walk signI need some. The motivation and the self-care, both. Life has become so busy, suddenly. I’ve allowed this to happen, and I am painfully aware it is a problem I would like to overcome–the constant overscheduling, the need to fill every pocket of downtime with something.

Spring is finally here, and if I don’t slow down, I’m going to miss it.

I haven’t written in weeks. I haven’t taken a walk in months. I haven’t finished a book in weeks, which for me is a tragedy. It even feels like it’s been too long since I simply got down on the floor and built Lego houses with Jax.

What the hell have I been doing lately? 

I have been shuttling myself, Jax, and our new kitten to appointments (to a wrist doctor, the dentist, and the vet, respectively). I’ve spent ample time in PetSmart for both the dog and the kitten. I wrapped up my 12-week balance skills/mindfulness group. I’ve gone to countless playdates and birthday parties with Jax. I’ve sorted through tax paperwork. I’ve made more phone calls than ever.

None of this feels meaningful. I don’t remember the last time anything I did felt meaningful. Or fun. I put my to do list before fun every single day.

How sad. And not what I want to role model for my son.

I’ve been avoiding putting myself first because it feels selfish when there is so much to do! But I know better. I know how dangerous that kind of thinking is.

With a loose plan in mind to increase my self-care, earlier this week I cashed in some recent blog earnings and treated myself to a FitBit Flex. Ta-da! A fun way to get myself to take more walks (one of my favorite forms of self-care)!

I am a goal-oriented person by nature, and I enjoy analyzing data. So it just makes sense for me to rely on a trendy gadget to motivate me to get moving, right on out of my slump. I’ve wanted a FitBit since last summer but I’ve been talking myself out of the splurge. But last weekend, I started to think about how much I miss walking during my daily lunch breaks now that I spend that time picking up Jax from school and dropping him off at daycare and then rushing right back to work. I felt depressed that I’ve given up my lunch break walks, even though I can’t tell you how much I truly love and appreciate seeing my son in the middle of the day. (That’s for another post.)

After 6+ months of not walking at lunch (and nearly 3 more still to go), I’m really feeling it now. The days are warmer and brighter after one of our cruelest, longest winters ever. It’s torture to not have time to get outside and enjoy it.

The FitBit is going to fix my life, right? My need to attain the daily goal of 10,000 steps is going to motivate me to stop scheduling my life away and get my pale self outside, walking in the sun–which, to me, sounds like the antidote to being stuck inside a gray cubicle all day long and then spending the evening crossing things off my never-ending to do list (ya know, like dinner, sorting through school papers, laundry, etc).

Yesterday, instead of standing outside my son’s school playing with my phone as I waited for him, I took a 5-minute walk because I wanted to increase my step count. It was invigorating and a much better use of my time than checking Twitter and Facebook for the tenth time that day. While I do love Twitter, it’s not exactly self-care.

My goal this week is to keep my weekend wide open and spend part of it outside. I’m sure I’ll be tempted to fill up the planner with playdates and tasks. But really I just want to play with my new toy, the FitBit! So that’s what I’m gonna do.

Have you struggled with pushing aside your to do list and making time for self-care? If so, what have you done to remedy the situation? 

photo by: rockmixer

This is what’s clogging up my brainspace this week:

Take that, Valentine's Day!

Take that, Valentine’s Day!

Another snowstorm’s coming, with up to a foot of snow being discussed at the time of this writing. Must stock junk food. But why? I don’t even eat junk food usually! Something about snow just screams cookies to me. Can you relate?

I’m thinking about journaling again, and really holding myself to spending 5 minutes every single day writing down my thoughts and feelings in an effort to help me sort them out. But of course I worry about privacy issues. I’ve had my journals read by people I trusted, and it was somewhat traumatic. So today I found myself googling “privacy issues with journaling” and reading about some options for keeing my thoughts private. Something that resonated with me (because I’m guilty of this) was advice that if you’re censoring yourself in your writing because you’re afraid of who may read it, you’re just wasting your time and not getting the full effect of journaling. Do you journal? If so, is privacy a concern?

My dad is having heart surgery this week. I plan to take the day off from work and hang at the hospital with my mom, keeping her company and keeping things light as we wait for updates. But that snowstorm is supposed to happen on the same day, and since schools will likely be cancelled, I think my new plan will consist of maintaining my sanity at home with an energetic 4-year-old while waiting for updates from my mom, also while attempting to complete a full day’s work from home. Working from home is hard most times, although sometimes we nail it. I wrestle with balancing my work with my son’s constant requests to play, and there is often a lot of guilt that comes along with telling him I can’t play until I get some things done. It will be a challenging day, to say the least. If you know any snow dances–the kind that would push this storm far off the coast, perhaps–please do them now! I’m also accepting thoughts & prayers for my dad and any work-from-home advice you’ve got!

Valentine’s Day. Sigh. Someone very important to me died on the night of February 13th, ten years ago this year. I can’t help but associate the day with my grief. His death triggered my anxiety in a way I’d never experienced it before. I remember that Valentine’s Day like it happened yesterday. I sat in a Japanese steakhouse, picking at my sushi, pretending to be OK as I celebrated my first Valentine’s Day with my now-husband. I secretly didn’t want to be there, which made me feel badly. I wanted to be with my family, or alone to cry and grieve. That was the first time Valentine’s Day felt fake to me, and I can’t help but carry that with me all these years later. There’s too much pressure. I have a list of people I’d wanted to buy or make things for, but it’s already Tuesday and I’m out of time. I sure hope Valentine’s tweets instead of treats are acceptable! And I’d like to find time to grab some new Legos for Jax for his special treat, in lieu of candy, since his life revolves around Legos right now. I still have to help Jax write out one set of valentines for his pre-K class (their party is tomorrow) and one set for his daycare class (their party is Friday), and I have to provide healthy snacks for both…on top of all the other things I have to do this week! This is only my first year with a kid–one child!–in school. I don’t know how parents juggle it all!

I feel like if I make it to Saturday without losing my mind, I owe myself the biggest glass of wine, the longest bubble bath, and other mega self-care.

If you’ve made it this far into this post, you deserve a glass of wine, too! ;)

I just needed to put all that out there so maybe some of it would get out of my head for a little while. Ahhhh. Thanks for reading.

p.s. Have you entered my Valkee 2 giveaway yet? I’m choosing a winner on Valentine’s Day (well, evening). Maybe you’ll get lucky on Valentine’s Day afterall!  ;)

photo by: andertoons

In yesterday’s post, Easing Seasonal Depression: Part One, I told you about two kinds of light therapy that can be used to alleviate the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (aka, seasonal depression). Did you know that light therapy can also help with anxiety, PMS, and sleep disorders?

Why I Love the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

At work, using the Valkee 2

Now that I’ve tried light therapy via both a traditional lamp and a headset with earbuds, I realize I am a devoted convert to the Valkee 2 headset for several reasons:

  • Portability. The headset is small, around the size of an iPod nano, and therefore it is easily transported–sometimes I place it in my back pocket while I’m wearing it. And while I’m using it, I’m not tethered to my desk.
    Quickness. The Valkee 2 requires only 12 minutes of daily use, which is easy to fit into my busy days. After 12 minutes, the device shuts itself off automatically.
    Discretion. It is far more discreet than the traditional SAD lamp. When the earbuds are placed in my ears, nobody can tell light therapy is being used; anyone passing by thinks I’m listening to music. No more co-workers giggling about my Bat Signal. And no more sore eyes (like I would sometimes get with a SAD lamp).
    Charging Time. I’ve been using it for a month now, and I’ve had to charge it only one time. Charging is simple and fast, done via a USB cord plugged into my computer.
These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

These little lights seem to do wonders for my mood.

Because of all these attributes of the Valkee 2, I find it incredibly easy to use. It has become part of my morning routine. I typically use it when I get to work around 8:00 am, while I’m checking email. I place the earbuds into my ears, turn the device on (it has only one button), and forget all about it for 12 minutes until it beeps to indicate it’s shutting off. The Valkee 2 has a circle on the front, which lights up when you turn it on. As each minute passes, part of the circle grows dim, so you can tell how much time has elapsed of the 12-minute cycle. For example, when 6 minutes have passed, only half of the circle remains lit. When people stop by to talk to me while I’m using the Valkee 2, I don’t have to remove the earbuds, as they are not noise-reducing earbuds and no sound is emitted during use.

How Do I Feel?

When I showed the Valkee 2 to my physician the other day while I was having my sprained wrist examined, he asked me if I think it’s working. My snarky but truthful response was, “Well, I’m not here asking you for an antidepressant, am I?”

It’s been a month since I started using the Valkee 2, and I feel really good! As I’ve said before, January is typically the month when I feel seasonal depression the most. It’s been a brutal winter here on the East Coast, with so many cold, gray January and February days. But I haven’t felt down, like I usually do in the winter. Of course it’s hard to say whether that’s contributed to the Valkee 2 or other factors (I am also taking a 12-week mindfulness course and I’m giving yoga another shot), but I like to think at least part of it is. I’m considering the Valkee 2 a crucial part of my winter survival plan.

Valkee 2 Giveaway

At the time of this writing, the device, from Finland, retails for approximately US $269 (199 euros). Valkee has generously offered to give one James & Jax reader a Valkee 2 of your own. On Valentine’s Day, Friday, February 14, one winner will be randomly selected to win a Valkee 2. You can enter this random drawing in several ways:

  1. Leave a comment below indicating what appeals to you about the Valkee 2. What makes you want to try it?
  2. Like Valkee on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  3. Like James & Jax on Facebook and leave a comment saying you’ve done this.
  4. Tweet about this giveaway and comment here with the link to your tweet.

Each of the above is good for 1 entry, so you can enter a maximum of 4 times. Please be sure to leave a comment for each entry. The winner will be notified via email no later than 6:00 pm (ET) on February 14.

Disclosure: I received one Valkee 2 headset, courtesy of Valkee. All opinions expressed herein are a truthful representation of my experience using the Valkee 2 for one month. 

 

Back in November when I was bracing for the approaching winter (like I do every autumn), my therapist asked if I’d started to use my light therapy lamp yet. I had started in October, but only sporadically for a few reasons.

The Problem with Traditional Light Therapy

SAD lamp

My traditional “SAD lamp” (on the right)

First, I rarely sit still long enough to use it for the recommended length of time each morning (I believe it’s 30 minutes, at least to start). I’m a bit frantic in the mornings, packing lunches, checking Jackson’s school bag, and helping him dress and eat while getting myself ready before I race out the door to work. I don’t have the time–EVER–to stop what I’m doing and sit in front of my lamp. I’ve tried using it while I apply my makeup, but I’m sure you can guess how that turns out (I’ll spare you the terrifying clown photo).

Second, and this is directly related to the first reason, I keep my lamp on my desk at work. The only time I sit still for 30-minute increments is at my desk, so it seemed like the perfect place to sit in front of my lamp. However, the lamp is too bulky and fragile to lug home on the weekends, so I don’t use it on Saturdays and Sundays at all. Also, there are some mornings when sitting directly in front of the lamp isn’t feasible. Maybe I have to work on the computer, or maybe I have a meeting. Most importantly, it’s kind of embarrassing to use the lamp at work. I’ve had several co-workers stop by, curious about the light beam being projected from my cubicle to the ceiling. They’ve started calling it the Bat Signal.

Of course even with all those limitations, if something helps to relieve my seasonal depression symptoms, I’ll deal with the downside and just do it–when I can, anyway.

The Valkee 2: A New, More Convenient Light Therapy

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

The Valkee 2, which is the size of an iPod (approximately)

So back to that November day in my therapist’s office… She asked if I’d heard about a Finnish product called the Valkee Bright Light Headset, which is essentially light therapy via earbuds. Intrigued but skeptical, I said I had not but I would look into this.

I found the company’s website and I started to read up on what seemed to me like a completely crazy idea–how could projecting light beams into my ear canals help my seasonal depression?! Because of my day job as an editor of several health care publications, I often read peer-reviewed studies and am familiar with and respect the peer review process. I appreciated that the company seems to have gone to great lengths to provide links to so many such studies, indicating promising results about “transcranial brain-targeted bright light treatment“–talk about a mouthful, right? I clicked through and read some of the abstracts to these studies, published in some very reputable journals.

My curiosity mounted. So what would any blogger do at this point? Find them on Twitter & mention them, of course! With astonishing speed, the company replied to my tweet, inviting me to contact them about perhaps receiving a Valkee of my own. It felt like Christmas to this girl who has suffered from seasonal depression for years!

Not only was I impressed with the idea of a new, portable, convenient way to use light therapy, but I also was impressed by the company’s responsiveness on social media. What’s even better is that the Valkee CEO himself responded to my emails, often within minutes. We talked about the product, and I grew more and more excited to try it myself.

In part two, I’ll tell you how it’s going, now that I’ve been using the Valkee 2 for exactly one month, and tell you how you can win one! 

 

I did something that scares me today–and it’s barely 9 am! All these years after having, and then beating, postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, I still feel my heart race when I blog about it. Talking about it is no big deal, but putting things in writing?! Eeek! And on a site like Postpartum Progress, a site that helps more than a million people each year??! I’m sure you understand why my heart is racing!

It would mean a lot to me if you’d head over there and read my first post–I will be there all week–outlining my path from PPD/PPA back to “normal.”

Feeling “Normal” Again After PPD

Thank you!