Yeah, so, it’s been a while..

..but we’ll just go ahead and jump right in to something I’ve been thinking about long and hard this weekend:

I need to slow it down.

My work stress (and to a certain degree personal stress, but slightly less-so) is high right now. Like, so high my blood pressure is over 90-something over 60-something for the first time in a really long time. So high that panic attacks are becoming a fairly regular thing. So high that I find myself stress bingeing while simultaneously hyper-focused on “starting a diet” and calorie counting. Nutshell? I’m desperate for control. I can’t control work, I can’t control these few personal stressors, but I can control my body, right?!

Negative, Ghost Rider.

I can’t control my body any more than I can control whether or not Donald Trump takes to Twitter with yet another imbecile and childish rant.

One of the things that I’ve found solace in this year has been hiking. I’ve been hiking almost every weekend despite heat, cold, rain or shine. Lately 7-10 miles at a time has become normal.

Yesterday I hiked around 8 miles on a group hike. Half was blazed trail, half was undefined trail – essentially, just cutting through the woods in a general direction. I came home pretty exhausted, but didn’t think much of it since I hadn’t slept as much as I should have the night before and had just started my period. Fatigue didn’t seem surprising. I passed out on the couch for about an hour… and woke up sick. Hacking a lung, running low fever, achy, grumpy.

What’s somewhat ironic about this is that throughout this entire hike I was thinking to myself, “I need to chill out with these long hikes. They eat up 5-6 hours of my Saturday and/or Sunday every week between driving to and from the trail-head and then the hike itself, not only taking time away from the kids, but wiping me out to the point where grocery shopping doesn’t get done and Mike is left to do almost all the weekend chores. Plus the additional physical stress on top of the emotional and mental stress while not being able to compensate with extra rest and relaxation – this is an injury or sickness waiting to happen. Not cool, Jess.”

I’m crazy lucky to have a super supportive husband who doesn’t bat an eye at my wanting to spend this large chunks of time trudging through the woods every weekend in pursuit of mental and physical health. But what I started ruminating on was, is it really “healthy” if I’m putting myself in a position to be unable to spend quality time with my family and friends outside of the hiking? Not really. And it’s certainly not healthy when doing these long hikes is just adding stress to my existing stress. My body doesn’t know the difference between physical and emotional stressors. It’s all stress to the body and the immune system. As someone who works full-time, the weekends are my only time to really chill out; to sleep a little extra, to spend bulk time reading or writing, to see friends, to get some extra things done around the house to avoid feeling overwhelmed during the work week… but I haven’t really been doing any of those things. And I’ve almost completely stopped socializing on weekends because, after spending the whole day on the trail, I just want to sit around and do nothing and spend time with my husband who’s been left alone with our kids all day long.

TL;DR: It’s time to find my Minimum Effective Dose when it comes to weekend exercise.

I strength train 3 times each week, I try to walk 3-5 miles every day, and then try to get at least one hike in each weekend. If that hike is 8 or 10 miles, that’s a LOT. A lot a lot. And it’s become too much. It’s time to reel it in and limit the miles and hours I’m putting into these hikes. Maybe give myself 3 hours total for commuting and then the actual hiking. See how I feel with this. Say I get 5 miles in, but I still feel too wiped out to do anything else for the rest of the day – then maybe 5 miles is too much for now. I want to hike and feel energized when I’m done, not completely depleted.

Being in the midst of a special project at work along with my normal “busy season” workload, I won’t be able to get my daily walks in and I may not even be able to hit all my strength training sessions over the next 2-3 weeks – but that doesn’t mean I need “make it up” on the weekend with long, exhausting hikes. It means I need to focus on getting lots of sleep, eating nutritious meals, and managing my stress with downtime. When things calm down a bit, I can return to my normal routine. And that’s some thing I can and do look forward to.


Well F*ck

So, I know you guys probably didn’t realize this, but it’s December. Actually, it’s late enough in December that you could basically just say it’s almost January.

Here in Virginia we’ve had a very mild winter …until the last couple weeks. As those of you who are semi-regular followers know, my main mode of exercise has been walking and hiking with the occasional short run here and there. Well, there’s not been much walking happening for about two weeks now. I’m lucky if I can hit 10,000 steps each day and, boy, do I feel the affect it’s having on my mood and generally well-being.

Yes, there are other options. Let’s talk a little bit about some of those other options for a moment… I’ve been writing “start strength training” as one of my goals on my little weekly planner calendar thingie every. single. week. for about 3 months now. I haven’t done any strength training other than a squat occasionally (usually to pick something up off the floor.) Maybe some ab thingies. Maybe a yoga here and there. I’m not into it right now even though in the back of my head I’m super into the awesome things it does to and for my body – and because of that I keep flirting with beating myself up until I force myself to start lifting heavy things again. This is problematic for several reasons, but mainly: by doing this I’m definitely not honoring my promise to myself last month to be okay with feeling kind of “blah” during the deep winter we’re coming into and practicing self-care surrounding that.

On top of the general blahs, I’ve been insanely busy with my day job on top of the usual craziness going on during the holidays. This has lead to some pretty intense mental and emotional burnout. There have been several days that I’m going 100mph all day long and then get ready for bed and, in that moment of quiet, realize I’m completely overwhelmed and am not taking care of myself emotionally which then leads to anywhere from 30 minutes to 2 hours of everything from silent weeping to full-on hysterical bawling. That’s certainly not a great mental state to be in.

Thankfully, I know that this pace at work will start to slow as we start January and I’ll have a little more time to breathe. Until then I just have to do the best I can with what I have – and for a few more weeks, that’s going to be very little. So, even though exercise is definitely great for managing stress and boosting all those happy chemicals in your brain, getting all stressed trying to squeeze it in when I’m already mentally overloaded is not going to be beneficial. And, I’m sorry, but there’s just not going to be any 3-5 miles of walking happening when the high temps are only hitting the mid-20s. That’s just miserable. Maybe the weather will warm back up to the 40s and  50s, though, and I can get some fresh and air and sunshine now and again. Once I’m through my busy season at work and through the Christmas holiday, I’ll think about investing some time into my mother-in-law’s treadmill and take advantage of some of the awesome YouTube channels out there like Yoga With Adriene and FitnessBlender.

Meanwhile, my #1 priority is to renew that promise to myself and focus on self-care. Winter solstice is nearly upon us, and that means the daylight hours will start stretching longer. I know by the end of February I’ll begin to feel much more myself. Until then, I just have to be kind and gentle to myself; no more flirting with self-hate or shame to motivate physical activities I’m just not interested in doing right now.


I have spent the last couple days indulging the hell out of my depression and today has probably been the worst of all. I’m reaching the point where a piece of me is enjoying the familiarity of sadness and ennui and actively battling against taking the proper steps to work through and out of this growing pit.

Coming down with that tiniest bit of a cold last week combined with the rainy weather this week has me completely off my daily walks even though I have access to a treadmill and a YouTube playlist full of yoga, cardio, and strength training videos. Sleep has also either eluded me (insomnia) or I’ve neglected to make it a priority (fear-of-insomnia) all week this week.

I keep justifying these poor self-care choices by telling myself, “At least you’re not smoking!”

Well, yes, at least there’s that.

…oh, yes, by the way… I quit smoking. 27 days ago, in fact. It’s going really well! I’m really fucking proud of myself! I’m all buying into the process of it… the mantras… the implementation intentions… all of it. It’s hard and I still have cravings here and there… mostly when I’m feeling like this or drinking heavily or both… but, overall, I’m really happy with my decision to quit.

Okay, okay, great. So, that’s really super. But continuing to honor my commitment to myself to quit smoking does not justify being crappy to myself otherwise.

My plan is to go for a long walk despite the rain later today and maybe, like, go to bed at a decent hour even though it is a Friday night and Friday nights are generally reserved for alcohol and staying up too late… but… yeah… also, like, maybe get up in the morning and maybe walk some more or hike a trail or some such physical activity type thing. Despite the rain. Despite. The. Rain. 

Writing this out has really helped. I’m feeling a little less sorry for myself. Thank you, Reader, for indulging my down-ness so that I might process and move past it.

Daily Prompt: Pretend

Funny that today’s Daily Prompt subject is “Pretend,” since I was just thinking about the half-truths we tell ourselves when it comes to our health.

Stay with me here…

I came down with a cold last week, probably around Tuesday-ish? No big deal, just a little stuffy, throat a little scratchy, a little sneezy, and a little fatigued. I was diligent about my bedtime all week, remembered my vitamins everyday, steered away from junky food for the most part, etc. I took Friday afternoon off work to catch some zzz’s and try to avoid full-blown sickness, which, for the most part, was successful.

Friday I wasn’t as active as I normally am. I pretended this was okay; I wasn’t feeling well, rest is important, etc. Saturday followed suit. I felt pretty down and emotional most of Saturday. It was a day full of Fat & Ugly Attacks. The fact that I had a wedding to attend that afternoon and not a single dress that fit that would be appropriate for the occasion just exacerbated the situation. I was almost in tears by the time I threw something together at the last minute (after hours of shopping for a new dress or outfit and coming away unsuccessful) – but I sucked it up because, really, who’s looking at what the guests are wearing at a wedding? The focus is on the bride. I had a wonderful time and didn’t stress too much about not being 100% comfortable in my outfit of choice. After three glasses of wine I really didn’t care! Funny how that works, huh?

Fast forward to Sunday morning… I wake up feeling well-rested, but otherwise like garbage both physically and emotionally. I’d developed a cough and my congestion was worse. And, boy, did I feel real sorry for myself. I did a little cleaning, ran to the grocery – all in a fog of random sadness. I slept the entire afternoon and when I woke up that familiar, negative voice began its diatribe in the back of my mind; “Way to waste the whole day, lazy.” “This is why you’ve gotten so fat and are just getting fatter – you’re lazy and have no self-control.” “You think that apple fritter you ate this morning is going to help with your weight loss? You think it’ll help you recover from this head cold? Way to go, stupid.” And so on, and so on, and so forth… By 6pm I was beginning to give myself over to it all, beginning to indulge those nihilistic thoughts of how meaningless it all is and why even bother with taking care of myself, with life in general.

And, finally, after 6 years of never managing to remember until it’s too late how directly connected my depression is to lack of physical activity, it has sunk in. Even though I have this head cold and was feeling pretty crappy, I went and put on my running shoes and some sweats and headed out for a walk. I walked 2 miles and I came home feeling like a completely different person. Not just that, but my cold symptoms weren’t bothering me quite as much anymore.

Yes, rest is important when you’re sick and if I were running a fever or experiencing any type of body aches/flu-like symptoms, etc., I likely would not have made myself go take a walk or any other type of exercise. I really had to think about whether or not I was making this decision is the name of punishment (for the apple fritter, for the depression, for my body fat percentage), or if I was honestly trying to help myself. And, it turns out, Little Miss Negative hadn’t totally taken over my brain and I was making a good decision and was genuinely trying to help myself to feel better – and, better yet, it worked!

via Daily Prompt: Pretend


A few days ago I had a Fat-And-Ugly Attack, which means a moment (or an hour, an afternoon, or a couple days, or even sometimes a couple weeks) where I am really unhappy with my weight/body shape/hair cut or color/acne/insert-random-looks-related-insecurity here. Now, over the last 6 months I’ve really bought into all that cognitive behavioral therapy I’ve been paying to receive for going-on three years, and started preempting and battling these “attacks” with positive affirmations out the wazoo – but it really wasn’t until this last week that I realized how well they actually work and how much easier it is for me to push through those feelings of insecurity and bring my mood back up. I realized, holy moly, I actually am super comfortable in my skin these days. I might actually like myself. I am finally, finally!!, working on weight loss from a place of love and health instead of hate and punishment. I move my body on a daily basis in ways I thoroughly enjoy and because it makes my brain feel good; I watch my portions and casually track calories because my body feels better when I’m not overeating or overindulging in sweets and other high-fat foods. As a result of these things I am slowly losing some pounds. But I realized, even if I don’t lose a bunch of weight, that’s okay. I’m still really happy being me and I like the way I look a majority of the time – and, really, am finding so much more worth in spending time with friends and family discussing thoughts and ideas instead of focusing on what my body looks like all the time. I think that’s really about the best thing a person could ask for after years of struggling with nasty self-hate spirals.

On another positive note: I upped my Vitamin D intake a couple weeks ago and it seems to be really helping me manage my SAD. Between that and my commitment to 2-3 short outdoor walks during the day on work days, I’m very hopeful that this fall and winter will be a bit more manageable than the last few years. This, coupled with my positive affirmations, should be a big help in keeping up with my diet and exercise through the colder, darker months. November through late-February/early-March has always been a huge roadblock for me when it comes to successful weight loss. During these months I’m tired, I’m angry, I’m depressed. I want to hide under blankets and drink a lot of alcohol and feel sorry for myself which almost always leads me to minor binge episodes, a complete lack of motivation to exercise, and, consequently, weight gain – or, at the very least, plateau. That gain or stall then further fuels my feelings of hopelessness (just one more thing to add to my list of failures!) and so the cycle continues. But this year, I have implementation intentions… just a fancy way of saying I have a plan to avoid failure. I’ve already spoken to my mother-in-law about using her treadmill in the afternoons and/or evenings when the weather is either too cold or rainy/snowy to walk or run outdoors, I’ve begun implementing a strength training routine that I’m enjoying and look forward to doing a couple times during each week, and I have a YouTube playlist filled with various yoga, dance fitness, and low-impact cardio videos to fill in the blanks around outdoor cardio and strength training. Earlier this year I purchased a goal planner and am dedicated to using it to track my workouts, mood, and sleep and it’s been a big help in keeping me focused on my end goals. And speaking of sleep… I believe this will be my secret weapon in battling my fall/winter depression. I’ve been really dedicated to hitting my sleep goals as many nights each week as possible and I’ve become really conscious of how not getting enough sleep effects my emotional well-being. I’ve even had times I’ve been able to curb random sadness or irritability just by recognizing I didn’t sleep enough and promising myself an earlier bedtime or even a short nap when possible.

A lot of what I’m doing right now is basic self-care, but feels like a huge step for me. There have been many times over the last couple of years where I’ve felt like it would be absolutely impossible for me to ever get to this place. This is not to say I don’t still have days where I struggle (see above Fat-And-Ugly Attack) and where I’m just not great at using the tools available to me, days where I sort of wallow in the self-pity – but those days are becoming fewer and provide great perspective in helping me recognize the good days and appreciating them even more.

This update is a little drawn out and self-congratulatory, but, f*ck it, I deserve it!


Time for what’s becoming a monthly check-in it seems!

So, I’ve been thinking about my lack of consistency with this blog and I think part of the reason I’ve been so slow with the upkeep is that I’ve all of a sudden become really self-conscious of what I write here – of what people might think or how I might be judged. I don’t know why. I don’t know where it’s coming from. But that’s why there’s been so much radio silence. I’m sorry, Readers. Now that I recognize what’s causing my disconnect from regular writing in this space, I can hopefully feel the feelings, work through them, and move on.

In the meantime, a little update:

August has been, frankly, kind of miserable. My 4-year-old was sick with pneumonia for 11 days, I had to cut short a long weekend trip that I was so looking forward to, my 10-year-old has had the worst attitude about everything (hormones maybe?), I began training for a new position at work (I fear change! So much!), I experienced some heated confrontations within my social circle that brought some things to a head, and once I moved through all that our vacation week was upon us and became more of a Hell Week than Vacation. I had a solid two weeks of feeling pretty depressed, but I think I’m coming out of that now – thank goodness – and on top of all that, all exercise with the exception of walking has fallen completely to the wayside. However, on a much more positive note: I’ve reconnected with some old acquaintances and am building new friendships with those folks as well as making some brand new friends! I’m also focusing more on doing things that I actually enjoy with the people I most enjoy spending time with instead of doing things out of a feeling of guilt or obligation (or fear of conflict); I’m really enjoying my training for my new position at work and am super stoked to begin with my own tasks next week, I’ve kept up with my regular walks, I’ve lost 6lbs. by tracking calories and being reasonable with food choices (and hitting my 10,000 steps goal most days!), I’m motivated and planning to get back into a regular exercise/lifting routine, and really happy with my self-care priorities despite my short depressive episode. Oh! And I’m trying to stay positive about the approaching fall; planning some fun trips and activities to look forward to, etc.

So there we have it. Hopefully I’ll be checking back in soon!