I needed to make changes this year. Changes I made.
Last year, 2014, was a fun year, but pretty busy and consuming. There were times I felt a bit out of control as I navigated motherhood, wifehood, and balancing my insane foodie passion among other things. Culinary School anyone?
As some of you might know, for 2014, I was drawn to working on one goal throughout the year and that was meditation. I wrote about it here in more detail with info on how I did it with tips. I had decided that meditation, and calming my mind in general, was of paramount importance to my well being, even more so than diet and exercise.
How did it go? Well, it was a successful endeavor for the most part. Meditation, even if only a few minutes a day, became a regular part of my life. Mission accomplished. I also found that I immediately went to deep relaxing breaths when stress appeared – it became my natural response.
So why did I still feel a bit crazed as 2014 was coming to a close? I thought meditation would have been the answer to, well, almost everything. It helped for sure and I will continue to practice it. I imagine my telomeres lengthening with each session, and there are undoubtedly longevity benefits manifesting as a result.
I needed more though. Something was just too jittery in me to feel totally at peace and I don’t think it’s the coffee I drink. I felt a bit unbalanced and it made me uncomfortable.
Therefore, at the end of 2014 I took a bit of time to think about what exactly were some of the most frequent reasons I felt cortisol coursing through my body. I immediately thought about 3 things:
- My schedule
- Night time with my four year old
I made some big changes in 2015 with those three issues, and so far, those changes are paying off.
Let’s dive into some more detail.
This is a food blog more often than not so you can imagine that food is a huge part of my life. I love food. I love making food. I love eating food, especially quality and homemade food.
This captures it quite perfectly.
Well, making all that homemade food is darn-tooting tiring! I mean, my goodness, it’s a lot. Really. I don’t want to go into all the details but every meal, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks required forethought, planning including shopping – usually for fresh ingredients, and execution. I loved it a lot of the time, but it was just a bit too exhausting.
You ever heard of decision making fatigue? It’s a real thing where you tire your brain out with making the most simple decisions like what to wear or eat for breakfast. What a waste of precious energy. When I pondered that a bit I realized it was a good reason as to why I felt a bit worn out. I make too many decisions. I need more things on autopilot.
Enter: Streamlined Food
I needed a solution of eating healthy but not making it a huge to-do. I realized part of the exhaustion was simply the planning and thinking about what meals I’d make for the week (what meat to thaw when, what store to get the produce at and when, what pairs with what, am I getting a balanced diet, when to cook dinner based on my daughter’s afternoon activities, etc), let alone the actual making of it. See? Just so much to think about.
Solution: I decided I would have a limited option of choices for breakfasts, lunches, snacks, and dinners. It would mean there’s some redundancy but oh well. I would rotate them for a bit of variety but I wouldn’t go outside the choices for most of the time. This meant I could always have certain foods in inventory and that made shopping easier. I also spent the last year trying a lot of different recipes and realized there were a handful that we all really loved and were also fairly easy to prepare so I would stick with those.
Here’s what I came up with (I wrote them down and taped them to my cupboard):
- Wild caught roe + orange (or seasonal fruit) + nuts
- Pasture-raised eggs + Olives + Veg
- Grass-fed whole fat yogurt + MCT oil + frozen organic berries
- Bulletproof coffee shake –>That’s usually my breakfast and the other choices above pertain more to my daughter.
- Grass-fed Bison Bar/or Summer sausage + raw Grass-fed cheese + organic apple
- Smoked canned oysters/or salmon + Veg + raw grass-fed cheese
- Leftovers from dinner the night before
- Buttered Mochi rice puffs/or occasional organic fermented sourdough toast + Veg
- Sardines (learn to love ’em here) + raw sauerkraut + grass-fed whole fat yogurt
- Dark Chocolate
- Yogurt + nuts
- Trail mix or granola
- Ants on a Log with raw almond butter
- Grass-fed Chuck Roast Stew
- Slow Cooker Chicken soup / or the occasional roasted chicken
- Wild Caught Salmon (like this or this) + Veg
- Meatballs (like these) or Bun-less burgers + Veg
- Gluten-free pasta (this one is my favorite) smothered in grass-fed butter and grated raw grass-fed cheese + (Veg if I’m feeling veggie)
You see? I came up with a handful of options for each meal of the day so it’s already figured out which limits decision making fatigue, eases planning, and simply makes my life… well, more simple. My family is totally cool with this, not that I’d give them much choice otherwise. ;) We stick to this 90% of the time and it’s very helpful for my sanity.
Another thing worth mentioning for making life better is that we officially started a tradition at 2014 Thanksgiving that we would enjoy all big holiday meals (thanksgiving, xmas, easter, mother’s day, etc) at a nice resort (Scottsdale, and Arizona in general, are famous for them so that helps). I get the day off cooking! I deserve it and want to enjoy the vacation like everyone else at that time. I spend all my other days in the kitchen so for the holidays I want a break. And, I eat whatever I want. No restrictions.
2. Next up… Slashing Obligations
When my daughter turned three, for whatever reason, I felt drawn to getting her into various activities. In hindsight, I think part of it was that she wanted a lot of attention from me at home (that can be exhausting as it went something like this… Mama I need this… Mama what about this…. Mama blah blah blah…. Mama Mama Mama…. Mama I don’t want that…. Mama!!!…). So I thought putting her into some extracurricular activities would be helpful in many ways, including it being good for
me her. By the end of 2014 she was doing swimming twice a week, tennis, karate twice a week, musical theater, spanish language immersion, mandarin language immersion, and yoga.
However, by the time Sunday evening arrived, I was a bit hesitant to start my week again with the activities we were obligated to. Some of them required waking up in the morning. ;) I’m a morning person, and I’m more caught up on sleep these days than I used to be, but still. I don’t want an alarm jarring me awake. I’d like to wake more naturally, say to my 4 year old pulling my eye lids open.
For 2015 I realized that a happy mom makes a happy child (at least usually). I was feeling stressed by our schedule and heck, it was probably pretty stimulating for Kamea, too. Some days we were arriving home just to turn around and take off again.
I realized a schedule slashing was in order. Oh, and it’s worth mentioning that as Kamea grew and developed over the year that she was spending more time content to be playing by herself, as shown in the photo at the top.
The new schedule has not only allowed us more time at home to
watch shows relax, but it’s opened up our schedule to do other things should we feel like it, like visiting my mom and step-dad more, visiting friends, and just sleeping in an extra 20 minutes.
3. And, finally… Pillow Talk – the last change I made coming into 2015 to make my life better.
Last, but not least, I’ll tell you how pillow talk has made my life better.
When thinking about times during my day that were less than pleasant I realized I was often overwhelmed at night when putting Kamea to bed. After flossing n brushing teeth, going potty, etc, we’d crawl into bed. I’d read her a short story, and then I’d turn off the lights and tell her to go to bed. Then, I’d tell her to go to bed again. Then, I’d tell her to go to bed (again). Then, I’d tell her to go to bed… again. Again. Again. Again! Then, my voice would get a little louder and I’d tell her to go to bed! (I may or may not have dropped an F-bomb in there, of course only after saying “please.”)
By that time, I was anything but relaxed and at peace. I suspect Kamea wasn’t either.
I toyed with the idea that maybe I was putting her to bed too early, because there were a few occasions where she went to bed later than usual and fell asleep easier and faster. But, in speaking with her pediatrician he said the more sleep she can get the better. Therefore, I tried to keep our schedule.
Something had to change though. It was a source of stress for me.
I came up with using pillow talk. This would prove to be a special and fun treat we would share, in the dark, as a calm way to get sleepy for bed. Instead of spending 20 to 30 minutes telling her to go to sleep in an increasingly assertive tone. I decided we could spend 20 to 30 minutes talking in the dark about anything we want, which turns out to be relaxing and eases us more relaxing-ly into sleepy time.
It. Works. (Most of the time.)
Here’s what we do: I make sure we have about a half hour before I want her to be asleep, which for us is 7:30pm so she can sleep by 8pm. We get into bed, turn off the lights, and I usually start by asking her what her favorite part of her day was. Then, we talk a bit about what we’d like to accomplish the next day. Then, it’s story time. Not the kind you read, but the kind you take turns making up. It goes a little something like this:
Me: Once upon a time…
Kamea: there was a princess who wanted to be a mermaid (or whatever),
Me: because she loved the sea so much. One day she …..
Kamea: and then…..
Me: and then……
It goes back and forth like this until we end it. I attempt to talk a bit slower, softer, and lower to create a relaxing experience that optimizes falling asleep easier.
Cool thing is that it unexpectedly worked on me, too. I found myself falling asleep earlier as a result.
There you have it. Those three changes in my life for 2015 have, so far, made a big difference in my attempt to chill out and not feel so uptight and stressed. I am continuing my meditation practice and in fact made it a bit more official. I’ll share that information in another blog post.
Thanks for reading.