Tuesday, February 15, 2022

Managing Myself

Welcome to my blog. Enjoy! 

I've been consciously living with anxiety for about 4ish years now. I've been managing my anxiety for almost none of those years. Kind of. I'm getting better. I don't take medications as I've never managed to make myself a priority to go to a doctor to help. 

Like I'm pretty confident there a bunch of other people who have what I have and are barely managing as well and well, my brain is stuck on the It's fine meme...you know...the one with the dog and the coffee and the fire and he's just sitting there. Yeah. I feel like that's what my mind is doing right now.

It's cool. I think it's fine. But I know other people need me to do things and so I have to do some things and this is how I manage myself and I hope this might help you: 

How I Manage Myself a true story by me.

1. I like lists. Sometimes I'll write a list at the end of the day to just cross things off so I can have that hit of dopamine. The list helps me keep track of the ramblings in my brain. I make lists for all sorts of things, what I have to do today, what I want to clean in the office, what I need at the grocery store, who I need to contact for events or things, what I want to write about, things I want to craft, just lists. Again, it really helps the ramblings in my brain and helps me to not forget things.

2. Small time increments. I do things in small increments (except reading, I'll read for hours). I do this to convince myself to do things (otherwise I'll read). I follow this woman on YouTube Sarah Beth Yoga, and she's amazing! I love her content, but, BUT what I love most about her is that one of her playlist video groupings is 10 minute yoga videos. Yes I like yoga and yes I want to do more, but my anxiety almost won't let me do more than 10 minutes at a time. Sure I can do 3 of her videos in row and feel awesome! but I can't START anything more than 10 minutes. So I do 10 minutes. I choose a small increment and do it. It helps to manage me. I can on occasion convince myself that after 10 minutes I can lay there and spiral again if I need to (because who doesn't anxiety spiral!). If I can do this one thing for 10 minutes then I'm good!  I use the small time increments for other things too, such as writing this blog post (I gave myself 30 minutes), and applying to jobs.  I choose time increments over quantity increments (such as applying to 3 jobs instead of 30 minutes) because I can set a time and watch the clock tick down (but I don't focus on the clock) and it also stops me from spiraling into "what if I can't find 3 jobs to apply to, then I'll never be done!" 

3. Theme Music! Well not theme music so much as focus music. If I really need to get something done and it requires a good amount of focus I'll play the Hans Zimmer Pandora station. I discovered this trick on Pinterest. As I was perusing Pinterest, a suggestion jumped out at me for focusing. "If you need to focus on a task, play the Hans Zimmer Pandora Station." Apparently Mr. Hans Zimmer wrote the scores for some great movies and it's the type of movies where the characters are focused (Inception, Dune, Interstellar, The Dark Knight, to name a few). It's a similar suggestion to listening to video game music (and not the Nintendo ones). The music helps to focus, it's a white noise in your ears that almost demands you to ignore it while gently placing your blinders on so all you see is the task in front of you. This along with the small time increments really does help with managing my anxiety because it always comes back to baby stepping.

4. Alarms and Notifications: This one works well with numbers 2 and 3. I have a ton of Timers on my phone in my Clock app. 2 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, 45 minutes. All times of keeping myself occupied until I can be done. Once I decide I'm going to do a task for a small amount of time, I set a timer and I'm off! I may glance over and check my alarm but for the most part, I commit, and the only one I use 45 minutes for is my walk because 45 minutes is a long time for me to focus, but it's ok for a walk for me.  I also use my notifications so I can keep track of things that I need to remember but not every day (like changing my contacts every 2 weeks, which child showers "first"...side note: yes this will be a thing if you have kids IYKYK...when did I last color my eyebrows). I have notifications and calendar reminders for them all. It helps similarly to having a uniform. I know plenty of productive people talk about having a work uniform or a style uniform so they don't get decision fatigue, well alarms and notifications really help with that. "It's on my calendar so it's a decision I already made a while ago, can't change it now!" Using alarms and notifications and calendar reminders help to keep my brain less cluttered.

5. 5,4,3,2,1 BLAST OFF! Mel Robbins taught me this and I use it when I'm really really REALLY unmotivated. She wrote a book called "The 5 Second Rule" and she talks all the science behind it and personal stories and it's awesome and I loved it. But what it boils down to is this: Your brain wants you to stay safe. Anxiety is not safe. Your brain says "THIS" is not safe (and "THIS" could be anything, taking out the trash, writing a blog post, doing the dishes, paying a bill, anything!). Your brain will stop you from doing "THIS" because....reasons. Count down from 5 and then move your body (get off the couch, wave your hand, jiggle your foot, MOVE your body). This simple act of counting down (because unless your a mathematician there is nothing before 1) and moving your body uses different brain pathways than your spiraling anxiety. It breaks the cycle, even if it's JUST enough, you're now on the move to doing something. Which allows you to set a timer for 10 minutes to do some yoga, or put on a playlist and write your paper for 20 minutes.

6. Always reward yourself. I always reward myself with more reading. But sometimes its chocolate. When you do a thing (write a list, theme music, time increments) always give that reward. It helps to condition the brain that you do the thing, you get the reward. You hear the bell, you get to eat. Yes it's Pavlovian but it gets the job done. At least for me.

I do hope even one of these ideas helps you. I know they help to manage me when I need it (which lately is all the time). Have a great rest of your day!

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Tomorrow Night's Dinner

 Welcome to my blog. Enjoy.

I'm going to share the recipe for tomorrow night's dinner. I'm sharing because its delicious and easy but also because it gets better the longer it "sits." So because I have the time today, I'm making it for tomorrow.

The recipe can be increased but you should increase everything by 1. So here it is but then I'll share the how and the details.

1 sweet onion,1 green pepper, 1-2 stalks of celery, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 can dark red kidney beans, 1 13 oz polish kielbasa, 1/4 tsp of oregano

That's it.  Add all to a pot and simmer together. Well maybe just a little more directions.  

Dice the onion, pepper and celery into small pieces (smaller than a bite size but not tiny-you want people to know what they are), sauté them in a pot with some oil of choice (I typically use olive oil). You do not need to add salt or pepper. 

When they get soft and translucent add the kielbasa, cut into rings.


Cook those in the pot (did I mention this was also a one pot meal?), until they get some color on the edges. Add the can of drained, and rinsed kidney beans, and the undrained can of diced tomatoes. Add the dash of oregano.

Why the oregano you might ask? Or maybe you just don't ask. Or you don't like oregano so you think it doesn't need it. Well, I'm going to tell you it has nothing to do with flavor and everything to do with my Dominican Husband's Mama (his Abuela). He shared with me when we first got together and he was teaching me how to cook rice and beans (not Rice and Beans but rice....and then beans) to put a little oregano in the beans to help with the...digestion thing. 

Up until the Hubster, my rice and beans cooking was minute rice (store brand, not even Minute Rice) and baked beans in the can. That's it. I had never had "rice and beans" by my husband's definition, so he taught me so that he didn't have to break up with me.  We've now been married for 12 years and together for 15ish (I'm a fast learner).

So I encourage you to add Oregano to the beans, just a pinch or a 1/4 tsp or dash. A small amount for a big difference.

Once everything is in the pot, simmer for 15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally and that's it. One pot, easy ingredients and could be minimal prep if you had a soup starter. Oh, you don't know what a soup starter is, well I wrote about it yesterday. Here's the link to yesterday's post.

Serve this over rice and you are good to go! My family loves it (and even some of my husband's co-workers), and remember, it's tomorrow's dinner so it will be even better tomorrow! 

Below is the recipe:

Kielbasa with Red Beans

1 sweet onion

1 green pepper

1-2 stalks of celery

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 can dark red kidney beans

1 13 oz polish kielbasa

1/4 tsp of oregano

1. Dice onions, pepper and celery into just under bite size pieces. Saute in olive oil (or oil of choice) for 4-7 minutes until onions are translucent.

2. Add kielbasa rings to pot and saute until there is some color on the edges.

3. Add can of diced tomatoes, rinsed and drained kidney beans, and dash of oregano. Stir together and simmer for 15-20 minutes. 

4. Serve over white rice. 

This exact recipe feeds my immediate family of 4 with some leftovers. I actually triple this recipe for my full family of 7 (my husband and I live with our two daughters ages 8 and 10, his mother, our 25 year old nephew and my father who comes to dinner every night). It feeds us all with leftovers and is a big hit.

I hope you try and it. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

The Soup Starter

Welcome to my blog. Enjoy! 

A quick share today. I posted a while ago about my ABC's of Meal Planning here and in it I shared about theming certain days to help with planning and organizing. Monday's for my family are soup days. Well Monday's from the Monday after Thanksgiving to the first Monday of Spring, but it's all about soup none the less!

I have some great soup recipes, Turkey Tortilla, Bean and Bacon, Ministrone, French Onion (which to be fair, is more of a meal and less of a soup), but regardless, most of my soups always start with onions, carrots, celery. 

So I do this thing at the beginning of soup season. I think you might like it even if you're not a soup a week person.

I buy a bunch of carrots (I usually the baby carrots in a bag), a bunch of celery, and at least 4 or 5 onions. I chop everything up into bite size pieces and then I sauté them all together with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder. When the onions get nice and translucent, I let them cool and then I portion them up into cup servings and freeze them.

I do this so that on Monday's I can just take a soup starter out of the freezer and dunk it in chicken stock (or water, or vegetable stock, of whatever flavorful liquid the recipe calls for). I add the extra ingredients as needed and I've just shaved 15-20 minutes off of my dinner prep.

It's part of my bulk prep and preparing and for some reason October/November weekends always feel like prep time to me. But since today is a Tuesday, and yesterday was a soup day (I made Bacon and Bean) I thought I would share a tip with you.

Actually, two additional tips for you:

  1. Do some of the onions and celery without the carrots. Some of my soup recipes don't call for carrots (like my Turkey Tortilla). You can add the green peppers and sauté in a batch as well, or just add day of.
  2. These soup starters are also great for stews and other recipes that call for carrots, onion, celery. I'll be using one tomorrow night for my Mushroom Potpie and I might be using on on Thursday for my Kielbasa, Red Beans and Rice.

I hope it helps you!


Monday, January 10, 2022

The Christmas Time Capsule

Welcome. This is my blog. Enjoy.

This weekend we did the thing I hate. We took down Christmas.  It's about a half days worth of work and the house always feels a little duller from the lack of festive red and green and gold, but, and there is a but, it feels new.

Not brand spanking new, but new as in there are new possibilities for what I can put where.  When we put up the Christmas decorations on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I move things around. The living room furniture gets rearranged to accommodate the tree, many of the living room shelf décor gets removed to make way for old and new Christmas boops and bops, even pictures get a refresh with either wrapping paper or Christmas photo swaps (I do have an old but new for you post about that here). 

But when we take it all down, it feels like a clean slate. I don't have to put that photo back on the wall, right there, I can move that frame, I can even swap out that photo. I can move that vase and mini bird house from the living room to the office and swap out some books to put on shelves and tables in the living room. The coffee table get a refresh.  It's nice to know I can make some changes, because let's be honest, isn't that what the new year is all about?

One of our light traditions ("light" meaning I don't insist on it, but I've done it more years than I've not since moving to our home in 2013), is the Christmas Time Capsule.  It started the year after I found the note to myself about the Christmas lights.  Sit down for another story time, #sorrynotsorry.

Picture it. The house. 2015ish. The Friday after Thanksgiving. My husband and I are starting to pull Christmas down from where ever it's been stored in the garage and opening boxes and saying, "are we gonna put these out this year?" and "do these fit the theme this year?" Ok fine, it's me asking those questions but hey, I'm the big picture guy while Rob is the hands behind the operation.

We come to a box of lights and we look at it and say, "do these even work?" As Rob started to pull them from the box, a white piece of paper is found tucked in amongst them. When I open the note it states something along the lines of, "half the lights don't work but it could be salvaged if you want to put two strands together, but it would be a lot of work."  Or the other option presented that we could just replace the strand. The note also said this is possibly the second year we've debated this.  Rob and I looked at each other realizing we put this note in last year when we were taking down the lights and Christmas. 

We realized that we knew back then that we would question what we were thinking, so to combat that, I wrote a note to our future Christmas selves. Genius!

I would love to say, "and we threw those lights away and bought new ones!" or say, "and we used those lights again that year!" But frankly, I have no clue what we did with those lights or what our decision was.  I do know the note and the thoughts, inspired The Christmas Time Capsule and it was really easy to do.

When that Christmas season was over, and it was "that" time again, (you know, "that time," when we have to take down the tree and decorations), I asked each member of our family a couple of questions.  The girls were young, so it was like, what's your favorite movie, what was your favorite memory, and what do you want to do in the new year.  I wrote it on a piece of paper, stuck it in a zip lock and jammed it into the ornament box.

I've done something along those lines, roughly every year since then.  I think we didn't do 2018 and I think 2020, but almost every year, I write something.  This year, I wrote the questions but everyone wrote their own answers (except Rob, I wrote his but he gave me his answers).  I slipped the paper in a zip lock (I started saving Christmas cards as well and those live in the zip lock as well)  and put it in the box with the Christmas ornaments, to be discovered next year. Each year has a new zip lock with the year written on it.  

I love this little thing we do because I realize a lot can change in a year, and it's a set time to review.  While we are putting up the tree next year, nestled next our Polar Express ornaments and Baby's First Christmas ornaments is a zip lock filled with last year's Christmas cards and our time capsule. We can review last year's favorites, and see if we met our goals or did what we wanted to do. We can also look back on past years to see how our answers have changed.

If this is something that you want to try for next year (or this year, if Christmas is still in full swing in your house), here are some ideas of questions to get your ball rolling:

  • Name and Year-I would recomend putting the Christmas year, not the current year if it's after New Year's Day
  • Favorite Movie/Book/TV/YouTube-remember it doesn't have to have been released THIS year, it can just be favorite or all time, it's still nice to see if the answers change and how they changed
  • Favorite Memory-it's nice to see what people say and how they look back on the year, it can be from Christmas or anytime over the last year
  • Something You Learned-now both my husband and I this year were searching our brain for something momentous and abstract (think to be kinder, or not to judge others) but my oldest, who's 10, wrote she learned division with double digit numbers and let me tell you, it switched my thinking, I learned Canva this year and I was proud of that
  • Something You're Looking Forward to for Next Year-it could a trip or a TV show or movie, anything really
  • Any Goals for the New Year-I worded it like this specifically to encourage my family not to put too much pressure on themselves. Any day could be day 1 so you don't need to think the New Year is the only time to start a goal, and if you put something down, you have all year to achieve it, not just the first 15 days or so, but it's also ok to not have a goal and use this year/season of your life as  recharge/reset

Some additional questions you could include are: 

Favorite Song, Favorite Food, Favorite Trip, Something that made you Laugh the Most, Something that made you Cry, Favorite Meme, Best Advice You Received This Year, Advice for Yourself for Next Year, Best Compliment You Received This Year

There are so many great questions that you can put in your own Christmas Capsule, please feel free to share them so others can use them if they want!

Thank you and have a great day!