Every year I need to take some time out to reset and recharge, even if it’s only a couple of weeks. But this year, I’ve needed longer. I knew this was the case when my body started refusing to do things. Well, it was actually my head doing the refusing, but I could feel the reluctance in my body. And I’ve learned that when my body says “slow down”, I need to obey as fast as possible. Because if I don’t, things rarely end well.
So what do I do when my body says to slow down? I remove some things and add some others. But the specifics depend on where my head and body are at when the slowing down needs to start. Usually though this does include exercise, healthy food, and more rest.
But this time around, I needed more than that. Quite a lot more. I knew that I needed to reset and recharge so that I could help myself and my IBS. Because if I’m not functioning well, I can’t help anyone else either. So here’s a list of the 10 things I’ve been doing, in case you need help resetting and recharging too.
Note: this is a longer than normal post, but it’s easy to scan. So if you’re looking for quick inspiration on something you can try today, scroll until you find something that sounds like it might work for you.
1. Getting away and family time
When I need a break, I usually try to get away to a different place. Nothing changes the way your brain is working faster than being in a different place. So over the Christmas break, I went to the Gold Coast to stay with my father and his partner. The weather was awesome, I walked to the beach nearly every morning, and enjoyed views of the gorgeous canals while eating breakfast and reading.
But I didn’t go alone. The rest of my family converged there too and it was lovely catching up with people I hadn’t seen in ages. We went swimming, played games, ate too much food, opened heaps of presents, and had tons of laughs. And there’s spending time with children is always wonderful as it puts a different perspective on the world. I truly enjoyed the holidays and wouldn’t have changed it in any way.
For the few days, I was feeling quite refreshed. But after almost 2 weeks of living with 5 other adults and 4 children, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed. I usually live alone. Plus, I did do some work while was up there. So it’s no wonder that my holiday wasn’t as refreshing as I’d hoped for.
Actually, I’d lost sleep, lost the headspace and quiet that I’m used to having, and desperately needed some nothingness. So when I got back, my head and body refused to consider working, so I got more serious about slowing down.
2. No social media
One of my steps for sanity was to stay away from social media as much as possible. I even removed the apps from my phone. Originally I’d planned to be active on Facebook and Instagram right up until New Years. But being around family over Christmas meant I needed to step back earlier than expected. I can only deal with so much social input before my head explodes and family was my social input of choice. So social media had to go.
The thing with social media is that because you don’t have control over your newsfeed, there’s lots of randomness. And that requires considerable mental energy to deal with. So if you use social media a lot, as I do for my business, then stepping away for a few days or weeks is the one of best ways to reset your headspace.
But I’m back there now, so do come and say hello.
3. No taking photos of food
I truly enjoy taking photos of food when it’s an expression of creativity as I develop my low FODMAP recipes. But other times, I dislike how it takes me away from the moment of enjoying the food. That’s one of the reasons why I don’t photograph and post everything I eat and do on Instagram.
But since I was staying away from social media (#2), I had no need for food photos. So I stopped taking them and allowed myself to be more mindful during meal times. Or perhaps more ‘carefree’ is a better term. Since there were many times that I ate in front of the TV – which is anything but mindful. But I wasn’t aiming for perfect, so I’m okay with that.
4. Reading books, collecting dust and getting a Kindle
At the airport on the way to Queensland I bought a copy of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck”, by Mark Manson. Which I highly recommend to everyone. Although I don’t recommend buying books with swear words when in the presence of young boys – I was travelling with my nephews (oops – bad Aunty moment!). But this got me started on reading for enjoyment again and made me want to read more.
I’ve always been a huge fan of curling up with a good book. A real, hardcopy book that I can later put into a brimming bookshelf. But as much as I have always loved that way of doing things, I’ve finally acknowledged that I hate dust even more. I hate cleaning it up and my sinuses hate it too. So I used some Christmas gift money to buy a Kindle so I can convert to electronic reading.
After stuffing my new Kindle with a few too many books (they were on sale!), I spent many hours on the couch. I’ve been reading lots of light-hearted novels, particularly those by Sophie Kinsella. And I’ve just started reading some fantasy novels by James Maxwell – my favourite genre. But there’s also some business and personal development books waiting to be read too.
If you’ve got any great book recommendations, on any topic at all, I’d love to hear them.
5. Decluttering and rearranging the house to continue the war on dust (and stuff)
Two years ago after New Years, I started the process of decluttering my house. The clearing out of unwanted things and creation of space had a profound effect on me. It also cleared out my head and allowed me to focus on what was truly important in my life and how I wanted to help people. And that’s when A Less Irritable Life was born. See… a really good thing!
So since then, every time my head has become overwhelmed, I’ve set about decluttering an area of my house. It helps to destress me, which in turn also helps my IBS. But this year, I decided to get even more serious about it. Partly to clear my head, but also to continue my war on dust. I know I can’t prevent dust, but if I can reduce the number of things it can settle on, it will make cleaning easier.
As I got stuck into this, I realised that rearranging things would further help with the war on dust. And since I was shifting things, I decided to completely rearrange my office, which is now more open and bright. Then I changed my ‘spare’ room into a studio for food photography, which will make work easier. And I rearranged the lounge room so that it now has a reading nook and more space for exercise.
Most of all though, I focussed on changing the ‘feel’ of each room, so that I know when I’m in work space or living space. This is super important for someone who works from home because it removes that sense of always working. So my office is now cool colours with blue-green and white. The photographic studio is neutral colours with touches of bright orange and yellow. My living areas are earthy browns, reds, greens, and wood. These changes did involve a few small purchases, but not as much as you’d think – for me, it was more about rearranging. Since my aim was to declutter, I was determined to bring less things into the house than I got rid of.
And this really has helped me. A lot.
6. Slowing. Right. Down.
While all the previous things were important, I knew that everything had to slow down. No regular work activities, selective socialising, and very few new things happening. Plus getting more sleep. Much more sleep.
This helped to calm my body after the time away, which was important for getting my gut back under control. But it also helped me to think clearly again. My jobs have always been very mentally-demanding… a lecturer, neuroscientist, and now as a nutritionist and educator here at A Less Irritable Life. So I know how important it is to keep my mind clear and refreshed. Also, if I’m worn out and can’t think clearly, I get stressed more easily. And stress and IBS are not friends. So slowing down and increasing my resilience to stress helps to manage my IBS.
7. Watching too much TV
Aside from reading (#4), watching TV was a key part of my slowing down. Now I do know that tons of TV isn’t the best thing, but I find it helpful when my brain is fried. You don’t need to think when watching TV – it’s all done for you. So I got stuck into “The Librarians” and “Van Helsing”, which are both true escapism. As I said for books, I love the fantasy genre.
Lots of sitting isn’t great for the body though. So I watched episodes between decluttering, cleaning and rearranging the house (#5). And since I’ve got lots of solid furniture, that was quite a workout for my muscles! And I did other exercise each day too (#8).
8. Keeping up with regular exercise (within limits)
I also made sure to keep up with the exercise habit I’d started back in November. This is a simple practice that I’m still maintaining… go for a walk before breakfast, roughly 5km or so. And I did that on most days, even Christmas morning and New Year’s Day. This habit has really helped me to recharge. And has helped to moderate some of my less healthy behaviours during the break, including all the TV (#7).
I’ve said it before, but exercise is my cornerstone for healthy habits. If I want to be more focussed on health, nothing does this more for me than exercise. And what I’ve found is that exercising at the same time every single day is much easier to stick with than exercising only on certain days. Or trying to fit it in later in the day. That said, flexibility is a key part of this, since with IBS you don’t always feel like exercising. So on very bad days, I don’t exercise. But on ‘not as good’ days, I take it easier, but still do some exercise.
9. Getting back to healthier eating (after the holiday craziness)
Like what happens to most people on holidays, when away from home and not fully in control of food choices, my eating habits changed. I did keep up with my morning bowl of porridge though and we did have healthy meals most of the time. But it was the snacks and treats that did me in. Chips, lollies, cake, chocolate, desserts. Every day and then some. It wasn’t that great for a touchy belly, but refraining from eating when it’s all in front of you isn’t always easy to do. Especially after it becomes a habit.
So I started getting back to normal after I got home. It was hard at first because my taste buds had got used to the sugar, fat and salt. So I set to weaning myself off it and making sure I had healthier snack choices. This meant doing some baking and also having fruit prepared ready to eat. It should be easier now too since getting back into work means much less TV time and mindless snacking.
10. Planning out the next few months and preparing for change
Another great way to deal with overwhelm and help yourself reset is to make plans for moving forward. And since my previous plans for A Less Irritable Life wound up in December, new plans were needed. Otherwise overwhelm would creep up on me again because this business can only last if it brings in money.
So I did do some work over the last couple of weeks, but only the planning bit. First I focussed on the full year and my bigger picture goals. Then I got stuck into the first quarter and chose 3 goals to tackle. Breaking it down like this helps immensely because it’s easier to achieve success in bite-sized pieces. And it’s less overwhelming than focussing on one huge goal for the year.
While I won’t get into the specifics of the goals, they will have some impact on A Less Irritable Life. There are going to be a few changes here on the blog, but also in how I communicate with you. Don’t worry though… these are improvements that will make things easier and better for you.
Here are some changes to look out for:
- The recipe format is going to change, which will make it easier for you to print a recipe. It will take time for me to format all the recipes, but all the new ones will be set up in the new way.
- I’m going to begin providing opportunities that allow us to talk live, rather than just in words. Where you can learn something new and also get your questions answered. I’ll be trying a few different ways of doing this until I work out the best option, but it will begin on Facebook. So if you don’t yet follow the Facebook page, click here to do so.
- I’ll be updating some of the older posts that have lots of key information about FODMAPs. This is important since more is being learned about FODMAPs all the time, so I need to make sure that you have the best and most useful information to help your IBS. So each week, I’ll be updating one of the older posts to make it more useful for you.
There will be more things coming too, but this is enough to get things rolling. And it was more than enough to help me reset and get back into the new year while keeping my IBS under control.