Reclaiming My Mornings

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

This morning, I overslept. I actually woke up with my first alarm at 6 a.m. and went back to bed. I had another alarm at 6:25 a.m., and I vaguely remember it going off, but I must’ve turned it off. I woke up after 7:30 a.m. and could hardly move. I decided to take an hour morningsannual leave to give me some time to wake up and get to work, and it was annual leave that I really shouldn’t have used. I drained my sick time and annual leave with the aneurysm rupture recovery and rehab, and it’s been quite slow to build back up.

This morning, I also decided to change my ways and do what it takes to get up and out in the morning…without stressing and/or rushing. Since coming home from rehab in Atlanta, I feel like my time is not my own. After forming some good habits during rehab, they’ve slowly made their way back to not-so-good. I’m staying up later. I’m on my electronics too late into the evening. And I’m living by the seat of my pants again, especially in the mornings.

To prepare, I read 19 Ways to Trick Yourself to Become a Morning Person from Daily Burn. None of the ideas are rocket science, but these spoke to me in particular: 

Practice good sleep hygiene. “Keeping a consistent sleep schedule is one of the best ways to ensure you’re getting quality, restful sleep,” says Dr. Watson. If you need to shift your schedule earlier, start moving your bedtime forward by just 15 minutes at a time. Adjustments more drastic than that will keep you rebounding between early and late bedtimes rather than creating lasting change. In Atlanta, I went to bed at 8:30 p.m. like clockwork. And while it sometimes took a while to fall asleep, I was in bed. I can do this again.

Take your time. Balancing your own well-being against other personal and professional responsibilities is tough. Often, finding the right work-life equilibrium starts with saying “No,” and so does getting enough sleep. Pare down your evening commitments so that you’ve got an hour completely blocked off to wind down before bed. Next week, I plan to start back at the gym after work; this will be an additional two evening events each week. My church is starting new small groups this month. While I really want to do a small group, I’m going to wait until I have a better hold on things to add yet another evening commitment. It’s hard to say no, but I know that I have to do so for my sanity and health.

Power down. Any kind of light can shift circadian rhythms, making it harder to sleep at night. And if you’re constantly plugged in, you’re even less likely to hit the hay right away. Research has shown that the blue light emitted by electronics like laptops and cell phones disturbs sleep even more than natural light. Turn off those electronic screens at least an hour before bed to make dozing easier. I’m torn to do everything I want to do in the time I have, so I started pushing the envelope, especially when it comes to electronics. Someone just gave me a new book; I think I’ll start it now so I can wean myself from my cell phone and laptop. I gave up evening TV in Atlanta, largely because I didn’t have a TV for the bedroom in the apartment. I’ve been able to keep this habit, thankfully, with only a few exceptions.

Prep before bed. Wondering what to do with that electronic-free hour? Use the time to get together anything you’ll need in the a.m. Shortening your morning to-do list just might make it easier to roll out of bed. My big time kill in the morning is deciding what to wear. I could do this in my electronic-free hour.

Get cozy. Temperature, noise, light and comfort can all impact your ability to sleep well. A cool, quiet room (around 65 degrees) has been shown to be an effective sleep environment. Since the aneurysm, it seems like I’m always cold, so I’ve been setting the thermostat up. Instead, perhaps I should just crawl in bed. I know that would make my sister roommate happier since she likes it cooler than I’ve been keeping it.

Play a mind game. The alarm goes off, and the immediate temptation is to hit snooze. Go ahead, do it — but then stay out of bed for those next nine minutes. The idea of the so-called “inverted snooze” is to ease the pain of waking up by telling yourself you only have to stick it out for nine minutes. Move around, stretch, start brewing coffee — anything to keep yourself awake. By the time the alarm goes off again you should be awake and alert enough to start your day rather than still grumpy in bed and (likely) hitting snooze again. I love the idea of the inverted snooze. This will give me time to bump up the heat and get a head start on breakfast.

Bite the bullet. If you naturally wake within minutes of your alarm, it can be tempting to close your eyes and relish in a few more minutes of rest. But you’re better off just getting out of bed. When you wake spontaneously, you’re likely in a light sleep stage, explains Dr. Watson. Going back to sleep could send you into a deeper sleep stage, making it harder to wake up and start your day. Enough said. I can go ahead and get up.

Now that I have a plan, I’m much more excited about trying to become a morning person again. I’m hoping my next post will be about how great my mornings are going. Are you a morning person and/or have you learned to be out of necessity? Do you have any tips and tricks that work well for you?

Tracking With Tile

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

“Lose less of everything, including your valuable time.”

Tile To an aneurysm survivor spending way too much time looking for things lately, Tile’s promise sounded too good to resist. So I bought a four-pack.

The neuropsych testing I did at the end of my Shepherd Pathways rehabilitation didn’t indicate that I had any memory loss or issues, but as I got back to work and busy with the details of life, I started having some issues. I lost a prescription within days of picking it up. I misplaced everything from my keys to my favorite lipstick. And I lost my sunglasses right before a big outdoor concert. Because even a few extra minutes on the way out the door will knock me off schedule, I knew it was time for action. Enter the multi-pack of Tiles.

A Tile is a tiny Bluetooth tracker that helps find your lost stuff in seconds via an easy-to-use app. The tiles don’t work with everything; only those things you can attach it to or place it inside of, like keys, a wallet or gym bag. I used mine for my keys, remote control and sunglasses case. I used it to find something for the first time this evening, when I couldn’t find my remote. Beep, beep, beep: it was on the floor by my bed.

If only Tiles were really tiny and cheap, I would put them everywhere! My shoes, my prescriptions, my password book. But alas, they aren’t, so I’ll stick with them on the usual stuff like my keys and sunglasses. In the meantime, I’m working hard to become a little better organized.

What items do you often misplace? Have you learned to remember where you put them, and if so, how? What is your go-to tip for getting organized?

Reality Check

By: Shannon Shull

Lately I have been experiencing some major reality checks. My life stays so busy, and I am so stressed and overwhelmed that even when I sleep at night, I wake up exhausted from my crazy dreams. I have experienced major professional growth since I started teaching full time in the public school system. I wouldn’t take back any of the knowledge, experience and joy I have gained from my time teaching thus far, because I am a better person and certainly a better teacher for experiencing it. BUT – and here’s the big “but” – I’ve also gained about 10 pounds, sprouted way too many grey hairs, and feel like I’ve aged 10 years! I’ve only been teaching full time for a year and a half now! Folks, that’s sad! No lie, I have been more exhausted and overwhelmed than words can express.

time management

I know I am not the first person to declare that teachers are incredibly overworked and underpaid. I envy those that can go to work and leave it there – their work doesn’t follow them home, keeping them up during early mornings and late nights in an attempt to stay on top of everything. Those that think teachers have it made (thinking we get off work at 2 or 3:30 p.m. and get summers off) are clueless as to what the life of a teacher is really like. We don’t just show up, teach a few classes, and leave; it is way more involved than that! The required trainings, meetings, evaluations, and duties alone sometimes feel like a full time job.

shannon shull

What’s been so tough for me is that I was in the best shape of my life. I was teaching Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes throughout the week and getting tons of exercise, which resulted in me sleeping well, feeling good, and coping with incredible stress in my life without meds. Once I started teaching middle school full time, the health focus fell by the wayside something fierce. I had to stop teaching my regular Zumba and Aqua Zumba classes because I just flat-out did not have the time nor energy after teaching a full day. I have become a perfect example of not practicing what I preach! I know that if I could figure out how to squeeze in exercise, I would feel so much better on so many levels. Yet after an incredibly long day of being up since 5 a.m., teaching 170 middle school students within one day, making the long drive home, and then working to prepare lessons, the thought of having to add something else into my already-packed schedule seems to put my sanity levels at risk!

Obviously, my biggest challenge is time management. And I have absolutely got to figure out a way to make things work, because the utter truth is that I will feel better, sleep better and look better if I just make the exercise happen. So I’m asking you to hold me accountable! Email me, text me, Facebook me, ask me in person – “Shannon, did you squeeze in some exercise this week???!!!” If you have any tricks and tips on how you manage a busy career without losing focus on your health, please do share!

Maintaining Mentality

By: Sydney Yarbrough

Sydney YarbroughIf the recent ice storm has you feeling like going into hibernation, it’s time to snap out of it. My brain has definitely been in a Winter fog these past few weeks and I am on a quest to rediscover my motivation before the warmer weather gets here. I’ve compiled a list of tips to stay creative and motivated, and today I’m sharing that list with all of you!

  1. Find time for yourself. Take just a few minutes per day to have quiet time. Set a timer if you have to so you don’t get sidetracked and off task. Read a book. Take a bath. Sit on the couch and close your eyes to help clear your mind. This is important because often times we get so caught up with our day-to-day responsibilities that we forget to breathe. This results in what I would like to call, “burnout.” And it’s not good.
  2. Stay active. It’s so tempting to come home from work and do nothing but sit on the couch. Try to get into a routine of doing some sort of activity. There are tons of fitness videos online to watch! My favorites are Barre (a mix of ballet and Pilates) and Yoga.
  3. Write things down. It’s very helpful to me to compile a list of things that I need/want to get accomplished in a day – just so I can see it. Investing in a planner is a good idea. I have the Day Designer by Whitney English that I ordered from Etsy, but even just keeping a notepad with you can be helpful.
  4. Socialize. Work and home responsibilities can often cause you to feel like you’re too busy to make plans with your spouse or your friends. Make sure you schedule some time during the week to be around other people and maintain social interaction. It’s important to maintain relationships with others and not let your professional life keep you from enjoying a social life.

Remember that it’s okay, and even important, to worry about yourself. Like time management, taking care of yourself requires focus and discipline. As we head into a warmer season, I hope this list will help with maintaining motivation and creativity! 

Happy New Year!

By: Katie Austin

It’s hard to believe that 2013 is behind us and that the door to 2014 is open, inviting us in to new memories and opportunities. Like last year, I decided to move away from making resolutions and instead list the areas in my life that I wanted to change or focus on. I feel that, for me, resolutions are easier to break. So instead, I am committing to making small changes throughout the year.

 “Tomorrow is the first blank page of a 365-page book. Write a good one.” —Brad Paisley

What an amazing quote and so true! What will I write this year? When I look back on 2014, what will I see and remember most?

To begin, you have to figure out what it is that you want to change and then make a checklist. Keep it simple and achievable. Below is what I came up for 2014. What will be on your list?

  1. Spend more time with family and friends. Eliminate business and make time. You never know when it will be your last chance to create a new memory.
  2. Replace something in your diet each week with a healthy option.  I have to confess to my Every Woman Blog family that I started my Dash Diet in July, but stopped soon after. I lost interest as I found the extreme change to my diet to be too much at one time. Instead, I think that small changes in my diet over time will be easier to cope with, creating a greater chance that this girl will keep up the healthy Lifechange for good.  For example, I love coffee, but need to cut back since I can drink it all. day. long. For myself (and those around me, haha!), I am going to replace one cup of coffee each day with a bottle of water. In time, my goal is to have no more than 2 cups of coffee each day and to increase my water intake. I also replaced my morning cheese grits with a packet of oatmeal. Small changes over time – that is the key. I also use My Fitness Pal to help track what I am eating, as well as to access quick caloric information to help myself make better food choices.
  3. Walk more, sit less. All day long, I sit at my desk. Then, when I get home from work, I am tired, so I just want to sit on the couch or in front of my computer. My goal is to get up and move every two hours (except when sleeping, of course) and to walk one or two days a week. Even if the walk is just 20 minutes, it is time moving and in the long run I will feel more energetic.
  4. Get organized.  I use a monthly calendar to physically write down events, information and tasks with upcoming due dates. I love it! I keep everything in one place and the act of writing an activity down makes me think about the tasks and see where it does or doesn’t fit. This method works for me and is helping me better organize multiple areas of my life.
  5. Do something new.  I think this item needs to be on my list every year! There are things I want to try and places I want to go, but I just haven’t made the time. This is the year to start. I’ll even write about it in an upcoming article 🙂

“The journey is the reward.” —Steve Jobs

Now that you know what you want to accomplish in the New Year, write yourself a letter and seal it, noting not to open until January 1, 2015. The letter should contain the small changes you hope to make and should be written as if you were talking to yourself at the end of the year, as if you had a crystal ball and could see yourself a year later. Place the sealed letter in a visible area as a reminder of your commitment to yourself. You know what is in the envelope, but at the end of the year you will revisit what was important to you at the beginning of 2014 and it will help you to decide what your focus will be in 2015.

KatieWhat are some of the things you want to accomplish this year? Share them here and let’s see how many items we can come up with, motivating each of us to reach a healthier, happier version of ourselves 🙂

I wish each of you a great start to the New Year and look forward to another year with my Every Woman Blog family!

Katie Austin

ADHD – Part Deux

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

CrissieIf you’ve read any of my blog postings, you know that I read the news online and a lot of the time, something I see will prompt me to write an article. This is one of those times.

This afternoon, as I was taking a few minutes to peruse MSNBC, a tag line near the bottom of the screen caught my eye. “Common Symptoms of ADD and ADHD in Women,” it said. I followed the link to a slideshow prepared and presented by Healthcentral.com.

While I won’t chronicle all 19 symptoms that HealthCentral enumerates, it is a very shocking, yet humbling, list of symptoms for me to read through.

As many of you may recall, my oldest son was diagnosed with ADHD last year, shortly after the start of 1st grade. After recognizing many of the same behaviors in my youngest son, he, too, was diagnosed with ADHD this past summer. Much like the color of our eyes and our full-grown height, ADHD is caused by our genetics rather than by bad parenting or environmental factors. Although he was never officially diagnosed, I have spent a lot of time “blaming” my ex-husband for passing along that little bit of DNA.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to eat a little bit of crow in the last three months because in August of this year, I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. This is why I state that reading through the list of symptoms is extremely humbling. It is also overwhelming.

For 35 years I have struggled with many of the symptoms listed. While I was a very good student in school and never got into trouble, I realize now that I had developed what many mental health professionals call “hyperfocus.” School was a safe haven for me growing up and it was all that I cared about. More than dating, more than sports, more than parties and hanging out; good grades fueled my very existence. By many accounts, I was the nerd, the geek, the party pooper. And, looking back, it is true. Even in college, when even the most straight-laced teen/young adult cuts loose, I didn’t. I recently found a school planner from my senior year of college; it was filled with due dates and notes about when certain papers were due or when I needed to study for certain tests. One of my roommates recently reminded me about how I would refrain from a lot of late night antics because I had to get up early for an 8 o’clock class, even though I had long ago finished the homework or studying for the class.

Unfortunately, for many people who have ADHD or have children with ADHD, there comes the challenge of also facing the social stigmas. You must be a bad parent if you can’t control your children, which is closely followed by you must be a bad parent if you medicate your child to help them control their behavior. You must be unorganized at home, work or school. You must be a slacker, or you don’t care, or you are just a poor wife, parent, employee, or student. All of these labels create major problems for those who suffer, especially for women, and for those who remain undiagnosed.

Society has women convinced that we should be able to be all and do all.  For many women, those goals are lofty; for a woman with ADHD, those goals and expectations can be extremely taxing and can help fuel major bouts of depression and anxiety.  The best example I’ve come across is that for a women with ADHD, life is like a juggling act: when there are only 3 balls to juggle, life might rock along okay, but as life starts throwing a few more balls into the mix, we cannot cope or function and the balls get dropped and forgotten.

Many of you have actually followed along as I have struggled to juggle some of the balls in my life: school, work, single parenting, disorganization, and struggles with my weight. Almost every single one of my struggles has some background intermingled with ADHD. When I feel bored (mostly because I get overwhelmed with what needs to be done), I eat. I have spent my entire life (and I do not exaggerate – ask my parents what my bedroom looked like growing up, as a child, a middle schooler, and even a teenager) thinking that I was just an overly sentimental packrat, or worse, a hoarder. The truth was I do have some tendencies, but I actually struggle with completing the organizational tasks needed to maintain a neat and orderly home. This is made worse by the fact that both of my children have ADHD and I lack the necessary skills to properly model and teach organization.

Much like Superman fears kryptonite, doing laundry is my archenemy because it never ceases and there never seems to be a “project completion” of which I can be proud.

On rare occasions, I find my “mojo” and I get started on grand organizational projects. However, I rarely estimate the correct amount of time needed to complete said project, and the excitement quickly runs out, leaving a house full of unfinished projects and half organized rooms.

Growing up, my MO was to shove absolutely everything I could under the bed or in the closet to lend the appearance of a clean bedroom because I honestly didn’t know how to deal with it.  Although I am a 35-year-old woman who is a mother and was married for 10 years, quite frankly, I still struggle with this type of “solution” to the mess.

Even writing this article was a chore for me. I have struggled long and hard about writing it because it exposes many of my weaknesses. Having finally completed my Masters degree program in August, I am currently in search of a full time job. However, I know that a potential employer/supervisor may uncover this article and view my open admission of struggling with certain organizational tasks as an admission that I cannot function in a certain type of environment. But, my desire to really help other women in my situation outweighs the fact that someone might judge me without taking the opportunity to see my positive qualities and attributes.

At the very core of all of this is the fact that ADHD is a real mental illness that affects millions of adults and children. Unfortunately, our society still struggles with the acceptance of mental illnesses as true illnesses that need and deserve to be taken seriously, treated and openly discussed so that others needn’t walk the same path we have walked.

Although I champion the acceptance of mental illness, my own ADHD diagnosis was hard to swallow at first, but it was also a relief to know that I was not a bad parent, a bad employee or a poor student. It was also a relief to know that with medication and additional therapy (the most effective treatment combination for ADHD), I won’t always have to worry about the show “Hoarders” showing up at my door.  It has given me hope that I can become a more effective parent and, hopefully, break some of the cycle of ADHD symptoms with which the boys and I struggle daily.

TMO

By: Katie Austin

I bet you are thinking the title of this blog post is a typo, wondering if my fingers slipped and the last letter should have been an “I” since the keys are next to each other. While that acronym could certainly apply elsewhere, I’m discussing TMO here, since it seems that each day my list of things to do gets longer. Yes, it is confession time, as I am a victim of time management overload, or what I refer to as “TMO.” Some of you may already have symptoms of this time-robbing disease and I hope this article helps you to overcome the negative side effects.

What is time management overload? I was surprised to see so many results when I performed a recent Google search. I thought I was coining a new catchphrase – starting a new trend 🙂  When you search the Internet, you will find many great articles explaining how to limit work overload. However, I am talking about overloading on the tools we use to TMOmanage the our many tasks – the daily to do list that includes work, home and everything in between. I have found myself using task applications on my phone/iPad, printed out versions of my Google calendar, and anything else I can get my hands on to help me stay on top of my commitments. In general, I spend more of my time updating my organizers than actually working on the tasks themselves.

So, what have I done to conquer my TMO? I compiled a list of eight tips from CNN Money and Time Management Ninja to incorporate into my life. Change won’t be easy but it’s worth a shot because what I am doing now isn’t working. I hope you find these to be useful as well:

  1. Stop multitasking. Instead of trying to do several things at once, plan your day so that you have blocks of time (even if they are only 10 or 15 minutes long) where you are working exclusively on one thing. You will find that you are able to give 100% to whatever you are focused on and, in the long run, accomplish more.
  2. Assign a time limit to everything you do. Once you reach the time limit for a task, stop. If you didn’t complete the task, you probably needed a larger block of time and should consider this when scheduling similar tasks in the future.
  3. Be organized enough to know your load. Multiple lists and scattered papers present a jumbled perspective. If you don’t know how much is on your plate, how can you hope to efficiently get it done?
  4. Keep one calendar.  I am guilty of keeping separate calendars for work, home, coaching, and school. And then I incorporate all calendar items into one Google calendar so that everything is quickly available across my technology. When I read this particular tip, I quickly realized that I needed to shed those extra calendars and move to maintaining one calendar. In just one weekend, I noticed a big difference!
  5. Just say no. This can be a leading source of the extra weight that holds you back.  ”Can you do this for me?” ”Can you help me with that?”  Sometimes, the right answer is “No.”
  6. Finish to done. Another reason your load may grow too long is that you never fully complete tasks. Starting tasks is easy, but finishing them is hard. A few items completed is always more effective than many things begun.
  7. Don’t do everything yourself. Busy people are often guilty of trying to do everything themselves.  Delegate where you can; ensure you are not holding on to tasks that would be better served by someone else.
  8. Defend your time.  We wouldn’t let others steal our money, yet time seems to be free game. You need to be ruthless in protecting your most valuable resource: your time.

Achieving balanceI hope you find this collection of time management tips as helpful as I did.  Honestly, when I started the hunt for information to include in this article, I hadn’t blocked off any time and was trying to fit my research in between other tasks.  Post-research, I blocked off time to not only finish the article, but to incorporate the above tips. The weight on my shoulders is lighter. I am breathing easier and feel a sense of accomplishment as I complete each task in its entirety.  And to think that just a few days ago, I felt like I was treading water every day. No wonder I was tired!

How do you manage your time? Is there a tool that works great for you? Feel free to share your time management tips here and we will grow our list.  And make sure to block off time each week to read the wonderful articles posted on the Every Woman Blog! 🙂

Wishing everyone a great day!