Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Some things to do when you're in a slump

So, I'm 38 now. I had the nicest birthday filled with tiny celebrations over the course of four days. I am eternally grateful for all the goodness I have in my life. And all the delicious cake. And tiny little gifts from Shira. 

I'm having the quietest couple of weeks, in part because I've been sick with a bad cough, but also because I'm feeling like I need a lot of alone time lately. No wait, let me be honest. I need a lot of alone time right now because I'm struggling with my depression. It happens. It's not the "I can't get out of bed" depression, but more like the "I'm walking from room to room wondering how to get started so I just sit down on the couch and knit" kind.  

You guys, I miss being in school. I just want to forget about getting healthy and strong and instead go out and learn to be a midwife. Blah, blah, blah, I know this break is good for me, but I'm really struggling. This liminal space is filled with so much discomfort. While I know that taking this year off from school was a good decision, it's not been an easy one. I'm working a little bit each day, but most of my time I am left to my own devices to make my days my own. I have all this time to fill with Getting Healthy! but I often end up feeling overwhelmed by it all, and then I find myself daydreaming about reproductive physiology or starting IVs.

In these moments I need too work hard to push myself out of my slump. (This isn't to say that depression is just a slump. It's a mental illness. But for me, when I'm doing other things to support my illness, like taking the medications that work best for me, I know that there are other things I can do every day that can help make a difference.) Here's a list of things that work for me.

Some things to do when you're feeling slumpy


We've all heard it before, but seriously, go for a walk. Or to a yoga class, or run like crazy on the treadmill. I am the worst at not following this advice, but I'm working on it. I've got the gym membership now and I'm exercising on the most regular basis I have in years. I let myself stay home today and snuggle on the couch when I know I should have pushed myself to get out and exercise. Tomorrow I will push.


Call your best friend. Let someone make you laugh. Do not dodge their phone calls when they reach out to you because you're feeling blue. Push yourself to answer the phone. If you're feeling even more daring, make a coffee date to laugh together in person. Last week I did just that with a dear friend and it did amazing things for my mood. And we ate scones and jam, which was an added bonus.

Eat your vegetables

Just say no to the leftover birthday ice cream in your freezer, says the woman with personal experience. Decide to make yourself at least one nourishing, healthy meal and consider it a victory.


Clean your house. Or maybe that's just me. And I don't mean do the dishes (though that might not be a bad idea while you're at it). I mean clean out your bedroom. Change the pictures on your wall. Rearrange your living room. Tiny fresh starts can do wonders for your soul.


Dye your hair. Get your nose pierced (it's on my list). When I'm feeling slumpy I'll sometimes put on red lipstick just to fake it and it helps.

Sit with it for a day

Give in for a day and binge on Netflix. Invite all four cats into your bed to snuggle while you cry over another episode of Grey's Anatomy. Knit a scarf. Read a book. Do absolutely nothing. Indulge in a day of being gentle with yourself.

If you're in a slump, I hope you're feeling better soon. It happens. We can do this.

Be well.

P.S. Another post on depression.

Monday, October 26, 2015

38 things on my birthday

Hello lovelies! Today is my 38th birthday. I have been showered in celebrations all weekend (filled with cake, cupcakes, good wine, and good family and friends), and now I'm enjoying a quiet day home to myself. You all know how much I love birthdays and goals, so today I wanted to share some birthday goals. This is a list of things I'd like to accomplish this year, some big, some small, all important to me.

Do you ever do this on your birthday? What's on your list?

38 things 

1. Finally finish watching Six Feet Under.
2.Go to yoga class once a week.
3. Host a fabulous dinner party with some of my favourite people.
4. Go away for a weekend with Matty.
5. Eat way more greens.
6. Take the girlies to hear live music.
7. Ride a bike.
8. Ice skating!
9. Write more thank-you notes.
10. Not adopt anymore cats.
11. Not smoke. Ahem.
12. Go for more walks in the ravine near our house.
13. Drink more tea.
14. Knit a sweater.
15. Learn how to make a gluten-free pie crust.
16. Keep up with my book club.
17. Floss.
18. Watch more movies.
19. Take the girlies camping.
20. Say thank you more. 
21. Catch more babies.
22. Declutter the house.
23. Play more board games.
24. Eat more brunch.
25. Keep rocking water aerobics with the seniors of Toronto.
26. Attend a festival.
27. Visit with old friends.
28. Read fiction.
29. Nap when I need it.
30. Get my nose pierced.
31. Walk somewhere everyday.
32. Get some really warm mittens and enjoy the winter.
33. Teach the girlies to cook.
34. Write letters.
35. Get regular massages.
36. Have more date nights with Matty.
37. Love hard.
38. Reach my goals.

Be well!

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Healthtober! An update

Healthober was my own tiny mission to kickstart myself into action. I'd been stalling and stalling for months with all the health changes I wanted to make. I had chosen to tackle some of my goals on a smaller scale for one month to see how I felt. It's a great idea, isn't it? Because you can do anything for a month. Right? 

Not exactly. But here is what I have learned:

Planning is key
Things didn't work out as planned. Or more to the point, I didn't plan anything at all. I came up with some very doable goals, but I didn't follow on those ideas with actionable steps. (I come across this advice in so many places, but have promptly ignored it every chance I get.) Take my goal to give up gluten, for example. I started the month with a kitchen filled with gluten-filled foods and didn't make any preparations in advance to ensure alternatives. I had assumed that I would "wing it" and, shockingly, this plan didn't work out. 

The first few days were good, with me getting by on what we had, but at the first sign of needing to rush out of the house I reached for the only convenient food on hand: gluten. The lure of convenience got me every time. I realize now that I need to spend time preparing the kitchen for how I want to eat. This means brainstorming ideas for quick gluten-free breakfast, snacks, and lunches (dinner always feels easier to me, since it feels normal for me to cook veggies and meat). I know now that I need plenty of sliced up cheese, nuts, washed fruits and veggies, and granola bars available to me before I begin. I also need to sharpen my gluten-free baking skills so that I can have muffins and breads available when I crave (which I always do because they are so delicious).

Goals need to be specific

If I'm devoted to eating less sugar, then I need to come up with a game plan for what "less sugar" actually means. Does it mean taking two days instead of one to eat a bag of wine gums? Probably not. Does it mean sweetening my oatmeal with a little maple syrup instead of heaps of brown sugar? Probably. For me to decrease my sugar intake I need to think about all the places it sneaks into my diet, some obvious (chocolate covered almonds), some hidden (processed food). I've always been terrible at maintaining boundaries, but if I'm going to successfully reduce my sugar load I need to grow a backbone.

I should probably make a plan for this (see above lesson learned).

Make your goals a priority

One of my goals was to practice being gentle with myself physically. I am happy to report that I made some progress (hooray for progress!) on that front. At the beginning of the month I was confronted with a flare-up of my fibromyalgia that through me for a bit of a loop. But I parked myself on the couch for two days, took some advil, and relaxed--in other words, I did exactly what I needed to do to get through the week and it worked. It wasn't the easiest choice at the time because I had to let go of some commitments those days, but it was important to me that I didn't let one flare-up turn into a month of pain (as I have done many times in the past).

Sometimes I'm all talk when it comes to self-care, but I really tried this month. After months of pushing through the pain and straining my sore body, I decided to make getting better a priority. Let us all try to be so gentle on ourselves.

Healthober, as ridiculous as it sounds, was a big deal for me and I'm a little sad that I didn't follow through with it as I'd imagined. But you know what? I had other successes, like FINALLY getting some much needed exercise. Also: not smoking! I've quit again, and I've decided that this is it. I'm as eager as ever!

My birthday is around the corner, which means: new goals! Coming soon.

What lessons have you learned about making changes? Are you good at planning for your goals? If you have any comments or suggestions, I'd love to see them in the comments. 

Be well.

P.S. You might also be interested in these posts!

Goals in a messy life

Monday, October 19, 2015

It's Monday!

It's Monday! Again! I missed my weekly Monday update last week (it was, deliciously, Thanksgiving here in Canada) and it's busy around here, but I'm back at it now. I think an update is in order. So what's been happening here the past couple of weeks? Evening trips to the ice cream shop (who needs summer anyway) and afternoons spent reading at the park in stunning fall weather.

Oh, and we went for more ice cream because we were celebrating that we bought a new car! We all love it, especially Alyce, who will give tours of the car to an willing passerby. Buying a car felt like a very adult-type thing to do, and it's had Matty and I busy planning our finances over the next few years (when I will graduate!). We are both eager to learn how to best manage our money, something we've always struggled with. It's time for me especially to put on my big girl pants and figure out exactly to pay for the rest of midwifery school. If only following your dreams was less expensive!

Last week, in an historic moment I will remember always, I actually joined a gym and started exercising. Like actual sweaty, uncoordinated exercise in a room with other people. I turn 38 next week and joining the Y was an early birthday present from Matty. It's not the easiest for me to exercise with my chronic pain, but I'm going slowly. Just this morning I took a water aerobics class with thirty 75 year old women! I fit right in.

Everything and everyone keeps reminding me that exercise will help with my fibromyalgia symptoms, so here I am moving forward with another goal. It feels amazing. Also: 2003 called and wants its yoga pants back.

We have been enjoying some beyond beautiful fall weather and the girls and I soaked it all in in a walk along Bloor street last week. We coveted pumpkins and gourds, felt the sun on our faces, and even stocked up on Halloween decorations. We couldn't have been more fall if we tried. I'm in heaven.

Alyce has taken to handstading her way everywhere she goes. She started gymnastics this fall and is over the moon excited about her newfound skills. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you that she did 1000 handstands this weekend. Shira has also been busy being a gymnast, though she is self-taught. Her technique is both avant-garde and wildly entertaining for everyone involved. 

This week is about keeping up the momentum

My goals this week aren't big ones, but there is some urgency behind them. Work is picking up again, both my teaching and doula work, and I want to stay ahead of the game as much as possible (something my procrastinating self can often let get out of hand). I'm starting now to finally find a rhythm in my days at home and I would like to keep building in some good work habits amidst all the chaos of staying home with the girlies. And now that I've become a person who exercises, I hope to develop a routine for getting in a workout most days of the week.

My list to-do list this week includes:

  • Heading to the gym four days this week. I'm trying out a lot of different things to see what hurts the least and I think the elliptical puts the least amount of pressure on my legs and feet, so I think I'll alternate between that and water aerobics with the seniors. I have been going in the morning after dropping the girlies off at school, which I prefer to going in the evening, when all the tough-guy body builders hog all the weights.
  • Planning for my birthday weekend! We are having a dinner party/sleepover at the home of a good friend. It's the best way to spend my birthday. I'm in charge of planning breakfast the next morning and I'm thinking maybe challah french toast, fruit salad, and muffins for the early risers.
  •  Calling my Dad on his birthday! I always, always forget. I've got it written down in more than one place, so here's hoping I remember this year.

  • Healthy meal prep: I'm inspired by Shutterbean to take one afternoon a week to prep my food for the week ahead. I'm really great at buying great food to fill our fridge, but kind of terrible at the follow-through of actually cooking it. This week I'm going to cook chicken for salads, breakfast apple crisp, make a pot of quinoa to keep in the fridge, and do some serious vegetable roasting.  

What is on your list this week? Share in the comments and let's help each other get things done!

Be well!

P.S. Are we friends on Instagram? We should be.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The twenty best things I've ever done in my life

Do you ever have those days when you start to dwell on all the mistakes you've made? Like that time you decided to get a credit card in university and wound up paying piles of interest on a pizza you ordered five ten years later? Or when you stayed for too long in a relationship that was terrible for you? Or when you decided, sure I'll try one cigarette--what could possibly go wrong?

I think we've all had those days, but they aren't very useful. They don't make us feel good, they aren't very motivating, and for dwellers (like me) they can ruin a perfectly great week. So today I wanted to think about all the good decisions I've made in my life. And wouldn't you know it, at the time some of those good things felt a whole lot like mistakes. I guess a little failure isn't a bad thing after all.

The twenty best things I've ever done in my life

1. Marry a man from Alabama.

2. Then have two delightful daughters.

3. Start my PhD (because I met Matty on our first day of the same doctoral program).

4. Quit my PhD.

5. Finally go to midwifery school.

6. Catch a baby.

7. Tell my dear friends how much I love them.

8. Spend a summer "working" in Whistler when I was twenty.

9. Leave a relationship that made me feel like shit.

10. Get a library card.

11. Watch my mother in the kitchen.

12. Move far away all by myself.

13.  Learn to say no.*

14.  Dance.

15. Accept that I'm introvert.

16.  Love my children with abandon.

17. Talk through the night until the sun came up.

18. Speak openly about my mental illness

19. Be a feminist.

20. Love hard.

*Work in progress.

What would you add to your list? 

Be well!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Start where you are

Start where you are. I love this. As someone who likes to set goals and think about the big picture, I needed this reminder today. It's easy to get lost in all the things we want to be, but the only way to get started is to accept what you are now. Ask yourself what can you do today, just today, to accomplish your goals one step at a time. I am lucky enough to have a fridge filled with vegetables, so today I am going to cook some healthy food that includes heaps of vegetables. I am run down with a cold and need the nourishment. What a great place to start.

What can you do today?

Be well!

Image Via And Then We Saved

Monday, October 5, 2015

It's Monday!

It's Monday all over again! How are you? I mean, really, how are you? Was it a good weekend? Or do you wish you had a do-over? If so, think of this week as a new beginning. 

For me the past week has been a little all over the place. First of all, let's take a breath, Healthtober. While I'm always pretty excited to get started, I can sometimes get ahead of myself (the danger of being an eager goal-setter). So things didn't go exactly as planned. On Thursday I felt a soreness in my lower back and by Friday I couldn't move. Fibromyalgia does this to me sometimes and I had no other choice than to be gentle with myself (which was also one of my goals for the month, so look at me!). I was in no place to organize and prepare healthy and gluten-free food and that was okay. Instead I booked an appointment with my chiropractor and massage therapist. And I took a nap. How's that for self-care?

This week, then, is about recharging, slowly and surely. My back is already feeling better and I'm committing myself to some yoga this week to stretch out all these sore muscles. I'm in a baking mood (says the woman who is always in a baking mood) and I'm eager to try out some gluten-free muffins and banana bread. And for dinner tonight I'm making some macaroni and cheese (with rice pasta) and kale salad. I'm winning at this week already. 

My to-do list for the week includes:

  • A massage! 
  • Writing. Lots of writing. I've been really inspired by Elizabeth Gilbert's new podcast on creativity and I'm feeling really encouraged to write more.  My goal this week is publish three blog posts before the weekend. 
  • Have lunch with a great friend.

  • Baking a lemon pie for Thanksgiving. I might be the only person on the planet who doesn't like pumpkin pie. But I can't lie, it's just who I am.

  • Yoga. My plan is to two different studios this week and see what I like. Try as I might, yoga at home as a solo practice just doesn't work for me. I need the encouragement of a room filled with people all trying to do the same thing. 
  •  Resting. I'm feeling a bit better physically, but I know myself and if I don't get some extra rest right now, I'll pay for it later.

What can you do for yourself this week? 

Be well!

P.S. Thank you to everyone who has asked about how my presentation went at the midwifery student conference this weekend. I presented on a panel with two fellow students about my experience with depression and anxiety as a student midwife. I think we started a great conversation.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Healthtober! Because you can do anything for a month

So I do this every time.

I did it during school and I am doing it again while on my 'break.' I am working too hard and pushing my body beyond its limits. For a month I have worked too many overnight doula shifts, too many for me, a person whose body is in need of some care. An accumulation of very little sleep + not looking after myself physically or emotionally means that I'm currently a heap of mess on the couch. Everything hurts. 

No more, I declare. Or Matty declared, last night as I was crying to him about how much it hurt to walk shuffle across the room. He looked at me with those encouraging "when are you going to make some good changes?" eyes and suggested that maybe we need a new approach. "It's time for healthy October!" he proclaimed, or more appropriately, Healthtober (trademark pending). 

Whatever you'd like to call it, join me in making October a month filled with good healthy choices, whatever that means to you. For Matty it means working to lose a few pounds and getting outside for some exercise. Let's cheer him on! For me it means getting some good sleep, eating some good food that involves a whole hell of a lot more vegetables, and cutting back my sugar intake about one billion percent, which still leaves me with a little sugar. I need a little sugar because how else am I supposed cope with not smoking, because you guys! I'm not smoking!

My Healthtober goals include:

  • No gluten! As per the suggestion of my ever-patient naturopath. It's only taken me two years to actually give up gluten. Two years, guys. I'm hoping that giving up gluten might help with some of my fibromyalgia symptoms.
  • Significantly less sugar. I know I might have better results with an actual limit, but I can't do it all at once. My goal is to be mindful of not reaching for sugar at every opportunity. Speaking of reducing sugar, did you see this? High fives.
  • Resting when my body needs it. That means not too many overnight shifts, not going to crazy with projects at home. Gentle is the word of the month. Since I'm not great with being gentle on myself, I'll need a lot of reminders.  
  • To enjoy as much of the beautiful fall weather as humanly possible. Walks, even short ones, will do me well.
 I can do this! I can do anything for a month. There are, however, two important exceptions, and by exceptions I really just mean there are two days during which I will eat gluten with abandon. Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away and it is hands down my favourite holiday, and I will be eating any and all of my mum's cooking. And at the end of the month is my birthday and there will cake--gluten and sugar-filled cake. I think that's only fair. You only turn 38 once.

So who is going to join me for Healthtober? What healthier choices would you like to make? Share your goals in the comments, or at the very least, please share your most encouraging thoughts. I'll need all the help I can get.

Be well!

P.S. Do you follow me on Instagram? I'll be posting updates there as I go.