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It Keeps You Runnin’.

Brrrr.  It is cold.  Like, freezing-your-butt-off cold.  Which is pretty normal for Winter, I suppose, but it seems extra chilly at the moment.  We’ve had some wild, stormy weather with thunderstorms and heavy rains, hail and flooding, and people have lost their fences and roofs.  I had a few pot plants go for a tumble, but that’s about it.

In a continuing attempt to be healthy and lose weight, I have been walking and / or running, regardless of the weather.  In some ways, exercising in crummy weather is better for me, for several reasons :

  1.  Less people around to witness my lack of coordination and grace.
  2.  If you’re drenched with rain, no one can tell if you’re sweating.
  3.  People think you’re very dedicated and diligent.
  4.  You can wear big baggy raincoats and wet weather gear and
    hide your flabby bits.
  5.  Ditto wearing hoodies and other head-covering ensembles.  Bad hair be damned!
  6.  When you finally get back home to the warm and dry, it seems SO MUCH  warmer and drier by default.
  7. You can be a bit smug about how disciplined you are (see # 3.)

I must admit it has been VERY hard to get motivated (although the size of my thighs should be motivation enough) and some days I would rather go straight home, put my PJs on, and stay warm with a cup of tea and Vincent D’Onofrio (via a Criminal Intent DVD).  This week it has been difficult to organise walking times because I’ve worked overtime and had car issues.  And I’ve been lazy.  But I try and go at least a few times a week, even if I just pop out at lunchtime for a quick trek around the block.  It’s better than nothing.  This is what I tell myself anyway.

There have been days when it has been raining so hard I have come home COMPLETELY drenched, and my sneakers are making that gross squelchy-squeaky noise that sounds like you’re walking on dead frogs.  I’ve got raindrops in my ears, crazy hair, and small puddles in my pockets, but that’s ok.  I’m still glad I have made the effort and have one less reason to feel bad about myself.  It’s so easy to fall back into house-slug habits and just go straight home, after a day at work sitting on my bum in front of a computer, with no exercise or fresh air.  But I’m trying to do better and get out there.

So, I shall continue to waddle around, rain or shine, with little guilt-ridden breaks in the middle where I “forget” to do any exercise at all.   I will stop to take photos and watch dogs play.  I will run when there’s no one else around, and walk when there is.  I will try not to spoil it all by coming home and eating a cookie.  But, even if I do, I will forgive myself and start over the next day.  That’s the biggest hurdle for me.

x

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Breathe, Dammit!

My body has been playing some nasty tricks on me lately. By lately, I mean all of my life. But, especially lately, it seems to be really amping up the symptoms, making me imagine all sorts of diseases and physical abnormalities. I hurt my back a few weeks ago – a combination of couging, over-extending and just being a bit careless. It really scared me – the pain was horrible and I could barely stand up straight. My doctor told me it was just an acute issue and would resolve itself with rest and all the usual remedies – heat packs, anti-inflammatory gel (I can’t take the tablets) and the use of my beloved TENS machine (seriously – do you have one? They are THE BEST!). The pain did go away and I gingerly went back to my normal day-to-day routine. Until I bent over a bit weirdly and hurt it again. The pain went away much quicker this time and I thought it was all going to be ok. Until, this week, the pins and needles started in my legs and feet. Immediate meltdown from me, imagining everything from Parkinson’s disease to strokes and irreversible nerve damage. I am nothing if not a drama queen.

So, faced with these horrible imaginings, I took my doctor’s advice and went to a physio she had recommended. This morning, anxiety levels high and ability-to-cope-with-bad-news levels low, I spent an hour with said physio. She was awesome. Very thorough and kind, she talked about everything that my body is going through and how much of it is probably related to my overall anxiety and stress, combined with my really ridiculously tight muscles (brought on by stress and anxiety…you get the idea). She didn’t do the whole “it’s all in your head and you just need to relax” speech – she was very sympathetic and explained things. Because I have a history of nerve damage and neurological issues (from my meningitis), this also sets the body up to be hyper-responsive to stress and any physical sensation, especially if that sensation mirrors anything my body went through when I was really ill.

She was happy with my back and spine in general – didn’t find anything there to be concerned about (I was worrying about bulging discs) and my overall movement and range was ok. But I need to fix my breathing. This has always been an issue with me – I am a shallow breather, barely moving at all when I take a breath. The physio said she couldn’t even tell if I was actually breathing or not. So I have to learn how to breathe diaphragmatically. This is really tricky for me – I always hold my tummy in, even when supposedly relaxed – so it will take some time for me to retrain myself. I have had numerous doctors and physios tell me this. Now I HAVE to do something about it and really persevere with it (I am actually trying to do belly breathing right now as I type this). Because I don’t want to keep getting these problems.

Work has been incredibly stressful, with lots of redundancies and overall workplace anxiety.  Some days are really miserable and lonely – this does not help my mental wellbeing.  I miss my friends and the camaraderie that you get when you work together every day.  My workload has tripled and I am not always a happy camper.  Basically, I am a grumpy, stressed-out hag most days.  Having fuzzy feelings in my legs (and not just because I haven’t shaved them) is another stressor I could do without.  But I will take the pins and needles over the horrible back pain.  THAT I can live without, thank you.

I need to work on my fitness levels and stop the stress-eating (ie bingeing) that I have been doing.  My weight has crept up and that’s making me feel crummy.  I’m not exercising at all at the moment and that’s making me feel guilty AND crummy.  So I need to improve lots of things, starting with my coping mechanisms and mindfulness and the whole breathing thing.  So much work to do!

The Universe keeps telling me, in its own not-so-subtle way, that I need to chill out and calm down, stop worrying and de-stress, otherwise I will get sick or develop weird pains and other annoying bodily issues.  Pretty much every illness I’ve ever had has been stress-related, so I need to do something about it.  I don’t even know how to begin.  I don’t know HOW to stress less.  But I am going to have to learn, quick smart.

Do you have a really simple method for de-stressing?  For learning how to not worry?  All suggestions and advice gratefully received!

Thanks for dropping by – take care of yourselves x

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What to Do When You Don’t Know What to Do (and Your Mojo is Taking a Vacation)

As I have mentioned a few times recently, I am in a bit of a creative slump.  Every time I try to make something – whether it be a card or a collage, something out of clay, or just a doodle – it turns out rubbish.  It is very depressing and frustrating and makes me want to hide under the covers, eating cookies and crying into my phone (which, of course, is opened to Instagram so I can look at lots of other artists’ AMAZING work and depress myself even more).  That’s just how I roll.

So, in lieu of actually creating anything, I am working on creating a space in which I can work, be inspired and, hopefully, get my mojo back.

My craft room is a disaster zone.  There is no other way to describe it.  There is stuff everywhere and my actual working space has been reduced to an area of desk approximately the size of a drink coaster.  It’s terrible.

I need to de-clutter, big time.  I need to get rid of stuff that I am never going to use and organise the stuff I will use.  I need to make life easier for myself and prepare some things ready for starting new projects.  Most importantly, I just need to tidy the heck up!

With that in mind, here are a few things we can all do to make a space that is conducive to creativity and inspiration (or, at least, one that won’t make us depressed), and some suggestions for making the most of your creative slump time.

  1. If you’re a card-maker, organise all your card blanks and envelopes.  Match up sets and put “odds” aside.  If you’re really being good, get rid of them (give away or recycle bin).  If you’re a hoarder, bundle them together in sizes.
  2. If you have off-cuts of card, try making card blanks to fit your odd envelopes, so they’re ready to go when you need them.
  3. Go through the old books you’ve been collecting/hoarding to cut up, and cut out text from them. Maybe a phrase or word will inspire you to create. I keep a jar filled with sentences and words I like, so they’re always on hand. This is a good task to do sitting by the telly, with a cup of tea.
  4. Get stuck into your stash of scrapbooking/cardmaking papers.  CULL THEM.  Do you really need the lime green and bright pink, polka-dotted paper?  Maybe you do.  Most likely you don’t, and that’s why it’s still sitting there.
  5. Organise your adhesives.  Do you have ancient, dried up bottles of glue/Modge-Podge/Gel Medium?  Or is that just me? Get rid of them.  Also, go through your adhesive tapes – put them in one spot so they’re easily accessed and not sticking to things they shouldn’t.
  6. If you’re like me and tear out ideas and images from magazines and then leave them lying about the place, collect them all up and take some time to organise them into files or scrapbooks.  I have a file each for recipes, home decor, and fashion, as well as one for card ideas, one for quotes and articles, and another for general craft inspiration.  Make them look pretty and inviting – they really do help when you are in a slump and needs some ideas.
  7. Now get rid of all your piles of magazines – take out what you need (see # 6.) and chuck the rest in the recycle bin.  Some magazines are totally awesome and you want to keep the whole thing – that’s ok, but it needs to have a home.  Put it on a shelf or somewhere that you keep other inspirational books.  Don’t leave it lying about.
  8. Rubber stamps.  I swear they multiply.  I don’t remember buying them all and yet I seem to have hundreds.  I recently got rid of a whole box of them – gave them away to friends and donated them to op shops.  I haven’t missed them and don’t know why I kept them for so long.  If you haven’t used them in a while, it’s time for them to go. There’s only so many times you can use that teddy bear stamp or the one with the funny phrase that was hilarious in 1994 but not so much now.  Organise your text / word stamps into one container or drawer.  Try and group “like” items together so you know where everything is.  Christmas stamps in one spot, animal stamps in another, etc.  Makes like easier.
  9. If you have some projects you’ve made that you’re really happy with, make sure they are on display.  I have favourite cards hanging on my wall near my work space.  It helps to remind you that you don’t suck all the time, and gives you inspiration to try again.
  10. Make sure your most-utilised supplies are within easy reach of your work space.  It seems like an obvious thing but it really does help.  Storing them upright, when you can, in jars, cups and vases, gives you more room, and can look very appealing. Remember, though, to store marker pens flat – it helps them to last longer.
  11. While we are on the subject of pens – spend a few minutes going through them and chucking out any that no longer work or are on their last legs.  Make a note of any colours you need so that you can stock up.  Nothing worse than needing that skin-tone marker and you find it’s all dried up and useless.  Sharpen pencils and re-fill leads in mechanical pencils.  The more you prepare now, the less you will have to do when the arty mood strikes you – everything will be ready to go.
  12. Make a playlist.  This really helps – honest!  Compile a couple of playlists on your ipod or computer that help you to relax and create.  Alternatively, find some podcasts to download that are motivational, thought-provoking or inspirational.  Listening to other people talk about their creativity can really boost your own.
  13. Move stuff around.  Maybe you just need a change of scenery.  Would your craft table look better over in that corner, have better light by the window or work best right in the centre of the room?  Sometimes changing things around can really help to get you out of a rut.  It also encourages you to tidy up and sort through stuff, which is never a bad thing.
  14. Have a look through all those art books you’ve got and try copying someone else’s work.  This is just for practicing and learning some new techniques or styles – don’t try and pass someone else’s art as your own.  That’s rude (and also slightly illegal).  This is just to get your brain working and to stir your art heart.  Sometimes your creative centre needs a bit of a kick up the bum, especially if you’ve been doing the same thing for a long time.  It’s like doing the same exercise at the gym – every now and then you need to change things up a little and challenge your body.  Your brain is the same.
  15. Have a nap.  If all else fails, tuck yourself up in bed or on the couch, shut the world out, and have a little nap.  Maybe you’ll wake up feeling energised and motivated. Maybe you’ll just get some much needed rest and feel better about everything in general.  Sometimes you just need to sleep – that’s all there is to it.  I’m giving you permission to nap!

So, just a few ideas for helping you to get your art heart pumping.  Sometimes you just need to give in and say “Ok, no crafting for me today!”  and do something else.  It’s supremely frustrating though, when all you want to do is create a masterpiece and you can barely draw a stick figure or stitch in a straight line.  Sometimes your mojo is just off and needs a break.  I’m hoping that is the case with me, anyway.

Hope you’re having a creative, happy day (or at least a really awesome nap!) 🙂