A Question to Help You Unplug

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When was the last time you checked your phone while talking to a loved one? That you went to bed hours later than you should because you were trying to get to inbox zero? That you didn’t do something you said you would because you spent all your time on social media? All three happened to me during the last weeks. Multiple times, if I’m honest. Despite knowing I shouldn’t, despite knowing that it will make me feel bad about myself.

But I’ve found a solution. I now ask myself: Am I really that important? And the answer is no.

Are people really contacting me so frequently that I can’t ignore my phone for half an hour? No. Even if they were: are their requests and problems more important than the person I am talking to? No.

Are the emails I receive so urgent that I need to sacrifice my sleep? Can’t they wait a day or two? Even if the sender says they need an answer ASAP, shouldn’t they be sleeping, too? No, yes, and yes.

Is everything on social media a message for me personally that I need to see and acknowledge? No.

At first, it is odd to say to oneself “I am not important.” But it is easier than saying “This text/email/post is not important.” Because usually I know that I don’t need to reply right away/tonight/ever. But that doesn’t stop me from catching up on everything that happened on Facebook in the last 24 hours when I was meant to be doing yoga. I’d also claim that yoga is more important to me than Facebook, but on some days, you’d conclude the reverse from looking at my time management. Asking “Is this important?” obviously didn’t work.

“Am I that important?” is akin to asking “Is my contribution to this absolutely crucial? Does it have to be instantaneous for the world to keep spinning?” It helps me see the ridiculousness of inbox zero – sure, I’d feel accomplished. But who emails me is not in my control. What if I get an email the second I open the last unread one? And another a second after I’ve dealt with the newest arrival? It’s a potential hamster wheel.

The key is being honest with myself. While I am very important to my family and close friends, I’m not that important to every single person who emails or texts me – think about how many emails you get from people you don’t even know. Not everyone can care deeply about what I think or do. It’s a fact of life. Thus, I can let some time pass until I hit reply.

I’m going to take some time today and over the holidays to let email be email and life be life. Meanwhile, I’m going to have coffee with friends, read books, cuddle with my boyfriend, write, and do yoga. Savoring the holiday season while connecting in the old-fashioned sense. I hope you’ll join me. Because seriously: what is the worst that can happen while we unplug? Chances are, if there’s a true emergency, we’re not going to be able to help via email. That’s what 911 is for.

Nifty November Experiments

New month, new habits. My November experiments are ambitious in the sense that they both require taking time to do something every day, and as we all know, days can get surprisingly short as the holidays approach. But I have pretty strong intrinsic (#1) and extrinsic (#2) motivations, so that’ll help. Here’s to optimism and perseverance.

Experiments_Nov15

Drumroll for experiment #1: Do yoga every day. Either following along on Youtube (I love Yoga with Adriene and Fightmaster Yoga), going to a class, or freestyling things up by myself. I actually cheated and already started this experiment – I just got so excited about it. Plus, I figured it was a good way not to feel “meh” about myself going into winter, so I decided to put that momentum to good use. During the last two weeks, I only missed one day, and I love it. I feel so much better about myself, my body feels healthier, and I think my mind is quieter, too. And for the first time in my life, I did yoga without someone telling me which poses to do, but listening to my body and doing what felt necessary and right. Major yogi win.

Drumroll for experiment #2: Study at least 15 minutes of French ever day. I’m going to study abroad in France in the spring, and while I’m taking a medical French class and doing a tandem, I want to get my brain more into it. Either I speak, follow along with my online class, study vocab and grammar, or read French. Anything to get those brain cells used to a third language. And hopefully prevent nervous breakdowns on my first day in the hospital (hence the extrinsic motivation).

Are you starting any new habits in November? Check back on Monday for a review of October’s experiments! I know you’re dying to find out how eating slowly and the Minimalism Game went…

The Grocery Game

Of course we know we’re supposed to make a grocery list and stick to it like it’s the law of the land. We also know that we’re not supposed to go shopping on an empty stomach. And yet, sometimes, even when sticking to these golden rules, our grocery cart does not match our good intentions.

Grocery GameBut there is a way out. It’s easier than self-control and way, way, way more fun. It’s a game you start playing when you fill your cart, and at the checkout line, you’ll find out whether you won. Here’s how: you compare your grocery haul to what everyone else in line got. Whoever has the healthiest stuff wins.

Sometimes, people buy very unhealthy things, like chips and coke – then victory is easy. Sometimes I buy these things (that’s how I recognize a really bad day). On those days, I admit defeat before even going inside. Another example of leaving my ambitions at the bike rack: buying the shockingly high amounts of chocolate and sugar required for my Grandma’s brownies. Usually, I throw in fruit and veggies to at least secure a bronze medal.

Since you are both judge and competitor, you’re going to have to do your utmost to be impartial. But you also make the rules: if you believe bread is unhealthy, then deduct points from all bread buyers, yourself included. If you think sugar is a curse from the devil, make that known in your (silent) ratings. Gluten? Lactose? Animal products? Frozen meals? You judge their worth.

Variations in the amount of groceries purchased can make ranking tricky: You’re in a good position if you’re only stocking up on fresh produce and comparing yourself to the person who seems to plan on hosting seven teenage boys for a week. But what if you’re only buying a head of lettuce and the person in front of you gets the complete ingredients for a vegetable stir-fry with brown rice and tofu? You cannot subsist on lettuce alone…

Your choice of grocery store will affect the likelihood of your victory. The better the organic produce selection, the harder you’re going to have to work. Winning at a lower end store may be largely due to privilege, whereas Whole Foods is akin to the Olympics.

This will change the way you shop – it was a game changer for me and my friends. If you buy whole foods, fruits, vegetables, rice, whole grain bread, cheese, etc. you are pretty much guaranteed victory. A candy bar and a bag of chips can be detrimental – so you’ll think hard about whether you’d really like to trade in your victory for a short-lived sugar high.

Which incentives do you use to shop healthier?

Self Care Priorities

What are your self care priorities? SelfcareThe things you absolutely must to feel like you have been kind to your
self on a given day? The non-negotiables of caring for body and soul? It helps to think about these, because they give you a list to tick off when you’re wondering “Did I really take care of myself today?” Then you can either relax into your accomplishment or know exactly where you need to start to make things better.

Here are mine:

Number one definitely is sleep. I’ve learnt to prioritize eight to nine hours a night during my first year of college. It is simply astonishing how much easier and more enjoyable life is when you are running on enough sleep. Everyone knows this intellectually. But try it for a few weeks, and I guarantee that you’ll be surprised. Fun things are even more fun when one is awake while doing them, and not so fun things go from “Ugh I hate this, what did I do to deserve this?” to “Oh, this is actually not so bad.” Sleep enough, and your mood, and in the long run, your health, will do a 180. To achieve it, make bedtime nonnegotiable: at least 8.5h before you have to get up, to give yourself some time to fall asleep.

Next up are two items on equal footing: eating well and exercising. If somehow I can’t do one, I use the other to pick up the slack and not feel too bad, but to feel great, I need to do both. Eating well daily, but not necessarily at every meal, exercising almost daily. And if not true exercise, at least some form of movement, like walking.

The next is my favorite: reading. This is caring for my soul. When alone, that is my favorite thing to do. If I haven’t had a lot of time to read, be it due to school, or friends visiting, or just the general hectics of life, I almost feel a physical craving to sit down with a book. Once I do, I can finally breathe again.

A close second to reading: spending time with loved ones. For obvious reasons.

Writing. Reading soothes my soul, but writing keeps it untangled.

The last and least item on this list is grooming: I’m not really into makeup (but when I do use it, I feel like a self care superhero), so it comes down to manicure (DIY, sans nail polish), pedicure (DIY, currently red), reigning in my eyebrows, and washing my hair at a socially acceptable frequency. The basics.

If I do the first three on the list, I know I don’t need to worry. If I do the first five, I know life is good. If I do them all, I’m truly proud.

What are the most important parts of your self care routine?