Soda Free April – wrap up

Other

So, I did the challenge, but failed at doing regular updates. Whoops. In any case, here’s what went down:

  • I had coke twice – once on day 5 which I posted about, and another time I accidentally ordered a coke with a takeaway. I went a few days before drinking it, and found it crazy sweet.
  • I was extremely busy during April, and ended up eating out a lot for lunch, and – well, this is probably where things went wrong. I still craved a carbonated drink, or some kind of sugary drink, so oftentimes I’d buy flavoured water and stuff. It’s not terrible, but I wasn’t exactly trying to prioritise water instead.
  • I definitely ate worse overall, mitigating any impact of the soda stuff.
  • I’ve had a few since the challenge ended but not really enjoyed it. Part of that is because I’ve had a really bad cold this week.

As you can see, it’s a little dubious whether I can say I succeeded or not. I stuck within my rules that I set out, but I’m not sure how I did within the ‘spirit’ of the challenge.

And that’s fine! It’s been pointed out to me that going cold turkey like this isn’t sustainable for habit building and honestly, I agree. I don’t expect long term change to come from these challenges.

Instead, I like doing these month long challenges to understand myself a bit better. If I’ve got into a habit and I want to change it, which parts do I find easy or hard to change? What things trigger the habit, such as going out to lunch? What helps me stop?

Doing this for a month, you start to notice what excuses you’re likely to make, what mental gymnastics you do to get something. I clearly did a lot of them this month because what I really wanted was the carbonation – so I can think of ways around that. In short, it brings a particular area of my life into focus and I can troubleshoot habit building around those compulsions and/or addictions.

In any case, I just think it’s fun to change stuff up sometimes 🙂

I don’t have any challenge plans for May so next one will probably be June
!

Why 2019 Will Be Awful: Cleaning Rituals

Levelling Up and Productivity, Values based living

Every New Year’s Eve, for as long as I can remember, I have cleaned my room from top to bottom, cleared out documents and thrown away items I don’t want anymore. It’s a larger version of a mini ritual I do every weekend — ‘a weekly review’ you might call it, if you’re into productivity communities. When I feel stressed at work I clean up my desk as well, or delete all my emails. A cluttered mail inbox makes my skin crawl.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s great to clean and minimise. Looking after your belongings and taking care of your surroundings can certainly boost your mood. A weekly review is also a useful tool to get a picture of your week and learn from your mistakes. But in my hands it’s also been a compulsive tool.

Lucky

Anxiety, OCD and Other Brain Farts, Values based living

I am one of the lucky ones.

That’s funny to say, now. I wouldn’t have considered myself lucky a few years ago, when I thought I’d never be free of anxiety. I never thought there would be a day when I wasn’t plagued by thoughts of harming myself or just ending it all, or when I’d go to bed without having to call someone so the anxiety would finally dissipate enough for me to sleep.

A Takeaway Free Month

Levelling Up and Productivity, Self Care, Values based living

During the month of November, I decided (alongside a friend, who did her own monthly challenge) to go without takeaway (or fastfood in general), for the whole month.

The ‘rules’ were fairly simple:

  1. Where possible, cook every meal. This meant that all lunches would have to be something I made or prepared the night before. I wouldn’t, for example, buy a sandwich from a shop as a meal.
  2. If I’d made plans in October to have lunch or dinner with someone, I kept the plans. But I didn’t make any new plans to eat out. So I went out for dinner twice: once with my parents and once with a group of friends. For all other plans  I had to work around it somehow (usually just getting a drink, if anything), rather than just turning up somewhere and hoping I could eat there. If someone invited me out spontaneously I’d usually just get a drink but not eat with them.
  3. For simplicity’s sake, I decided to forego convenience food like oven pizzas etc, for the most part. I only bought one throughout the month, although I did have quite a few portions of oven chips…

Honestly, I thought I’d bail within the first day or two, so I was pretty surprised that I lasted the whole month. Yay 😉

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Not sponsored by Papa John’s. Sadly 😦

Still, what surprised me most was how this challenge gave me something worthwhile that I hadn’t expected: an odd sense of clarity on what my brain was doing with regards to food. I’ve always just followed my anxieties about food wherever they led me, but here I practised being able to accept those thoughts, while I did something completely different.

Here’s some of the mental health skills I got to practise this month:

Going Warm Turkey on Phones (Weeks 4-5)

Phone Addiction, Rat Brain, Self Care

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As expected, the battle with my phone (and internet) addiction is proving to be challenging, but in ways I haven’t anticipated.

I’ve had reasonable success eliminating the smaller, less anxiety inducing times I use my phone, such as not using it while walking or on the loo or something (I know, I know).  I use my phone considerably less at work, now, and hardly check it at all before work. However, I’ve got some time off work at the moment and it’s been difficult keeping that momentum going without the usual routine.

This has highlighted something that seems obvious, but I’m finding myself tripping over again and again — when you’re tired, hungry, hormonal or generally emotional compromised, it’s going to be easy to fall into compulsions. It is phenomenally easy to avoid doing compulsions when you feel tiptop, but if your go-to approach for uncomfortable feelings is still avoidance… You’re always going to reach for the thing that helps you avoid it.

I am exhausted right now. This is the first sliver of time I’ve had off from work since I started here, and I was beginning to get burned out. However, I need to remember that self care doesn’t mean lying like a slug in my bed all day until my muscles ache, it means not avoiding my feelings. It’s easy to tell myself that I will feel more tired, more burned out if I allow myself to feel everything, but I actually feel worse when I reach for all my addictions.

So yes, I am exhausted, but I need to take care of my little rat brain right now.

P.S. I’m almost halfway through my No Takeaway/Fast Food challenge this month. This along with tracking my phone usage has  been illuminating to say the least, about the arguments my brain makes up to justify compulsions, and what is necessary to stay on track with my values. I was just going to post week to week like with the phone stuff but I’m going to do a monthly roundup of what I learned, instead 🙂

Surprisingly it’s gone far better than this phone challenge, and taught me numerous things about compulsions and sticking to values so… Maybe cold turkey isn’t so bad!