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No Half Measures

So folks, here we are, October 15th and half way through Sober October.  I wanted to give you all a little update on how the last two weeks of clean living have gone.  Full disclosure, I did not really expect to be writing this post, as I felt sure I would cave before the first weekend was out.  However, it hasn’t actually been too bad (so far.)

The first weekend of sobriety did feel a little odd.  I honestly can’t remember the last time I had gone a full week without any alcohol.  Which is probably a sure sign that a detox was long overdue.  Even when I am sick, hot whiskey is my go to, so it was definitely alien.  We were staying in on the Saturday night, as I had a busy day planned for Sunday, and usually we would be having a few beers or a bottle of wine as we plough through some box set or other.  Imbibing on sparkling water instead, left a lot to be desired.  I really did feel like I was missing something.  However, a late night dash to McDonald’s for ice-cream satisfied my craving.

The second weekend was a little less weird.  I was out with a friend Saturday night and I was perfectly happy to drive and for her to have a few drinks.  I enjoyed my night just as much as I would have had I been drinking, and it was so nice waking up the next morning/afternoon feeling fresh.  Last night I made another trip through the Drive Thru in my pj’s for McFlurries to enjoy while we watched a movie.  Normally I could take or leave ice-cream, but I seem to be doing more taking lately!

Like a lot of habits, my alcohol intake has a lot to do with association.  I enjoy nothing more at the end of a tough week than a couple of cold beers.  I tell myself that I work hard, and so I deserve it.  It helps me to relax, I assure myself.  The truth is, when I am very tired, alcohol makes me feel even more exhausted.  So instead of being able to stay up a little later catching up with my husband, I end up wanting to fall into bed at the same time as I do on a school night.  I also find that even one or two drinks affects my sleep quality, and makes me dehydrated the following day.  Not an ideal start to the weekend, especially when I am teaching a class on a Saturday morning!

So, what’s the upside to all this?

Firstly, I feel better.  Not like I could leap tall buildings in a single bound or anything, but I definitely have more clarity of mind, and more energy.  I have been struggling with insomnia the past few months, and I am finding that without the alcohol my sleep seems to be better quality.  Even if I am still not getting enough.

Secondly, my health markers are improving.  My weight has crept up quite a bit this year, and although it’s not bothering me overly at the moment, it is in the back of my mind that I should think about tackling it at some stage.  Obviously enough, drinking thousands of calories every weekend is not helping.  Since the beginning of month my scale weight has slowly started to come down.  My tummy is looking less bloated and I am generally feeling more positive about myself.  As well as this, my resting heart rate has reduced and is back below 60bpm for the first time in a good while.

My recovery has improved.  Alcohol is a diuretic and makes you dehydrated, this is absolutely terrible for your body when it is trying to recover from exercise.  In the last couple of weeks, even though I am teaching more often, I feel like it is taking less out of me, which can only be good news.

I have more money in purse.  It turns out that two ice-creams costs a lot less than a couple of nights of drinking!

I get to enjoy a movie without having to get up to pee 37 times!

There are loads of other health benefits associated with reducing your alcohol intake, but these are the ones I am seeing and feeling after a mere 14 days.  I have no doubt that when the month is over, I will enjoy a drink or two.  It is my birthday and wedding anniversary that weekend, after all.  But I am seriously thinking about making it a much less significant part of my life in the future.

Let me know how you have been getting on.  Be well xxx

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7 Days Done!

So here we are at the end of week 1 of the Social Media Blackout experiment. Honestly it has been so eye opening. I have not missed scrolling a fraction as much as I thought I would. Far from feeling disconnected, I actually feel more in touch with what is going on around me.

At the beginning of this challenge I was extremely nervous. I was afraid I would be bored and I had a serious case of FOMO! It is a pleasant surprise that so far neither of those things have happened. I haven’t had a chance to get bored and I don’t think I have missed out on anything, but if I have, I can catch up on October 1st.

Let me know how you are getting on. Be well xxx

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Scroll Free September!

Tomorrow I will be starting what may prove to be my most difficult challenge to date, Scroll Free September. For 30 days I will be staying off Social Media. I will be logging off my personal Facebook and Instagram Accounts (I don’t understand Twitter, so I don’t use it much anyway.)

I sure this is going to be extremely challenging for me, as I spend an inordinate amount of time mindlessly scrolling through these sites. I am excited to see how I feel after the first few days of digital DTs have passed. I am also interested to see if I find myself with more time for things I actually enjoy, like reading!

I will still update my Zumba With Arwen page with class times etc. Luckily I don’t have to log in to my personal page in order to do that. My blog automatically posts to Facebook so that will still be happening too, but other than that I will be going cold turkey.

Many of you may not need or want to take on this challenge for a whole month, but I would encourage everyone to try to get even a small amount of unplugged time. As well as that, if anyone in your social media feed creates any sort of negative feelings for you (regardless of how rational these feelings may seem) just unfollow them!

I will let you know how I am getting on! Wish me luck and be well xxx

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100 Days of Headspace

I first discovered the Headspace app back in February of last year.  I can’t remember what was going on at the time, but a friend of mine recommended it over coffee one day, so I thought I would give it try.  I immediately loved it.  It is guided meditation, and Andy’s voice is so soothing, he could probably relieve someone’s stress by reading the phone book to them!  I kept it up for a few days and could feel the benefit, however, like with a lot of things, I missed a day or two and before long I had kinda forgotten about it.

Over the next year and a half, whenever life got hectic, as it invariably does, I would dip back into Headspace.  I would come away from each short session feeling better and the cumulative effect was brilliant.  However, it always ended up the same way.  After a few days I would give up, and often not return to it for several months.

At the beginning of the summer, I knew that there were going to be big changes happening.  I was about to start a new job and I was well aware of the stress that would cause me.  Even if everything was working out perfectly, the upheaval would still create anxiety for someone who struggles with change as much as I do.  I decided to revisit Headspace again, but this time I committed to it fully.  I made a promise to myself that no matter what happened, I would complete 100 days in a row.  I announced this publicly to help me stay accountable.

Initially, I did find it difficult.  I found myself saying things like “I have to go do my meditation now.”  I had to make a concerted effort to find the 15 minute window of peace in the day in which to get it done.  This alone speaks volumes as to how frenetic I had allowed my life to become, but that’s a post in itself.  As the days and weeks went by, I began to get into it.  I loved how grounded and peaceful I felt after each session.  I found myself hiding in empty offices during the day to sneak in an extra mini session, especially if the day was really crazy.  I was amazed that no matter how stressed and even panicked I felt going into that room, I left feeling ready for anything.

During the past 100 days there have been so many times when in the middle of the meditation I have thought to myself “this isn’t working,” or “I’m not doing it right,” or even “I’m not getting anything out of this.”  Regardless of how often these negative thoughts popped up during the session, at the end of it, when the guide told me to pause and reflect on how I felt, I always felt better than I had at the start.  Magic!

I am not good at homework.  The app often recommends little exercises to do throughout the day so that you get more bang for your buck as it were.  90% of the time I completely forget.  They always sound like great ideas, but the only way I am going to remember to do it is if I write it down or set a reminder.  I might try to be better at that for the next 100 days!  In spite of my lack of conscientiousness, I am convinced that this experiment has had a lasting effect on me.  I am certain that I would not have been able to survive all the drama in my professional life as well as I have without meditation.  In fact, I think I would have become a complete basket case.

The effects seem to be noticeable to others as well.  A couple of weeks ago I was out for a meal with some girlfriends I hadn’t seen in forever.  I was giving one of them a lift home when, unprompted, she said to me “Arwen, you seem very chill!”  What you need to understand is that this is definitely not how people would usually describe me.  Uptight, highly strung, control freak, anxious, would all be closer to the mark.  The thing is, I feel very chill.  For the first time in my life I feel in control.  Not in control of my life or anything going on around me, in control of myself.

Being educated in a Catholic school, spirituality was spoken about daily and meditation would often come up as part of that.  As such, I have been aware of it and it’s advantages for as long as I can remember.  Certainly long before it started being mentioned in the same articles as kale and goji berries.  I never really thought of meditation as a way to improve health or increase productivity.  When you think about it, these very modern concerns were not around when meditation was first recorded.  The Taoists and Buddhists weren’t overly concerned with “personal effectiveness.”

I always thought of meditation as promoting stillness and awareness, and having committed to a daily practice for a mere 100 days, I am beginning to understand what that really means.  I feel grounded and centered and like nothing can rock me.  I cannot recommend mediation highly enough and with so many apps available bringing it right into the palm of your hand, it has never been more accessible.  My advice to anyone, whether you feel stressed or not, is to give it a try.  Most apps offer a free trial period, some are free forever.  Commit to it for a period of time, even just a week and see how much better you will feel.  Be well xxx