Reshaping A Measured Life

Hello my lovely readers! My hiatus has lasted quite a bit longer than I anticipated, but I needed it. I’ve taken some time to sit down, reflect, and really evaluate what I want this blog to be. I truly do want to continue talking about healthy living, but over the last year or so I’ve pulled back from sharing personal things due to the ending of a relationship and learning to live alone. Cooking for one person can be much harder than cooking for two, and I’ve been working on adjusting to that and learning new ways of time management.

This Blog Is A Changin’

Things will be a little different around here from now on. I’m going to increase the amount of personal entries and mental health talk while continuing to write recipes and talk exercise. I’m going to stop worrying about what new readers want to read and I’m going to write what I want to write. I’ll probably talk more about makeup, too, since I love it so much. This blog is going to be about ME. I think I need that.

You’ll also notice I’ve updated the look of the site. It was starting to feel really dated and I really needed a fresh, new look. I’ll be tweaking it some more to make it a bit more functional but I’m really liking the new neutral theme.

I haven’t fully recovered my zest for blogging, but I can feel it coming. I’m thinking about new recipes, I just need to make sure I don’t pressure myself to perform too much and get myself back into the state where it feels like a chore. This is a form of self care for me, and I hope you’ll come along on this ride. There’s going to be a lot more mental health talk around here, because that’s a part of being measured, and it’s a part of ME.

New Projects

I’ve been wanting to do my own A Measured Life podcast for years now, and I’ve learned  a lot about writing and recording shows in the last year. I’m going to be working on a solo AML show: short, easy to digest episodes that focus on a topic related to living a more measured life. Each episode will be about food, fitness, frugality and feeling good. I’m writing episodes and the only big step now is figuring out hosting services. I can (and WILL) do this!

Update On My Mental State

I’m learning a lot about myself these days, which is a good thing for sure.

Writing It Out

I’m really bad at asking for space. There will be this voice in my head telling me how lovely it would be to have some quiet time where I don’t have to interact with anyone, where I can accomplish chores that are piling up or sit down and write out my feelings and process them. But my lizard brain, the deep rooted instinctual part of the brain that controls the fight or flight function, tells me that if I take distance from those I care about, they’ll be unhappy or decide I’m not worth the wait. I become clingy and desperate in these times, and I sacrifice my mental health to spend time with those I love. This might seem like a selfless good thing, the act of ignoring my own feelings for those I care about, but in truth it’s ridiculously selfish.

This week I’ve been ignoring those signs right and left. I’ve been feeling the weight of depression seeping into my bones and instead of doing what’s best for me (pulling back and allowing myself time to reflect on why these feelings have cropped up) I force social interactions or distract myself with a cell phone game or my favorite tv show. In these times, I need to listen to the voice in my brain that tells me to turn off all media (tv, radio, cell phone) and sit down and WRITE IT OUT. I won’t be gone forever, probably just a couple of hours at most, and my friends and loved ones will still be there for me when I get back. And if they aren’t… well… then they weren’t great friends to begin with.

Experiencing Isolation

The other state I sometimes find myself in is this melancholy that blankets me when I have a day with limited social interaction. It’s usually a weekend day filled with chores and cooking with no one else around except via text. I find I tend to avoid superficial social interactions on these days: I do my chores in a state of feeling entirely isolated from the other people buying groceries or browsing at Target. I shy away from looking into strangers’ faces and try to be as invisible as possible.

I haven’t quite figured out the best way to cope with these days: I feel needy and want attention and reassurance but I doubt that this would actually fix the issue. Perhaps the best idea in this case is to do something productive where I can succeed and feel a sense of accomplishment. Sometimes I get struck by the idea that I have no true purpose in life: that the fact that I’m a 37 year old woman single woman with no kids and no real career means I’m living for nothing. That’s fatalistic thinking, though. I DO have a purpose. My ultimate purpose is to share what I’ve learned about myself with the world in hopes that someone else will get something positive from it. To help someone somewhere, maybe someone I’ve never met, feel less alone in this world. To help someone learn more about themselves and to grow.

Depression

I’m working through a depression right now, but I’m taking the necessary steps for self care. Self care is so important, and I have a habit of getting involved in things, things that make me happy. And when I’m happy it’s hard to recognize that I’m stressed and need to step back. That it’s okay to not stay elated 24/7. That the lows that follow the good times are okay.

I’m going to spend this time working on me, and personal projects, and try to find joy and pleasure in these things again. The fact that I’m even here is a huge step in the right direction. I hope enough of you are still here that we can grow together as I roll AML over into a new (and hopefully improved) phase of life.

I’d love to hear from you, some words of encouragement will go a long way right now.

Tata for now!

Life with the Volume Up

Mental health has always been a strong part of this blog. As of late, though, I’ve been struggling to write much of anything at all. My own emotional health has been suffering. Part of this is some life changes I’ve been going through, that I don’t really wish to address here. Part of this is also hormonal, due to stress. And part of it is just that I am a deeply emotional person.

Relatively recently I’ve realized that I’m what’s called a Highly Sensitive Person. It manifest itself in me as feeling everything, and I mean everything, more deeply than the average person. I used to tell people I wasn’t much of a crier, because I believed it to be true. But the past 5 years have really been revealing to me just how many tears I’ve shed over the course of my life.

I have very strong memories of being a small child and my adoptive mom telling me that my tears weren’t real: that they were crocodile tears, that I was faking it. When I got my heart broken by my very first love in high school, I was an absolute mess for at least a month. I remember binge watching movies (before Netflix was even a thing) just to keep myself distracted.

I’ve felt hurt from every person that’s left my life, regardless of the reason. Hell, our downstairs neighbors moved away a little more than 6 months ago, and even though we weren’t more than passing acquaintances I always ask myself if I could have been a better neighbor. Abandonment is my biggest fear: the silent threat that people I care about will leave me is what keeps me up at night.

I crave intimacy from all people. I have always been willing to give myself to others emotionally, wanting to share who I am in hopes of learning, in return, who they are. For me, beauty is in the totality of someone, not just their parts. I believe that the more you know someone, the easier it is to love them, because you can see how they wind their way through the world. The sad part for me is how not everyone feels comfortable sharing those parts of themselves.  I both understand and lament this fact.

I won’t ever stop laying myself bare for others, even if it’s not returned. Even if it makes me sad that someone doesn’t want to connect, even if it means I will mourn for the closeness I’m not destined to have. Because someday someone will look at me and SEE me, and allow me to see them right back, and it will make all of it worth it.

You see, there isn’t anything wrong with me. I just live my life with the volume turned up.

I’m incredibly lucky to have a few friends who can see I need help in the way I type. My friend Sharon can tell with a text message if I need girl time, and my friend Chris can tell by my typing tone if I’m feeling down. There are even a few friends who just send me tiny emoticons, or cute animal videos, or goofy Snapchat filtered pics just to make me smile (I love those people). The thing is, I’ve been feeling down a lot lately. More than I’ve been feeling good. And when I feel this way, my brain lies its full head off to me. I feel unworthy of friendship, of love, and the urge to apologize for *feeling* is an overwhelming compulsion.

More than one person in the last month has told me I’m a good person and each time it has sent me to tears. I want to feel worthy of such praise. My heart says to believe it but my brain sows the seeds of doubt. I do, however, believe it when people say I’m kind, even though I occasionally feel like a total douchenozzle.

The point? The point is I love so much more than I hate, and that while I sometimes feel broken or fragile, the truth is I’m strong. I keep going back out there with my heart open, because this is who I am, world. This is who I am.

Coping with Oncoming Seasonal Affective Disorder

Every year I feel it coming, sometimes as early as the end of August. (I can actually feel it right now, sinking into my bones, making it hard to even write this blog.) Late August was cool in the Philadelphia area this year: mid-70s and breezy. I began to feel the pull of darkness on those days where I couldn’t abide bare legs while walking outside. Jackets accompanied me everywhere and I noticed the sun setting earlier and earlier. (As a food blogger you treasure natural daylight for photography.)

Winters are really hard for me. I thrive on warmth and long summer sunshine-filled days. I love to be outside, so when it’s cold and snowy and I have to stay inside it drives me to a bit of a depression. I’m not remotely alone in this: it’s estimated between 10 and 20% of Americans report noticing a lowering of mood or an increase in sadness during the shorter days of the year.

Symptoms of SAD

  • Sadness
  • Anxiety
  • irritability
  • loss of interest in usual activities
  • withdrawal from social activities
  • inability to concentrate
  • extreme fatigue and lack of energy
  • a “leaden” sensation in the limbs
  • increased need for sleep
  • craving for carbohydrates, and weight gain.

Symptoms of summer SAD include:

  • weight loss
  • agitation and restlessness
  • trouble sleeping
  • decreased appetite

Women are four times more common to experience SAD than men, the theory being that women are more likely to ruminate and dwell on things that make them sad. (I know I’m a serious ruminator so this is definitely an issue.) Also, SAD is much more common in people who live farther away from the equator (which may be why we Northerners love going to the Caribbean in the winter). When people are excited for Halloween and sipping their Pumpkin Spiced Lattes or posting on Facebook about how many days until Christmas you’re stowing your tank tops and shorts in deep storage and looking longingly at your bathing suit.

So what do we do about it? How do we deal with the inevitable onslaught of sadness that accompanies the long winter?

Coping with SAD

Get outside in the morning, even if it’s overcast. Even if it doesn’t seem sunny, the rays of the sun will reach your body. If you really can’t get outside, or if the sun isn’t up yet when you get out of bed, try light therapy.

Workout. (This is generally good advice anyway.) I mean, take it from Elle:

Maintain your routine. Meet up with your friends like you normally would, even during bad weather. Don’t just stay inside and isolate yourself, this will only make things worse.

Cut back on sugar. If you treat your stress and anxiety with sweets, try to eat something more balanced, like an apple and some cheese, which includes, fat, protein and fiber. It will be nourishing and keep you full longer without the sugar crash.

Find fun things to do that are winter-only. Skiing? Snowboarding? Snow shoeing? Building snow men? Or if you don’t like to actually be outside in the cold, take a class in the winter. Do something that makes winter special for you.

Book a trip somewhere sunny. I can’t really afford that, so I’ll just turn on my Happy Light, crank up the heat and pretend I’m on a beach in Tahiti. *sigh* But seriously, going somewhere warmer and sunnier can be good for your health.

Keep a journal. Write about your feelings in a journal. Putting thoughts and feelings down on paper is a great way to get them out of your system and (hopefully) out of your mind, at least for a short while.

Have a good cry. There’s nothing wrong with tears. Sometimes a good, cleansing cry is exactly what you need to reset your emotions and start fresh.

And if it gets too bad to deal with? See a doctor. You may have more than just seasonal depression.

Do you suffer from seasonal depression? What coping skills work for you?