Tag Archives: health

20 for 2020: week 3

Week of 13 January 2020

This was my last full week of work before school goes back so I am rather looking forward to some time off next week.

This week, I rang the hearing centre and booked a hearing test (thing 16). They didn’t have any appointment for the tests I need for three weeks but I’ve finally made the appointment, so this thing is now in progress after me putting it off for more than six months.

I read some more of my uni material (thing 8) and started work on some of the exercises. The unit officially starts on Monday and the first assignment is due three weeks later. So I think most of my effort is going to be directed at that for the next three weeks. I’m really excited for this unit because it focuses on self management and a lot of the material is stuff I’m already familiar with so I think I’ll enjoy this work.

I started putting my phone away when I’m travelling to work and have been reading on the bus instead (thing 14). In my quest to develop an evening routine (thing 3), I’ve started reading before I go to sleep most nights. So far this year, with these two new opportunities for reading, I’ve finished five books. Three of them, I started last year, but they are now out of the “reading” pile. You can find my reading list here.

Things went bit chaotic for a bit over the weekend and early in the week and I haven’t had a chance to listen to any more of the creative kickstart lessons (thing 3). I missed a few days of doing my “just 15 minutes” from that class where I sit down after my walk and work on my photo project (thing 1) but I got back on track later in the week.

20200113 Jaffa & T&G 3

Happy Monday!

I looked at my 196 hours that I figured out last week that I need to get everything I want to do done in a week from the Chapter 10 exercise of Indistractable (thing 13) and ran away screaming. Trying to work out what to let go of so I can do the things I really want to do.

Just about every productivity manual I’ve read says that if you want to get something done, you need to put it on your calendar and treat it like an appointment you might make with the doctor or a meeting you have to go to at work. This is great in theory, but I don’t work like that. I see “time block for photo editing” or “time block for meal planning and shopping list-ing” that I put in the calendar last week and if I don’t feel like doing it, I generally don’t. Same as setting an alarm to tell me it’s time to get ready for bed. I ignore it.

One of the suggestions in the creative kickstart class is that you identify the times you’re most creative and you put the time in the calendar to do creative things at those times. Which is also great in theory, but the times I find I feel I’m at my creative best, I’m either at work or I’m having to do something like cooking dinner that isn’t so easy to reschedule. As for other suggestions you need to schedule three to four hour blocks to sit down and do your work, believe me, there is nothing I would love to do more. But I work five days a week, I live in a house with other people who sometimes like to interact with me and for whom I sometimes have to do things like cook dinner. There isn’t a day during the week that I have three or four hours to devote to my work so this is never going to happen then. I’m sure I could structure my weekends better, but it hasn’t worked for me so far.

This whole scheduling time to do the things I love and that are important to me just isn’t working out for me.

By Saturday afternoon, I was feeling stuck and hopeless and ready to throw it all in. I walked out of the house, caught a bus to town and went to a location I love to photograph. 3pm Saturday is not a time I would ever “schedule” for creative work. The hours between 1pm and 4pm are my lowest hours of the day, I have no energy and am no good for anything. Yet there I was (after having a quick nap on the bus, which I’m sure the driver noticed and that’s why he stepped extra hard on the brakes at one of the stops), at my lowest time of the day, going out and doing what I love to do.

I have to rethink this one and remember that I only have to take from these programs the things that will work for me. I don’t have to do everything and I don’t have to do it perfectly. I have to do something and hopefully by taking small steps, I will start to see positive change.

The same goes for the wellbeing work (thing 3). The course rolls around every year and you can dip in and out, taking what you need at the time. Last year was the first time I listened to all of the classes (well actually I finished them in the first week of January this year). I didn’t do all of the activities but I did the ones I needed to at the time. Right now I am still trying to set up an evening routine, which is an activity for the middle of the year. I have a couple of journalling tasks left over from the end of last year that I want to do to close the circle on 2019’s work and, when I’ve done that, I will call this thing done. I’ll continue to listen to the lessons each week and pick up some of the work I didn’t do last year, but for the purpose of this thing, I specifically wanted to complete the last module and those exercises.

Finally, to scrape in progress in one more thing this week, I worked on a couple of photo collages from my 2019 photojournal (thing 4). I only have four more collages to actually make (and three from this year), then I have to print them and stick them in the book. I’m nowhere near as far behind with this as I was with my 2018 journal.

Summary for the week
• Things completed this week: 0
• Things completed to date: 2 (10, 18)
• Things I progressed: 8 (1, 3, 4, 6, 8, 13, 14, 16)
• Things in progress I didn’t progress: 0
• Things not started: 12 (2, 5, 7, 9, 11, 12, 15, 17, 19, 20, 21, 22)

Weekend wisdom 8

A weekly review of things that came through my inbox that I found interesting and want to remember.

This week, I stumbled on Dr Sarah McKay, a neuroscientist who studies women’s brains. She’s also an author and presents the ABC’s Catalyst program. On her blog Your Brain Health, Sarah outlines the seven habits of healthy brains, which she says are:

  1. Sleep—it needs to be a priority, not a luxury. It is essential for consolidating memories and draining waste products from our brain. We also under-consume natural light during the day and over-consume artificial light at night, disrupting our natural rhythms, hormones and immune systems.
  2. Move—physical exercise is the best exercise for your brain. It triggers the release of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which promotes neurone growth and survival, reduced inflammation and supports the formation of long-term memories.
  3. Nourish—she says research favours a Mediterranean-style diet of mostly plants, fish, some meat, olive oil and nuts.
  4. Calm—chronic stress can change the wiring of our brains. Too much cortisol prevents the birth of new neurones and causes the hippocampus to shrink, reducing your powers of learning and memory. Meditate, walk or nap. Do something you’re good at that requires some degree of challenge.
  5. Connect—we are social animals and have a fundamental need for human warmth and connection. Loneliness and social isolation is as bad for us as smoking.
  6. Challenge—regularly challenge your mind and stay mentally active. Choose mentally challenging activities that you can practise regularly, that are reasonably complex and take you out of your cognitive comfort zone.
  7. Believe—seek out your purpose in life. People who score high in purpose live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. Set fantastic, passionate goals and work like crazy to achieve them. Find your place of flow.

What struck me when I was reading this was that six of these seven things are the exact same things I am (or will be) working on in my wellbeing program. So this is good to know.

Another post I found useful was from the Insight timer blog, an app I used to use regularly but haven’t used for several months now. It talks about morning routines, which are supposed to be good for us in setting up our day, but which I have fallen out of lately. This post specifically talks about how to alleviate anxious feelings by establishing a healthy morning routine. I generally don’t have a problem with anxious thoughts in the morning but the routine is similar to what I used to do before it all fell apart.

This is their suggestion for such a routine:

  1. Examine your thoughts
  2. Get up and hydrate
  3. Practise gratitude
  4. Breathe
  5. Meditate (incidentally, Sarah McKay’s blog has a great article on what to do if meditation stresses you out, which I’m kind of glad to hear her say because when I was doing it I always felt like it wasn’t helping me and I guess that’s one reason why it was so easy for me to not resume when I broke my 500+ day streak last year, when I think I was doing it under a sense of obligation to maintain the streak than any actual benefit. Maybe that’s one to think about for another day.)
  6. Exercise

I found this great article from songwriter Christine Kane on another blog I read occasionally. It’s about how to overcome “attention splatter”.  Of all the articles and tips I’ve picked up over the years I’m finding this to be one of the simplest and clearest outlines of what to do when you “mindlessly and half-heartedly splatter your attention on non-activities, but you never fully engage”. This sounds like me.

Christine’s seven steps are:

  1. Have no more than three priorities for the day. Ask yourself, “If I only accomplish one thing today, which one thing would make me most happy?”
  2. Know the task before you sit down at the computer. Assign tasks. (i.e. “Clean out email folders”) Assign times. (“From 1pm to 2pm”) Stop as soon as the end time arrives.
  3. Put an end to activities that leak (like checking mails). Make a list of “leaky” activities, and stop the leaks by scheduling these activities—and stop when the time is up.
  4. Use your small slices of time. Learn to fit constructive things in to small slices of time. (Along the same lines, this week’s Asian Efficiency podcast has a heap of ideas for activities you can fit into small slices of time.)
  5. Use your intention. Before you begin any activity, set an intention for that activity. Focus on your desired outcome and how you want to feel during the activity.
  6. Get rid of anything that doesn’t feed you—emails, unread books, subscriptions . . .  if you subscribe to it, ask yourself why. Start letting go of stuff. Be ruthless about keeping the incoming stuff to a minimum.
  7. Be present in your down-time. When you take a nap, take a nap. When you take a Saturday off, really take it off. Don’t spend the day obsessing about the things you should be doing.

I think the last one is a really great thing to keep in mind. You aren’t going to recover and rejuvenate yourself if you keep working and don’t take a proper break.

And finally, two thoughts from James Clear. Or one thought and a question:

An imperfect start can always be improved, but obsessing over a perfect plan will never take you anywhere on its own.

I need to put this up in very large print above my desk.

How long will you put off what you are capable of doing just to continue what you are comfortable doing?

Indeed.

Water, water and more water

On Tuesday I wrote about how I was going to attempt Chris Bailey’s water experiment that he wrote about in The Productivity Project. Chris gave up coffee, alcohol and soft drink for a month and drank only water. A lot of water. He says he drank four litres of water a day and nothing else. As far as I can see, he doesn’t say specifically that drinking nothing but water (and a lot of it) gave him more energy; it was more that cutting out the other drinks did. He discovered that for him, four litres was what he needed. He suggests that if you drink three (women) or four (men) litres a day you will be “surprised at how much energy you have”.

My challenge was to increase my water intake to three litres a day for the last week of my no-alcohol challenge to see if Chris’ hypotheses that doubling my water intake would make me feel better.

It actually wasn’t hard to drink that much, and even more, water, especially when I wasn’t drinking anything else. I always drink 500 ml when I wake up and am usually thirsty when I get back from my walk, but don’t usually drink anything then. So it was easy enough to add in another 500 ml when I got home from my walk. One litre before 6 am. Easy.

I have a one-litre water bottle at work and most days last week it wasn’t difficult to fill it twice during the day, which made up the remaining two litres. At home, most days after work I also indulged in carbonated water with lemon juice. Yeah, I know. Not quite the same as a late afternoon cider but very refreshing.

I’m surprised at how easy it was to drink three to four litres a day when previously I often struggled with two. It was almost like the more water I drank the more I wanted to drink.

Interesting.

I’m not sure if I can say after a week that drinking more water increased my energy. I certainly didn’t have any more energy last week than I did in the previous two weeks when I started to notice an impact from the other things I was doing. I’m sure that drinking less alcohol has increased my energy, as has getting more sleep, and I think the two things are related.

However, I think there’s a point during the afternoon or early evening when you need to stop drinking water or you’ll find yourself waking up at stupid hours in the morning needing the bathroom and being unable to get back to sleep. And when that happens and you’re back to the five or six hours of sleep you were getting before the no-alcohol month, all the benefits of going to bed earlier are wiped out and you have a lot less energy the next two days until you get so tired you crash and eventually get a full night’s sleep.

Or maybe that’s just me?

I know there’s lots of ideas floating around on how much water you need, the potential side effects of drinking too much water, what happens if you don’t drink enough . . . it gets very overwhelming trying to work out what’s right! I think the key is to figure out what works for you and that might be different on different days depending on what you’ve been doing, the weather and a heap of other factors I can’t think of right now.

For me, I don’t think that drinking more than two litres of water a day (and nothing else) had any real benefits so I’m not going to make any real effort to continue to do it. If I want a herb tea or a brewed cacao drink I’ll have it. If I want water, I’ll have that. If I want a beer, well . . . stay tuned for more on that.

Water, water everywhere

This is the last week of my 30 days no-alcohol challenge. Yes, I have almost survived a month of no cider Sunday, no beer and pizza on Friday, no wine with cooking dinner on Saturday . . . and it hasn’t been hard at all. Yay! I feel great and I’m certain that this has contributed to me having more energy most days no than I did on most days at the start of the month.

Whether this is because not drinking has led to me being more tired (or actually noticing that I’m tired) earlier in the evening so I’ve gone to bed earlier and got more sleep, or whether it’s the absence of this drug in my system, I can’t say. It’s probably both.

I’ve mentioned Chis Bailey’s book The Productivity Project in previous posts, which is where the energy tracking experiment that I’ve been doing in conjunction with the no alcohol/no coffee/more sleep challenge came from.

In Chapter 23 (which I need to point out is in the section of the book called “Taking Productivity to the Next Level”—yep, that’s me, next level productivity!!), Chris talks about how he only drank water for a month. His intention had just been to see what happened when he removed caffeine and alcohol for his diet but he then found he had increased energy from drinking huge amounts of water—like four litres a day! He suggests three litres for women and proposes if you drink this much water “you will be surprised at how much energy you have especially if you’re already dehydrated”.

Now, I know there are lovers and haters of the two-litres of water a day regimen and that there are many different views on whether you need that amount, more, less, much more, much less, only drink when you’re thirsty, if you only drink when you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated and you should have been drinking more . . .

I don’t know.

Advice on how much water you need is confusing and inconsistent and I honestly don’t know who is right. I suspect it’s different for everyone and it’s probably different every day depending on what you’re doing that day. However, I don’t think that experimenting with drinking three litres of water a day for a week will be enough to damage myself significantly so I’m prepared to give it a go this week, the final week of my no-alcohol challenge, and see what happens.

This means I have to give up my coffee substitute for a week, which is a brewed cacao product called Crio Brü. This has no sugar, no caffeine but contains a substance called theobromine, which apparently has similar but milder stimulant effects as caffeine, without the addiction or the crash factor that caffeine has. It has potential health benefits as well which may or may not be real. If they are, bonus for me. If they aren’t, I haven’t found anything that says the stuff is bad for you like caffeine probably is, so I’m happy to keep drinking it instead of coffee, for now at least. It means I still can indulge in the habit of a morning hot drink but without the caffeine side effects.

Green tea would do it too, but yuck.

However, in the interests of the experiment, I will have a break from it for a week. I’ll miss a morning hot drink but I think I can cope.

So that’s the plan for this week. I don’t think, having stopped drinking coffee and alcohol, and already not consuming soft drinks, that missing a cup or two of cacao and a couple of herbal teas in favour of more water will make that much of a difference to my energy levels but I’m happy to try it out.

Update: Day 1

Monday: I noticed no difference in my energy after 3+ litres of water. I had a slight energy slump in the afternoon but this could have been caused by going into work early, not going out at lunchtime and not having eaten enough during the day. (You reckon?)

19 for 2019: week 11 update

Week of 11 March 2019

Week 11 has been interesting. I’m halfway through my 30 days of no alcohol (thing 13), which I wrote about on Thursday and onto day ten without coffee.

As I mentioned in previous posts, I’m also tracking my energy levels over the course of the day, which have so far been rather erratic so I’m not sure what conclusions to draw from that other than my body is probably still settling down after its rude removal of caffeine. The big thing that I’ve noticed is that most nights I’m tired and feeling ready for bed by 9.00, which I put down to my tiredness not being masked by the fake energy that drinking alcohol gives me in the evenings. So, getting to bed by my goal time of 10.45 hasn’t been a big challenge at all.

Here’s how my week has gone.

Day 11 (Monday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 17,401 | Bedtime: 10.15 pm

Day 12 (Tuesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,879 | Bedtime: 10.15 pm

Day 13 (Wednesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,610 | Bedtime: 10.10 pm

Day 14 (Thursday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 20,566 | Bedtime: 10.00 pm

Day 15 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,046 | Bedtime: 10.10 pm

Day 16 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,527 | Bedtime: 10.45 pm

Day 17 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 34,443, | Bedtime: 10.10 pm

According to my trusty Fancy March Habit Tracker™, this week I succeeded in turning my computer off an hour before my allocated bedtime of 10.45 five out of seven nights. The goal of turning it off and disconnecting an hour before my actual bedtime, which has somehow become closer to 10.15 most nights, is nowhere near happening and I don’t know if that’s realistic at the moment.

Turning off your screens anywhere from an hour to two hours before you go to bed is a big favourite of the sleep gurus. For example, the US National Sleep Foundation says that using devices (including computers, TV and phones) before bed can mess with your body’s internal clock, reduces the amount of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin released into your body and makes it more difficult to get to sleep. The main reason is the blue light emitted by the devices. It claims “using these devices before turning in delays the onset of REM sleep, reduces the total amount of REM sleep, and compromises alertness the next morning. Over time, these effects can add up to a significant, chronic deficiency in sleep”.

I don’t think I’ve read anything ever that says using devices right up to bedtime helps you sleep better, and most articles on sleep suggest turning off devices as part of an evening routine to help you get ready for sleep.

Even though I’ve tried developing an evening routine in the past I’ve never really made it work, and my evening routine is basically turn the computer off, clean my teeth and crash into bed. Given that most of the stuff I want to do is on my computer, I don’t know what else I might incorporate into an evening routine after I’ve shut the computer down and turned my phone off. Reading comes to mind but that’s about it. Anyway, I’m going to use this week to play around with bringing my bedtime back to 10.30 and my device off time to 9.30 and seeing if that makes a difference to my sleep quality. Since I haven’t gone to bed later than 10.15 this week I don’t see 10.30 as being a problem, but the 9.30 shut down might be!

It’s one to work on in the coming weeks.

Here’s how I’m tracking with the rest of 19 for 2019:

Photo course (thing 1): I completed the day 19 lesson and assignment.20190310 Assignment Day 19 05Walk from Taroona to Moonah (thing 3): I did this on Sunday! I walked over 34,000 steps, or 22 km, and I took heaps of photos.20190317 Moonah sign 1 editReading (thing 5): I finished book 13, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K Dick, which is my sixth fiction book, so I have now finished this thing!20190314 Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? editWellness (thing 6): I watched a video and I have a couple of ideas on what to do this week.

Photojournal (thing 11): I have now made all the collages for 2018 and they are ready for printing. All I have to do is stick them in the book.

33 Beers books (thing 12): I entered books 7 and 8 into the spreadsheet. I have two more to go.

Bucket List book (thing 18): I didn’t write anything in the book but I made a new note in Evernote with the heading Bucket List and I put one thing into it. The idea is when I get to 100 I will go through the list and pick 50 that I am really committed to doing and put them in the book to start with. I think I’m paranoid about putting something in the book that I’m not actually ever realistically going to do, and then failing to complete everything in the book. It’s the same thing as the fear of making the first mark in a brand new notebook, I guess! I think I have to take the perspective that this is a bit of fun, not a lifelong commitment to ticking off 100 things, and just start writing.

Lightroom (thing 19): I made some workarounds to avoid an issue that is constantly frustrating me. I edited some photos for a blog post.

Status for week 11

  • Things completed this week: 2 (3, 5)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 6, 11, 12, 13, 18, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress:  2 (2, 16)
  • Things not started: 4 (4, 10, 14, 17)
  • Things completed: 6 (3, 5, 7, 8. 9, 15)

30 days alcohol free: day 10

I wrote this post on Sunday, day 10 of the 30-day no alcohol challenge, and felt like it hadn’t been difficult at all. I’d been feeling really good about it. I guess that’s a good thing. I’d hate to be finding out that I’m addicted to alcohol and was unable to give it up!

(Confession: Later that day, around 5pm, when I was cooking dinner, I did start to feel like I was missing out. I had started a tradition on Sundays where I’d sit with a cider and write up my week in my photojournal. It was the first time I really felt like having a drink, but I didn’t cave in and I ate cheese instead. Lemon Mineral Water Sunday doesn’t quite cut it when I’m used to Cider Sunday!)

I was talking to a workmate, who I discovered is also having a break from alcohol, about this challenge. One of the things I’ve observed, other than feeling a lot less physically heavy, is that I am getting more tired at night, around 9 pm, and feel like I’m ready to go to bed at 10pm. When I’d had a few drinks in the evening, I rarely felt like this and was regularly able to stay up until past 11pm. My workmate said the same thing and we concluded that alcohol masks the tired symptoms so that you feel more aware and alert, but your body really is tired and is ready for sleep a lot earlier than you think it is.

So going to bed earlier, which is not one of my 19 for 2019 things, but is something I need to do so that I get more sleep and have more energy, has been something I haven’t had to try very hard to do now that I’m not dealing with the “I’m not tired” feeling that comes from having a few drinks in the evening.

In Chapter 23 of The Productivity Project, Chris Bailey writes about his 30-day experiment to drink only water. He cut out all coffee, alcohol and sugary drinks from his diet, much like I’m doing (as of Sunday). Like me, Chris already didn’t drink soft drink, but unlike me, he says he didn’t drink a lot of coffee or alcohol before he started.

I already touched on coffee on Saturday (sob!) and noted Chris’ comment that by consuming caffeine you are “borrowing” energy from later in the day. Along the same line, he suggests that drinking alcohol is “borrowing” energy from the next day. He says that it may “provide you with a bit more energy and creativity as you drink it, but it will also almost always provide you with a net loss in energy and productivity and make it much more difficult to accomplish what you intend to—especially after you come down off the buzz the drug gives you. [ . . . ] In the morning you have to pay interest on the energy loans. This leaves you with a net loss in energy.”

His conclusion after the 30-day experiment of no coffee or alcohol was that by the end of the month he began to have a huge amount of energy and that the amount of energy he had was much more stable; it didn’t fluctuate anywhere near as much as it had when he’d had a few drinks every week.

Chris suggests that most people (me!) won’t want to completely cut alcohol out of their diet but that if you understand the effects of drinking on your energy levels, you can make the decision on what to drink intentionally knowing the consequences.

This is a different way, to me, of looking at alcohol consumption than the normal messages of how bad it is for our health and the health risks associated with drinking, which are not insignificant.

I often read about how alcohol can overload our livers, contribute to weight gain, increase our risk of some cancers, and I completely disregard the current recommendations for “acceptable” drinking of two standard drinks a day, with two alcohol-free days a week. I don’t doubt any of this information but, despite overwhelming evidence about the risks of drinking, I have never been able to use that as motivation to reduce my consumption. It always seems as though those consequences happen to other people, or they take years to manifest and I have plenty of time to change my habits and, until then, I can go on doing as I please.

I know that this is not true. There are, no doubt, heaps of studies into why trying to encourage people to change unhealthy habits by telling them what the risks of their behaviour are often doesn’t work. Do gruesome photos on cigarette packs work? Smokers know the risks, yet they continue to smoke. Likewise, people who drink know the health consequences of doing so. I know them yet I continue to regularly drink at unsafe levels. (I know there’s a lot more factors involved and it’s a lot more complicated than this for many people. But this is a blog post, not a scientific paper and I’m writing about my experiences, not about the complexities associated with overcoming addiction and other related issues!)

What Chris’ experiment showed him, and what I’m hoping mine will show me, is the immediate consequences of drinking. Not the long-term possibilities that might affect future me. I’m hoping for results similar to Chris’ results so that when this experiment is over I will be more likely to make conscious, intentional decisions around if, when and how much I drink, knowing what the impact of those decisions on achieving my goals will be.

Today is day 14. All is good.

19 for 2019: week 10 update

Week of 4 March

Well, things took an unexpected turn this week, with a no-coffee experiment being unexpectedly thrown into the mix. You can read about that in Saturday’s post.

Everything else is going slowly, with my main focus this month on getting more sleep, avoiding alcohol (thing 13), and doing at least 15,000 steps a day for the Cancer Council’s March Charge fundraiser.

To get more sleep, I’m attempting to move my bedtime back from sometime between 11pm and midnight to closer to 10pm, with my interim goal being 10.45. I achieved this every day last week, and most of those days I was in bed well before 10.45 but decided to read for a bit before I went to sleep, so the times I’ve recorded are the times I’ve turned the light off, not the actual time I was in bed.

I’ve also been trying to turn my computer off no later than 9.45, to give myself an hour of screen-free time. That has been less successful, so I’m looking at things I can do to make it easier to do.

Here’s last week’s tracker:

Day 4 (Monday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,618 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 5 (Tuesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,421 | Bedtime: 10:45

Day 6 (Wednesday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 28,311 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 7 (Thursday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps:19,963 | Bedtime: 10.30

Day 8 (Friday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 16,775 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 9 (Saturday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,825 | Bedtime: 10.45

Day 10 (Sunday): Alcohol: 0 | Steps: 15,916 | Bedtime: 10.15

I’m also tracking my wakeup time and my computer off time, as well as keeping an hourly record of what I’m doing and what my energy levels are as Chris Bailey describes in Chapter 3 of The Productivity Project. The purpose of this is to determine what my times of highest energy are so I can make sure I’m working on the things that are most important to me at these times. After ten days, the results are inconclusive. There were a couple of unusual things that probably threw a couple of days’ results off, and Chris also notes that if you’re making a switch to no alcohol and no caffeine, the first few days might not be entirely accurate as your body adjusts to being without those stimulants. So I’m planning to keep this up for a month and see if things become more consistent later in the month.

So much tracking!

20190308 Waterfront from Mac 2 3 edit

A morning walk

Onto other things on the list.

  • Photo course (thing 1): I watched two videos (day 17 and 18) but haven’t done any more assignments.
  • Reading (thing 5): I finished three books this week, one fiction and two non-fiction (The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey and The Power of Full Engagement by Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz). I’ve now read 12 books this year but the brief was six of them had to be fiction and I’ve only read five fiction books, so I don’t consider this thing to be complete.
  • Wellness program (thing 6): I guess cutting out alcohol and coffee should contribute to reducing my stress levels and helping me stay calm, even though they are not specific issues that have been covered at this time. My main focus is on building up strategies I can call on when I get overwhelmed so I can better deal with those situations. I haven’t done a lot this week.
  • 2018 photojournalism (thing 11): I stuck a couple of collages in the book.
  • Beer books (thing 12): I entered one more book into the spreadsheet so I’ve finished six books, with four to go.
  • Explore a track on kunanyi (thing 15): I already did this in February but I got another opportunity this week to accompany a group of kids from Kramstable’s school on a day bushwalk on the Pipeline Track so I can tick this one off again!
    20190306 01 View from the Pipeline Track edit

    Pipeline Track, kunanyi

    20190306 07 View of the Mountain from the Waterworks edit

    Looking back at kunanyi from the Waterworks after the Pipeline Track walk

  • Lightroom (thing 19): I haven’t done anything specifically new; I’m just getting familiar with it by using it.

Status for week 10

  • Things completed this week: 0
  • Things completed: 4 (7, 8. 9, 15)
  • Things I progressed: 7 (1, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19)
  • Things in progress I didn’t progress: 2 (2, 16)
  • Things not started: 6 (3, 4, 10, 14, 17, 18)

more coffee, please

I am a coffee lover. I think it’s fair to say that coffee was one of the things that got me through my first attempt at quitting sugar in 2013. Back then, I had coffee with milk and it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to have five or six coffees a day.

I know!

At one point, I don’t remember when, I decided that this was just too much caffeine and, to help me cut back, I switched to black coffee. I now only have two coffees a day, one first thing in the morning and the other one from my plunger when I get to work, or sometimes at a coffee shop before I go to work.

My March energy experiment, which is based on chapter 4 of Chris Bailey’s book The Productivity Project and is intended to help me identify the times during the day when I have the most energy, involves cutting out alcohol, increasing the amount of sleep I get and tracking my energy over the month. In the book, Chris suggests cutting out all stimulants, especially sugar, coffee and alcohol, to give you a more accurate picture of your body’s natural cycles.

Cut out coffee!?

Um, no. No freaking way.

You’d have to wrench my morning coffee out of my cold, dead hands.

Okay, not exactly true. I’ve had in the back of my mind for maybe 12 months the idea of cutting out coffee for 30 days just to see what happened but I had no real interest in actually doing it. It didn’t even make the “potential 19 for 2019” list. Quitting alcohol was going to be much easier.

One of the first books I read this year was Dr Libby Weaver’s Exhausted to Energised. It’s one of my go-to references for finding strategies to give me more energy so that I can do the things I want to do this year. Dr Libby talks about caffeine in the book.

Caffeine sends a message to the pituitary gland in your brain that it needs to send a message to the adrenal glands to make stress hormones: adrenaline and/or cortisol.

Basically, these hormones prepare your body for action so that you can deal with the “threat” that has triggered the release of the stress hormones, and the functions that aren’t necessary for ensuring your immediate survival start to slow down. They also make you crave sugar for getting fast energy, rather than taking energy from your fat stores.

I’ve been reading a lot about the effects of chronically high levels of cortisol in the bloodstream due to stress as part of the wellbeing work I’ve been doing this year. A lot of the calming strategies I’ve been putting into place (thing 6 of 19 for 2019) have been to address this issue, so now I know that consuming caffeine may also be contributing to me being not-calm, perhaps it’s time to rethink my reluctance to at least experiment with not having it.

Dr Libby recommends taking a break from coffee for four weeks just to see if there is any change in your energy levels.

Still reluctant to stop completely, last week I decided to cut back from two to one coffee a day, with the idea that once my coffee supply at work ran out I wouldn’t replenish it. That happened on Thursday so Friday was my first one-coffee day.

I made sure I had a substitute ready to go so I at least had the ritual of having a drink when I got to work, even if it wasn’t the same thing. No problems.

20190307 Last coffee at work edit

Last coffee at work

I think I would have been happy with that until this morning when I read chapter 23 of Chris Bailey’s book and I started to rethink things. Chris says that drinking caffeine is a way of borrowing energy from later in the day.

He explains

Eight to 14 hours after you consume caffeine, your body metabolises it out of your system, which causes an energy crash (the exact number varies from person to person). There is a chemical in your body and brain called adenosine, which tells your brain when it’s tired. Caffeine prevents your brain from absorbing this chemical, which prevents your brain from knowing it’s tired. But . . . while caffeine prevents your brain from absorbing adenosine [it] continues to build up until caffeine eventually lets your brain absorb it again. Your body and brain then absorb a whole whack of this tired chemical at once, which causes your energy levels to plummet.

I didn’t know this but it makes a lot of sense. Basically, caffeine attaches to the same receptors in your brain that adenosine attaches to and once the caffeine wears off you get a massive hit of adenosine, feel exhausted, so you grab another coffee to wake yourself up. Apparently, this is why people who drink coffee late in the day can feel exhausted the next morning because the drowsy-causing adenosine is still in their system, so they head straight for the coffee first thing in the morning.

I don’t drink coffee in the afternoon but I certainly get a huge energy crash after lunch that lasts well into the late afternoon and sometimes early evening. I put it down to my body needing to rest after a meal, but the duration of my low energy spell in the afternoon seemed to be excessive so, having learned about adenosine, I wondered if there was more to it.

All factors were pointing to the coffee experiment needing to take place.

Thinking about this, I figured the worst that could happen is that I felt a whole lot better and had more energy in the afternoon and felt less anxious. The best would be that it had absolutely no effect on me whatsoever and I could continue drinking coffee.

I still wasn’t sure. I mean, it was a four-week experiment. If I can quit alcohol for a month, surely I can quit coffee.

But coffee!!

I went to get my second coffee of the day.

The coffee machine made a weird noise and stopped working.

I am not making this up.

If ever there was a sign, that was it.

It seems as though the decision has been made for me and I will be abstaining from coffee for the foreseeable future.

I’ll be interested to see how this pans out in the energy tracker over the next couple of weeks.

19 for 2019: mid-week 9 update

Week of 25 February

Whatever is the world coming to? A mid-week update? This never happens! Next thing you know I’ll be returning to blogging every day.

Maybe not.

This is an update about getting ready to take on thing 13 from my 19 for 2019 list, which is to go alcohol-free for a month.

I did a 30-day alcohol-free challenge in 2016.

I discovered that it wasn’t that difficult to do because I’m what Gretchen Rubin refers to as an “abstainer”, which means I find it easier to give up something entirely than to set limits on how much of it I can have.

This may sound extreme to those who push the “everything in moderation” barrow, as that obviously works for them. It does not work for me. Example: If I open a packet of chocolate, I can’t just have one or two pieces. I have it all. If I don’t open it, I won’t have any. If I don’t have it in the house, I don’t want it and I don’t go out and get it.

So back in 2016, once I’d made the decision not to drink for a month, I didn’t have to think about it again. I wasn’t going to drink. I would always refuse.

I noticed benefits in doing this. No seedy feeling in the morning from having one extra wine the night before. I felt like I had more energy and I felt less weighty. I also managed to get to bed earlier most nights because I wasn’t staying up having that last glass of wine that contributed to the morning seedy feeling.

And, for me, going to bed earlier is a good thing. I normally get up around 5 am to go for walk, so staying up past 11.00 or even until 10.30 (or 10.00 . . .  *squirms nervously* *emits small squeak* . . . let’s not go too far here . . .) means I don’t get the recommended seven to eight hours sleep or whatever it is. I’ve read different accounts, but none of them say that fewer than six hours sleep a night, which is what I do most nights, is okay.

Based on my experience last time, I think that alcohol-free March (no cool names like Dry July or Ocsober here) is the perfect time to start putting steps into place to get more sleep. So in March, my goal is to get my hours of sleep closer to seven hours a night than six. Normally, I wouldn’t try to do more than one 30-day challenge at a time. But if I look at getting more sleep as being my goal, then going without alcohol is one strategy I’m using to get to that goal. So yes, it’s a thing in itself, but it’s more than that so I don’t feel like I’m taking on two separate challenges.

Unfortunately, 1 March is a Friday, and starting this challenge on a weekend is probably not ideal. Also, there are actually five weekends in March so I really drew the short straw there!

I’ll be posting more than normal in March as I work through this. There are a couple of other experiments I’m going to try out at the same time that are also connected to getting more sleep and I want to keep myself accountable and have a record of how it’s all going. It all links back to thing 6, which is taking better care of myself so I have the energy to be able to do all the things on my list. I’m interested to see how it all pans out over the month.

Point to Pinnacle: Mount Nelson

My training for the Point to Pinnacle has basically been non-existent for the last three weeks. I have really struggled to get out of bed in the mornings and I’ve been lucky if I’ve managed more than one walk a week.

This is Not Good when the event is on IN TWO WEEKS!

I can blame going on holidays and not being able to get back into the habit of walking, but I walked every day of the holidays. I don’t know what has caused my reluctance to walk, because I usually have no problem at all, but whatever it is, it’s my responsibility to fix it. If I don’t make it to the top of the mountain because I didn’t train enough it’s entirely my fault.

Anyway, what’s done is done and I can’t get those three weeks back, so I have to make the most of the two weeks I have left and strike a balance between getting some km in and not overdoing it so I’m not exhausted on event day.

If you’ve been following the story so far, you’ll know that I walked to the Mount Nelson Signal Station on the Truganini Track way back in August. Today I decided to go there again but this time to take the road. After all, I’ll be walking up a road in the Point to Pinnacle so it made sense to walk up a smaller mountain in similar conditions. Okay, at 352 metres, it’s nowhere near as high as the 1270 metres I’ll be walking up IN TWO WEEKS. But it’s better than no hill.

To get to Mount Nelson, you need to find Nelson Road, which turns off Sandy Bay Road and dog legs across Churchill Avenue. I decided to take it easy, so I took my camera with me and walked the scenic route along Churchill Avenue. It took me about an hour and a half, with a few photo stops, to walk the almost 8 km to the Nelson Road turn off.IMG_7801

Nelson Road is known for its bends, and I had no idea how far it was to the top or how long it would take. When you get to Bend 3, there’s access to a footpath that shortcuts up to Bend 7. While that would have been a whole lot quicker, and most likely safer too, since there was very little in the way of footpath on the road, the point was to have as long a walk as possible, so that would have been cheating, I think.IMG_7802

The road it was. It was a nice walk with lots of lovely houses to look at, though most of them were hidden behind trees. I was overtaken by a couple of cyclists also on the way up, some dog walkers on the way down and mercifully few cars. This was a lot more civilised than the 70km/h road to Fern Tree.

I wasn’t sure how many bends there were. I thought it was eight, and the distance between them seemed to increase between each bend. At Bend 7 is the Bend 7 Reservoir, which is fenced off and accessible to “Authorised personnel only”.  IMG_7805

That’s not me, so I kept going. I’m not sure if there is a Bend 8, but eventually, I made it to the top of Nelson Road, where it joins Olinda Grove. That was almost four km from the Churchill Avenue turn off and it took me a bit under 50 minutes. After that, I wasn’t sure how to get to the Signal Station. There was one sign pointing me in the direction that Nelson Road continued, so on I went.

The further I went, the more it started to feel like I was in the middle of the country. I had no idea where I was going or if I’d missed a turn to the Signal Station. I felt like I’d been walking forever. I could have checked a map but figured I wasn’t exactly going to get lost, and that the road would have to end-somewhere-eventually. And it did, a bit more than two km along the road.

It felt longer.

Total distance: 14.29km, time: two hours 47 minutes (with several pauses).IMG_7820_2According to Discover Tasmania

The signal station was built in 1811 and was the first of a chain of signal stations that once linked Hobart Town with Port Arthur. A short message from Hobart to Port Arthur and return reply could be completed in approximately fifteen minutes – under clear conditions.

The closure of the station on Mount Nelson came with the arrival of the telegraph in 1880.

There are great panoramic views of Hobart and the Derwent from here and one thing I really noticed was how much the Grand Chancellor stands out in the city. I had some fun taking photos of the Signal Station and eventually decided I could go no longer without coffee. Fortunately, there’s a coffee shop.IMG_7828_2There’s a track leading down from one of the lookout points that takes you to Sandy Bay, so I thought it would be fun to see where that went. It leads through Bicentennial Park, which is described as

A downhill walk, the first half of which is through open forest with views of the city, whilst the second half is amongst wetter forest.

From the historic Mt Nelson Signal Station the track descends gently downhill as it winds pleasantly through open forest. This section of track receives good sun making it an ideal choice for a winter walk. Dogs on lead are permitted as far as the Enterprise Road junction.

The track grade then becomes steeper and the forest increasingly shady and damp. After crossing Lambert Rivulet the creek is followed downstream to Lambert Avenue.

It was an interesting walk because, although I knew I wasn’t very far from civilisation, it felt very deserted. Especially when I got to the point where the track forked into two and the signpost had been knocked over and there was only an arrow pointing in one direction.

I could see Mt Wellington on my left and kept freaking out that I was going to be walking up there IN TWO WEEKS. Whilever the track was still formed, I felt relatively secure that I was still going the right way, even though there were times I felt like I should be dropping breadcrumbs. There were lots of stony steps but absolutely no indication of where I was. The backs of houses came into view, which left me none the wiser.IMG_4131

Eventually, I got to a sign that mentioned the contribution of Dr DJ Walters in the development of Lambert Park and, not much further on, I emerged at Churchill Avenue, just a short distance from the Nelson Road turnoff I’d taken earlier in the morning. I didn’t track that section of the walk so I have no idea how long it took or how far it was but based on the metadata on my photos, I reckon it took me about an hour.

So, that was a great Sunday morning adventure and probably the last big walk I’ll do before the Point to Pinnacle, which is IN TWO WEEKS. I know I have let myself down over the last three weeks and I’m not happy about that, but I also know I’m not going to get super-fit within the next two weeks. I’m going to stay as active as I can and give it my very best shot.