Monday, November 23, 2015

Sleep Is the Cure

So not only was I at the end of my rope on Sunday (yes, I did rouse myself and get myself to grade that stack!  It turned out to be easier than I thought), but by Friday afternoon, I was officially stupid.  At the end of my last class on Friday, I was saying things that made no sense.  These six-hour teaching days leave me shaky and rattled and mentally buzzing and physically exhausted.  It's amazing how much this schedule has really screwed me up.  And then there was the fact that last weekend I was grading grading grading as best I could. 

So I tried to sleep in on Saturday to limited success.  But it was a snowing-all-day kind of day and so we had a fire going in the woodstove and I also made soup and bread for lunch (neither homemade -- I haven't really cooked in forever now) which also set me up for sleepiness, and we ended up watching Christmas movies on the TV, and I dozed on the couch.  This is one of my favorite things -- dozing and listening to familiar movies on the couch.  In fact, when I'm sick, this is all I want to do.  I did this for much of the afternoon, and then in the early evening I felt great and unpacked two book boxes in the office, went through the dry cleaning and set aside some to take in, and made myself a little stack of Big Project books to read.  Then yesterday I woke up and made serious and amazing headway on Tiny Article, graded four projects, and did the bills.  In short, this sleep thing is amazing! 

I often stay up late because I feel cheated without any me time after Absurdist Child goes to sleep.  I get so grumpy without any me time.  So sleep often gets shortchanged.  But of course this is stupid too, because sleep is so important to one's overall health.  I'm often trying to balance sleep and morale.  (Keeping my morale up is a huge effort since I struggle with moodiness and depression and once I start getting moody or depressed I make bad decisions and am not a very good family member.  The family suffers enough when I have PMS.)  But obviously sleep is so necessary.  I know this realization that sleep is so important should change my decisions, but I doubt they will.  At the same time, I'm excited about some more catching-up-with-sleep potential of the long weekend.  I also have tons of work (gradinggradinggrading, service, and scholarship) to do this weekend, which I hope to do in the morning when it bugs my family the least.  And I am totally getting out there and taking care of my garden on Thanksgiving (though it's forecasted to be raining, but I don't care -- the garlic is going in!!!!).

Happy Thanksgiving!  Among the many things I'm thankful for?  The restorative power of sleep! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

At the end of my rope

I'm having a hard time. I've been working hard and grading everyday non-stop, and I was on campus all last week and will be all this upcoming week, and today -- with a big pile of grading that must be done by tomorrow by administrative fiat -- I just can't make myself grade the damn pile.  I'm not ignoring work, by any means.  I've done a zillion other things that needed to be done.  If I did ignore work, perhaps I'd actually be getting myself in balance and feel in better shape.  No. I feel shaky and low.  I'm just having trouble digging into this pile.  I'm just overworked and unable to take any time off, and I hate this.  Just hate this.  I don't have time to mourn Paris or any of the other cities being terrorized.  I don't have time to be with my partner and son.  I've sequestered myself off, and here I am blogging instead of grading. 

Long ago, when I was in grad school and working on my dissertation, I used to waste a lot of time.  I thought of myself, essentially, as lazy.  I still think of myself as lazy, though I now recognize that this is a habit that doesn't have anything to do with reality.  Nowadays I don't waste a lot of time.  I still have trouble with transition points, but this quarter I've just pushed myself to go from one thing to another.  Still there are times I just can't push myself forward, and I recognize that these are times when pushing myself means getting sick.  Today, I recognize I desperately need time off and totally deserve time off and totally will not be getting any time off, and this makes me really really grumpy bitchy, which is not a good way to start a week where I have a ton to do and have meetings with people who I'd like to scream at for not doing their share and letting it all fall on me.

Now, of course, I am playing the victim a bit -- and I need to learn to say no and let things get done poorly or not at all by others.  If I don't learn to say no then I'll be the one doing things poorly or not at all (unusual for me -- but getting things done poorly in order to get them done?  check!).  But I can't say yes from now on because I'm going to get ill and stay ill and it's not worth it.

I have some plans to talk about all this with my chair, but none of that will address this pile in front of me.  I have to remember what a joy it is to read student work.  And I don't have to grade the writing of anything I'm reading, which is also a joy.  But I do have to do it.  And I still feel like shit.  But I am NOT staying up late to get this shit done.  So I better get started.

This helped, sort of. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Check-In with Notes about Needing to Learn How to Relax

So what follows is my check-in this week for Top Left Quadrant, but what I'd like to note here is that I've gotten a cognitive-behavioral workbook on de-stressing and relaxation because I absolutely must take care of my health and this is the way to do it.  (It's a great book because in the first chapters the authors show the clear connections between stress and disease, building in exactly the kind of increased motivation I need.)  It kind of blows my mind that I need a workbook to help me relax.  It seems like an intelligent and learned person shouldn't need something like this, but this just proves that a smart person isn't necessarily smart at everything.  I used to joke that I not only lit my candle at both ends but in the middle for good measure.  I cannot do that anymore.  My various health problems make it abundantly clear that such an approach diminishes my quality of life (because chest pains, sciatica pain, etc. sucks) and will shorten my life.  I have a lot of stuff I still want to do, including see Absurdist Child grow up, write some things, and enjoy life with Absurdist Lover!  So it's really important that I don't get into the stress-to-get-things-done illness cycle.

By the way, the theme of the week is the ideal environment for sleep, so that's where I start.  I know -- riveting stuff, right?  Things will not always be like this.  I will one day be able to blog some of the crap going on around my department.  But just not now.

Oh wow, ideal environment for sleep?  Mostly I have what I need for good sleep -- blackout curtains, a mattress that is a bit firmer than I would like but still good, etc. -- but I need more time.

This week I really noticed that sometimes I stay up late and don't get enough sleep because between the high volume of work and my high-energy kid at home, I feel cheated out of any kind of me-focused time, whether that's escapism (which is purposeful as I desperately need to exit my life and focus elsewhere as the stress mounts) or refilling the creative wellspring.  The wise thing to do might be to remember that it won't always be this way and go to sleep anyway, but on the other hand, I'm learning I really do need that time to de-stress and relax.  A 28-hour day would be ideal, with those 4 hours for extra sleep.  More in line with the limits of the real world, trying to get Absurdist Child to go to sleep earlier might help me get some time for myself.  The other issue is getting Absurdist Child to stay in his own bed instead of coming in every night into ours.  He and I have talked about why he does this, and I think it's just a habit, not borne out of some fear.  So we'll work on it.

Last Week's Goals
-order book on destressing and relaxation:  YES, and it's awesome!
-have some down time every day:  I tried.  Transition time is hard.  I'm working on developing better skills and strategies here, thanks to the above book.
-make sure I get enough sleep and take good care of my health (am going to the doctor today, so I'm working on this!):  balancing sleep with me-time was a key challenge, as noted above
-get to grading asap, but in a reasonable and not totally-stressed out way:  I'm so behind now, it's ridiculous, but I've prioritized not making myself sick
-work a bit on Tiny Article due in Two Weeks in small bits (it would be great if I could sit down and schedule this, but I don't know about that):  starting yesterday, I've begun scheduling 30-min sessions on it in the morning, and WOW it's amazing what can get done in 30 minutes!
-pick a book related to Big Project to be my go-to book so I can feel productive instead of spending my time looking for a book and then reading something I really don't need to read (like a magazine) that doesn't get me anywhere (in terms of feeling productive):  I haven't done this, but I think my go-to book for now is the relaxation and de-stressing book
-try to remember that it won't always be like this:  uh huh
-remember that nothing is worth killing myself over, especially bozo colleagues with antediluvian ideas that are unjust. move like water.:  I got mad a bit this week, though far better than last week, and I got stressed about something, but I turned the stress into a productive work schedule, so some very important things are moving forward, and I'm not stressing about it because the work sessions are scheduled so what is there to stress about?

This is a time when I'm relearning how to get things done.  Before I got tenure, it seemed reasonable to make myself sick over grading, for example.  (I'd rush to get something done, even though I'm perennially behind, and then get sick right after.)  Now tenured but with health problems, this trade-off doesn't suit me anymore.  So I'm rethinking assignments that pose particular challenges for grading, including the assignment that is currently killing me, which is good because I'll be teaching this particular course each quarter this year.  So this is a good time to figure that out. 

Goals for the Upcoming Week

1.  Keep up a decent grading pace, which unfortunately includes the stress of telling my family to leave me alone (repeatedly because 7-year olds just don't get it).
2.  Some kind of relaxation work each day, whether that's escapism (watching shows), working on the relaxation workbook, or tuning in to some kind of creative well-filling activity.  (Making a list of these might help the transition issue, but I don't know I can do that this week.)
3. 30-minutes daily on Tiny Article.  It will get done by Friday.  Yes, it will.  Even after two sessions, it's much better than it was, so don't stress about this.  Don't think about it.  Just do it.
4. Magnesium.  Take it daily.
5. Do leg lifts and crunches while watching shows at night.
6. Continue to prioritize eating at regular intervals for good energy all day long. 
7. Don't expect anything of yourself after long teaching days.
8. Instead of stressing, see what service you can scoot over or enlist help with.  (Had a great conversation with a colleague who is sweetly worried about my health who asked why I don't go and get out of one service commitment that is pretty much languishing.  She's right.)  Don't get involved in big arguments because chest pains suck. 
9. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.  Move like water. --> recite mantra at will.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Check-In with Reflections on What Is "Good Enough"

Good enough. There are lots of things I'm so behind on, it's not good, but I'm trying not to stress about it. Just because there's a giant pile doesn't mean I shouldn't take breaks and have a little me time. I'm doing my best, and that's it. If I overexert myself, I'll get sick and then what?

Last Week's Goals

GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! (sorry, but I'm really really dreadfully stupid about this one. I have some thing in me that wants to stay up and have me time, dammit, me me!): I did better. I discovered I really like sleep, but I forget every night until I hit the pillow.
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead. Tuesday sucked. Friday was better, but I still felt weak at the end of the day.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath. Yes. Doing as much as someone with ten minutes between two very different classes can. Now I know what the students sometimes have that lost look -- they've just suffered whiplash from one subject to another.
-Do pilates twice this week. No.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article! No, but I got it done today. There are all sorts of problems, like I totally didn't follow through on the word count we'd agreed on, which I know is an obnoxious academic problem, but. . .it's good enough. I'm so glad it's done. I have a ton else to do.
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing: and I did that several days, though it was sometimes hard.
-Have a book at the ready for moments away: yes
-Chip away at service pile: there wasn't much chipping this week, though I did a couple things; the pile still remains, mostly
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.: yes
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over. This is my mantra. I really don't want to have any more serious health problems.

This Week's Goals

-Keep calm. Nothing's worth killing yourself over. Move like water.
-15 minutes of writing is still writing.
-Take magnesium supplement 2x a day and see if that makes me feel better.
-Be organized about food and eat and admit when I need a break.
-Be good enough about grading and prep.
-Read more, when possible.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Check-In with Embellishments

Check-In on Last Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm: better, not great, but better
-engage in stress-relieving at home: somewhat -- am getting better
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week: got everything to printing and up on Blackboard (to a seriously never-before seen standard) this afternoon.
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain: fits and starts here; I had a day of 5am insomnia and a single day I let myself sleep in until 8:30. Progress, not perfection.
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office: some, yes
-plant elderberry: yes
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made: I made a plan but did not follow it when I realized that working on it was keeping me from focusing on syllabi
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities: uh, not really, got one thing scheduled but there's much more to do
-collect and assess Big Project work: no
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday: yes, almost completely: I'm rockin'

We really rocked here.  We went to the place, scheduled it.  Yesterday we got the invitations and most of the rest of the stuff besides the cupcakes, and Absurdist Child went hogwild and wrote ALL the invitations before dinnertime.  I'm in awe.  Which is good because most of the time he's driving me batty with his toys we need to look up on the internet and his incessant habit of plowing into me physically which I cannot deal with because of this sciatica pain I'm having pretty much most of the time.  Absurdist Lover reminded me that I should go to the doctor.  Ugh.  I'll schedule that tomorrow.

Absurdist Lover is doing amazing things to the house.  Installing ceiling fans (I love ceiling fans so we really are going to have four ceiling fans in the five main rooms of the house!), cleaning things up, getting me to go through things.  Today was the day of hanging things up in Absurdist Child's bedroom.  I also made dinner and then cookies this evening after I was done prepping.  I'm worried about how I'm going to balance all this.  

-The thing that sometimes motivates me to get something done is the stress I feel thinking about it and not doing it. This stress also drains my energy. Modulating emotions and getting things done without really worrying about it is really important.
-I got lots done in some ways, but it was a transition week really. Now it begins.

Habits? I feel like I'm always trying to press forward with a new habit, something I should give up or do. Making habits is exhausting. It takes a lot of energy, all that rushing forward with your shoulders squared to move through anything. Instead I'm trying to move like water. The only way to make it to December is to see a wall, go around. And lots of healthy supports too. That's the habit I'm trying to cultivate -- the habit of doing healthy things, whether it's exercise, or having a tea, or taking a bath. I am hoping to keep myself proactive and stress-relieving as I'm having really painful and annoying sciatica and I'm going to have a very challenging quarter.

This Week's Goals
-GET ENOUGH SLEEP!! (sorry, but I'm really really dreadfully stupid about this one. I have some thing in me that wants to stay up and have me time, dammit, me me!)
-Eat decent food at regular intervals. Plan ahead.
-Stop periodically. Check in. Take a breath. Take another breath.
-Do pilates twice this week.
-Use the relative lull of the early part of this week to pump out that article!
-15 minutes of writing a day is still writing
-Have a book at the ready for moments away
-Chip away at service pile
-Make sure to do the online class with Absurdist Child early in the week and watch Wednesday Nature program.
-Be calm. Nothing is worth killing yourself over.

It begins.  Tomorrow.  The meetings and the BS and the drama, and I will get subsumed in all of it because I really do care about it all and it really does matter because the education of students -- all students -- matters.  But I also need to remember that it doesn't help anything to be anything but be as calm and peaceful as possible. 

Ha!  I'm sort of a troublemaker, so we'll see if I can make that work.  Before tenure, I had limited opportunity for really putting my foot in my mouth.  Now, I have much more expanded opportunity.  I'll try to be calm -- as often as I can remember.

I'm jumping off the edge of not-teaching back into teaching life. . .   Luckily, all of you are there too. 

Monday, September 28, 2015

Top Left Quadrant Check-In

Copying over my check-ins seems to be all I can manage lately. I've felt awful and am overwhelmed by the impending beginning of the quarter and the zillions of tasks, at home and work, that I'm supposed to finish before that.  And sciatica.  I'm overwhelmed with sciatica pain.  Pain makes me grumpy.  I know:  profound, isn't it?

So stress relievers that might work for me.  I certainly need stress relievers for work (when I have only an hour break in a 6-hour teaching day) and home (where our high-energy kid runs me ragged though I am LOVING homeschooling with him right now).  Things I can imagine doing:

-coloring books (so glad to see so many other intellectual adults not only doing this but admitting it!  I thought it was only me! By pure happenstance, my coloring books and colored pencils surfaced last night)
-crochet (but crochet is only stress-relieving, as heu mihi noted, when I'm doing something I know how to do well -- I recently started a slouch hat working in the round for the first time, and it was not stress-relieving -- I'm not done but I haven't gone back to it)
-watching shows (I'm on the sixth season of Northern Exposure -- no Fleischman, don't go!  I love your Jewishness!!!), but I seriously need to consider what I'm watching to make sure it's relaxing and how late I'm watching it
-meditation, when I can get myself to do it
-tai chi, as best as I can remember it
-baths (especially good for relieving sciatica, which has been very bad)
-listen to music:  this is probably the big one for work

Report on Last Week's Goals

-work out at least twice this week:  I worked out once and felt pretty good, but then later that night I had terrible terrible chest pains, like I thought I'd had a heart attack, but then later I felt fine
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week):  nope
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done:  nope
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???:  my chest exploded instead of my head; I was really grouchy at family this week, granted because of pain, but I need to work on that
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!):  sure, let's call reading other people's posts on this as "research"
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter:  nope
-prep somewhat: this I rocked.  I seriously figured out two out of my three classes, including the new prep

So the big impediment to getting things done last week was my health, which would suggest that I should go to the quack, but. . .I don't wanna.  I better, but I don't wanna.

This Week's Goals

-stop munching after 11pm
-engage in stress-relieving at home
-prep and get syllabi to printing by end of the week
-roll back sleep slowly until I'm waking up at 6am without undue pain
-make some headway on the boxes in the home office
-plant elderberry
-make serious plan for the article that is due in two weeks and get major headway made
-get caught up, somehow, on overwhelming service responsibilities
-collect and assess Big Project work
-figure out Absurdist Child's birthday

This list makes me want to curl back up in bed!  (Can I consider that stress-relieving???)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Top Left Quadrant and Ways to Relieve Stress

Yay!  I didn't miss the entry point for Top Left Quadrant this time!  Fall is seriously crazy, and I can't quite think about it all at once or something in me starts running for the hills, but the structure will, I hope, keep me from going nuts or at least the minimize the time I spend going nuts and maximize the time I spend remembering to keep myself healthy, since health and stress-reduction are really important right now.  (I have until December to try to get healthier to try to avoid taking a medication that I really don't want to because of its side effects.)

So here's my post over there:

The upcoming quarter has a ridiculous number of preps and overfull classes, a number of big service commitments, some research work I really want to get done in a very slow and plodding way, and some health issues that I really must take seriously so exercise and stress reduction are crucial.  Before all that starts, I have a small chapter to write and at least one major home project: making the home office/library more livable by buying bookshelves and unpacking boxes.  Meanwhile I also want to keep up with our family projects -- somehow!  Really just thinking about all I have to get done by the end of the calendar year makes me want to crawl back into bed.  So I have to just keep my head down and keep working, but without stressing myself out because of the health concerns!

So this week's goals:

-work out at least twice this week
-get draft together of short chapter (which probably breaks down into working on it several times this week)
-prep and write several big emails to get those projects done
-keep head from exploding by engaging in frequent stress-relieving breaks by. . .???
-engage in research and reflection on what kinds of stress-relieving breaks would work (saying I'll meditate is fine, but maybe there are better things I like more -- I'm seriously open to ideas!!!!)
-compile Big Project drafts so I can take stock of what I got done in the last quarter
-prep somewhat

What are you favorite ways to relieve stress?  Any ideas for me?