Crafts Make You Calm

The headline is true – crafts can make you calm. In fact, not only do crafts make you calm, but hobbies in general are good for your health! Let’s discuss.

When life is unsustainable

Burnout is a real thing. It is not something you can manage through or toughen up against. Think about what is happening in your life right now. Maybe you feel like you are withdrawing from friends and responsibilities – isolating yourself. Or after months of battling stress at work, you find yourself procrastinating on completing projects and tasks. Are you going in late or leaving early? In general are you short tempered with those around you at work and / or home?

But there is a difference between stress and burnout. Think of stress as overwhelm and burnout as a drain. Stress is the piling on. Demands on you may look like taking care of kids and parents or covering another person’s job during a hiring freeze. Or the pressure of weeks of daily carpooling that never lets you have a moment to yourself. With stress, you still feel there is hope to find a system, route, or process that can improve things.

Burnout, on the other hand, is empty of that hope. It is the drain of mental exhaustion. Often people who are burned out don’t always notice when it happens.

Here is a snapshot of the differences between stress and burnout:

Crafts make you calm, help deal with burnout

Source: https://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/burnout-prevention-and-recovery.htm

The good news is that hobbies can aid recovery from both stress and burnout. Let me show you how.

How hobbies make for sustainable productivity

It does not have to be crafts that make you calm. Maybe it is music or gardening or coin collecting or movies. Let’s define hobbies as small pockets of respite where you can literally heal and restore your mental and physical self. When you partake in a hobby of any kind, you are improving various aspects of your mental well-being. Here are just a few:

  • Higher levels of positive psycho-social states
  • Increased life satisfaction
  • Improved life engagement
  • Better quality of sleep
  • Enhanced exercise outcomes

I hear what you are saying – you don’t have time for a hobby. But consider me your wise older sister as I bluntly ask you this: Sure, but do you have time for the illness that all that stress is going to cause you?

Because that is where too much stress and too little leisure will take you. Here are some of the ways hobbies can impact your physical well-being:

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Reduce total cortisol
  • Smaller waist circumference
  • Decreased body mass index

Taking up a hobby does not have to be a huge investment of time and money. If you want to pick up a potentially life saving hobby, keep reading.

Where to go from here

 Here are three suggestions of where you can start today.

  1. Start small. Make a list of what you might like to do. A simple list on the notes app on your phone will do. If you see your neighbor rolling out for a bike ride, and you think that might be fun, add it to the list. While sitting in your car during your child is at dance lessons, you see a notice for an adult dance class. If this sounds interesting, add it to your list. You don’t have to sign up, just make your list.
  2. Notice what you notice. I believe the universe (God, your Higher Power, whatever name you choose), will put things in your path to make good decisions easier. If you see guitar lessons advertised three different places maybe that is something that you should pay attention to. If you get invited to a Zoom painting class with your girlfriends right after you put “Learn to paint” on your list, it is not a coincidence. Notice what you start to notice. And notice how it makes you feel.
  3. Take stock of what you already have. I had a client who started taking online piano lessons because her kids’ abandoned keyboard was sitting in the corner of the living room. She had been frustrated for years at their lack of playing and considered the keyboard clutter. When we were exploring what she might like to do for a hobby, music kept coming up. I could see the light bulb go on when she realized the “junk” in the corner was actually useful! Look around – there are probably art supplies, fabric leftovers, sporting goods, random canned goods you could make into a creative recipe, and more.

Take time to notice and make your list. Let me know how it goes. We can connect on social media or in the comments below to celebrate successes or trouble shoot where you might be stuck. Let’s work together on creating a life you don’t need to escape.

 

By |2020-09-27T13:46:06-04:00September 29th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

2 Quick Tips for Fellow Bookworms

I am a bookworm for sure. I wear this moniker proudly and love to give quick reading tips to fellow bookworms. A friend of mine gave me a sticker that declares this, and I have proudly posted this on my monitor in my office. I recently came across a Tweet with names for bookworms in other countries and it is FANTASTIC.

Quick tips for bookworms

One of my favorite questions to ask when making small talk is, “What are you reading right now?” Yes, this is what happens when you invite an Enneagram 1 Introvert to a party. We’re a barrel of laughs.

I met Bixby on Match.com and one of the questions that is on the profile is, “What is the last book you read?” Bixby’s response was, “Practical C++ Programming: Programming Style Guidelines.” I winked at him anyway thinking it was a joke. Alas, Dear Reader, it was not. But at least he reads SOMETHING.

If you don’t feel like you have time to read, check out how one of my favorite podcasters, Laura Tremaine, finds time to read. Also, you may have to adjust expectations in different seasons of life.

Quick tips for bookworms

Here is the stack of books I brought with me to read while in Indiana taking care of my dad. My brain is generally not in the space to read most of these. Luckily my mom was a voracious reader so I am rolling through all the books she has squirreled away all over the house and reading what the library sends my way via Kindle.

Many of you already do find time and ask for reading recommendations. Generally I get 2 different questions from readers that I wanted to answer today and help provide two quick tips for fellow bookworms.

Where do you get your book recommendations from?

I get book recommendations from all kinds of places – books, magazines, podcasts, blogs, newsletters, word of mouth, and in non-pandemic times, wandering around garage sales and used book sales. Here are a few tips.

Podcasts

My 2 favorite podcasts to get recommendations from are The Popcast with Knox and Jamie and 10 Things to Tell You. The Popcast gives green lights at the end of each episode and often includes a book recommendation. You can see a summary of their green lights on their website here.  Laura Tremaine is an avid reader and regularly brings book recommendations to her podcast, 10 Things to Tell You.

Blogs

I used to listen to the podcast What Should I Read Next, but something about Anne Bogel’s voice does not agree with me. I struggled through it for awhile because I have the same reading taste she does so I generally love her recommendations. But alas, that was not sustainable. So I changed to subscribing to the blog. Now her recommendations arrive in my inbox, and I read them in my head with my own grating voice.

Anti-recommendations

Just as important as recognizing a recommendation source is having an anti-recommendation source. There was a reading podcast that I listened to for about 6 months, but I noticed every time I read a book they recommended, I HATED it. Although I have no shame quitting a book (more on DNFing here), it sure saves time in virtual line at the library when I can just skip the ones I don’t like. What this looks like today is that I no longer listen to the podcast, but if I am on the fence about reading a book, I will check this podcast’s website. If they recommend it, I do not read it. This is nothing against the podcast. There are no bad books, just books that are not for me.

What books do you recommend I read?

The other quick tip for fellow bookworms is what books I recommend for you.

Goodreads

Goodreads is a website with a mobile app where you can keep track of what you want to read, have read, and are currently reading. You can see more about how to use Goodreads on this post. You can see all of my Goodreads shelves here and follow me to get a weekly notice from Goodreads about what I have added.

5-Star Reads

Some of you don’t want to sift through the 900+ books that I have reviewed on Goodreads. To make it easy to get 5-star recommendations delivered to your mailbox, click here. When I read a book that I give 5 stars, I will send you an email about it, including links to purchase the book if you want. I am an aggressive user of my local library and encourage you to do the same, but sometimes you don’t want to wait 6 months for the best book ever (I’m looking at you, City of Girls). Also, there is value to supporting the arts and part of that is buying books.

Your turn, fellow Ink Drinkers! Reply back to this email and tell me what you are reading or where you get your recommendations!

By |2020-08-17T09:29:45-04:00August 18th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Gardening and Sustainability

Gardening and sustainability – its not just for the planet, gardening and sustainability are good for the soul in a variety of ways. Let me explain, and you might find you want to try it in an effort to create a sustainable you.

Mental Well-being

In general hobbies are good for improving your mental well-being. Over the years, researchers have documented numerous benefits of hobbies such as:

  • Reduced stress
  • Less depression and low mood
  • Increased happiness and relaxation
  • Improved communication
  • Enhanced relationships

There is more to life than work and sleep. If you are in a relationship, having hobbies on your own can offer a chance for you to break away to learn something new, then be excited to come home to tell your partner about the experience. Participating in hobbies with your partner can also be a different option to just vegging out on the couch. 

Gardening and Sustainability

Bixby at a recent cooking class we took together. It was great to change routine, learn knife skills from a professional chef, and eat the delicious creations we made in class.

 
But wait! There is more. Let’s peel another layer off of this onion.

Specifically My Mental Well-being

One of my hobbies is gardening. I have others, but I want to drill down into this one. I am not a great gardener, but I just love to get my hands in the dirt. I feel so accomplished when I leave an overgrown spot with a bin full of weeds and an open garden space with only what I love left in the dirt. 
 
 
This is not just a placebo effect or vitamin D benefits. Turns out there are microbes in the soil that have a similar impact to your brain as do anti-depressants. There is scientific evidence that microbes in dirt boost serotonin in your blood system. Seratonin is a mood elevating hormone. 
 
So while gardening is good exercise and creates a beautiful environment, it also has been scientifically proven to enhance your mental well-being. What a hobby! But there is more, let’s keep digging (pun intended). 
 
In project management we have a tool called the 5 Why’s. Don’t just look on the surface then move on assuming you covered it all. Let’s go one step more in this example about gardening and sustainability. 

Specifically Healing My Mental Well-being

As I write this I am at my dad’s house in Indiana helping him recover from a total knee replacement surgery. The last time I was here was when my mom died in January. Because of grief and a pesky pandemic, none of her stuff has been cleared out. It is like she went to the store and will be right back.
 
Including her gardens. My mom was a Gold-Level Master Gardener and honestly, a wizard with plants. It has been healing to putter around in her natural world pulling a weed here, staking a plant there. I talk to her out there. This is sustainability for me – more than just saving the planet. Saving my soul.
 
Gardening and sustainability

Scene from my mom’s garden. 

 
That is the power of habits. They can be as simple as a small hobby that gets you out of the house and boosts your mood or it can be a generational gift that supports your grief. What hobby do you have? Is there something you have been meaning to try or pick up that would be a good distraction for you? 
 
By |2020-08-02T10:52:49-04:00August 4th, 2020|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Meh. I reached my goals: the truth about setting goals

I met my goal, and I am not ok with it. 

I love December because I can look back on my goals and the way I spent my year. Then I can celebrate the victories and plan for changes to what I wasn’t celebrating so much. In a future post I will share my celebrations. This post is about what I want to change because I met crushed my goals, and I am not ok with it. 

For the last five years I have set reading goals through Goodreads. Every year I bump up the number of books a little more. Some years I do a reading challenge to try to expand my reading list. I scour lists of Best Reads to add to my To Be Read list and try to keep up with what everyone else had read and loved. Then at the end of the year, Goodreads summarizes the number of books and pages I have completed this year. 

2018 reading goals
Last year I started 188 books, but finished 163 books. I keep a separate list of books I abandoned so I don’t accidentally try them again. More on that in this post.

There are a couple reasons why I am not excited about crushing this goal. While reading may not be your thing, I wonder if some of these reasons will resonate with how you are feeling about your goals. Don’t just consider the goals you hit – maybe you sabotaged your goals because you saw some of this sooner than I did. Either way, I want to talk about a different way to think about goal-setting, or the lack thereof. Let’s dig into it. 

1 – Now I have to raise the goal

We are all familiar with the idea of fear of failure. Most likely we are experienced at fear of failure. That cold clammy feeling when we think about everyone we are letting down when we cannot come through on the expectation or promise. But what about its wicked step-sister, Fear of Success. 

The idea behind fear of success is that when we reach a goal we have to immediately keep improving. I was a varsity athlete in college. At the end of my freshman year I was handed a list of goals I was to reach before returning to campus in the fall. 

  • A certain time for the mile run.
  • A number to hit for body weight and a more strict number for body fat.
  • Several targets for lifts in the weight room (bench press, squat, etc.).  

I worked my ass off that summer. Before going to my maintenance crew job, I lifted every day at 5:00 am. I got off at 3:30 pm and played basketball or ran or both until 8:00 pm more days than not. Weekends were filled with various tournaments or working a second job in a sporting goods store. I carefully planned meals and ditched my favorite Dairy Queen M&M Blizzards. Alcohol was not even an option.

I returned to campus, crushed all of my goals. OK, not the mile time – I squeaked by on that bad boy. But I reached it. To this day I still remember how proud of myself I was that fall. 

I met with my coach at the end of the pre-season expecting celebrations. Instead I hear: Good, now we know what you are capable of so we can set some real goals. 

That summer schedule took everything I had. And it was deemed not “real goals.” Crushing my goals crushed me. I had an intense schedule that I could barely sustain and now I was asked to significantly add to it.

Now, upping my reading game is not as soul crushing as sitting in that office hearing about my “good start,” but as I was looking ahead to my 2020 reading goals I started getting that familiar voice in my head.

  • What will I give up to make this happen?
  • How will I fit it all in?
  • What can I drop off the life schedule to get this done?

Its READING, guys! I refuse to let one of my favorite things in the world become something that squeezes out life. I will not be bumping up 2020 expectations just because I hit my 2019 goal. 

But there is another reason I am not increasing my goal. 

2019 reading goals
This year I started 168 books, but finished 143 books.

2 – What does this goal cost me?

If we return to our Young Susan basketball player analogy, it becomes clear what I exchanged. When I was a sophomore my boyfriend was so mad that I missed him playing baseball in semi-state playoffs that he cheated on me with one of my biggest rivals from our school’s biggest opponent, then dumped me while I was playing in a national tournament. Then my senior year I skipped all graduation parties and many friends’ open houses to travel to tournaments out of state. 

It may not seem like a big deal now, but to a teenage girl it was devastating. 

The parallel for me now is what am I not doing so that I can read for the sake of raising my goal. And this one was the clencher for me. When I read I am in the zone. Checked. Out. I am in Three Pines. Or playing Quidditch. I am right there with the gone girl on the train in the window

What I am not doing is:

  • Connecting with my people
  • Crafting something of my own
  • Writing words that might resonate with you
  • Engaging with nature to restore my own soul

I have decided I am not ok with this trade. While it may seem productive – read more, nature will always be there! It is not sustainably productive. I cannot maintain this every increasing number while abandoning other interests and passions. 

For a couple years I have needed to check out and numb to difficulties to get through a rough patch, but I feel myself coming out of that and into a new season. Reading is not going to go away AT ALL. Now reading will find its right sized place for this new phase of life for me. It is going to get to become a hobby that is sustainably productive instead of a competitive obsession that I have to hard charge forward with, consequences of what I am leaving behind be damned!

Do you have a goal that just feels tiring to keep expanding on? What would it feel like to maintain, reduce, or even abandoned it? What if you deemed yourself good enough – just as you are today?

By |2020-06-17T17:16:05-04:00December 30th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Bookish Humor

Use your library

Use your library, people. Seriously. At any given moment I have about 15 books on hold at the library – Kindle and audiobook. I use two different apps for this: Overdrive and Libby. They are made by the same company and there are pros and cons of each. I am less interested in that as I am having one app for Kindle books and one for audiobooks.

By |2019-12-12T19:02:27-05:00September 30th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Bookish Laughter

Buying new books

I laughed out when I saw this. It generally isn’t the situation in our house. I tend to limit my book buying more than Bixby does. I generally don’t re-read books so I feel guilt when purchasing books. Guilty because a bunch of trees died for me to just have the book around my house and guilty because I spent money on something that is not useful. READING is useful, but I don’t enjoy books as decoration.

By |2019-12-12T19:02:59-05:00September 23rd, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

The Girl He Used to Know – Tracey Garvis Graves

Rating: 3 stars (would go to 3.5 if Goodreads allowed)

Cliff Notes: This was a fun, quick little read.

Full Summary: Part of what was fun for me with this book is that I went to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The main character goes to school at U of I around the time when I was there. I recognized several of the places mentioned.

I also related to how awkward Annika is. I tend to lean towards awkward myself! I have never been diagnosed with autism, and honestly I don’t even think we needed to go there in this book. I read somewhere that we are all on the spectrum. In my opinion, leaving out the diagnosis would have been more compelling because it would have been more relatable. It would have made her “weirdness” all of our “weirdness.”

The Girl He Used to Know - Tracey Garvis Graves
By |2019-12-12T19:15:31-05:00September 17th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

Deeply Odd – Dean Koontz

Rating: 2 stars

Cliff Notes: Nope. Done with this series and maybe Dean Koontz. 

Full Summary: OK, ok – I said before that I was done with Odd Thomas. But Bixby told me this book was the last in the series so I had to find out how Odd dies. Well, my husband is a liar. This is not the last in the series. Unless you are me, then it is the last in the series because I am done with Odd Thomas. I might even be done with Dean Koontz.

Deeply Odd - Dean Koontz

There is some criticism of Dean Koontz for “being too in the weeds.” I am not sure if the weeds thing is how I would describe my frustration. It is more like parts of the book don’t move the book forward and are mind numbingly boring. At one stretch in this book Koontz spent around 50 pages walking Odd around a warehouse. I KNOW WHAT A WAREHOUSE IS, GIVE ME SOME PLOT FOR THE LOVE OF PETE!!!

Friends, I threw this book. I wanted to wait until Bixby came to bed and throw it at him, but I cannot stay up that late.

Here is an example of a paragraph that I just could have lit on fire and sent out to sea:

From p. 130: “Even in the remote reaches of the Mojave, even on night when two thousand feet of dense elliptical clouds separated the desert from the glowing wonders of the universe, the land gave off at least a dim light, the product of a natural radiation, of minerals in the soil, and of certain vaguely luminous plants. Not here.”

This is 55 words, twisting around into clauses that ramble and end nowhere… to say NOT HERE. What the heck?! No.Thank.You. Sir.
By |2019-12-12T19:16:20-05:00September 11th, 2019|Mental Well-being|0 Comments

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