Day 22 (of 30 days of yoga)

The good news is that I have actually done yoga for at least five minutes for EVERY SINGLE DAY since I wrote my last post. I haven’t done any yet today, but rest assured, it will happen, unless something seriously catastrophic happens. (If a very large asteroid destroys the planet today, I suppose I will be unable to do yoga unless I get it in fairly soon.)

I have not updated sooner because of all the things happening that I don’t really want to spend time thinking about, let alone writing about, but I will say that we had a small fire in our basement that originated with our domestic water heater. It fortunately didn’t ignite anything else, but as I could not pinpoint the source of the foul-smelling smoke in the basement, I called the fire department, and there was quite the to-do in the neighborhood.

We have two tanks, one of which is fed by a solar collector on our roof, but ironically, though we’d been having a drought for weeks, with baking hot days, after our electric tank caught fire, we had clouds and rain. We were unable to rely on the solar tank when we really needed it.

We devised a method for showering that involves some disconnected wiring and a circuit breaker being turned on for short spans of time and then back off, and we’re currently getting by, but it’s not super fun. (Or safe? but what do I know? I’m not the one studying for an electrician’s license.)

We’re trying to see if we can get any compensation from the company before purchasing a new tank. There has been some strong sun this morning, though, so our solar-fed tank was up to about 139 degrees (F) when I checked it before running a bath.

Our cat was suffering from some sort of upper respiratory issues right before the fire, so on one day he went to the vet twice, and the next day I had to hunt him down while he was hiding from the fire alarms all throughout the house that were beeping and yelling “Evacuate! Emergency! Evacuate!”

I managed to get him into his carrier and out of the house quickly, but he was feeling unwell and not thrilled about being taken to a car in his carrier again. We were able to go back inside the house in a mercifully brief span of time, so Henry was able to go back to sleeping all day between sneezes.

So… all that was quite stressful. The kitty is fairly well recovered now, and so am I, and we’ve all three of us been enjoying the yoga sessions. In the evenings, Chris and I roll out our mats with my iPad propped up on the floor in front of us, on which I play one of various YouTube yoga-before-bed videos that are available.

We stretch and relax for anywhere from 5 to 20 minutes, and Henry wanders his fluffy self into the room and flops down onto the end of one of our mats, watching and occasionally batting at a head or nipping a leg. He loves to join our yoga sessions.

Is it helping me with my anxiety? Probably. Almost definitely. It has become a lovely ritual, and I imagine we’ll keep going for a long time past the 30 days, though maybe we won’t adhere strictly to an every day regimen past that period. I’m glad I began it when I did, and I’m glad I stuck to it despite all the reasons to just skip it for the night because we’re tired and it’s late or whatever the excuse might be.

I’m finding that I remember to pay attention to my breath more often during the day, which was one of my greatest hopes for this new practice. For anyone considering trying it, I say go for it. There are so many videos for so many different levels of ability, and you have little to lose. It’s a nice self-care routine, and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to jump on the yoga bandwagon!

I’ll be back with another post at the end of the thirty days, at the latest. Hopefully I’ll also have some nice photos to share, since I recently purchased a new camera. Until then, be well, and breathe deeply!

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Adventures in Anxiety: 30 days of yoga

Many of you know that I struggle with anxiety (among other things) and panic attacks. This is one of the greatest obstacles in my life, one I’m determined to overcome. I made a promise to myself this year that I would stop allowing fear to determine my course.

This means I’ve been digging out every tool in my emotional well-being toolkit, and searching out new ones to add to it. I have created lists on the ever-helpful app Wunderlist called Activities to Alleviate ___ [Depression, Anger, Panic Attacks, etc] that I call my “Double A’s,” which I can turn to in a pinch for ideas when I’m stretched too thin or too far gone in my suffering to remember all the things I can do to help myself. (My excellent, supportive husband also has access to these lists, thanks to Wunderlist’s sharing feature, and that helps him to help me.)

Some of the things I’ve learned are true allies in the battle against anxiety are nutrition, exercise, fresh air, exposure to nature and wildlife, listening to music, playing piano and singing, making art or coloring, ASMR videos (here’s one of my favorites from my favorite creator of these type of videos!), and guided meditation such as yoga nidra (this is a really lovely one, and so is this one).

I also have found a lot of help from the book “Self-Compassion” by Dr. Kristin Neff. It’s a wonderful resource for not only anxiety and depression, but general happiness.

There are so many techniques at my disposal (and everyone’s). This is ideal and also crucial, because it’s so important to me not to rely on pharmaceutical intervention for my struggles, despite some heavy opposition about that from quite a few people (except for my excellent, supportive husband).

It’s becoming more clear to me as well how important breath is in dealing with anxiety. From what I have read, disordered breathing is not simply a result of anxiety, but possibly a major cause of it. I find that I’m usually a shallow breather, and I yawn frequently. I am now trying to correct this, to remind myself to breath deeply and more diaphragmatically throughout the day.

This past weekend, my husband and I took a trip to visit family. We live a couple of states away, and it takes about 6 or 7 hours in the car to get there, and I am not a comfortable, happy traveler like my dearly departed cat Brownie was. My anxiety spikes to remarkable heights when I travel.

This time, I did something that I haven’t done much at all since high school: I wrote in pen on my hand so that I would have a continual reminder of something – a homework assignment, in a way.

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I had to rewrite it a few times as it washed or rubbed off, but I figured the absorption of ink through my skin was worth the benefit of seeing it there so many times during the day. I will have to come up with a better method, but this was helpful.

One result of this reminder (as well as some of my other tools and techniques) was that I did not throw up once during the weekend. Trust me, that’s an accomplishment. That alone is enough to call the trip a success. I also slept several hours each night, which again, is a feat when I’m out of my element.

Still, for all my progress, one thing keeps coming up in all my searches for helping and preventing anxiety, and that one thing is something I have resisted for years. I don’t know why, but I have refused to practice yoga no matter how many people (including my stellar Buddhist-leaning therapist) have recommended it specifically for the issues I have.

My husband is a total yoga convert, and I enjoy seeing his practice on the weekends, but all his encouragement and prodding could not convince me to join him. (He finds it helps him immensely in his job installing solar panels. His coworkers openly admire his flexibility and balance up on the rooftops, and he credits yoga. Have I mentioned how excellent my husband is?)

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I have tried it halfheartedly a few times, and each time stubbornly would not attempt it again for long periods of time. Always, I had excuses and reasons why it wasn’t for me.

Now that I have truly comprehended the importance of breath in anxiety prevention, I have come around to the fact that yoga is possibly the best thing I could do for myself to make better breathing a regular habit.

And so, I took the plunge and bought myself a yoga mat.

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It arrived shortly before our trip, so I have not yet used it! I’m looking forward to it, especially because it’s so pretty, and made of nontoxic materials. I got it from a company called YogaRat. (My husband’s mat is from Gaiam. Even though I do like Gaiam, and we have several of their products, this mat appealed to me the most of all the options I found online.)

Luckily for me, we already have a nice selection of yoga videos on dvd. I recently acquired two from a local thrift store that I’m eager to try. (Those are the orange ones on the left.)

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My husband plays them on his laptop since there’s not enough room to practice in front of our television, so that’s my plan, as well.

What I aim to do is roll out my mat and do at least one pose every day, even if I don’t do an entire video or even play one at all, for thirty days. I’ve been seeing a lot of instagram posts about doing rituals, and they have inspired me. Many of them are for 100 days, but I’m not so sure that’s realistic for me. 30 seems like a lot to start with, but I really want to make it a habit, and I’ve heard rumors that it takes about that long to form a habit.

Today, I plan on starting with this dvd:

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The idea of “yoga from the heart” appeals to me, as does the instructor herself, Seane Corn. What she’s all about seems to align with what I want out of my yoga practice (and life), and she simply feels more accessible to me than the amazing but slightly intimidating Rodney Yee, who my husband favors. (I don’t want to think it’s a gender thing, but I suppose it could be, and that wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world or make me a terrible person!)

This has been a long post! Thanks for sticking with me this far. I plan on updating at some point with how this 30 days of yoga thing is going. I’ll even admit it if I give up.

Hopefully, blogging about it will give me a sense of accountability, and that could be the last push I need to keep up with it.

Send me your good yoga vibes if you’ve got ’em, and be well!

 

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Walking my way through shyness, one “good morning” at a time

I’ve dealt with shyness for as long as I can remember. I have always had social anxiety and a strong disinclination to speak with people I don’t know well. I’m also a classic introvert.

I’m working on being more balanced. Overcoming my shyness is proving to be a lifelong exercise. I am practicing, and I am getting better.

My morning walks have helped me to learn how to switch my extraverted persona on and off. I continue to find that the earlier I walk, the easier and more pleasant it is to interact with other folks around town and in the park.

New Englanders do not have a reputation for being gregarious or approachable. If you can get them to talk, they are often kind, but that can be difficult. Sometimes, a smile is the best you can hope for.

Going earlier is better for me, because as I push myself to be the first one to smile and say good morning, there is a better chance that it will be reciprocated. Later morning and afternoon walkers can be a tad grunty, or completely unresponsive. I’ve never understood how someone can be looking straight ahead and pretend not to see another human who is inches away and attempting to make eye contact. (If the person is looking down at the ground, it’s much more understandable. I’ve been there and done that.)

That kind of rejection can make it harder to try again next time. Intentionally showing up when the other smilers and greeters will be out and about is a good way for me to encourage myself to keep interacting with strangers.

Some of these strangers are becoming less strange to me, due to repeat encounters. It’s a small town I live in, and I enjoy recognizing people who are in the same place at the same time on more than one occasion.

My shyness and fear of rejection causes me quite a bit of difficulty in making friends, so all these instances are hopefully helping me to get better at that. The only way to make a connection with another person is to interact with them, however you do it.

I don’t quite know why there is such a correlation between an earlier hour and happier people, but I feel it in myself as well. Particularly in the summer, it’s nice to get the walk done early, so as to avoid the worst heat of the day. Even in cooler temperatures, though, it’s satisfying to get active as early as  can manage. It’s invigorating for the body and mind.

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This park was made for walking.

It might not be as rewarding if done in a gym on a treadmill as it is when done in the fresh air of a tree-lined avenue.

If we have another hard winter this year, I will likely find that out. I was unable to do any significant walking with the amount of snowfall we had last winter, and the lack of activity took its toll on me physically and emotionally.

I may try to snowshoe through town regularly, but I also think I’ll be taking advantage of my health insurance’s reimbursement of gym membership so I can get my sweat on in running shoes, shorts, and a tank top rather than waterproof, insulated boots and many layers of cold-weather garb.

That’s enough talk about winter for now.

I finally succumbed to the urge, and bought a FitBit on Ebay. It shipped out on Saturday, so I’m hoping to see it within a couple of days. I had quite a few reasons for wanting a fitness tracker, and I think I’ll probably save those for another post. I’m sure I’ll want to talk about the FitBit once it arrives and I have used it.

In the meantime, I have set up an online account and downloaded the software for syncing it to my computer. I’m excited to get it and set it up.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!