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 wear a Fitbit to track my sleep and heart rate. I pay a little attention to steps and exercise, but gone is my compulsive goal-meeting to satisfy the little vibrating band on my arm. I was thinking about giving it up for a bit in an effort to listen to my body rather than a wearable tech device, and I still might, but I just learned about Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and how it can serve as an indicator of symptoms for people who experience PTSD. Per the people at Harvard:
HRV is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by a primitive part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It works regardless of our desire and regulates, among other things, our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion. The ANS is subdivided into two large components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response… HRV is an interesting and noninvasive way to identify these ANS imbalances. If a person’s system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high. In other words, the healthier the ANS the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility. Over the past few decades, research has shown a relationship between low HRV and worsening depression or anxiety. A low HRV is even associated with an increased risk of death and cardiovascular disease. Read the full article here
This feels like such good news to me. It doesn’t change the importance of listening to my body, it gives me another way to listen! After a lot of research last night and this morning I ordered a heart rate monitor that can read HRV so that I can try this out. Not only can this help me understand what I’m experiencing, I can take action on that information. There are a variety of ways to improve HRV, even in the short term, for people who experience PTSD, including yoga, meditation, marathon running (not likely for me, but glad to know it’s an option!), focused breathing and other techniques that engaged the parasympathetic nervous system.
I’ve been listening to The Body Keeps The Score, and as technical as it sometimes is and as difficult as it can be to listen to, the information on managing PTSD symptoms has been really helpful to me, and I’m looking forward to trying out HRV monitoring for myself.
The trauma freefall does seem to have finally come to an end. I don’t have the feeling that I’m still crashing through layers, and taking it easy for a few days seems to have helped get me upright. Yesterday wasn’t easy, it was a packed workday with a lot of forward motion (which was gratifying), and on stressful days I have a lot of anxiety when I go to bed, I’ve noticed. However, things are starting to feel a bit less impossible, and I am now aware of the need to take small steps toward a goal in order for my brain to begin to understand that I am capable of doing it.
My brain tells me I am not capable of SO MANY THINGS.
No matter how many Body Boss sponsored posts I see on social media, my brain tells me that I cannot be that fit. I don’t mean the abs and size 00 shorts, I mean just being able to complete the exercises. So rather than taking steps to be able to do all of that (which I know I can because I was in great shape 5 years ago and have no medical reason to prevent me from working back up to that level), my brain just says I can’t and that’s it.
I thought that meant that I either needed to hire a trainer and push myself through a sudden and intense workout regimen. Nope. Start meditating daily. Do yoga a few times a week. Go for walks.
Because even though those are not things that will get me to my fitness goals, those are the things that will get me to my fitness goals. Those very things. Because those are things I can do, and am not doing now, and making the little changes to start to do them and staying with the discomfort of doing them will teach my brain that yes, I am capable.
I’ve been battling a city staff member on a project for a client for the last two days. I have yards of emails detailing out this person’s approach to the project, which has been to attempt to require changes and additions to an application in the hope that they will cause us to miss a deadline and be delayed. There is no good reason for it, the decision will be made by two separate bodies who must both agree for us to achieve our request. Which is within the parameters of what is allowed but by policy needs specific approval and two public hearings. And that’s fine, because that’s good policy. Demanding arbitrary language changes, changes of intent and attempted intimidation are not, and I have half a mind to read this person’s entire chain of emails aloud to city council.
A young man I babysat almost two decades ago and who was in a car wreck a few months after mine – and who was not as fortunate, is losing his battle with neurological damage and is in a coma following a cardiac arrest. He is not expected to live much longer, and his family is saying goodbye. I’m heartbroken. I’m still close to the family. I got the news in the middle of some of the most ridiculous of the city staff requests, which suddenly lost all importance by comparison.
But life goes on. My client’s goals and interests still go on. I go on. But I really needed to be reminded to breathe.
I have taken my sweet time to read it, but I’m back to working through The Mindfulness Toolbox: 50 Practical Tips, Tools and Handouts for Anxiety, Depression & Pain.
This section struck me, because it speaks directly to the blurb I wrote about my blog about being a person that likes to get from point A to point B:
An outcome orientation is focused on the future, which often produces worry or anxiety about achieving a desired outcome. In a very real way, it saps the enjoyment and curiosity out of the experience itself.
Learning how to change focus from outcome to present-moment process can be a powerful experience. Most importantly, it reduces anxiety that comes from focusing on expectations and outcome-oriented thinking.
Here are a few examples of outcome orientation:
- Learning for the sake of getting that “A” on a test or report card
- Finishing a work task on time
- Focusing solely on a sports training goal or time
- Getting that promotion at work
- Receiving the highest review from a supervisor
- Making sure the house is always spotless
- Comparing one’s progress against that of others
By shifting awareness to the most minute and tiniest details of one’s experience, the process orientation comes into the foreground. This practice also trains the brain to stay in the moment.
I knew I needed to make an orientation adjustment, and now I know why.
Grandma is being crazy (loose term, yes I know, but I don’t want to get into it), and I am actually counting the hours until I get to leave. I’m like the custodial parent here: I get all of the bad behavior while everyone else gets to see her perform for company. There is no rational thought happening in her head, and it is really frustrating to me because I cannot solve any problems here. She won’t let me solve her imaginary problems, and she frequently doesn’t tell the truth, so…I’m counting the hours.
One of my coping ideas is to figure out something to treat myself with when I get out of here in a couple of days. I haven’t settled on anything yet, but it’s as varied as a nice dinner out to getting my car detailed. I’m going to be working the next two weeks straight with a lot of travel, and there won’t be much room after Thursday for something for myself, so I have about a day and a half free before I hit the road.
I want to spoil myself a bit, then it’s back to work, back to working on my health and back to recovery. But I haven’t settled on something yet, so feel free to weigh in!
My brother gave me Jabra Elite ear buds for Christmas to replace the ear buds that came with my phone. I had ruined them by getting caught in a couple of thunderstorms last summer, and he went above and beyond on the gift. They’re great.
They pair with an app, which I finally downloaded today. As I look at ways to mindfully improve my health, I’m going to have to put in some cardio. I haven’t done that since my car wreck. It was just too much for my brain to handle high intensity exercise.
Now, however, I’m at a point in recovery that I can start pushing myself to make some physical health gains, and I’m doing it with some limitations on what and where I can do it since I’m caring for my Grandma 4-5 days a week.
Do what you can, where you can though! So I downloaded the app, and it told me to run for 15 minutes to check my VO2. Haha, I don’t run, and I’m certainly not able to run for 15 minutes! What a joke! Do only people who are already fit own these? I don’t get a runner’s high, and I hate running.
I did it though. I stayed focused on my breathing, made reasonable goals along the way, went back to my breathing to try to keep a rhythm, and toward the end checked the time a few times.
My health level is poor.
No kidding. That’s why I’m doing this.