Wine and Wedges – getting out of the hole

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My fridge on moving day – no food but plenty of booze. A sign of things to come?

A few years ago, I went through a reasonably civilised divorce. On reflection, it wasn’t so civilised but I am not going into details here. The part leading up to the divorce was harrowing. Broken promises, lost dreams and plenty of regret. It was civilised because by the time we got to the signing of the papers part, things were settled and we didn’t squabble over the stuff, we settled things up evenly; our only daughter was a trainee adult and we had stopped yelling at each other.

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I have included this series of images from the Illawarra Vintage Car Expo because they are taken at the start of my photographic journey in 2012. I tried to find something to photograph every weekend.

I moved into my own place and I had some good friends help me and I unpacked with not much food but about five bottles of champagne in the fridge; given to me by said friends as  ‘happy divorce’ gifts.

I had been on that track for nearly 3 years. Not much food and too much wine.  I like to call it my wine and wedges phase (wedges being thick potato chips). I survived on pretty much nothing else as I grappled with the slow and torturous end to my marriage, the fact that my daughter had chosen to move overseas and the crushing reality that I was on the other side of 50 and alone.

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Thankfully, I had a good job, the financial resources and the wit to carry on normally during the daylight hours but come 5 o’clock, I self-medicated and drank more wine than I should. Often. Everyday! Nothing new…I know lots of people, both men and women who have been through this same self-destructive phase. That’s not what I want to share. The road to recovery and the return to all five food groups is the real story.

I think the journey is  transferable so if you are trawling the internet looking for confirmation that things will get better; hang on they will!!

Here are a few suggestions on what I did to “get my shit together”.

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  1. Never refuse an invitation.

You never know who you will meet and what might happen. I heard this advice on the radio. A young widower was outlining his struggle and said he met his current wife at a dinner party he had intended to avoid. Of course, this comes with the caveat of not accepting invitations that don’t align with your values, morals or bank account. But don’t not accept invitations because you think it might be boring. You can find interest in any situation even if you treat it as an anthropological investigation. Getting out and socializing and building relationships; especially platonic ones will build your sense of worth.

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I took a liking to the hood ornaments.
  1. Keep a three good things journal.

When I first read about this in Martin Seligman’s Flourish, a self-help book based in positive psychology, I thought it was a gimmick. How could this help? Regardless, I gave it a go and I am now a real fan! It helped me get out of a heavy “woe-is-me” phase. Your job is to write down three good things that happened during your day before you go to sleep. Sometimes it may just be you have the skill to write or you spent some time with friends; saw an interesting movie;  or your enjoyed 5 minutes in the sun. The good things don’t have to be big, but you must be consistent. I noticed a significant change in my mood and enthusiasm after only 10 days and looked forward to writing in the journal. I would end up writing out six good things. My life was good and I should remember that. Sure, I might be alone but come to think of it I like that! I enjoy the freedom it gives me.

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  1. Eat healthy, sleep at least 8 hours a day and get some exercise.

You will also of course have to cut back on the booze! Sounds like pretty sensible advice doesn’t it, but I know it can be hard to get it happening. Maybe start with one of those dry fund raising months. In Australia, we have Dry July (Cancer Council) and Ocsober (Life Education for Kids). Even if you don’t end up raising money it is a good way to appease those helpful friends who question why you may have gone from good-time-party-girl to teetotaler. Volunteering to drive is also a good way to keep you on track.

There is a direct link between gut bacteria and mood. (see my other blog post here: https://oldchookenterprises.com/2017/09/01/good-mood-food/). The bacteria in your gut send good mood chemicals to your brain. Changing your diet to include more fibre, less refined carbohydrates and probiotics such as fermented foods helps.

My new food mantras is summed up in a few words from Michael Pollan (www.michaelpollan.com)

Eat food, not too much. Mostly plants.

The eat food part confuses people sometimes…of course we eat food… but he means eat whole food. Things made BY plants not IN plants. Foods that your “great grandmother would recognize as food” and without all the long lists of ingredients that sounds more like a chem lab than something you’d want to eat. My original degree was in food technology and I worked in food plants and labs in the late ’80s. I remember rows and rows of artificial flavoring  we used to test. I try and cook everything from scratch and while I would not call myself vegetarian, I have cut right back on the meat I eat and now generally only order it if I am eating out. The bonus of this is I am saving a lot on my grocery bills!

Sleeping too much or too little will mess with your moods. So practice good sleep hygiene. (see my blog post here: https://oldchookenterprises.com/2017/07/03/sleep-app-nea/) This website also has lots of good information. http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/

If you keep your body moving it will pay you back. You will sleep better, feel better and cope better with life’s challenges. Endorphins do wonders! Research shows that even small amounts of exercise can make a difference, both physically and mentally.  There are plenty of websites that back this up:  https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/exercise-and-mental-health

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Just driving around in this gorgeous Chevvy would make you feel better!
  1. JFDI

I borrow this one from fitness guru Michelle Bridges. Just frickin’ do it! Just get out of bed; just go for that run/walk/exercise class. On those days when it seems too much of an effort do any of the things on this list, just shout at yourself – JFDI! And do it! You will feel better when you have.

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  1. Take up a new hobby or rekindle an old one.

Give yourself something to do other than sit in front to the telly, moping. Start something new. Learn. Immerse yourself. Become a fanatic. Practice! I took up photography and took photos every minute I could. I used it as an excuse for planning photo safaris where I would plan a weekend or day trip to somewhere new and practice new techniques. Sign up for some courses if you can afford it otherwise there are plenty of free resources online. Seriously, think of any topic/hobby and there is bound to be a thousand YouTube videos.

Make you own videos and share them!

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Hobbies are a great way to connect with like minded people as well. Join groups that specialize in your chosen field. Look out for meet-ups in your area.
  1. Do something for someone else

Become a volunteer.  Practice random acts of kindness. If you start thinking about other people you will have less time to wallow in your own self-pity. Taking yourself out of the house and doing volunteer work for people other than your family will give you a real sense of accomplishment.

I love the idea of these Kindness Cards. http://wakeupproject.com.au/kindness-cards/ a variation on the pay it forward theme.

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I obviously did not take this one. The owner was very happy for me to sit inside and get a photo. He spent a long time explaining how he looked after his car!

If you try these things and you still feel stuck, you may need some medical interventions. How long you take to make that decision will depend on you. I am no expert but I would think if you have tried three of four the things on this list and you still feel low, get professional help.

If you feel worse than low get help quick. https://www.lifeline.org.au/

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Sleep app-nea

Why is sleeping like a baby the “gold-standard of sleeping? Babies wake up every couple of hours! As an adult that sucks! I sleep like a real baby and consequently wake up every couple of hours.  Some nights I wonder if I get any shut eye at all.

Like most people these days, I have lots of gadgets that connect to the internet and can record all the things I do. How far I have walked; how many steps I have taken; my heart rate and how long I have “slept” for.

Fit bracelets, smart phones and watches of all types let you track it all. But I have a real issue with those sleep apps.  You enter what time you got into bed and turned the lights out and then hit stop when you “wake-up” in inverted commas. For instance, I usually like to get into bed, read for a while (NOT from a screen mind you!) and have the lights off by 10PM. My morning routine is dictated by my day job so I have to get up at 6:15AM. According to the sleep app this means I have had 8 hours and 15 minutes of sleep… perfect!

yeah right … if only that were true. The app does not consider that in that 8’15” I

  1. Tossed and turned until I fell asleep
  2. Got up to go to the toilet at least once
  3. Came up with marvellous ideas to contribute to world peace/make money/great story ideas
  4. Wrestled with the blankets and the pillows
  5. Felt my shoulder aching
  6. Woke myself up with my own snoring (ohh that’s embarrassing!)
  7. Tried to write a mental list of the things I needed to do at work the next day
  8. Got disturbed by the “bing” of a What’s App message from my daughter who lives overseas
  9. Spent 10 minutes resolutely refusing to check the message
  10. Checking the message and smiling at the incredibly cute picture of my grandson
  11. Being woken up by a kookaburra at least 30 minutes before the alarm goes off.

 

So, it’s not really a sleep app but a “how-long-I-lay-in-bed-with-my-eyes-closed-pretending-to-be-asleep” app.

Some nights I feel like I don’t sleep at all.

The sleep app needs to get a whole lot smarter. Perhaps in the future we could have some sort of blue tooth implant which is able to relay the brain activity to the phone and it would only track when we are truly asleep. This might be closer than we think. Back in 2002, Professor Terry Clark from the University of Sussex, UK, developed a remote sensor to monitor the electrical activity in the brain[1]. Back then Prof Clark thought the “possibilities for the future [were] boundless”

More recently, a 2014 paper published in Plos One[2] by researchers from the University of Barcelona reported that a brain to brain message was sent from India to France. The researchers are working on developing a brain to computer interface where you will be able to operate your computer by just thinking about the action. At the moment, you need to wear a rather bulky “helmet” which might interfere with your sleep even further.

When it comes down to it does it really matter? Why do I need to track my sleep? Is it just giving me one more thing to be anxious about? One more thing to disturb the sleep cycle? In my opinion, we are getting way to wound up with tracking everything so closely. Sure, we need to ensure we get enough sleep, practice good sleep “hygiene” habits and rest well so we can function in a busy world. But does tracking my sleep improve it? I think not. I know when I have not had enough sleep – I don’t need the device to tell me! It’s not like recording my bed time and wake up time will do something to change the space-time continuum and stretch the time out. The answer is still early to bed, early to rise will make a person healthy, wealthy and wise!

Sleep Hygiene

This interesting term refers to the habits we should practice ensuring we get a good night’s sleep. Insomnia is often the result of poor sleep habits.

Good sleep hygiene means;

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time. Even an hour difference either side can make a difference a bit like jet-lag.
  • Don’t treat your bedroom like a second lounge room. Keep it for sleeping and …ahhh… “cuddling”. Going into the bedroom should be code for sleeping
  • Have a comfy bed and pillow. If you have sore joints or a bad back have a look at this website for tips on how to arrange pillows to help you unkink the bits!
  • Not boozing before bed. You might go out like a light but you won’t stay asleep and your sleep will be disturbed
  • Avoiding caffeine – you will know your own limits here. For me anything after 4pm rules me out.
  • Not going to bed if you are not tired and conversely not staying up when you are tired.
  • Getting a good dose of the sun early in the morning. Avoid putting those sunnies on for 15 minutes or so, so you can set your body clock.
  • Get your worries under control by writing in a journal or diary before you go to bed to get it all out of your mind.
  • Milk – because it contains tryptophan – a sleepy time protein – helps but don’t eat too much just before bed. While a light snack may make you sleep better by avoiding feeling hungry and regulating your blood sugar; a big meal may lead to uncomfortable, gurgling bellies!
  • Don’t use screens! The blue light emitted by your devices will trick your brain into thinking its day time. Apart from that the risk of falling down a Pintrest vortex is way too high and before you know it you’ve pinned some wonderful craft pages but its 1AM! If you want to read; read a real book or magazine.

[1] http://www.sussex.ac.uk/newsandevents/pressrelease/media/media260.html

[2] http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0105225#s3