Mindful Rest, AKA – “I’m Tired, Yo”

rest

I’m a busy body. I can also be extraordinarily lazy. These two states seem to be in conflict, and they are to a certain extent. I oscillate between them. But most of the time when I’m being physically lazy, I’m mentally obsessing over what I should be doing, so my mind is still busy. It’s making to-do lists and developing new strategies and inventing. I’m always inventing.

It’s part of my personality. If you’ve ever heard of the “Real Colors” or “Four Colors” personality test, then you’ll understand why I’m always inventing. I’m a Green. According to the test, as a Green I’m confident, mentally strong, logical, and inventive. I have high expectations, I’m knowledgeable and I enjoy my own company. For me, work is play and that’s the truth. And it’s the Green in me that inspires this blog and all my little efforts.

It isn’t easy being Green (thank you Kermit), mostly because I’m uneasy when my emotions get the best of me. I fear big, inevitable, emotions such as grief and so that limits me in my relationships. I also get bored with established routines, because I want to invent a new one. It’s a terrible cycle.

Anyway – the point is, even when I’m being physically lazy, I’m not resting. I’m obsessing. I’m connected. I’m inventing. Well yesterday, I got knocked onto my ass. I woke up feeling pretty terrible, slow and achy and tired. So I called in sick. I spent most of the day in my pajamas, either on the couch or in bed, and I checked out mentally. I let my brain rest and focus on the crap I was watching on TV. And while I may have thought about recipes I’d like to try or things I’d like to accomplish a little bit, it was way less. There were moments of temptation, when I thought – hey, I could surely do some laundry while I’m home or bake another batch of muffins. Nope. My body wouldn’t let me do it. So I gave in to the Rest. The Rest embraced me and I let it. And I loved it and it healed me.

I looked up the word rest, and here’s the definition:

rest 1 (rst) n.
1. Cessation of work, exertion, or activity.
2. Peace, ease, or refreshment resulting from sleep or the cessation of an activity.
3. Sleep or quiet relaxation.
4. The repose of death: eternal rest.
5. Relief or freedom from disquiet or disturbance.
6. Mental or emotional tranquillity.
7. Termination or absence of motion.
8. A device used as a support: backrest.

God is the ultimate creator, the ultimate inventor, and is all the colors of the personality test. And yet, God even knew to take a break on the seventh day. I’d like to think that God still takes breaks and watches reruns of Friends while laying in a big comfy bed. God wants us to rest. It’s the only way we can keep going.

Today, I woke up refreshed and motivated. I cleared out my inbox before 7 a.m., followed my routine, and felt better than I have in a few weeks. Thank you Rest. You rock.

So it goes without saying, that I need to prioritize rest higher. I need to let go of the guilt and not wait for some illness to make it happen. There’s no one in my life that wouldn’t benefit from me taking a breather, and I’m sure that’s the case for all of you.

Chocolate Chip Muffins

Chocolate Chip Muffins

My ideal muffin is a little bit salty, a little bit sweet, dense, and it has a sweet crunchy top. These muffins check all of those boxes, plus they hold up very well in the freezer, which is a must for me.

This recipe makes 12 muffins.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup salted butter, melted and cooled
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk (any kind will do, I use 2%)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract (I use pure Mexican Vanilla extract)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2/3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or blueberries or whatever tasty little addition you might like. This recipe is flexible.
  • Topping:
    • 1 tablespoon granulated white sugar
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and place oven rack in the center of the oven. Grease (Pam, butter, etc.), or line with paper muffin cups.
  2. In a large bowl whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Stir in the chocolate chips.
  3. In another bowl whisk together the eggs, milk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Fold the wet ingredients, along with the melted butter, into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are moistened and combined. (Do not over mix.)
  5. Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter. Ice cream scoops work great.
  6. In a small bowl combine the topping ingredients and then sprinkle a little topping on each muffin.
  7. Place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5-10 minutes before removing from pan. Can be covered and stored at room temperature for a few days or they can be frozen.

Freezer notes

  • After they’ve cooled from baking, wrap each one in plastic wrap, and store in a labeled ziplock bag.
    • These make them so handy for on the go. I’ll typically grab one on the way to work and by the time I’m settled at my desk, it’s thawed and ready to be enjoyed.
  • To enjoy them warmed up: just pop them out of the freezer and place them back in the muffin tin. Place them in a 350 degree oven until heated through. You can also microwave at 20 second intervals until they are as warm as you like.
  • Keep about 3-4 months

7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

7 Steps to Become an Early Riser

For a long time now (like my whole adult life), I’ve wanted to be one of those people that breezed into work, right on time, with my made-at-home coffee in one hand and my to-do list in the other, looking professional in wrinkle-free clothes and smelling quite nice because I took my routine morning shower. This has been the vision and my goal. My own Mount Everest Long’s Peak.

But for years and years, this just hasn’t been the case. Instead, I was rolling in around 9 (if lucky), wearing something I spent ten minutes looking for in the “clean clothes pile” on my floor, with my pricey Starbucks coffee and pastry, yawning from going to bed just past midnight, and dreading the chaotic inbox that awaited and would surely to ruin my day.

In my mind I could see how it could be. I could see myself as this ideal person. I could also see that if I fixed my mornings and my nights, I might be able to accomplish some of my other goals. It might be as simple as making my bed in the morning, or putting my clothes away at night that could create the type of change that would help me get my finances in order, finish the latest novel I’ve been working on, keep a clean house, or get in shape. It’s all connected, and it’s all about getting enough sleep at night and getting the right start in the morning to make it so.

The people I know who are the most productive, organized, and seemingly stress free about the little things in life are the ones that get up early in the morning. They all have this trait in common. So that’s where I decided to start.

Now – it should be noted that I’ve had this deep desire to make a change like this for a long time. I made attempts here and there and I was interested in the subject, but I couldn’t make it stick. Then one night, I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline and I saw a tweet about waking early by a self-improvement guru I’ve come to respect over the years. I followed his link to learn about a book that some dude wrote on the subject. I made the stupid, yet secretly brilliant, decision to purchase this book.

At first, it was a stupid decision because the book was so bad. His big secret to waking up early – go to bed early. Shocking right? The rest of the book was an attempt to inspire the reader to be a better person. The intention was good, but it mostly annoyed me because we don’t all have stay-at-home spouses who take care of everything so we can use our extra time to do whatever we please. So the book inspired me to make my own plan that would work for me. And this is what I came up with.

1. Clean up your bedroom

If you keep a tidy bedroom with your clothes in your closet, instead of on your floor, congratulations. You are already past step one. If you do not, take some time to get it all put away. This was the first step to my success, because it made the routine way easier to follow and saves me so much time now that I can easily put my clothes away at night and lay out my clothes for the next day. I had no idea how much stress that put upon me and honestly prevented me from wanting to get up and deal with it every morning.

2. Leverage the weekend

Time can be sparse, especially if you have kids, or work, or work and have kids, or work and have kids a few nights a week and on the weekend. The latter is me. However, I’ve been trying harder to use some of that time to get prepared for the week ahead. I’ve been cooking in big batches to freeze or refrigerate for the week. I make sure I get some grocery shopping done so that I will have easy breakfasts to have at home and quick lunches to pack for work. If you know what you’re doing for food, the day isn’t as overwhelming and you’re more likely to get your butt out of bed.

Tip! I make a gallon jug of iced coffee that I can enjoy all week. This recipe is so simple, it saves a ton of money, it makes my morning coffee routine crazy simple, and it’s so delicious. I simply cold brew a gallon of water and half a pound of ground coffee in a big bowl for 8 hours on Sunday. Then I run it through a fine mesh strainer and a paper towel right into the jug. Boom. I’m set for the week.

3. Ten minutes at night will save you twenty minutes in the morning

If you’re a bit slower in the morning, raise your hand. I raised both. The nighttime me thinks that the morning me is awesome and completely capable of handling everything. You can do it morning Rochelle. I’m just gonna lay here and play Candy Crush until I pass out. The morning me hates the nighttime me. A lot. She begs for her nighttime counterpart to make life easier.

I used to make fun of my father for being so whacked out about his nighttime routine. Every night before bed he does the exact same thing. He gets his clothes ready for the next day (sometimes even ironing them – crazy!), the coffee pot ready, puts the skillet for his eggs on stove, puts a plate next to it on the counter, puts a vitamin and water glass next to that. He takes his nightly shower and heads to bed just after the news. Every single night. He’s going to kill me for saying this, but I get it now. Those little efforts at night have a high impact on his morning.

So before bed, I make sure that I have my clothes ready and everything else I might need. And then I make or refer to a list. A literal list of of what I’m going to do in the morning. From getting up, to using the restroom, to flossing. I’ve taken out all of the brainwork and now it’s muscle memory. And even better, it’s now a routine in the true sense. If I don’t do it, I feel uneasy. I guess that’s what it means to develop a habit. I feel a little like Rain Man, but hey, if you’ve got to be a little odd and repetitive about something make it something that will help you.

4. Tune in to your tired time

Around 9:30 p.m. every night I get a bit sleepy. It’s usually just some yawns and a case of droopy eyes. I used to fight through it and then be totally awake for several more hours instead of embracing my “tired time.” Now, I use it to my advantage. When it comes, I basically say goodnight and get on my way. Falling asleep is easy if I can get to bed within that window. When I talk to people about having a tired time I get funny looks. I’d like to think that most people are like me in this regard, but they just haven’t acknowledged it yet. Get in touch with your rhythm, you may be surprised what your body tells you.

5. Get up, get dressed and make the bed

There are some that may like to get up early and sit around in their pajamas, drinking coffee, and reading or even start working. Then they go get ready for their day. This does not work for me. My mind will latch onto the idea of a pajama day and the pain of departing from such a relaxing moment is too much for me to bear.

Likewise, I personally had to overcome a little morning routine that was ruining me. I used to wake up, go to the bathroom, and then crawl back into bed and read on my phone (Twitter, Facebook, and sometimes a book). By the time I got back out I knew pretty much all of the world’s news, what my friends were up to, and the latest plot twist in my book. This could last until 8:45 or 9, easily.

Knowing this about myself, I made sure that when I got up….I got up. I went right into the list I made, which dictates that I have to get ready before I do anything else and make my bed. No more crawl back in temptations.

6. Gamify it

I’m a nerd at heart. I love technology and I love games. Okay – I don’t think that classifies as a nerd anymore, but my love goes way back so I’m grandfathered in. Anyway – I found out about this great app called Coach.me. I will not lie, half of my success can be attributed to this *free* app that is all about building good habits. I like apps. I like checklists. I like when things turn bright green because I accomplished something. I like being in a community of people who are doing similar things. I have a feeling you will too. Get this app.

Lift App

Coach.me app

7. Take it slow

I knew that I wouldn’t be successful if I decided one day to start waking up at 5 instead of at 7:30. That wasn’t going to work. So I inched my way back. I started at 6:30, then after a couple of days got to 6. That made a huge difference in my life. Now I’m inching back further and I’m getting up at 5:45. My goal is to get up at 5:30. That seems reasonable to me. Don’t go crazy. Be kind to your mind and body.

So…

You may be wondering – what are the results and will she stick with it?

Well, I didn’t want to write about this until I was certain that the habits would stick. So I’ve been doing this for three weeks and it feels pretty set. I guess they were right about it taking 21 days to build a habit. I still worry about backsliding, but I’m doing a couple of things to decrease the likelihood.

First, I’m not sleeping in on the weekends like I used to. I’m trying to wake up at the same time every day so my rhythm stays the same. That quiet time on Saturday and Sunday mornings seems extra luxurious.

Second, I’m trying to acknowledge all the other great side effects of this new behavior, such as:

  • Saving a ton of money by eating breakfast at home and packing a lunch.
  • Getting to work on-time. As a manager, I feel like that’s the right thing to do, because it’s what I expect of my employees.
  • Wearing nicer clothes everyday.
  • Feeling less stressed because I’m not scrambling to feed, clothe, and move myself (and sometimes others).
  • Getting all the hot water I want in the morning.
  • Having a peaceful, easygoing drive into work since I’m not late.
  • Being more organized at work since I feel like I’m not already behind when I arrive.
  • Feeling good at the end of the day that I gave it my all.

Finally, I’d like to share a story about how I grew very appreciative of my new habits. Last week I was woken at 4:45 by a text message about a major IT outage at work. As an Assistant Director of IT Communications, I had to jump up and get to work right away. My brain was still on the slow side, but it could have been much worse. After a couple of conference calls, putting plans into action, and directing my staff, I had to leave to go into the office early. With a crisis at hand, I was more grateful than ever to have my clothes laid out, my packed lunch, and my iced coffee waiting for me in the fridge. When I was about to dash out of my bedroom to get on my way, I looked back at the unmade bed. I couldn’t let it stay that way, I went back and made it quickly. That’s when I knew. I knew that it had stuck and that later that night when I crawled into my nicely made bed, I’d be thanking the morning Rochelle for having it so together. For being that person I visioned for so many years.

My next steps:

  • Continue to develop these habits so that it’s now my default behavior.
  • Adapt the routine for the school year and getting the kids out the door as easily and pleasantly as possible.
  • Slowly start to build up cleaning and cooking habits so that it’s second nature.
  • Add in exercise, meditation, or yoga.
  • Get the rest of my home team on board. That one will be a little more tricky.

What are your tips for being an early riser?