “perfect” photos keep you from sharing what you love. Who cares if you don’t have the perfect lighting or even a slab of marble or granite? Take your food pictures under your fluorescent lighting on your laminate countertop and be proud of your creation.

If what other people are posting affects your mood, however, it’s time to curate a social media feed that brings you joy instead of feelings of “not enough”. How do you curate your social media feeds? Here’s a few tips I’ve used myself to ensure when I log in to Instagram or Facebook, what I see generally makes me happier:

  1. Unfollow, unfollow, unfollow. Give yourself permission to unfollow any social media accounts that don’t bring you joy for whatever reason. On Facebook, you can unfollow people but still remain friends (so no one gets their feelings hurt). On Instagram, there’s not an option to stay “friends” when you unfollow, but sometimes unfollowing is the best thing you can do for yourself. If you’re real-life friends, great. Stay in touch–call, email, text, grab coffee, etc. But don’t follow them on social media if doing so makes you feel less than. For the people you don’t know in real life, well, don’t feel bad about unfollowing them.
  2. Connect with others who have similar goals. If your goal is to lose weight, connect with other people who want to lose weight. If you want to run a marathon, connect with other runners. If you want to save money, maybe unfollow those bloggers who are always posting about their new bags or shoes or whatever. Find bloggers who thrift or are always on the hunt for sales instead. For me, running, mental health, and eating healthy are all really important to me. So I’m friends with/follow other runners. I’m even in a couple runners’ groups on Facebook. I follow accounts on Instagram that regularly share self-care tips and ways to boost mental health. I follow a lot of accounts that are associated with the Whole30 in one way or another. My Instagram feed includes a lot of Whole30 recipes, kitchen and grocery shopping tips/hacks, and other healthy products. I don’t follow accounts like McDonald’s or bloggers who are constantly making choices that would not be healthy for me. I follow accounts that bring me joy and bring me closer to my goals.
  3. Set limits. For those accounts you just can’t unfollow for whatever reason, set limits. I still follow several news sites because I want to be informed. But I don’t let myself get lost in a sea of bad news. Instead I’ll read one or two news stories (and skim a few other headlines/snippets) before moving on to happier things, like posts about dogs or some new recipes to try. Unfortunately, there’s no easy “hack” for this. You have to have some self-control and know your own limits. I’m learning that when it comes to social media (at least for me), less is more. I’ve also implemented a social media “curfew” for myself recently. I stop checking/mindlessly scrolling through social media at 8pm every day. I’ve been doing this for over a month now and although there have been a few exceptions where I either forgot or lost track of time, I’ve stuck with it. Even better, it has helped. Quitting social media altogether or taking a hiatus (however long) just wasn’t realistic for me. But logging off by 8pm every night has been relatively easy. Plus, it gives me more time to wind down before bed.

Social media seems to be a blessing and a curse for most people. We’re more connected to others than ever, but it can also lead to feelings of isolation and “not enough”. Taking control of your social media feeds by changing who you follow and how you use it just might give you a happiness boost when you log in.

If you try any or all of these tips, let me know if they help! If you have any other tips to share, I’d love to hear them!

Missing Running

Things have been a little quiet on the blog lately, mostly because my personal life has been chaotic. I’ve been struggling both mentally and physically since I had to stop running over a month ago (chiropractor’s orders). I had plans to run a 10k at the end of May and that’s just not going to happen. Maybe if I got cleared to run in the next week I could pull off a 5k, but I think the 10k is out of reach at this point. So that’s frustrating.

On top of that, I really have had zero physical activity over the past month. I went to the gym once and did the elliptical and it was awful. Way worse than the “dreadmill”. So I’m not getting much exercise, I’ve been sore from my adjustments and muscle work at the chiropractor, and I feel like I’m not making much progress with it. My shoulder still hurts and although they tried to have me do exercises last week, I was so sore afterwards that they’ll probably delay those even longer.

I know it will eventually get better and I’ll be able to do more than I could do this time last year, but the waiting is hard. Especially since running was about so much more than staying in shape for me. First and foremost, it got me out of the house at least once every day (work from home problems). But it’s also an outlet for anger, frustration, sadness, writing blocks, and so much more. So now I have all these pent-up feelings and I don’t have a way to release them.

IMG_3169.jpgThe past month or so has been hard for lots of other reasons, too. My freelance work was slow for a while, which really stresses me out (and I couldn’t run to relieve that stress!). Then, my grandpa passed away, so I had to cut back on the little bit of work I did have so I could be with my family. It was all hard and exhausting, but the amount of people who came to the visitation and/or funeral was incredible and I’m so grateful to everyone who stood in line for almost an hour or more just to say hi and chat for a minute.

In spite of all the sadness and stress and exhaustion, good things are in the works. My freelance work is picking back up and I’ve got some promising full-time opportunities on the horizon as well. It’s been hard to stay positive lately, but I’m trying.

For now, I’m going to keep working hard, and maybe try to write a blog post more than once a month! I’ve got some other posts I’m working on so be on the lookout for those!

Mindset Shift

I’ve been working on shifting my mindset a lot lately. I spend a lot of time worrying about horrible what-ifs and areas where things are lacking (ie I don’t have enough; I don’t make enough; etc.). To maintain a more positive mindset, I’ve been repeating a few mantras to myself lately:

  • Believe good things will happen and they will. 
  • I am enough. I have enough. 
  • Keep going. 

It’s an awful thing to believe you’re not good enough, and I’ve spent so much time believing that about myself. I’m choosing to focus on the good that could happen and I’m choosing to believe that I am enough.

Last week, thanks to this Instagram post, I added a new one to the rotation:

  • What do I have to lose? What’s the worst that could happen? 

It’s been a great reminder to take risks, particularly when I have nothing to lose and the worst that could happen is someone says “no”.

I’ve been looking for full-time jobs lately (and regular freelance work in the meantime). After applying for a full-time job with a company I was excited about working for, they unexpectedly asked if I’d be willing to start in a contract (ie freelance) position first. I immediately said yes because I’m excited about the company and position.

I didn’t negotiate rates at all. I just accepted the range they gave me. The last time I did that, things didn’t turn out well, and I’ve always regretted not negotiating for higher pay. So when they sent over the contract for this freelance position, there were a few concerning items, in addition to the low pay I had initially agreed to.

I felt a little strange negotiating rates after already verbally agreeing to what they offered. But I thought to myself, I have nothing to lose here. The worst that can happen is they say they can’t go any higher and won’t make changes to the contract, at which point I walk away. Sure, I’d be missing out on the possibility of it turning into a full-time position, but I wouldn’t be any worse off. I still have some steady freelance work and I’m still looking for other full-time jobs. 

So I went for it and asked for a higher hourly rate that better reflected my experience and what my target salary would be for a full-time position, in addition to the other changes I wanted to see in the contract. I didn’t hear back for over a week, so I assumed the “worst” had happened. I let it go and refocused my energy into looking for other jobs. Yesterday I finally got a response from them and they agreed to the higher rate and the other changes I had proposed.

Now I’m just waiting to see the final draft of the contract so I can sign it and get to work. I feel so great for “leaning in” and asking for what I wanted and needed. This time last year (heck even just a few months ago), I might not have had the guts to do that. I’ve been working really hard to have a more positive attitude about life in general and I’ve been taking more risks, both personally and professionally. Hopefully this is the start of all that hard work paying off!

Have you taken any risks lately? Did they pay off? How do you maintain a positive attitude—or is that something you struggle with like me?

I Finished the January Whole30 But…

I’m not stopping at 30 days!

FFC47689-CEF1-4C6C-8E10-193496F631AC-19105-0000117502365E44.jpgAs of today, I’m on day 32, and I’m going to keep going for a while. The past 30 days have been pretty great (I’ll get to my non-scale victories shortly), but it’s just not enough this time. My primary motivation for this round was to see how it would affect my shoulder. And while it has eliminated that 24/7 chronic pain I was dealing with, I think it could be better.

So I’m going to keep on keepin’ on for another 10-15 days at least to see just how much better my shoulder can feel. I also didn’t see as much improvement in my sleep and energy as I’d hoped I would (I mostly blame this on stress), so I’d like to see if those get any better as well.

IMG_2863.jpgMy experience wasn’t all negative, though! Before I get to all my amazing NSVs, I want to talk about the two books that were total game changers for this round of my Whole30. First, The Whole30 Day by Day is the journal I wanted to keep during my first several rounds but was too lazy to do so. I was able to keep track of how I was doing and feeling, the NSVs I was seeing, and it offered tips and tricks to help get me through those “kill all the things” days.

For those 30 days, I read and journaled in that book every morning and night. It became a familiar ritual (which I’m now replacing with journaling and meditation) that gave me some perspective on the day ahead and allowed me to reflect on what I learned. I’m not saying I couldn’t do another round without this book, but man, it would be hard.

IMG_2858.jpgThe second book that made a huge difference for this round was The Whole30 Fast & Easy cookbook. This book was full of new and exciting recipes to try, most of which involved few ingredients and minimal prep/cook time. I tried a bunch of them and they were all delicious (although many did not turn out nearly as pretty as the photos in the book!). I even got creative when I realized I was missing a few ingredients and/or bought the wrong things. Improvisation is not something I would have been comfortable with prior to this round.

And with that non-scale victory, let’s get into the list: IMG_2942.jpg

  • Tried one or more new recipes per week
  • Got really good at meal prepping
  • Relied on my allergy medicine less (I was taking one every night, now I’m taking it as-needed)
  • No more belly bloat
  • Fit back into my favorite pair of jeans
  • Tried beets again (still don’t like them, but I gave them another shot)
  • Clear skin
  • Lightened under-eye circles
  • Tried new Lacroix flavors and discovered I love the grapefruit one
  • Ran almost 55 miles over the month and started training for a 10k (more on that in a separate post to follow)
  • I met my goal of exercising every day during my Whole30
  • Created healthy rituals and routines that aren’t focused around food, like journaling each morning and reading before bed each night
  • Gained more confidence in my appearance and my abilities
  • Had the energy and courage to tackle hard things
  • Stopped waking up every morning with a headache
  • Fewer stomach aches
  • No more brain fog

I didn’t weight myself before starting and I didn’t take any “before” photos. The weight wasn’t that important to me—I just wanted my clothes to fit better, and they do! There are probably more that I’m forgetting, but that’s a pretty impressive list of NSVs if I do say so myself. Hopefully in another week or two I can say my shoulder is almost pain free and I’m sleeping better. Time will tell!

In the meantime, I’m reading Food Freedom Forever, which I started about half-way through my Whole30. It’s another game changer and I highly recommend it!

Did you do the January Whole30? How did it go? If you haven’t done a Whole30, but you’re curious, let me know how I can help!

*Please note this post contains affiliate links.

How I’m Managing Stress These Days

The one thing I did to better manage my stress.

Stress management has never been a strength of mine. I get overwhelmed and frustrated easily. Throw in a Whole30 where I have to cook nearly every day plus the chaos of being a freelancer and that’s a recipe for disaster.

A while back (I’m not even sure how long it’s been now) I turned off all social media notifications on my phone. I don’t get the little red dot letting me know someone liked a picture I posted anymore. My phone doesn’t buzz and light up when someone comments on a post. It’s nice.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. As a freelancer, all my projects come through email. I felt like I needed to be notified of every email as they came through because of this. In reality, all that did was distract me from whatever I was working on. And sometimes, depending on who the email was from and what it said, it caused a great deal of stress and frustration.

I ended up spending more time trying to calm myself down and refocus on the task at hand than I actually spent writing the article I was working on. Which meant I had to work later to ensure I got all my assignments for the day turned in on time. It was a frustrating cycle, and it was affecting my sleep and making me insufferably cranky.

I’m not sure why it took me so long or what exactly flipped the switch in my mind, but the light bulb went on late last week. I realized I don’t need those notifications. I don’t have to read and respond to every email as soon as it comes in. I don’t need those distractions.

So I turned them all off. Now I check my email after I finish one assignment and before I move on to the next to make sure I’m not missing anything important, particularly if I’m waiting for a response to a question about an assignment.

In fact, I turned off nearly every type of notification I could possibly get on my phone. No social media, no email, no random apps. The only notifications I get are text messages (still working on how to keep those from being a distraction), phone calls, and score updates for the Blues and Cardinals (which are primarily night games and therefore not a work distraction anyway).

I even forgot to check my email over the weekend until pretty late last Saturday. Fortunately, I hadn’t missed anything important and it was so incredibly nice to essentially forget my email existed.

Now that I’ve done this, I realize I need to set an email schedule for myself. Mostly so I can set client expectations and avoid missing any urgent emails because they didn’t know I wouldn’t be checking it after a certain time of day.

Of course, email is just one source of stress in my life. There’s a lot of other areas that still need work. But turning off those notifications has made a huge difference in less than a week’s time.

How do you manage your email? Do you check it immediately or do you have a set schedule for yourself?