I was spinning my wheels at work yesterday, mentally working on several projects and ideas but not making any tangible progress. A lot of my work is with data, and I collect data on myself too – I carefully track hours I work and wear a Fitbit and monitor my HRV. Sometimes to my detriment.
I can get caught up in accounting for time and effort and work and forget that the reason I work for myself is so that I can better see to my own needs, which have nothing to do with data management and measurement. I work for myself so that I can have space to work out what a healthy lifestyle looks like for me – because the companies I’ve worked for previously could not have cared less, and I’ve paid for it.
I bailed out of work and went for a hike.
As much as that might be peaceful and relaxing for others, it isn’t as much for me. Exercise doesn’t have a calming effect on my nervous system, as much as I do like to be outside. I developed mild vertigo several months ago, and looking down while stepping around rocks and roots on downward slopes can be challenging. Sometimes I have an elevated fear response, sometimes the ground appears to shift beneath me, and I have to move slowly and cautiously. Late afternoon shadows can be somewhat disorienting now. But I went, and I enjoyed it, and I have some of the creative energy and forward motion I was hoping for.
My hopes that I would bounce back after last weekend are not fulfilled, and it looks like it’s going to be another long climb out of the PTSD hole. My HRV is in a good range so my body and my mind don’t seem to be synced up. It’s hell, and I’m back to wanting to quit and start over somewhere else.
The only thing I know to do is keep pushing through.
Whatever gear I’m in, it’s totally mismatched with my engine. There’s an auto-centric analogy for you.
After drowning in angsty anxiety for most of the day yesterday I finally got off my butt and did some work, part of it a request from a non-profit I do pro-bono work for. I knew how to fulfill their request, I just didn’t know if I could, or how long it would take, so I went through the steps of learning how to get the information they needed, attempted it, found an issue with my software license that prevented me from moving forward, put in a request to tech support and updated the requester. I worked long enough to make up for the not working I did all afternoon, then went to bed. Done.
I was hoping to be in a better place mentally, but I’m not, so I have a choice: just keep pounding away at my to-do list and hope that something breaks loose, or do a lot of meditating and yoga and thoughtful walks. I would so much rather pound away at my to-do list, because it somehow seems easier. So I am pretty sure that means the answer is meditation and yoga.
Last week I had a new goal to improve by 1% every day. Not in an actually measurable way, but to make small, incremental steps toward bigger goals. I had two things that I wanted to do every day last week, and this week would have two more things that were a step up of last weeks things.
I made it 3 days.
Then I got sucked into a whirlwind of anxiety and PTSD symptoms, and totally forgot I was even doing this.
I’m not even the least bit disappointed or discouraged about it, I’m simply going to try again. So this week is 10 kettlebell lifts every day and one little bit of design work every day.
I am dealing with multiple weekend-long situation triggers, and it has been tough. I can do nothing about it, and have a lot of chores, errands and THINGS to get done, so I am busy and a little frustrated on top of experiencing severe anxiety.
I used to wish time away, and consciously stopped doing that, but it is really tempting to wish this weekend done already.
I started tracking my HRV a few weeks ago, and it’s turned out to be a helpful tool. There isn’t really a target range that I could justifiably set for myself (especially since I’m not a medical professional), but I learned that the app I’m using has an average user number of 59 or so, and I was pretty sure that the research I’d listened to indicated mine would be lower.
For the first few weeks I was in the high 30s and low 40s most of the time. The app I use has a Morning Readiness reading that I do when I wake up, and it measures my HRV right after I finish sleep and there hasn’t been external stressors yet. I adopted and attitude of observing and learning, and watched my initial numbers steadily drop, and the readout pretty consistently tell me that I might need less stress, might need to do breathing exercises or otherwise manage my body’s sympathetic response. I noticed how I was feeling, noticed what the number was each day, and paid attention to whether I thought the two matched. Turns out, they often do.
This week my numbers have been in the 50s, which freaked out my app at first because that is suddenly much higher than normal. The readout cautioned me that I might be recovering and to maybe take it easy. I was! I’ve gotten consistently higher numbers this week, and have the energy and feel-good to match.
I don’t think tracking HRV is necessary, but I do think that having a way to check in with myself at a level that is available to me through technology is helpful, especially as I practice observing how I feel and responding by giving my body what it needs.
I have a constant urge to be better, whatever that means. I don’t have a clear idea of what “better” looks like, I just know that for a long time I haven’t been satisfied with where I am, and I want things to be different. I know that to great extent I can effect change within myself, and I can accept that I can do (functionally) nothing about anyone else, and that has put me in a place over the last few months that has gotten me really curious – about myself, my abilities, where I am with PTSD and where I want to be instead, what it looks like to love myself and care for myself and make myself a priority and what I can and cannot tolerate in my own behavior and that of others.
I don’t have that many “good” days, days that I feel energetic and interested in life and happy and motivated to leave the house. I push through most days, trying to not drop back down the hole while I try to do the things that research and a lot of smart, caring people think might have the best chance of getting me where I want to go. I’m starting to oscillate a bit, I think – I’m having noticeably more stints of positive and motivated than I’ve had in a few years. I’m definitely more awake and aware, and am staying less in the dark hole and am peeking out at the world more. I’m thinking more about doing things that I enjoy and have taken a few small steps that I don’t seem to have backtracked. I’m seeing some ripple effects from my changes and it’s cool. I like to think that building better energy around myself has the potential to positively radiate out, and I’ve lived with negativity for so long that it’s a nice change.
But, I still have the question of what better looks like and what I need to do to get there.