Gathering News: How Waking Up Earlier Helped Me To Stay Informed & Connected Without Burning Out

The News

I have a confession to make. I’ve stopped listening to the news. It’s not really out of character for me, as I’ve also stopped watching T.V. too. I do watch some shows once and a while. And I read headlines of news stories on my phone. But I’ve just gotten out of the habit of doing both. I don’t miss it, but this kind of worries me a little. Just because I don’t stay abreast of current events doesn’t mean that they go away and I feel less connected for it. And it also feels good to stay informed. Not just for my sake, but for others as well.

I want to stay on top of what’s happening in the world. But the other aspect, and one that is more pressing is, I just don’t have the time. I work two jobs to pay down my student loans and the times I’m not working I’m either cooking for the next two weeks, doing laundry, cooking dinner with family, trying to cram all the tasks I didn’t do during the week into my day off, working out or blogging. It’s amazing how quickly time fills up when you’re busy living your life.

& Sleep

I have another confession to make. On the days I don’t have to wake up at 5:30am to start work, I sleep till around 12 noon and sometimes as late as 2pm. It’s a problem. I think the worst part of me waking up so late is, I don’t really feel that bad about it.

In fact, it wasn’t until I rolled into work 15 minutes late again, and my boss said something about me needing to be on time that I finally felt that something needed to change. You may be asking, how does me being lazy relate to listening to more news? Well, I’m glad you asked. Let me tell you how I changed both habits at the same time by waking up a little earlier.

Feeling Tired and Overwhelmed? Sleep Less

I was constantly feeling tired during the day, and not looking forward to certain tasks. I’m sure this sounds familiar to some. My alarm would go off at 5:30am and I would hit the snooze button thinking, “if I can just get 10 more minutes of sleep, then I’ll be satisfied.” But 10 minutes turned into 20 minutes, turned into 30 minutes. I just kept hitting snooze until finally I was showing up 15 minutes late for work almost everyday.

This was a blow to my ego, as I pride myself on my work ethic. I’m usually 15 minutes early to appointments and responsibilities. The times I used to be late for anything were few and far between. So when my boss told me we needed to talk, I knew I had to make some changes.

That Extra Half an Hour Matters

So, I hopped on the internet and started looking up ways to make it easier to feel awake in the morning. The problem I feel I’m having with waking early is, I just needed more sleep. I somehow thought, when I was under the impression that I could wake up at a reasonable hour, that my body would tell me when I’ve had enough sleep and that I would wake up feeling refreshed when I met my quota. But the more I slept, the later I would want to sleep.

Some of the research I read suggested that I immediately turn on a bright light upon waking up. This sends a signal to our optic nerve that it’s time to start moving and triggers some biological functions in our bodies that help us to feel awake.

Chang Up Your Routine

I also decided that I wanted to eat a healthier breakfast, without feeling rushed as I usually do. So I came up with a plan to wake a little earlier and start my morning routine off on the right foot. Instead of waking up at 5:30am, snoozing for 20 minutes and rushing to get out of the house, dressed and all my things gathered in 10 minutes, only to arrive at work at 6:15am, I set my alarm for 5am. This way I can wake up with ample time to get ready for the day.

Instead of hitting snooze, I get up right away and turn on the light to help my system get acclimated to being awake. I then head downstairs and make my morning cup of green tea and a green smoothie to get something healthy in me, to start my day nourished. I can then take my time getting ready for the day while I drink my tea and smoothie. Without feeling rushed to get out the door and inevitably bad about being late to work. Win win.

That’s Great on Days I Work, But Can I Still Sleep in on the Weekends? Not if You Want to Stay Up on the News

Short answer, no. Some of the research I was reading suggests that you keep your schedule consistent throughout the week. Waking up at the same time everyday helps to get your body in a rhythm that will become self sustaining. So instead of waking up and wanting to hit snooze, you’ll wake up and feel more refreshed the more often you stay faithful to your schedule. And maybe you’ll find the time to listen to the news again.

The first day I had off in which I woke early was incredible. The day prior I had slept till 2pm and felt rushed and mildly guilty about losing so much of the day. I had forgotten about some plans I made with my father to check out the local hardware store. To look for lumber to build some raised beds. So the guilt of missing out on plans, added to the shame of me feeling as though I wasted an entire day and worked to leave me feeling pretty bad. It was not a good state to be in.

Wake Up Early Get More Done

So that night I set an alarm for 7:30am, hoping to get a jump on the next day. Things couldn’t have worked out better. I woke at 7:30am, ate breakfast and drank tea, and got started in on my to-do list. Also, I got more done between when I woke that day to the time I woke the day before than I had in the past three to four weeks. And I was also feeling more connected too.

For starters, I was crossing things off of my to-do list with excited fervor. I went to the local YMCA to look into a membership, I switched my current credit card to a greener, more sustainable one. I balanced my budget, put my shopping list together and chose recipes for the next two weeks. Blogged for a bit and yes, even listened to the news while I was getting things done. It felt good and I was feeling connected. To the world but also to my life.

Okay, I’m Listening To The News Now, But It’s Depressing. Now What?

But as soon as I started listening to the news again, I remembered why I stopped listening in the first place. There are so many negative stories happening, that it’s difficult not to feel overwhelmed or fatigued by just being informed. Staying connected was proving to be difficult work.

When I was in my twenties, I hopped on the Tom Ashbrook bandwagon and listened to “On Point” regularly. I was also watching CNN, listening to NPR and taking in as much information as possible. I took it to the extreme and my habits were definitely bordering unhealthy. This was also around the time I was mean spirited and forcefully vocal with my opinions. Not a good combo.

What I’m realizing now is, that I was mean and opinionated to cover over the fear and uncertainty I was feeling while I was taking in all of this depressing news. I didn’t like this apect of staying connected, but I chased after it to try and fit in with the image of who I thought I should be. So how am I now reconciling my distaste for the negative bias of the news and wanting to stay connected and informed? Balance.

You Take The Good You Take The Bad…

I first had to find out what my reasons were for wanting to stay informed and connected were before I could subject myself to the negativity that was omnipresent in the world of news. I ‘ve come to the conclusion that staying connected is more than just fitting the image of the responsible man I had in mind. It’s mostly about being support, for myself and others. Healthier ways of staying connected.

Just because I wasn’t listening to the news, didn’t mean those events affecting those who are closest to me weren’t happening. I’ve come to realize that when I’m actively listening to the news, I can shape my opinions about what’s happening in the world and share them with those close in. We can offer solace to one another when terrible things are happening, as they are with the pandemic and in Ukraine currently. We can plan together when we hear about gas prices increasing, or the current supply chain shortages. In short, we can help one another, be there for each other, stay connected and all thanks to just by being informed.

With So Much Worry, What About The Positive?

But there needs to be some balance to the equation. I’ve recently downloaded an app called “The Good News Network”. The app sends push notifications with positive or uplifting headlines. This way I can get a balance. The more sobering news from the mainstream media, paired with the uplifting ones from “The Good News Network”. It’s been a good shift. Also really cute at times : )

I haven’t started yet, but my plan is to get my news in the mornings via NPR or a podcast with similar values to stay current, while reading something from “The Good News Network” in the evenings to end my day on a positive note. This way I’ll balance the stressful impact of the more difficult headlines with those of the more uplifting ones.

Don’t Forget the Self-Care

And there’s also an element of self-care that goes along with listening to the news. No longer will I pump large quantities of negativity into my life without checking in and giving myself the breaks I need from what’s bothering me. I think I used to operate under the assumption that, “real men” could handle anything. Including listening to an endless stream of horrifying headlines.

Gone are the days where I wallow in the angst and unrest of the world’s pain. Now, if something feels overwhelming, I’ll take a break from the news and do some resourcing to help me through the difficult emotions.

Some of the podcasts I’ll be looking into are, NHK’s World News Japan, English News, and Morning Edition from NPR. The NHK network has a different cultural perspective than its American counter parts, while NPR speaks to my more liberal-centrist views. Both networks are well respected and deliver quality news stories.

Take Breaks When Needed

But wherever you get your news from, don’t forget that while you’re in the throws of staying up-to-date on current affairs, it’s okay to press pause if it feels like it’s too much. Listen to some music or just get lost in a crossword puzzle. But equally as important, find a news source that suits your taste. There’s no sense in trying to listen if it’s a chore tuning in.

I hope this has been helpful in some way to those needing a little extra boost to get your day started on the right foot and feel more connected. It isn’t always easy to make changes at first. Especially those that demand a bit of sacrifice. But I think you’ll find that the more you practice these new habits, the easier they’ll become. So if you’ve found yourself in some unhealthy habits when it comes to feeling more connected to the world around you, try these suggestions. You may just end up becoming a morning person : ) Peace : ) & thanks for reading.

Image Credits: “The news ticker in Times Square mentions the Occupy Wall Street protest happening on October 15th as protesters gather outside” by TenSafeFrogs is marked with CC BY 2.0.

Updated: 1/15/23

What Happens When We Confuse Self-Sacrifice for Caring

For as long as I can remember, it’s been common practice for my family members to act as though any favor or deed, no matter how small, was an unconscionable burden to be born and a great sacrifice. I’ve said before on this blog, we used the term “martyr” liberally and with harsh judgement. Anytime somebody did something that was akin to self-care, it was viewed as selfish. And the person committing the act was made to feel as though they were inherently bad and selfish.

Sacrificing Our Resources for Those Who Didn’t Ask for Them

From what I’m able tell, and since no one in our family ever spoke about how they were feeling was, that we felt resentment for other people doing for themselves. This was due to feeling as though we were already giving everything we had to the other, so why would they need anything else. Wasn’t that enough? It makes sense in a way, but it is also unhealthy. And also a sign of codependent relationship.

And even though we were doing for one another, there was never a sense of feeling grateful for what was being done. It was almost always viewed as an obligation. And seldom were we happy to receive what was being given. Looking back on it, the whole exchange seems so strange. Who wouldn’t be happy to have a loved one do something for them? Or the chance to make someone close to you happy?

Fear & Resentment in Our Relational Ties

From what I can tell, there was a fair amount of resentment tied to the experience of giving and receiving between us. And one thing is for certain, resentment will erode most all bonds in any relationship. So if we were all so unhappy with one another, on such a consistent basis, then why were we still doing for each other?

I’m not entirely sure to be honest. But I’m going to take a few guesses at what our motivations were. Duty was a big one. We felt as though we had to. Because if we didn’t, our very belonging was in question. The fear of not belonging was quite possibly the one constant in all of our connections. There was a lot of validation happening, with rancorous overtones. We were willing to say pretty much anything if we thought it would make us look better than, or to, somebody else. No matter how mean spirited it was.

Also, self-righteousness was another trait that was in abundance. Making ourselves look good at the expense of somebody else was a lesson I learned very early on. We always wanted to have something we could use to make the other person feel bad about themselves. AKA, emotional blackmail.

A good example of this is something I felt often, “all the things I do for you and this is how you treat me?!” I’m not sure that we spoke those exact words, but that was definitely the unspoken message being sent. No wonder there was so much resentment flowing so freely between us.

Why Resentment Leads to Codependent Relationships

The ways we were treating our relational connections were unhealthy. One of the hallmarks of this way of being was by abandoning our needs altogether, to take care of those of another. We then expected the same in return from the other person. The reason for this was, because we were never taught how to take care of ourselves. Or because we were told we were selfish for doing so.

It wasn’t until very recently that I even understood what self-care is. And even more recently since I’ve begun practicing it. But these were not values taught in my family. The values that were taught in their place were, the man takes care of the woman by making money and providing for her. And the woman takes care of the domestic needs, feeding, clothing, cleaning, including the man. There was a whole host of life skills that, as a man in my family, I was just never taught.

And anything outside of these constraints was considered to go against the natural order of what it means to be a family, according to our unspoken rules. But really it was just a thin covering to veil the deep-seated fear of having to take responsibility for our own lives. The fear was of not being strong enough to live this life on our own. So we needed somebody else to do it for us.

Choosing a Partner to Resent

This, sadly, was true for me in the relationships that I chose to be in. I was usually with another who would make all the decisions in our “shared” decision making. When I spoke about past relationships, I would complain about not having a voice in our relationship, and how it led to us braking up. But I was secretly grateful that I didn’t have to accept the responsibility of living my life as my own. I was a coward in that regard. Life is most definitely not for the faint of heart. And what I’ve learned from my experience is, that there will almost always be someone to pick up those reigns for you, if you let them.

So if we’re so used to neglecting ourselves for the sake of another, or because we just don’t want the responsibility of living our own lives, how do we take control of our lives again? For me, following the fear has been a helpful guide to understanding what I’ve been running from.

Self-Sacrifice: Pros & Cons

Self-sacrifice isn’t always a bad thing. If done with good intention and knowing how to recharge afterwards, it can be a rewarding experience. But done to often and without concern for your own emotional needs, it can leave you depleted, empty. The latter was what was most common in my family. And led to unhealthy ways of relating to one another. The following are some of the lessons I’ve learned from the unhealthy ways we would sacrifice ourselves in the name of taking care of each other.

Emotional Blackmail

As I’ve said above, if somebody was sacrificing themselves for somebody else in my family, there was usually a catch. This is where emotional blackmail enters the equation. We were constantly trying to feel better about ourselves by making the other person feel bad for taking our sacrifice for granted and not doing or being enough. And also, making sure they knew how we felt about it. What we didn’t realize was, that this makes both people feel worse. This leads to feelings of resentment towards one another. And trying to control each other using guilt and fear, only breeds more guilt and fear. No surprises here.

This is a difficult habit to break though. Because you have to feel through the fear of what’s keeping your need for control so strong. Finding and confronting that fear is what will set you free from the cycles of using fear and judgement to control and manipulate others. What triggered my fear was, feeling as though I wasn’t worthy of somebody else’s time, love or efforts.

Reality Check Your Fears

For me, love and acceptance was constantly being held just out of reach, over my head. So when I start to feel as though I’m not worthy of love and attention, fear sets in. This is where I need to reality check my thoughts and beliefs. Because the fear is usually coming from a very young place of feeling rejected, and I will want to act in unhealthy ways in order to feel belonging.

Now I’m able to take stock of the caring and loving relationships I’ve built and fostered with those closest to me. I remind myself that I can choose to build and keep healthy relationships. Instead of relying on a set of caregivers to provide all my relational needs for me. As was the case when I was a child.

Using Self-Sacrifice to Feel Superior

This was another way we held love back from each other. The more we did for one another, the more we sacrificed, the more material we had to use to feel as though we were better than the other. Because we were being so “selfless” in our sacrifice by not asking for anything in return. But what we hadn’t realized was, that we were expecting something. The feeling of superiority over the other, at the expense of somebody else feeling emotionally indebted to us, because of our sacrifice. Because we never asked for reciprocation, we just made the other feel as though their emotional needs were a burden to us. A part of our sacrifice to the other.

We did this, I believe, because we didn’t understand how to feel valued in relationships any other way. We didn’t know how to feel relaxed around each other without having three or four drinks first! Feeling valued in our relationships for who we are, might as well have been a trig course while we were still trying to figure out basic addition. And again, fear was behind our motivations. If we stop sacrificing ourselves for the other, we thought we’d no longer be needed. And therefore, our self worth would cease to exist.

This is a sad and terrifying place to be. I know I felt alone, isolated and without value. It’s no wonder we used each other the ways that we did. We built our relationships on a common fear of one another not needing us anymore, all the while trying to feel loved and accepted by the same people we feared would leave us. Confusing for sure. So how do we untangle this mess? This mass of confusion?

Finding Self Worth

It starts with understanding our own self worth, absent of the judgements from others. Your value as a person, is not contingent on somebody else’s good regard. When we understand this, then we can take a look at the relationships we’ve been keeping. How do those we keep closest to us make us feel about ourselves? Are they overly critical of us and others? When you speak about other people, is it usually a negative conversation? These are some indications that our relationship may need some tighter boundaries.

But you don’t have to completely abandon your relationships either. It’s possible to take care of yourself, while connecting with someone who is acting from a place of being judgmental. You just need to know when to step away from the relationship. To give yourself time to feel strong and confident enough in yourself and in the relationship. Not giving in to the judgments we used to connect to others with.

Not Falling Back into the Cycles of Petty Judgments

Because these cycles are easy to fall back into, it’s best to keep an eye on how you are being in the relationship, while interacting with these types of people. So as not to pick up where you left off. But try not to close off completely to them either. From my experience, when I was acting from a fearful place, when I would sacrifice myself to gain acceptance, I didn’t even realize I had an effect on others. I was so concerned about how I was being seen, that I was self-absorbed to the point of being oblivious to the hurtful things I was doing and saying.

This may also be the case with others who seem to be self absorbed as well. Maybe they just don’t know what they’re doing. That doesn’t change the fact that what they do can still be hurtful. But it helps to know that it’s most likely not out of malicious intent. So if you have the patience, try to stay open enough to be connected, but without draining yourself completely. And don’t forget to set boundaries with these types of relationships too. Because the other person is most likely incapable of seeing how they are abusing yours.

And don’t forget, it’s not your job to “save” or “fix” the other person. Whether or not they change is up to them, and is in no way within our control. The best we can do is lead by example and by setting and sticking to healthy boundaries in our relationships. And always make sure that you’re taking care of yourself first. Otherwise we’re back at square one. Where we sacrifice too much of ourselves, without reciprocation.

And Don’t Forget, be Kind : )

For me, one of the traps I used to fall into was belittling others so I could feel morally superior. And those that I surrounded myself with followed suit. So if we’re looking to make the change from finding belonging by demeaning others to feeling inherent self worth, we need to be kind. To ourselves and others.

Being petty and judgmental were some of the main foundations of my former relationships. In order to make the shift to kindness, I needed to be conscious of how I was speaking to and about others. And also what I was thinking about them as well. Because being needlessly negative to fit in is a habit that gets stronger the more we practice it. And it takes a great deal of willpower to recognize this habit as it’s happening, and to change its course.

So when old patterns of negative thoughts come up, don’t try to block them. Recognize that they are there and reality check them. Are you thinking this way because it’s how you used to fit in? Or maybe it’s a stroke of bad luck that you’re in a difficult situation. Make sure you’re not just defaulting to negativity out of old habit.

Actively Seek the Good

I’ve also been making it a point to pick out the positive I see in either people or situations too. In hopes that the more I practice this habit, the stronger it will become. And this doesn’t mean I’m being nice to cover over the discomfort of the negative thoughts that do come up. This can turn into denial if left unchecked. Rather allow both negative and positive thoughts to coexist, but choose to practice the positive.

I hope this has been helpful in some way. Making positive changes in our life isn’t always easy. But if you’re looking, you can usually find help and support when you need it. I hope this has been both. And as always, peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “Ritual Sacrifice of the Gummulate Tribe!” by Grizdave is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Updated: 11/24/22

Clean Your Plate!: How Healthy Boundaries With Food Can Help Us Heal From Old Wounds

Every Tuesday night, I make a special self-care dinner for myself With the types of food I know I’ll love. Usually I’ll search for a recipe, something that has caught my eye during the week. Then I’ll go shopping for my meal that night and take my time while cooking my meal. I do this to really savor the time I take preparing something I know I will enjoy. I even had a co-worker make a special bowl for my weekly ritual. And I usually make a large batch of what I’m making, so I have leftovers to eat during the week. And last Tuesday was no different.

Clean Your Plate

However, there was something different about my meal last week. I made a tortilla soup topped with corn chips, cilantro, avocado, cheddar and sour cream. It was tasty, but that wasn’t what was different. What had changed was, by the time I got to the end of my bowl, I felt as though I was forcing myself to finish my meal. I had at some point stopped enjoying my meal and began forcing myself to finish.

This was confusing. I make these meals so I can enjoy and connect with the experience of cooking something I like, while also nourishing myself in the process. Why am I now forcing myself to enjoy something? After I had already enjoyed the process and what I had of it?

The more I think of it, the less sense this made to me. The bowl I had my friend make was the second bowl she made for me. The first one was too small. I wanted something I could fit a lot of food in. Additionally, I usually make and served myself way too much food. while having three to four drinks and a dessert to follow and a tea to round out the meal. I wasn’t concerned about my portion control, only how much I could consume.

What’s on Your Plate

This switch, from a ritual I created to forge a new and soothing relationship with the food I’m making, to something that was not as enjoyable as I had initially planned it to be, had me feeling uneasy. Then I realized there was more beneath the surface relating to my food consumption than what I was experiencing.

What I started to notice first was my portion sizes. I was serving myself way too much food. So much so, that I felt as though I was muscling through my meal rather than enjoying the experience in a relaxing way. I was using my experience with food, the joy I received from making the meal, to sitting down and relishing in the flavor combinations, like a drug. And from this perspective, more equals better. But I was also covering over some other feelings that had been left unattended. The feelings of how I learned how to relate to my food.

Digging in a Little Deeper

When I was growing up, my experience in relating to food was not an enjoyable one. I do have some fond memories of holiday meals being prepared. The smells of rosemary and roasting meats wafting through the house as family gathered to celebrate. But a majority of my time spent with meals was not so steeped in revelry. I would often hear from my caregivers, “clean your plate” as a way to say finish the food that was given to me.

I also spent very little time with my caregivers during meals. And the time I did spend with them, was filled with petty arguments and cutting insults. A thousand tiny cuts. They would prepare meals for me, but family mealtime ended for me by the time I was 12-14 years old. My caregivers were gone until 2am most nights. Leaving me to fend for myself when it came to nourishment. It felt more like survival most nights. This is a bit of exaggeration, but the loneliness mixed with not knowing how to cook for myself or how to pick healthy meals that would leave me feeling my best was anxiety provoking and confusing.

Mixed Messages

And when we were together, my caregivers referred to me as a “human garbage disposal”. This was also confusing and a direct contradiction to my prime directive which was, “clean your plate.” I was confused. Paired with no direction on how to please my caregivers, it seemed that everything I was doing was somehow wrong or unacceptable.

And to further drive home the ire my nickname carried, my caregivers were more than a little intolerant of overweight persons. This was also confusing. Because my caregivers and I were also overweight. There was literally no sense to be made from any of these interactions.

One of my caregivers went so far as to offer me money to lose weight. I believe the arrangement was 40$ to get down to my ideal weight. I agreed, but what 13 year-old wouldn’t want 40$? Though with no support on how to lose weight and being fed the same foods that got me to my then, current weight, I didn’t stand a chance. This left me feeling like a failure.

Past Lessons Inform Future Food Choices

Fast forward to my mid twenties and I was overweight and had zero boundaries with the food and alcohol I was consuming. But I stayed faithful to my caregivers instructions of wanting to be thin and to look good naked. I chose Brad Pitt’s character from the movie, “Fight Club” as my role-model. This was how I thought I should look… What hurts so much now thinking about all of this is, that I had no idea how unreasonable these standards are and were. I thought these were perfectly normal and reasonable aspirations. Mostly because they were expected of me by my caregivers.

I should also mention that one of my caregivers top values is being attractive. Which, unfortunately for me growing up, was reinforced time and time again. So I wasn’t aware of how unreasonable their standards actually are. And to add to the confusion, these standards are backed by a society that is equally image obsessed. It took a great strength of will to even see past the idea that looking thin and attractive was not the most important aspect of life.

All of these unhealthy messages I received growing up left me feeling confused. Angry with myself for not being able to live up to these unreasonable standards and highly judgmental of others who couldn’t live up to my and my caregivers standards. As well as just plain unsatisfied. By the time I hit my early thirties, I was overweight and angry about it. My diet was the most unhealthy it had been at any point in my life. I also still had no clear direction on how to make healthy, lasting changes. Something needed to change.

Making Lasting Changes

Exercise

I started with exercise. I ran two miles every few days in the local commons. At the time I was going through a divorce and there were other major shifts happening in my life as well. One of the ways I was able to take some steps in a healthier direction and take control of my life was by getting out on the road and hammering out a few miles. This was the start of me making more health conscious decisions that would directly affected my life for the better.

Food

After I got into a routine of regularly exercising, I shifted my focus on what I was eating. This was particularly difficult considering the environment I was in. I was living with a woman who was in her early twenties, living life the same ways I was at that age. This should have been an indicator that I was moving backwards with my life choices. But I was under a considerable amount of stress and dealing with a life’s time worth of unchecked emotional baggage. I understand why I made the decisions I did, but would not make them again. Needless to say, our eating habits were not ideal.

I was, however, able to make healthier food choices and change my habits while I was living in less than ideal circumstances. I began grocery shopping as I would for a family. Planning and preparing meals for us for the week. I was roasting whole chickens and preparing other whole foods. Straying away from fatty and sugary prepared and processed foods of my past. I was taking control of our nutritional needs and moving us in a healthier direction.

Coffee & Alcohol

This was also around the time I decided to reduce my alcohol intake as well. My change stemmed from me taking a conscious effort to part ways with the habits and patterns of my caregivers.

And as soon as I stopped drinking so much alcohol, that’s when my health really started to take shape. I was less sluggish. I was losing weight due to the sudden decrease in caloric intake. Not only from a lack of the unhealthy foods I was eating, but also the empty calories in the beer and mocha-lattes I was drinking. And speaking of coffee, I also lessened my caffeine intake. I was drinking around 4-5 double or quad shot mochas a day! This was excessive by any standard. Not to mention the money I was saving!

So in the course of two years, I had turned my eating habits from something unhealthy, to exercising regularly, watching my alcohol and caffeine consumption and eating healthier in general. All in all I had made some pretty remarkable changes in my personal life. So fast forward a few years and I’m still defaulting to some of my old habits. Why was this so?

Revisiting the Past

From what I am able to tell, my patterns stem from avoiding my old feelings of not adding up to my caregivers growing up. I was still looking for the external validation by living up to my caregivers unreasonable and contradictory standards. The ones that I adopted as my own that told me to clean my plate but be thin. All the healthy eating and diet changes were a way of trying to live up to my caregivers impossible standards. The difference now is, I have tools, such as drive, that I never had before. Now I know how to please my caregivers by putting a plan into action.

But this is still an unhealthy way of living. Trying to live up to impossible standards is exhausting and dangerous. One night, after working a full shift (10 hours) without eating breakfast or lunch, I ran three miles and did thirty minutes of yoga as well. I was so exhausted, that when I got out of the shower and bent over to towel off, I passed out on the bathroom floor. One of the people I live with, came into to the bathroom to see if I was okay. I clearly was not.

So I’m still holding on to these conflicting and unhealthy messages from my past. Which all stemmed from, “clean your plate”. Even after all this work, I’m still holding on to some of these lessons. Why?

What am I Holding On to?

From what I’m able to tell, I feel a sense of accomplishment from “cleaning my plate”. This is the external validation I am looking for. Validation that I never received from my caregivers. So how do I change this unhealthy way of relating to myself and these unreasonable standards I’ve adopted? How do I learn to be okay, just as I am, while still striving to be the best version of myself in a healthy way? I think it started, for me anyways, with my meditation practice.

Meditation

During meditation, I recite a set of affirmations. Ones I’ve selected that help me to be the version of myself I want to be. One of the lines is, “it’s okay to be me, just as I am”. I need this constant reinforcement. To help to break the old patterns of not feeling as though I’m adding up. And to me, not adding up meant feeling like I didn’t belong to my caregivers. This made me feel unsafe. Add some early childhood trauma to the mix and you have a recipe for difficult patterns and expectations to break free of.

This affirmation also helps to let me know I’m not perfect. And that that’s okay. When I was younger, I really thought my belonging hinged on the good opinion of my caregivers. But when you’re a child, what else do know but the approval of your caregivers. Now that I know that my caregivers are just people, it’s a little easier to forgive myself for not living up to their standards. I no longer view their words as absolute law.

Kindness & Patience

Also, being kind and patient with myself is an important aspect I learned from my meditation practice. When I was forcing myself to finish my meal a few days ago, I was feeling uneasy and a little sad. I needed self-care then more than ever. Because there was and still is confusion and mixed messages around my food intake and sustaining myself. And my younger, emotional self is still holding out for that chance to make my caregivers proud of me. For doing what they asked. But this will take some time, for my emotional self to feel better and heal. And the most direct way to come to terms with my hurt emotional self is through kindness to myself and my feelings as they arise.

Exercise and healthy eating are still integral routines to my lifestyle choices. But for different reasons than they were before. It’s still okay to want to look and feel good physically. Only my perspective has shifted from looking and feeling good as being my top value, to being a means to living a healthy and active life. Because when I was living a sedentary lifestyle, overweight and drinking too much, I was unhappy.

Finding Satisfaction

I was drinking caffeine and alcohol to numb my emotions while watching T.V. and playing video games to avoid living my life. I was also overweight and unhealthy. And most likely, I was headed for some health complications due to my lifestyle. So knowing that I’m living my life, to be the best and healthiest version of myself, is now my number one value when it comes to health choices and making value based decisions. And this makes me feel healthier. My values are no longer set at how good I look naked. And that feels good : )

Perfection is not Prerequisite for Satisfaction

And finally, knowing that we are not perfect. This one was a difficult one for me to come to terms with. My caregivers focus on perfection was omnipresent. I felt as though, if I didn’t get that A, or wasn’t the perfect image of what my caregivers wanted of me, regardless of how impossible the image was (see Brad Pitt’s character in Fight Club for example), I was unsafe and unloved.

I went so far as to study Val Kilmer’s, Jim Morrison from The Doors, because they liked The Doors. Also Jim seemed to be living life like my caregivers. I had no idea how unhealthy this dynamic is and was. But what I do remember is how lonely it was for me growing up. with no one around and not feeling loved or some type of belonging. Now I’m realizing that I don’t have to be somebody else. That “it’s okay to be me, just as I am”, has done so much good in remembering I don’t have to add up to someone else’s standard. That it’s okay to be me, flaws and all.

Practice Practice Practice

And it takes practice. Sometimes I’ll still try to conform to someone else’s ideal of what it means to be loved. Or to feel belonging. It’s in those moments that I remember the things that I’ve come to value. The friends I have who know and love me for me. The activities I find joy in. Like yoga and hiking. And the plans I have for my future. These all help to ground me in who I am outside of somebody else’s standard.

So know if that if you’re struggling with a set of unreasonable standards you were presented with before you were able to form your own healthier standards, you are not alone. And also, it’s not too late to change these standards. Be persistent. Take the time to learn who you are. Your likes and dislikes. What are the moments that bring you joy? Maybe there’s a song that you like to play. Do you enjoy a certain meal? Or maybe a treat you make for yourself on special occasions? These are the pieces, that when added up, make you satisfied in who you are. Be faithful to those and you will find your way : ) And as always, thanks for reading : ) peace.

Image Credits: “Clean Dishes” by Geoff LMV is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Updated 10/13/22

Resources: What Even Are They?

Last week’s blog post was on how I had managed to acquire all sorts of unhealthy resources to navigate and deal with a life’s time worth of unfelt emotions. This week, I’d like to talk about some of the healthier versions of some of my old resources and new ones I’ve developed that bring me a sense of ease and calm. Get ready to feel good!

Healthy Resourcing

Caffeine

Let’s begin where we usually start our day, with coffee. As I mentioned last week, I drank a lot of coffee. This was mostly to push past the feelings of not wanting to do something, especially while I was tired. Plus, it felt good. The buzz I got from drinking lattes back to back allowed me to get a lot done in the time I had. It also, unfortunately, stopped me from thinking about the things I was doing and saying. This lead to me shirk my responsibility for being held accountable for my own words and actions. This is what I mean by letting the emotions pile up. I just never thought about them. Or just sped passed them.

So I stopped drinking caffeine for a while. But along with feeling like I was avoiding it out of fear, I did enjoy the kickstart to my morning that caffeine delivers. So I started drinking it again, only this time around in the form of tea. And I also set some boundaries around my caffeine consumption. I usually only drink two to three cups a day now. This is a vast improvement over my old habit and there’s tons of variety with all the different types of teas that are available!

If you’re into smoky things, I suggest Yerba Mate. It’s a plant native to South America that has smoky note to it. And it has less caffeine than a cup of coffee, but not by much. So if you’re looking to cut back, this may not be the best option to replace coffee with, cup for for. Other favorites of mine include, jasmine green, oolong and jade green. All having about half the caffeine of a normal cup of coffee.

They’re also great for making cold brew for the warmer weather. I usually put about four bags of tea to a gallon container and let the tea steep overnight. I remove the bags in the morning and have tea that’s ready to be iced and taken on my morning commute. So if you’re into iced beverages, this is a great option for making a large amount to drink throughout the week. If you’re in the Boston area, Mem Tea is a great place to pick up some loose leaf at a reasonable price.

Alcohol

As I mentioned last week, it wasn’t until I was in my early thirties that I realized that the ways I was living were not only unhealthy, but potentially very dangerous. I knew things needed to change, only I had no idea where to start. I began by looking around at who I had been looking to for guidance. Most of the people I had spent my time with I no longer spoke to. And the movies and characters I aspired to be like were self destructive. Tyler Durden from “Fight Club”, the Joker and Jim Morrison to name a few.

After I realized that I was trying to emulate the late Mr. Morrison, I knew something needed to change. So I stopped drinking alcohol. Entirely at first, but then I started to feel the same ways I did about avoiding caffeine. So I introduced it into my self-care dinner nights. Usually I would have a beer with my meal, one that I enjoyed and be present with the experience. I wasn’t trying to numb my emotions anymore by drinking too much. I felt a little relaxed but mostly enjoyed the taste and how it complimented my meal.

When I was drinking more often, I used to brew beer and it’s something I’ve been thinking of getting back into, now that I have a healthier relationship with alcohol. And what feels even better is, I know I can have a drink with a friend while I’m out and not have to worry about what I’m avoiding in myself emotionally. I can just enjoy the company of my friends while having a beer.

Herbal Teas

Along with incorporating a drink into my self-care meal, I also drink herbal teas before I go to bed now which has become a very important resource for me. Something like chamomile or another bedtime blend like this one from Allegro. And as with caffeinated teas, there are so many different types of herbal teas to choose from. I’m surprised that I ever chose to drink the few mixed drinks and beers I did.

I will usually light a few candles and sit back with my tea and relax. Or calmly plan what my upcoming day is going to look like. Put on some R&B tunes and I’m totally relaxed. It’s much easier now to manage the emotions and responsibilities I have without the fog of alcohol or medication clouding my focus. And I sleep better as well. Sure I’m still tired when I wake sometimes, but I feel more rested during the day.

Other Drink Options

When I’m not drinking tea, I’m drinking something like this golden milk recipe from Minimalist Baker. This recipe is great for getting cozy on a cold night next to a fire. Or a great compliment to a playlist you’re listening too to unwind from the day. Hot chocolate is another great option. Once you start looking, there are so many different options to choose from. I usually take some time before I go to bed, about a half hour to forty-five minutes to just be still. This is prime tea drinking time for me.

Writing

Journaling is another resource for me and a big one at that. Writing is a space where I plan out what the different areas of my life need. Or what I’m experiencing at the time. I keep a planner section. This is where I put practical information. My weekly schedule, todo list, shopping lists, budget. Any information I need to run my household. But I also have other places in my journal to explore my emotions, likes and dreams.

I have lists for what I want my future to look like. As well as a place for the resources that help me to feel my best. Little reminders of what matters. So when I need them, I can just flip through the pages and find something positive. This is also where I keep a traditional journal. About all the things and feelings that are coming up throughout my days. A place to get a bird’s eye view and some understanding of what I’m going through.

Along with my written journal, I have a rough guide of what my week looks like written down on my phone, so I know I have some time carved out to take care of the things that need attention, including myself. I don’t stick to it religiously, but like I said above, it’s nice to know that I have some time carved out for what needs attention. I also use my phone as an extension of my written journal. A place to jot down things to put on my todo list. Or emotional exploration prompts for my journal. There’s a link to Ryder Carrol’s “Bullet Journal” method that I use, in my Community page. Do a quick google search for “bullet journaling” and you’ll find a huge community of creatives, sharing their journaling ideas.

Food & Cooking

Cooking is something that has become a very important resource for me. I’ve mentioned in a few of my posts about how I never learned to nourish my body properly, due to growing up in a toxic environment extending to all things food related. Also how cooking for myself has become a soothing routine. It’s also done so much for my mental health. Especially around how I relate to nourishing myself.

Whether it’s for my weekly meal prep, or my self-care dinner, the act of gathering the recipes and ingredients and slowly following each step of each recipe, while a scented candle burns and whatever I’m listening to plays softly in a warm, dimly lighted kitchen, is something that brings me a real sense of ease and care. Knowing I can provide for and nourish my body in healthful ways is comforting. Considering that I was never taught how to do this in the past. Cooking has become a soothing ritual.

Learning to Cook For Yourself

It’s more than a little scary to think about the ways I was treating myself and what I was putting into my body. There were days where I just didn’t eat. I was solely running on caffeine and alcohol. The food I make for myself now is truly an act of love. And I’m almost always surprised at how well it turns out! I was taught how to cook at a restaurant that I used to work in, in my early twenties. I was taught by a woman from Bhutan, who was using Northern Indian cooking techniques to make Mexican and Asian inspired foods. And even though I didn’t appreciate the lessons then, I now understand how lucky I was to learn so much from such a talented chef.

Being able to cook for yourself has so many benefits. Exploring new cuisines and ingredients, trying out new dishes or finding a new favorite meal. Knowing how to cook for myself has carried me through many difficult days. I’ll usually block off some time during the week to cook for the upcoming weeks. As I said above, I light a candle and put some music on. Whatever is reflecting of the mood I want to embody. Then I lay out my ingredients and go through the recipes I’ve selected one by one.

The heat from the range or oven, the smells from the freshly chopped veggies or smoked tofu (which if you have a smoker, def get yourself some tofu marinated in Braggs aminos to smoke). The aroma from the sautéeing garlic, ginger and onions, or the spices melding together in a rich and flavorful curry. These are the moments that turn the simple act of cooking a meal into a method of self-care. And we all need to eat to live! What better motivation to learn how and to experiment!

Running & Yoga

Exercise is another important resource. My exercise comes in the forms of running and yoga. I used to lift weights in my early twenties. And even after I dislocated my shoulder while doing shoulder presses on session, I still continued to lift weights. This was mostly because I thought it would make me more of a man. One of my caregivers had lifted weights on and off during my childhood, so I was following in their footsteps in a way. And I didn’t mind it so much, but I was living in unhealthy ways while I was lifting.

I was smoking about a pack of cigarettes a day and was hungover more often than not while I was going to the gym. The lifestyle I was cultivating ran counter to the healthy habits I was trying to incorporate into my life. And as I said above, I was more concerned with how it made me look to others than how I felt.

Running

The shift to working out to feel better, healthier happened for me in my early thirties. I started with running. I had just gotten out of a relationship, after waking up emotionally from the traumas I had endured in my childhood. It felt like a fresh start. And one day I got it in me to start running. I’m not sure the reason, but I started running once or twice a week. Two miles around the city commons, close to where I used to live.

After a few years of running two mile routes, my workouts evolved. I gained a few running buddies along the way, increased my speed from eleven minute miles to eight-thirty and even ran a half marathon at one point. I still run, though my mileage has decreased some. But the feeling of pushing myself just past what I feel my limits are is a good feeling. I no longer need to prove anything by pushing myself beyond what I’m capable of. Just enough to grow stronger. Sort of like the way muscle tears to grow bigger, the same happens when we push past our perceived limitations. We open ourselves up just a smidge more and make space to grow. But it’s important not to push yourself too hard.

Yoga

Yoga, in many ways, is similar to running for me. I know that when I hop on the mat, I’m learning how to show up in my body when things gets difficult. Staying with the dis-ease I find during the workout. There’s also a sense of mastery of self. Flowing through the vinyasas, knowing that people have been doing this for millennia. Taming the thinking mind and strengthening mind and body at the same time, forging a tighter bond in ourselves, with ourselves.

And the more we show up for our practice, the stronger we get. I practice both yoga and running once every four days, staggering the two, one day apart. And it’s been a relief shedding the limiting belief that yoga is something only women do. I was raised in an environment that was toxically masculine. There were strict gender roles that were enforced by threatening to withhold belonging from the familial unit.

When I realized that everyone that was threatening to withhold belonging was doing it because they felt uncertain of their belonging, it was easy to strike out on my own and find my own path. For me, my caregivers wanted me to fit into a specific idea of how a man should behave. And men did not do yoga in my family. But it’s hard to be upset with them, knowing the amount of fear that they are living with. And for anyone who doesn’t think yoga is a workout, try sitting in chair pose for two minutes!

Breathing

Also, another aspect of yoga that has been helpful is that it helped me to pay attention to my breathe. I hadn’t even thought of it until not too long ago, but I realized that I used to be a mouth breather. This happened after I looked at a few pictures of myself and found that my mouth was open in almost all of them.

Mouth breathing has a host of undesirable effects. One of them being that you only breathe into your upper lungs, which activates the sympathetic nervous system. This produces adrenaline due to not being able to enter a deep level of sleep. When you breathe through your nasal passages, you are breathing into your lower lungs. This activates your parasympathetic nervous system and helps to regulate your emotional state. If you’d like to read more about mouth vs. nasal breathing, check out this article.

Meditation

Speaking of breathing, meditation is another resource that has given me the ability to stay present with myself and my emotions. I started meditating about the same time I started to run. It has evolved from my first time practicing, but has been a persistent and fulfilling practice. When I first started meditating, I did so laying down. I think I had been running on fumes for so long that I needed to rest and relax completely.

I later joined a sangha for a brief period. Now I meditate on my own, using an app that has a form of digital sangha. This feature is nice because it allows you to thank those you’ve meditated with during your session. And the more you practice at different times, the more you will recognize faces from different times of the day. I’ve gotten in the habit of thanking a handful of people I see on a regular basis. And every once and awhile I’ll send them a message asking them how they are. It’s become a great way to connect with others.

Music

Music is another of my go to resources. I have a few playlists that I have for when I have a particularly tough day. There’s something special about listening to a playlist of carefully curated songs, maybe while sipping a cup of herbal tea in a room filled with candle light that just feels relaxing.

I listen to a wide variety of artists and genres. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I listened to a lot of hardcore along with bands like Phish and the Dead. It was a strange mix to be sure. Since I’ve transitioned to the softer, singer-songwriter genre. But the love of music and its ability to transform a mood is still something I hold close.

I love the blues, and still remember the feelings I got from the images of light and color, like a mandala, when I was introduced to The Grateful Dead and hippie culture. There was a ripeness to it. A sense of welcoming and comfort but also excitement at the same time. And when I listen to some of those old songs from my past, I land just on the edge of that feeling.

I have one playlist specifically for when I need a boost of emotional support. It’s comprised of songs that all have a bit of advice or wisdom embedded in them. Things that I may have wished I heard when I was younger. Or maybe some wisdom I need in the present. Whatever the songs mean to you, listening to a playlist of your favorite songs is like saying a kind affirmation to yourself over and over again. In a sweetly wrapped voice telling you that it’s alright, you’re gonna be just fine. This, along with countless other applications, music really has the ability to transform our ways of being.

Resources for Resources

If you’re interested to learn more about some of my resources, head on over to my community page. There I have many of the resources I’ve listed above. I’d also love to hear what you have as resources! Leave a message in the comments below if you feel like it. Thanks for reading, and I hope some of these suggestions have given you a new perspective on something that may be common place. And as always, peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits:“Relax” by Roslan Tangah (aka Rasso) is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Updated: 9/23/22

Resourcing: What Does That Even Mean?

Resourcing. This is a word I knew very little about until a few years ago. It was about the time I started to listen to dharma talks from Tara Brach, a Buddhist psychologist, who would often reference these things called “resources”. I just went along with it, not giving it a lot of thought. But the term kept coming up in a lot of her talks and I became more and more confused. She would say things like, “if it gets to be too much, this is a good time to resource.” It’s a little embarrassing to think about it now, but if you don’t know, you don’t know. And I definitely did not know.

Finding My Bearings

As I listened to more and more of her talks, the elusive term kept popping up. I began to grasp what she was referring to. In case you are where I stood, resourcing means finding something in the moment that will bring you a sense of calm or ease. Especially during a difficult wave of emotion or stressful situation. Think of resourcing as a way to self sooth. When times are difficult or stressful and you just need to get outside and feel the cool breeze, this is resourcing. This is also something I was definitely not taught how to do in my youth.

Knowing What Unhealthy Resources Look Like

Of course, in my family, we drank our resources. Or felt them at the expense of someone else’s well being. This was definitely no bueno and isn’t really a resourcing. Or at least it’s not sustainable. One has the potential to lead to substance abuse issues and the other leaves both people feeling as though there has been a giant hole torn through them. Empty. But it was all we knew. It would be easy to blame my caregivers for these unhealthy lessons. But what it comes down to is, they didn’t know any better themselves.

If all you’ve ever known of love and acceptance was conditional, when it comes time to teach the next generation how to feel love and belonging, what do you think the lessons are going to be? You have to do some serious work in order to reverse these old lessons. Those of unhealthy and self destructive attitudes towards being in relationship with one another. I don’t blame my caregivers for what I’ve endured. But one thing is for sure, I’m not going to pass it on to the next generation.

Why I Chose Unhealthy Resources

Some of what I was doing to make myself feel better, eating fatty foods, drinking too much coffee and alcohol to name a few, I was doing because I wanted to feel a sense of connection with those I felt isolated from. Sure, the food tasted good at the time, but I was also sluggish and overweight. I was substituting unhealthy eating habits for the lack of relationship with both of my childhood caregivers. Who also have an unhealthy relationship to food. The same with coffee and alcohol. I was really trying to feel some sort of connection to the people I loved by doing what they showed me they valued and loved. But it was only a substitute.

Sure you can bond over cooking a meal together. But when the food is what you are left with, instead of the relationship with whom you are trying to create a tighter bond with in the first place, something is a miss. The same with drinking coffee and alcohol. It’s nice to catch up over a latte or a beer, but when your drinking caffeine to speed past the uncomfortable feelings that sometimes come with connecting, or drinking alcohol to numb the dis-ease of unresolved emotions, then we’re not really connecting. And these patterns can persist for a very long time. I know this from personal experience, my own and others close-in in my life.

Living Life Like Jim Morrison

I remember watching Oliver Stone’s “The Doors”, when I was a teenager and thinking, “you know, my family is kind of living this way. Maybe that’s what they want from me.” Also no bueno. There was never any adult role model around to show me otherwise. And when they were around, they’d drink like they were rock stars. Lana Del Ray’s lyric, “I’m living life like Jim Morrison” hit really close to home, or rather was a good description of my home life. This seemed like a natural fit, so it’s what I aspired to. I burned a lot of bridges and missed out on a lot of opportunities because of the ways I chose to live. When I finally stopped living this way, I was completely clueless and I had no idea what to do after making the change.

And this was where I was left. By my caregivers mostly. I had friends, but we were all in the same boat. We had all been kicked out of some club or another and had banded together against what seemed like an insurmountable task. Starting out to live our lives with absolutely zero direction and advice on what to do next. Or how to make the most out of our lives. And all at happened at the tender age of 19. This was a scary time, but also one filled with excitement. We were out on our own, living our lives the best way we knew how and doing it without any resources.

Of course, we didn’t even know what a resource was. And it wasn’t until my early thirties that I began to understand what they were, and how to find out what they mean to me, and then foster them so they would be there when I needed them. This took a lot of digging and practice to find out what works and what doesn’t. And it’s not over. Resources, for me, are something that are constantly changing, evolving.

Relationship as a Resource

So if staying loyal to the resource and not the relationship becomes the focus, then we’re really left with a bunch of empty objects or rituals that aren’t fulfilling. For me it was dim sum. I love dim sum. Going into China town when I was a child on Sunday mornings to eat loads of dumplings was something I looked forward to. Through the years, I’ve always held a special place in my heart for dim sum, but the relationship has definitely changed.

I still enjoy dumplings, but it was mostly the memories of going into the city. Being surrounded by throngs of people, the bustle of a busy dumpling house, the carts weaving their ways through the crowds and the smells and sauces… These were the memories that forged my love of dim sum. Going on my own still brings up these feelings, but without someone to share these experiences with, it feels lonelier.

And it took some time to figure out that it was the connections that mattered. Not the dumplings or the time and place. Or maybe it was the combination of all three. And that’s not to say that taking yourself out for dumplings isn’t a form of resourcing. The same goes for our relationship to ourselves. If we use things that numb or speed past our experience of our emotions, then we are not really attuning to ourselves in a meaningful way. Instead of having two or three cups of coffee, we drink seven lattes, as I once did, to speed past what we were experiencing emotionally.

Repairing What Was Torn Apart

So how do we begin to repair these relationships? The ones with ourselves, others and the items we’re using to alter how we relate to the people in our lives? For me it started with slowing down, literally and seeing what I had been doing, in order to run from the relationships I was avoiding.

The Relationship That was Torn

One of the ways I was avoiding relationship was by drinking caffeine to excess. I have vivid memories of driving around with one of my caregivers, who seemed to always have what felt like dozens of empty mugs under the driver’s side seat. Rolling around and clinking together as we made our way from destination to destination. My caregiver had drank so much coffee during the day that they were tightly wound and constantly go, go, going. It was exhausting watching them. Let alone following them around all day while they ran “errands”.

And as soon as I was old enough to strike out on my own, running my own “errands”, I drank coffee. I started when I was fourteen. And probably didn’t stop until my early thirties. I had been pushing past so many emotions and feelings for so long, that when I finally slowed down to feel them, I was completely floored. It was not pretty. I remember spending nights holding myself against the fear and anxiety, wondering if I would always feel this weight.

Repairing My Relationships, Caffeine

As a reaction to this flood of emotion, I stopped drinking caffeine completely. This was okay for a while, but I still felt as though I was running from something. Like caffeine was a drug that was to be avoided at any cost. And I was done living my life in fear, especially from something that was not all that scary.

So instead of running from caffeine, I turned it into a resource. My caffeine intake now has some much needed boundaries around it. Instead of the seven double to quad-shot mochas I used to drink a day, I now have two to three cups of green or black tea. Jasmine green is one of my favorites. But there are so many great teas to try, I’m surprised I ever limited myself to only one type of coffee.

And I still drink coffee on occasion. But I usually save it for those mornings that are just too much to handle without an extra kickstart. The difference now is, I’m using it sparingly and with care. I have a caffeine chart on my phone that has the amounts of caffeine in milligrams for each type of beverage I consume. This comes in handy for knowing what my intake is for the day, so I don’t go overboard. Also the moments are more enjoyable when they’re happening slow enough to comprehend. I’m not trying to just get through the day as I used to. Which also left me feeling pretty wound up by the time the evening came around.

Repairing MY Relationships, Alcohol

This is when I would usually start drink. I was drinking a lot in the evenings and honestly, I’m a little surprised that I didn’t develop a drinking problem. Usually I would drink six or seven mixed drinks or beers a night. I was constantly buzzed in the evenings, almost every day! Shortly after I stopped my caffeine consumption for the day is when I’d switched over to alcohol to help me unwind from the stress of the day. But also to dampen the amount of caffeine that was streaming through my body. And sometimes I’d mix the two. Energy drinks and vodka were popular around the time I was at the height of my drinking days. This was a strange combo and one that was definitely not sustainable.

I always had a drink in my hand as a way to manage my emotional states. I was seeking constant control of what I was experiencing. And on some days, when the coffee, energy drinks and alcohol weren’t enough, I would take an Adderall or muscle relaxer to really speed things up or slow them down. This was not a sustainable way to live and I’m lucky to be alive with the ways I was mixing medications with alcohol and caffeine. No bueno.

Now that I’ve shared with you the ways I developed my old, unhealthy resources, next week I’ll share some of the resources I’ve developed over the years. How they’ve evolved and how I’m make them a priority in my life. Resourcing isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the effort. Check back next week for some self-care love. I know I can use some after rehashing the past! And I’d love to hear any comments on what you’ve experienced or need resourcing around too. Don’t feel like you are alone in this. And as always, peace, and thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “… you’ll feel better…” by Anne Ruthmann is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Updated: 9/22/22

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