Habit Experiment: October Recap, November Kickoff

October Recap

My goals for October were:

1) Get to bed in time to sleep an average of eight hours a night every night.

2) Avoid screens for at least one hour before bedtime.

3) Avoid eating after 7:00 pm.

After spending 31 days focusing on my sleep, I think I might hate my FitBit. From what it says, I’m so restless, that I routinely get 2-3 hours less sleep than the amount of time I spend in bed. I already knew I wake up a lot and how I feel in the morning often seems to have little relation to how long I’ve spent in bed, but to have it graphed out for me every morning is just discouraging. Almost makes me want to have another baby just so I have someone to blame this tiredness on.

Almost.

Aside from #1 (which we’ve established is not my fault), I’ve kept to my goals for this month pretty consistently. I don’t feel any more rested, but I suppose that gives me data, too.

Oh, and for those interested in my other goals:

“Mindful Internet Use”: Most days this month I’ve been able to keep to my goals with this one, but the past week or so I’ve experienced a downswing in my mood, and that’s led to my clicking around less mindfully than I’d prefer. I’m making a note of it but mostly chalking it up to “ebb and flow.”

“Exercise More”: The first half of the month I was pretty sedentary, but the second half I got moving more. A trip to Washington, DC, helped that. I love walking around cities. I don’t get 10,000 steps each and every day, but the last two weeks I’ve been averaging 10,000 steps a day, and I think that counts.

“Drive less”: I drove 844 miles in October, which is 44 miles over my goal (odometer reading went from 119,401 to 120,245). Really, I have no idea where those miles came from. We had to have a coolant leak fixed partway through the month, and that involved driving to and from the shop, which wasn’t planned, but that doesn’t account for all 44 miles. *shrug*

In case you were wondering about my metrics, I’ve stopped measuring my time for the NY Times crossword puzzle, never did figure out a good way to rate my eczema symptoms (it’s spread, and that alone is more than I care to know about it), and haven’t bothered to take my waist and hip measurements for the past couple of months. I’ve weighed myself, and that’s fluctuated, but there no real difference overall.

And now for November’s goal:

Meditate Daily

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Habit Experiment: September Recap, October Kickoff

September Recap

I hung on—just barely—to my goals this month. Here they are, as a reminder:

1) Drive 785 miles or less for the month.

2) Experiment with car-free travel options to local destinations.

As we headed out to hike on Sunday, we realized that we’d only driven 89 miles since last weekend. That was pretty amazing, and is perhaps a sign that we’re getting into the swing of this less-driving thing.

When September began, the odometer read 118,716. As of this morning, it’s at 119,401. We still need to drive to our afternoon activities, which will add another 20 miles, bringing the total for the month to 705. I admit, I was helped a little bit by my mom’s visit since we drove her car to go camping, but even that would only have been another 50 miles round-trip, so I still would have met my goal.

For October, I’m going to increase my goal to 800 driving miles for the month because it’s a longer month and because we’ve got a couple of longer trips planned. We’re already taking the train for one of the trips, and I’m toying with the idea of taking the train for the other, but I doubt I’ll get buy-in for that plan from my spouse. He’s more pragmatic about car-light travel than I am and uses a broader definition of “suffering” than I do.

Oddly enough, even though I’m driving less I’ve not done very well with my exercise this month. I’ve only gotten more than 10,000 steps a handful of days, and I’ve not done any strength-training. And I’ve put on three pounds. We’ll see how I do in October.

Speaking of October…

October’s habit is:

Sleep More

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Sleep Survey, Revised

CIMG4037

It has been brought to my attention that my original sleep survey is quite long. I like writing (and I seem especially to like writing about myself), so I didn’t really notice this, but now that I think of it, it is a little long. And kind of like the questions you might get at a first visit to a naturopath.

So, here’s a shorter version. We’ll see if I get more responses to this one. If not, I’ll just assume y’all don’t like talking about sleep, and I’ll renew my focus on finishing the books I’m reading and posting a couple of book reviews.

1) On average, do you feel like you get enough sleep to be at the top of your game?

1a) If so, what tips do you have for getting enough sleep?

1b) And if not, what tips do you have for getting sub-optimal sleep?

I’m asking these questions on my blog because I’m looking for real-world experiences from real-life people, not suggestions from professional experts who frequently give great-sounding advice that’s completely impractical (or incomplete to the point that it’s useless, like the tip I read recently that getting adequate sleep increases your willpower with no suggestions for how to get more sleep if it’s lack of willpower that’s keeping you from getting to bed at a decent hour). I know all of the great reasons for getting enough sleep, but that somehow doesn’t translate to actually getting enough sleep. So, I’m soliciting help from my readers to try to find a way to bridge that gap.

Sleep Survey

I’m trying a new approach to my ongoing problems getting a reasonable amount of sleep: comparing myself to others.

I’m hoping that with feedback from many people about how much sleep works (or doesn’t work) for them, I might be able to convince myself that going to bed earlier is a good thing to prioritize. Alternatively, perhaps I will discover some new strategies to cope with chronic sleep deprivation so I don’t have to increase the number of hours I sleep.

Please answer the following questions in the comments:

  1. When are your usual go-to-bed and wake-up times? (If you don’t have usual bedtime and wake-up times, what is your usual range/how many hours do you usually get?)
  2. Do you sleep straight through, or do you wake up in the night?
  3. Do you feel rested when you wake up?
  4. Do you feel like you get the right amount of sleep for you, or would you rather get more or less sleep?
  5. How can you tell when you’re getting enough vs not enough sleep? How do you feel physically/mentally?

If you’re comfortable doing so, include any details about your sleep that you think are pertinent (like if you have a newborn at home or if you work third shift or if you use no electric lights or something like that).

To kick things off, here are my answers:

  1. My go-to-bed and wake-up times vary pretty dramatically (well, my wake-up time usually stays the same (+/- 30 minutes), but my bedtime could be anywhere from ~7pm to ~2am). My kids have regular, early-ish bedtimes (the little guy between 7 and 7:30 and my daughter between 8:30 and 9:00), so I can’t blame them for my getting to bed late. I’m trying to figure out a way to blame my spouse, but so far nothing’s stuck. Lately I’m in bed by about 1:30am and get up around 6:30 or 7:00am.
  2. I wake up two to three times in the night that I notice. Sometimes it’s because of a cat or a kid, but even if everyone else is sleeping soundly, I seem to wake up at least once.
  3. No, I do not feel rested. Or sometimes I feel rested when I wake up, but that fades by the time I get to the kitchen to make breakfast.
  4. I think I could use more sleep, but I don’t want to sleep any more hours. Instead, I would like my body (and brain) to run well on the amount of sleep I get.
  5. Not enough sleep: I feel run down, have more aches and pains (esp neck and back), more anxiety, more negative self criticism, more cravings for sweets; I yell at my kids more. Enough sleep: This happens rarely, but when it does I feel energetic and optimistic; pretty much the opposite of “not enough sleep.” I’m also more likely to exercise when I’ve had enough sleep (it doesn’t seem to work the other way, though, unless I’m just not exercising enough.)

My Craziest Idea Yet: Sleeping

Where I should be spending 1/3 of my life.

The idea goes that I spend so many hours with my kids, I need time to myself to function properly, even if this means giving up adequate sleep to get said alone time.

I recently realized that this is an entirely untested hypothesis.

What if I actually function better if I get adequate sleep but sacrifice some of my precious Me time?

I really have never tried this for more than two nights in a row. I just can’t seem to give up the reading or blogging or blog-reading that fills the hours between the kids’ bedtime at 8:30 and 12 or 1 when I finally go to bed myself. What’s really awesome is when I go back and spend an hour reading my old blog posts. Yes, that is a very good use of my time. Or when I start some movie or tv show on Netflix and then lose interest or get bogged down by how weird it is for real people to be acting out stories in front of a camera so that I can sit in my pjs in front of my laptop and watch them pretending to be someone else. (Apparently, this is what happens when I get away from television for long enough: the entire concept seems weird to me. Which in itself is a profound shift because I used to totally rock the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon game and now I can hardly recognize the names of the current stars. Or even the current movies.)

But I don’t go to bed feeling fulfilled. I feel tired and irritable and greedy for more time to waste. In the morning I’m all of those things plus resentful of my children for taking me away from my alone time. I’ve been snapping at the kids and just in general not being a very engaged and pleasant mommy.

This evidence suggests that my current “it’s worth being tired if I get to do nothing much for several hours every night” hypothesis isn’t working out very well.

My new hypothesis is this: If I get adequate sleep, I’ll be able to feel happier with my children during the day and make better use of the time I have to myself because I have less of it and won’t be so tempted to squander it.

To test this hypothesis, I will be going to bed at 9:30 every night for a month. Okay, well, maybe for a week. And if that works out alright, I’ll try it for two weeks. Then for a third, and with any luck, make it to a full month.

During this one- to four-week period, I will go to bed at 9:30 even if that means I don’t get to finish a blog post every evening. I’ll go to bed on time even if it means it takes me a full week to read a novel. (In this way, I suppose it will be in line with my focus on simplicity, too.)

I know that this will be a challenge. But I’m hopeful that once I’m more well-rested I’ll be better able to maintain routines during the day, which will benefit my children’s moods and my own. I hope that I will lose some of this brain fog and fatigue-related…you know, that thing where you can’t remember things? Not insomnia… Not magnesia…

At any rate, maybe I’ll be able to think more clearly and be more effective when I go to try to do something with my brain.

And maybe I’ll even be able to get some reading or blogging in during the day while the kids are up because they’ll be happy to spend some time playing quietly on their own after spending high-quality time with their new and improved non-zombie Mommy!

But I’m not holding my breath on that one.

What I’m really hoping is that I can actually follow my experimental design. Even during that year when my daughter was up at 4:30 every morning I couldn’t bring myself to go to bed at a decent hour. But I’m nothing if not inconsistently persistent.

So, here goes nothing! I’ll let you know how I do.

I’m Dappled and Drowsy and Ready to Sleep

From Danielle LaPorte, who frequently says just the thing I need to hear just when I need to hear it, on the value of resting between projects:

We rest to integrate the benefits of the work that we have done.

CLEAN UP without rushing, without panic or guilt, and with respect for the patience you’ve been shown.

BE STILL in the ways that your body and mind crave.

LET THE NEWNESS ROOT. Allow yourself to be sensationally excited…without acting on it…yet.

When you rest, you have space for all of it.

And when you rise to meet the future, you will be very, very ready.

via creativity, the corpse pose + what to do in between projects | White Hot Truth: because self-realization rocks.

I’m once again reminding myself that I’ve had a doozy of a 2011. Deaths, layoffs, cross-country moves, hurricanes, not to mention the completion of a year-long Happiness Project.

After all of this, maybe it isn’t a horrible thing if I want to hole up in the house for a couple of weeks and just let myself catch up a little.

I keep feeling like I’m not really here in this state, this house. It doesn’t seem real. I’ve blamed Facebook for this lack of connectedness in the real world, so I’ve attempted to pull back from my virtual life. I’ve jumped into a social scene here with both feet, keeping myself busy every day, hoping to more firmly root myself in my geographical reality.

So far, I’ve not had much luck with this technique. And I’m exhausted.

I’m realizing that I don’t need to try to settle in. I breathe the air, I eat the food, I drink the water. Gradually, it will become a part of my being, and I will belong to this place. I don’t need to do anything but stop fighting it and let myself belong.

This is where the quiet comes in. Much like our brains use our time asleep to integrate the day’s thoughts, emotions, and activities, I need to let myself rest to integrate all of the changes these past months.

This isn’t the time for new, even though “new” and “unsettled” are where I feel safe right now. This is the time for letting the new become the familiar and the familiar to become home. Then I’ll have a firm starting point for my next project, whatever it is.

Maybe I’ll take a cue from Simon and Garfunkel:

Got no deeds to do,
No promises to keep.
I’m dappled and drowsy and ready to sleep.
Let the morning time drop all its petals on me.
Life, I love you,
All is groovy.

Happiness is…

…the rest of my family (cats included) curled up asleep on the big hotel bed, even though that means there’s no room for me and I need to sleep on the pull-out sofa bed.

Keeping Routines: Worth Doing Poorly?

I don’t have a great track record keeping routines. I blame myself.

I’ve tried blaming the children, but it doesn’t seem to stick, perhaps because every time I do, this little nagging voice reminds me that I couldn’t keep a routine before I had kids, either. The kids certainly don’t help, but I don’t think they’re entirely at fault.

I think the biggest hindrance to my routine-keeping is my over-planning. I tend to try to schedule every moment, which is impractical but I try it anyway. And of course I fail because my daily life just doesn’t seem conducive to that level of choreography. I’ve found that the routines I keep best are the ones that I just kind of start doing and then suddenly realize I’ve been doing them routinely. So, I decided to build on that theme and try to sneak in a couple of new routines on the backs of existing routines.

Routine #1 is a morning routine. The one thing I’d been fairly consistent about doing is the bathroom “swish and swipe” as recommended by FlyLady. I re-instituted that routine this week, and have been doing fairly well keeping it, despite the help the baby gives me by playing in the toilet while I’m busy wiping down the sink. I make sure I swish the toilet before I swipe the sink. I’ve also started making myself tea and sitting outside to drink it if I wake up before the kids. I started this during September, but I’m making more of a point of letting the dishes sit and the granola wait to be baked and the tofu wait to be marinated until after I’ve had my tea. I don’t get to do it every morning, but it’s nice when I do get to do it.

Routine #2 is an evening routine. So far, this one isn’t working out ideally. The idea is to get the kids to bed by 8:30, then clean up the kitchen, do some quick straightening, journal, read, shower, brush teeth, blog, and go to bed by 10:30. It’s currently 10:15, and I’ve cleaned up the kitchen. Mostly. I’m either not going to finish my routine, or I’m not going to get to bed by 10:30. Or both. I can’t figure out if the problem is not getting the kids to bed on time or planning too many things to do, or something else I’ve not considered yet. I’ve decided to stick with trying to do the routine as I’ve laid it out and using it as an opportunity to let go of perfection when I’m not able to complete the routine as I’d like to. Which is just a long-winded way of saying, “Screw it.”

Routine #3 is a weekly routine. Sundays we hike, plan meals, and go grocery shopping. Mondays and Fridays I work out while the babysitter is here. Tuesdays we hang out with some homeschooling friends. Wednesdays I take out all of the garbages because Thursday is trash day. It’s also homeschool field trip day, and soccer practice day, during which I work out again. Thursdays we have flute lesson. Fridays I clear the trash and non-car items out of the car, I clean out the diaper bag and my wallet, and I vacuum the carpet and furniture and sweep and mop the floors. And we have gymnastics and have been going to the library that day.

I think Friday might be too full.

OK, now I’m overwhelmed just thinking about my routines. So here’s a picture of the granola I made this week when I discovered while decluttering the kitchen that I had all of the ingredients for it. It’s from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair again. Maple Butter Nut Granola. Totally awesome. I put currants in it, too. My husband says I should go into business making and selling granola. I said I’d work on that in my free time.

 

Maple Butter Nut Granola
Maple Butter Nut Granola from Feeding the Whole Family by Cynthia Lair

 

 

Week 7 Review: Turning a Corner?

View of the Wasatch Range from the Salt Lake C...
View of the Wasatch from the Salt Lake City Library (Image via Wikipedia)

Sleep, those little slices of death; Oh how I loathe them.

-Edgar Allen Poe (maybe)

I have gone to bed at 10:30 four (4!!) nights in a row! Two mornings in a row, I got up before the kids and sat outside with my coffee or tea and watched the sun rise over the Wasatch. I find it interesting that it looked a little bit different each day. The first morning, there were those kind of mackerel clouds all colored pink preceding the sun’s appearance over the mountains. The next morning, no clouds and no pink, just a very slow lightening of the sky. I guess I’ve never paid very close attention to the sunrise before.

The secret behind going to bed at 10:30 has turned out to be tricking myself into thinking it’s just for one night. “Just for tonight,” I say, “I’ll go to bed at 10:30. Then we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”

So far, I like it. I just put the Poe quote up there because I really like it and I don’t know any other sleep quotes. The biggest trouble is that I’m reading books a little slower than I used to when I went to bed 2-3 hours later. I have a long to-read list, and I like to chug through books pretty quickly, or at least to only take longer reading them because I’m savoring them, not because I only have 45 minutes a day to devote to reading.

There’s been a reappearance of summer this week here in Utah. It’s been almost hot, which is good for the tomatoes, but slightly disappointing for me. I love autumn and was really looking forward to the cool temperatures. But I also realize that, once they’re here, the cool fall temps will last about 7 minutes before it starts snowing and then it’s another 27 years until spring. Spring here is slightly longer than fall. We usually get a good 12 minutes between winter and summer.

Looking on the positive side, the reason I’m noticing the variations in temperature is because I’m taking walks and hiking and sitting outside with beverages and being mindful. Maybe I’ll even bundle up and sit out in the snow if I’m still going to bed early come winter. I’ve absolutely never seen the sun rise over the snow.

Veggies, sugar, and alcohol are all still going well. I introduced some friends to Ariel de-alcoholized wines on Saturday. The blanc. I was pleased that they enjoyed it. My husband gives me a little guff about the wines, though. He thinks it’s a waste of money to buy wine with no alcohol in it. It’s like buying pizza with no meat on it. I’m apparently not getting my money’s worth.

Hooray! Another Chance to Practice Patience and Mindfulness!

First, the wonderful and amazing part: I went to bed at 10:30 last night. The difference? Instead of telling myself I was starting an early bedtime that I’d keep all month, I told myself that I was going to bed at 10:30 just tonight. I’m pretty darned tired today, though, despite getting up at the same time this morning as I usually do. It’s like my sleep-deprived body says, “Oh! You’re going to get more sleep? Well then, let’s decrease this adrenaline so you can rest well!” The only cure is to either stop going to bed early or to keep going to bed early, either of which I think I can do.

Now, the challenging part(s):

  1. Interrupting my tooth brushing and face washing multiple times to wash my son’s hands after he reached in to grab the toilet paper floating in the toilet bowl. Luckily this was necessary only at home. In the public restrooms (we visited three in our travels today), my reflexes were faster as I yelled, “No! Don’t touch the potty!” like a maniac and dove for the baby.
  2. My daughter’s flute lesson which I spent chasing my son as he ran down the hall laughing, played all of the pianos with granola-y hands, tried to climb on the organ, and then tried to get into a box of joint compound (with a look on his face that clearly said, “Wow! This is the best box I’ve opened all day!”).
  3. Shoe shopping. With both children. I will say nothing else about this. Let us never speak of it again.
  4. A trip to Kangaroo Zoo, this indoor playground filled with inflatable slides and bouncy houses and E. coli. Most of the visit involved me standing at the bottom of a slide with my son waiting for my daughter to slide down only to have her yell, “It’s too fast!” and climb back down the other side. The biggest challenge came at the end of the visit when I told my daughter that she could not have a Slush Puppie (or as she called it, a “slush puffy,” since she only has the vaguest clue what it is and only asked for one because the little girl she was playing with got one). Negotiations quickly broke down and ended with me very calmly removing my daughter bodily from the premises while wearing my son on my front in the mei tai, carrying the diaper bag, and putting my shoes back on. My daughter then proceeded to scream and cry, “I want to go on a slide!” the entire 20-minute drive home. I must say, I remained remarkably calm the whole time. I continued to breathe rather than screaming back at my first-born or driving off the side of the road. By the time we arrived home, both children were crying and my head and neck ached like crazy, but at least we were home. I let the children play in the mud and eat green tomatoes while I sat outside watching them and drinking de-alcoholized wine.

While I do appreciate the practice in Being my Best Self in the face of adversity, in the interest of self care, I plan never to return to Kangaroo Zoo or to the shoe store.

And I’m definitely going to bed at 10:30 tonight.