Staying sane on busy days

Good morning. How are you doing today?

breakfast - greek yogurt, quinoa, banana, strawberries, pb

So yesterday was a long day. I have decided that  Wednesdays are definitely the toughest day of the week for me to get through. Between  8 hours of work + 90 minutes of Bio lecture + 2 (or more) hours of Bio lab, I always feel exhausted by the end of the day. While I usually try to make the best of it and not complain (I know we all have busy days), I have found that some weeks/days are just easier than others. Yesterday was one of the more rough days.

Anyway, instead of going over why I was it was hard day or why I didn’t have as much energy, etc., I’d rather move forward and discuss strategy. I have realized that I employ a few tactics every week to keep my spirits up. Since I am not one to dwell on a negative mood for long and am a  firm believer that the little things in life are what make you the happiest, I guess it comes to no surprise that I’d try to make the most of my more stressful days. Why be happy tomorrow or “when I have accomplished _____” when you can be happy right now (even at times when you are learning about entropy and enzymes)? Life if happening everyday so why not enjoy it (even if it’s the little moments….)?

So on that note, I thought I’d share some things that I do to attempt to stay positive/remain optimistic when days are long or stressful or feel never-ending  (and then maybe you can share some of your strategies? I’m always looking for new tips…):

I pack/plan to eat “fun food” and/or make eating an “event”

This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise, but food makes me really happy. I love looking forward to a meal and love to plan fun (and healthy(!)) meals for myself on days when I am stressed or busy or blah. A good meal just lifts my spirits (and keeps me well fueled!). I legitimately get excited to dig into my packed dinners before class on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Even on super busy days when I rely on granola bars and trail mix to keep my energy up, I try to take the time to just slow down and enjoy them. Food doesn’t need to be fancy to be special. Meals (for me at least) not only serve as good “fuel” but always create a time/space where I can tell myself to just STOP and enjoy the moment. I love how food has the power to create such a space. You have to eat at least 3 times a day, so why not use the time to enjoy yourself?

I believe that food should always be “fun” and should never be an afterthought. It’s important! Even a snack of a granola bar or a dinner of a pb&j can be exciting if you focus on it.

Use my commute time as “me” time

It can be really hard to travel to school from work and come home at the end of the day feeling like I haven’t stopped moving for 14+ hours. I am the type of person that needs time to myself to just relax. I usually do this by running or at night by just unwinding, but my current schedule doesn’t allow as much time for this (I need to sleep too!).

I have found that my car ride to and from school is a great time for me to unwind and just relax. My activities range from belting out songs (I am really liking Kelly Clarkson’s new song for this… is that embarrassing?) to pondering life, to completely zoning out (while watching the road, of course). Whatever the activity though, I realize that these rides are definitely beneficial to let me just be.

Repeat positive mantras and try to learn fun facts

When all else fails and I feel super exhausted or would rather do anything than go to class or measure 2 mL of water into 15 different beakers during lab, I either repeat positive mantras in my head or try to extract fun facts from class to keep myself motivated. Basic biology can be much more fun when you are trying to learn something new and exciting at every moment.

I find myself doing this at work too when things are especially slow or stressful. It’s never to late to learn something new (I got to learn all about assessment of nonverbal children with autism yesterday….). I had a professor once that always said, “It’s not for school but for life we learn…” so maybe that’s where I learned this little tactic?

My go-to mantras:

  • “This will be worth it….. This will be worth it”
  • “You can do this. You are smart. You are going to be someone someday”
  • If you focus on the moment/be present… time will go faster (and you actually may gain something from this)… which is usually always true

Fun Facts:

  • Penicillin was discovered by accident
  • It is NOT fun to make “onion water” (not a fun fact but is the truth)….yesterday was more of a positive mantra day than a learn fun facts kind of day

So these are just a few things that I try to keep in mind when stressed/busy.  Even when days are hard and life is overwhelming, I like to think there is something I can do to change it (or at least make it a bit more enjoyable).

How do you stay sane when life is crazy? Do you have any suggestions/tips? I’d love to hear some!

Have a great day everyone!

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Life Lessons from Temple Grandin

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to see Temple Grandin speak.

Temple has her Ph.D.  in animal science,  is known as an expert in the cattle and livestock industry, is a professor at Colorado State University, and is a well-respected author. Temple Grandin also has autism.

A HBO movie was also recently made about her/her life (2010). They showed a clip during her presentation so it is definitely an accurate depiction...

It was SO COOL to hear  Dr. Grandin’s presentation (I work in autism research and my boss was able to get us admittance into the program). While  her discussion focused solely on autism (her experiences, how she views it, services she supports…), I found that many of her tips and experiences could be applicable to other situations as well.

Some of Temple’s statements that stuck out to me:

1. There are so many different types of thinkers/learners out there and it is ridiculous to think that everyone will learn the same way.

  • A person who thinks visually might not be able to do algebra very well (but will be able to design buildings flawlessly).
  • A person who thinks in a factual way will be able to list all the events of WWII without a problem, but most likely will not be able to draw very well or comprehend abstract principles.

We need to recognize these differences and realize that it is not that these individuals are less capable. They may just need to learn things in less “typical” ways.

2. If you need to learn a skill that you don’t want to or have trouble doing a specific task (e.g., engaging in social situations, talking in front of large groups of people, etc.), align that skill with a goal that you want to accomplish.

  • For example, if your dream is to be a software engineer at Google, you have to be able to communicate with others effectively and hold a conversation. You need to be able to:
  1. learn to talk to people ( in order to)
  2.  reach your career goal

 3. It is OK to cry!

  • Temple discussed that as a child, she didn’t understand how to express her emotions or how to change them. She said she used to take out her frustrations through aggression (she described throwing a book at a teacher) , but she later learned to replace her aggression with a different act: crying (since crying was more socially acceptable and didn’t cause any harm).
  • She said she still HATED high school, but learned how to effectively get through it.

4. Use your interests to expand your knowledge base

  • A lot of children on the autism spectrum tend to fixate on certain things or have specific interests (e.g., trains, cars, horses, history).
  • Instead of letting the child fixate and not move forward, Temple advised educators/parents to use those interests to  stretch the child’s mind…. If they like to draw horses, have them draw where they are riding to, what they are eating, etc. Have a child learn math by counting horses…

Temple brought up so many interesting points and really helped the audience understand how a person with autism may think or feel differently.

Even though this talk focused on the autism spectrum, I think many of Temple’s words and points are applicable to anyone. We all have struggles and are self-conscious about something. No one is perfect.

Some of  points I took away from the presentation (and those I felt could be generalizable):

  • Use your skills/interests to your advantage.  You have talents/thoughts/interests that are uniquely you…. USE THEM!

When Temple was asked whether she wished she could “take away” her autism, she replied, “No. I like the way I think, and I like the way I am. I think in a way that no one else can. I would never want to lose that.”

I LOVED this statement. I think we could all learn a little something from Dr. Grandin.

  • It’s OK to not be perfect at everything (but to realize that some skills are necessary to get you further in life)

Temple described how she learned to express emotions more effectively and learned to behave in a more social manner in order to get through school into the workforce (even though both of these skills so not come easily to her) .

I sometimes stress that I don’t like science enough to go into a science-related field, or that I am too introverted to work with people, but  I need to remind myself that it is OK to not be the best at everything.  Not every task will be enjoyable or come easy to me. It is OK to be a “work in progress” or work on tasks for a bigger purpose.

  • We are bound to get annoyed/frustrated/overwhelmed. We have a choice, however, on how we choose to react.

It is inevitable that this happens. We can’t be happy all the time. I think the power of choice is an important point to remember…

This presentation was so informative and inspiring. I loved how knowledgable Dr. Grandin was and how she was able to give the audience a perspective of autism that so few can do on such a large-scale. I feel really lucky that my job  gave me this opportunity. She inspired me to really use my “special skills” to my advantage…. I love listening to passionate/inspiring people.

Has anything inspired you recently?

Recipe for a good weekend

1.Delicious food… check

Breakfast on Saturday: yogurt with oatmeal, banana, strawberries and peanut butter

2. A fun outing… check

Jared's lovely work

My sister and I went to an ice festival on Saturday (my sister’s boyfriend, Jared,  is an ice sculptor and does a lot of festivals on the weekends). We showed our support by taking random pictures and trying not to complain about our frozen fingers and toes (which I am pretty sure we failed at… sorry Jared).

Note to self: when you KNOW you will be standing outside in 30 degree weather for 2 hours, wear warm socks.

3. A good workout(s)…check

I took a BodyAttack class this morning. A new release comes out next week… so excited!

4.Eating at a new/fun/delicious restaurant…. check

I went out to dinner at Church Brew Works with this guy last night….

Jon making his debut on the blog...

Drank some of this…
 and ate some delicious food…

Crispy polenta with zucchini, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes in a goat cheese truffle sauce

So it was a fun and delicious dining experience.
5. A fun outing/night with friends with fun drinks…. check

Mad Mex margarita... always delicious

I went to Mad Mex (one of my favorite Mexican restaurants) last night with Jon, my sister, Sami, and her boyfriend, Jared. We met up with a few friends later in the night,(Hi Erin, Erin, and Allison!) so it was a successful/fun night. Plus, you can never go wrong with margaritas…

6.Productivity… (in progress)

I love when I am productive over the weekend (usually on Sundays) and feel ready to tackle the upcoming week.

So far I have gone grocery shopping,  but I plan to finish a lab report, read in my Bio book, organize my room and do my laundry today as well …. so I will be productive, later.

On that note, I better go work on #6…

I hope you are having a great Sunday/weekend!

What is your “recipe” for a good weekend?

Thoughts from a minivan

I sometimes find that my most most clear/profound thoughts come to me at the most random times.

Today I had a moment while picking up my company’s minivan from Pep Boys (long story short… the battery died, had to be replaced, and given that I had nothing pressing to do at work today, I was the lucky one who got to pick it up).

my sweet ride

Anyway, as I first waited for a city bus to take me to the Pep Boys, I started pondering life/my future (which is completely normal, right?), and started thinking about a conversation I had with my coworker, Taylor.

We were talking about careers earlier today (a topic we frequently discuss since we are both figuring out grad school/future plans right now), and discussing how difficult it can be to figure out “what you want to do with your life.” I was telling Taylor how I  keep getting  so frustrated and overwhelmed because I know what I am passionate about (nutrition, food, wellness, cooking….), but I don’t know what path to follow (psych, RD, culinary arts…)  or what career I eventually envision myself having. When you know you don’t want a cookie cutter career (like teacher, doctor, lawyer….), but still want to be successful, it can be quite difficult to draft a plan for yourself.  I have never been one to steer away from the “normal” path.

Something very helpful that Taylor said to me (she is so good at being blunt and  helping me see things in a different perspective) is this, “What do you see yourself doing if the path to get there wasn’t an issue? How will (insert degree) get you where you want to be?”

I realized (at this point I was finished at Pep Boys and driving back to work in the minivan) that all of my hesitation, doubt, and overwhelming thoughts stem from worrying about the “path,” not the final outcome.  I am scared of making  a bad choice, “wasting” my time in school, putting myself in more debt that I can handle, worrying that the end result won’t be worth it, and so on. Although these are valid and important thoughts to have when considering career options, it is not all that matters.

I saved part of a post I saw on Girl Meets Life a while back (written by Caitlin from the Twenty-Fifth Year) that I liked, and it is actually very relevant to this.

“Think about what you love.  Take away the fear of being judged, of failing and the uncertainty of what the result will be. Take away the audience, your peers and the idea of facing adversity. What are you left with? Oh yeah, that thing you love. And your mojo.”

I think this is something I have been failing to do recently. I have been getting so caught up in my fear, uncertainty and doubts that I have completely lost focus of what is important and why I am trying to figure all of this out in the first place.  But since there’s no time like the present, I think I am ready to put my fear/judgment/uncertainty aside… life may not always be easy, but it is too short to not do what you love.

I think I may need to take random mid-day road trips at work more often…

Questions:

Where do tend to think best? Other than minivans, I tend to come to many revelations on long car rides or often on long runs

Is there anything you love that are scared to pursue because of fear, judgment, etc.?