Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reverb 13: Prompt 17 - Habits

Prompt: New Habit! They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. What did you start? What did you quit?

This is a hard topic for me. Mostly because self-accountability around this sort of thing is difficult. The best example for me is hitting the snooze button. But I have a few bad habits I tried to conquer this year.

The first was from March until May during the dark days of unemployment. I tried cleaning. Full disclosure – I am a messy person. I will clarify to say that being “dirty” and being “messy” are different. We’re not talking a hoarders situation, but as my stress level goes up, my organization decreases in an inverse relationship. For the 7 weeks I was out of work, I cleaned every day. I found cleaning schedules from the 1950’s (mostly for the laughs), and I did things like deep clean my oven (twice), take out every piece of glassware and hand-dust everything, steam cleaned the carpets, and took q-tips of windex to the window tracks. This was in addition to the daily cleaning, dusting and washing that I did. It was incredible how all that kept me so busy. And, clearly, it was not sustainable after I started a really stressful workload. And my old habits returned. For the most part I am better at maintaining this than before, but I won’t lie that there are times where guests surprise me and I am downright embarrassed by the state of things.

Then, in November, a small group of girls tried out this Game On challenge. In its original form, it was designed as a competitive lifestyle challenge with a weight-loss component. We adjusted it, and made it mostly about the lifestyle component, and trusted that any habits we kept up with would help us lose weight eventually. The biggest aspects of this game were (aside from the diet): (1) Water consumption (~2 L per day), (2) Working out for at least 30 min 6 days per week, (3) maintain one new good habit, and (4) break one bad habit.

(1)    I have, historically, been very bad about my water consumption. I battle fatigue so much that I got hooked on caffeine, and was basically constantly in a state of dehydration. I met the water goal, even on days off, almost every single day. I think in the whole challenge there was only 1 day where I missed water points. I didn’t notice a ton of restorative benefits that a lot of other people talk about, but I did notice that with all the water intake, I have less room for all the coffee I used to drink, so in two-fold it has been a good thing.

(2)    I didn’t really succeed at this. What this made me do in the challenge was to THINK about working out an awful lot. It definitely increased my movement from 1 per week to a better 3 days per week. But I am still not at the fitness level I’d like to be at. Between still recovering from my ankle injury for running, and later this winter getting bronchitis just as I was hitting a good habit-forming-swing of increased workouts, I’ve just fallen off this wagon in the last few weeks. This is something that I need to get better about. It helps me feel more alert, concentrate better during the day, it’s the best cure for my fatigue, and (relating to #4) helps me get up in the morning. I just feel better when I do it. The biggest reason I don’t is because of planning. When I plan properly and have (i) my workout gear at work and (ii) have snacks to fuel me, I have no other excuses.

(3)    My good habit for the whole 4 weeks of The Game was to turn to meditation instead of stress eating. I was successful in this, but with the other changes in the game, my urge to stress eat generally decreased. The meditation was not really life-changing event and I probably won’t keep this up.

(4)    My bad habit was to quite hitting my snooze alarm. When the alarm goes off, I will get up. This, boys and girls, is probably the single hardest part of my day. Hands down. Even when I get 7, 8, or 9 hours of sleep. Getting up, sitting up and putting that first foot on the ground, is hard. It’s always been hard for me. The morning is not a time that I particularly enjoy taking my time and reflecting on the day. I’d rather sleep until 7:30, spend 20 minutes for shower, dressing, and making coffee, then running out the door. For a brief period (maybe 3 weeks) over the summer, I was great about getting up at 6:30. I would then spend 45 minutes to an hour drinking my coffee, catching up on news from the interwebz and social media, and then spent 20 minutes showering, dressing, and dashing out the door. I don’t know what triggered me to start it, or why I fell off the bandwagon. I was successful with getting up most days with the alarm. But it was begrudgingly, and only to avoid losing a few stupid points. Honestly, if my work day could be 10 am to 7 pm, I would be supremely happy. I’ve even read lots of studies about how to sleep and starting at the end of the day – those things don’t help. Because even on the weekends, when I sleep until I want to get up, it’s STILL hard to get up. I’ve read other papers that study the difference between being a “Morning Person” and a “Night Owl”. Turns out, there are real biological differences. Even with practice, it is almost impossible for a Night Owl to change enough to enjoy the mornings as much as they enjoy their evenings. And that is my curse… But I can do things that help, but it is helpful for me to know that I can only do so much before I just have to accept that mornings will always suck for me.

And that’s my year in habits.

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