Take Micro Me Time

Time poor but determined to take care of yourself? Time for a microbreak

It is the half term break where we are right now so I am seeing lots of parent content about kids driving them to distraction this week. Well as someone whose son is out of school whilst we find the right special school, I know a little something about having someone around the whole time. As it’s six months now, I no longer chafe against the irritation – instead I try and find time to be me.

Here are some ideas to help take just a little me time whenever you can:

Of course I have to say get up early – what mum blogger is not going to tell you to get up early? But for me that does not mean before my child. He wakes anytime between 3am and 6am daily and needs far less sleep than me. So realistically that means get up with my child and supervise him. But each morning I make coffee in a special mug. Once he is happily on Roblox or YouTube and sit down and smell the coffee – a mindful moment can just get you appreciating life a bit more.

Obviously some parts of my morning routine like writing morning pages have become habits. Though they do not always happen and are usually interrupted -in fact the practice of writing three pages of stream of consciousness means my pages are often about the distractions I face. Irritation is a great tool to bring you back to your body – its usually a sign that I am not meeting a need. I may need the coffee, time to write or even – and this is tricky – enough quiet to think straight.

Having my headphones in is another great way to take a break even if it is not quiet. As well as listening to podcasts and audiobooks, I use binaural music which is soothing. Like a background track to daily life it helps me in those frantic moments. I may not be getting him out the door for school, but I still having to chivvy my child along particularly as getting dressed is harder for him than others his age. Accompanying my life with something which works well to soothe my mind and keep my relaxed has helped me greatly cope with life.

Savasana is the best bit

Take some time out on the mat. My yoga mat sits out to remind me to use it and does occasionally gather dust. I have got used to squeezing it between my bed and wardrobe or kicking aside the rug downstairs. And similarly I have got used to fitting in yoga when I can. By doing simple beginners routines online for just 10 minutes where I can. It’s amazing to me everytime that I stretch just how much tension there is in my muscles. We can become so used to holding it all together. I love this yoga from Yoga with Adrienne for neck pain if you also carry around your burdens on your shoulders, like me.

Quick browse in a bookshop

Finally, I take sneaky microbreaks when we are out and about as a family. Leaving my family whilst I do an errand and grabbing a coffee is not revolutionary idea but that treat can be a reminder you have a right to look after yourself. If my son is engaged I may shut my eyes for a few minutes to take a break or just enjoy being in the other room. I took a longer break this week by browsing in a secondhand book shop while my family enjoyed ice creams in the car.

Sometimes just taking ten minutes doing something you enjoy can be enough to set you up. You can be ready to fill your child’s cup with attention again. It’s not easy having my child with me all the time, I must be honest. But like all life’s challenges, it’s a lot easier if I take time to take care of me.

Half Year Reset

It’s that time of year when I reflect on what I can improve

There is something about the arbitrary passage of time that is on my mind recently. I am nearing forty and trying to have no regrets of time lost. But now it is June I feel the need to reset my goals.

I often use the Gretchen Rubin method of having 21 in 2021 etc which I have in my journal but this year I decided to revisit my vision board. This is a practice I learnt that I had achieved the aims of a spa trip, some sister time and have certainly tried to get out in nature. I had a recent Artist Date exploring the azaleas which gave me a lot of joy. And I have been trying to find ways to look after me eventhough my son is having a tricky time.

The inconvenient truth about life is sometimes one thing goes right then, another goes wrong. I don’t mean even just the big stuff. Detailed plans seem to me the stuff of wild dreams. I have written about my disdain for plans before not to discourage planning but to try and reassure anyone I know, life doesn’t work like that.

So this year for my reset I wanted to be more realistic. The algorithm sent me a message (like it’s the from universe but more likely just the sort of wellness content I am consuming). I am following a 50 day refresh led by Smilin Aislinn on youtube. Watching her videos just made me smile, she’s not worried if your journey looks completely different which clearly as a nearly-40 year old non-model I have in no way a similar life. But I am inspired to try and be consistent. Keep up habits that help with both my energy and creativity.

If you are inspired to anchor each day with healthy habits, she recommends setting both your goal and intention behind them. And most importantly not to be a perfectionist about it. There is no need to go back and revisit if you miss one. I missed off get up early from the list I made because that one is a given for me. These were the habits I created to support me:

Simple Habits to Help Energy and Creativity

Habit one: Morning pages. Everyday three pages as soon as you wake up. Or do them imperfectly like me. My intention is to have a space to be creative, reduce stress by journalling my worries and find me time at the beginning of everyday

Habit two: Green juice and lots of veggies on top of my normal food. My intention is to add to my energy by being healthy but not restrictive. I have tried a number of wellness fads and this one has stuck. If I am more consistent hopefully it will support healthy recovery.

Habit three: Afternoon meditation. I can’t always sleep in the afternoon but I find taking a restful moment each day for 20 minutes will give me a better chance of getting through my day even with fatigue. If you’re bad at meditation, I’ve written my guide for fidgets.

Habit four: Three gentle exercise days and three yoga days. I know that doing very short and gentle workouts makes me feel better as long as I only do it to my level. The appreciation I have now of being able to do this bit more having been living with fatigue for nearly 18 months makes it so valuable to my sense that I am recovering. Again being consistent hopefully will also see some positive improvement in my endurance as the weeks go on.

Habit five: Ten minutes reading daily. You may see I have recently posted some reviews and I am enjoying reading books again within my limits. I am still making my way through 40 books before 40 from my to be read (TBR) pile. Reading will always be my greatest inspiration and it’s a joy to build up my concentration despite the fatigue.

Habit six: Skincare. I am guilty of buying lots of skincare products and letting them sit looking me each day. Taking a bit extra time to use the jade roller and various potions is adding that bit of self-care at the beginning and end of each day. It’s my small way to remind myself to look after myself even in the toughest of times.

The Sunday Reset

Transform your week with a reset

I have dreaded Sundays. They were the day I rushed around tidying, did the food shop and panicked about all the things in the week ahead. But having a fatigue condition has changed my attitude. I cannot do all-the-things and I am better for it. Having a Sunday reset routine helps prepare me for the week without rushing around. And I think it can help everyone to pace their life, work, maybe even increase productivity. Here’s how I try to reset:

Sunday Morning

Start as you mean to go on. If there is ever a time to envoke your morning routine, I think Sunday is the day you have a chance of getting it right. Now I always have a vision of my perfect morning : mediation, morning pages, self-care. This is the point to remind you you can do things but do them imperfectly. So as soon as I can, I do a meditation. Often I use short guided meditations like Mindful in Minutes podcast. And I have a few options to help if you are a fidgety meditator like me!

After meditating I use my journalling practice. Often during the week my Morning Pages happen at another time of day or with distractions as my guide explains. Julia Cameron suggests in The Artist’s Way that you write it all out in three pages each morning to help your inner artist. Sunday is a great time to reset the habit. So each Sunday I try and do my pages as it is intended as there is a chance for me to leave my son to tv without the usual challenges of getting him ready for school.

Skincare Sunday

Then is time for self-care. Although it may be too tiring to always shower I can take my time over skincare actually doing all the steps: cleanse, polish, cleanse, serum, serum, face roll, wait, moisturise. I love my jade roller and I have been influenced into a number of wellness products which may or may not work! But Sunday is a great time to use all these products taking time over the whole routine. I still don’t understand how people make it to twelve steps but there is something that feels extra indulgent doing my seven step routine.

Tidy up

To help with fatigue, I now divide all my cleaning tasks on to different days of the week and frankly at times only do the bare minimum. One task that has become an essential on a Sunday is tidying up the table. In our house this means a place to eat a family meal and play games together after dinner. It is also a place to work. I wrote recently about setting myself up to succeed by making space to write. Whether it is working on my novel or on my volunteer role, having a space that I tuck myself into to get on with work is motivating. Not only that, clearing you work area is a quick reminder to yourself what you wish to achieve in the week ahead.

Check the Calendar

We often try and coordinate diaries for the week ahead and this can help with being more productive, planning meals ahead for example. But it is also an opportunity for me to work out what I can and cannot do on my work-in-progress. So this week just gone was Easter holidays with my son. We even managed a few outings which is no mean feat with my current energy levels. So realistically I did not plan to read or write. That is a bit sad for me because these are my two favourite things. However, by planning ahead my pacing, I can feel proud of what I have achieved.

Next week we are away and with family so again I will be busier. I have got the benefit though of fewer jobs to do at home and childcare so my trusty notebook will travel with us. Often a new place can provide inspiration and I hope if nothing else I can note snippets of stories whilst we are out and about.

Do you find a routine helps you be more creative? In some ways it feels counterintuitive not to be spontaneous and free in making art but, at least for now, I need these regular resets.

Anniversaries are a time to reflect

It is certainly a big year in my life to reflect upon and find a way forward from this week on

With an unnerving sense of head-shaking disbelief, I am about to meet two anniversaries this week.  They feel both momentous and give me a short burst of existential depression. I have experienced these waves of insignificance since I was a child, and it took me until a few years back to find out what it is called. The New Year and birthdays are particularly bad for me : feeling a true sense of time and my existence and my irrelevance in the universe.  The coming week I am commemorating two anniversaries and I can’t help feel a little strange about it.

My blog is three years old, it has been growing slowly and steadily and I have plan to make it more of a place to talk about writing, as I had originally intended, as 2022 continues. But as I reflect on what I have achieved, I also reflect on how much of my life has been swallowed up by the pandemic years, it has become both my blogging topic and also invaded my home and time in ways we could never have known when I first wrote about my anxieties in March 2020.

This leads me to the other anniversary that I have to mark in this coming week. It is a year since I caught covid. At times, I still can’t fathom that I have not yet got over the infection. I have been recently taking an online course Pamela Rose’ Fatigue Rescue and one important part of a journey to recovery is to understand and accept your condition. The main thing that I have been doing (in addition to seeing doctors, attending therapy and a variety of wellness helpers) has been that I have believed myself. I do have a fatigue condition. I will get better. It will take time.

And it’s the time that feels so unbelievable to look back on, this anniversary will probably not be one that I have to look back on again (it might be, but this time next year…) But despite doing a lot of work around mindset and taking this condition seriously, I have some sadness to be marking a year this week. I am seeing it as an opportunity to change my life and prioritise what is important. But in doing so, I have to acknowledge that there is loss too. The loss is not as momentous as that many have experienced and I still say that I have been lucky. But it is ok for a moment to grieve a little of what has been lost in the last year.

I am looking forward

What I want to do now is get through this week and then look forward. I have been working out the kinks in a story that has taken my interest and will report more often about how that is going. I have planned some more reviews to share on the blog as these remain my most popular posts. I will probably write a little less about my health journey from this point. But for now I want to acknowledge that this is a moment where I can reset Mum Write Now, a little and look forward to what I expect to be a much better year.

In defence of audiobooks

As an English grad, I am horrified that I hardly read a physical book this year but audiobooks have been an essential in my life this year

Earlier this year, I shared how I have started to count audiobooks as reading. It still seems wrong to say but despite the fatigue and brain fog of long covid, I have read just shy of 50 books this year. Most of them are listens rather than read and some are also re-reads. But I have now fully convinced this is the best way to really appreciate a text and I am sad I have waited so long to consume books in this way.

The main reason I want to defend the audiobook is this is the year I finally “read” Anna Karenina. Now, I have battled through most of War and Peace and knew that I liked Tolstoy’s knowing narration, grand settings but until this year, I never made it through Anna Karenina. And I must admit I had missed out. The first modern novel, obsessed with it’s own modernity, attempting to understand the psychology of it’s tragic heroes as well of of course the new age dawning with trains and the death of feudal farming, I find this a deeply fascinating novel. I did know the ending, but I was deeply shocked when I got there. The depth of my investment in the relationships and the complexity are so rewarding for the reader. When I am reading a novel twenty minutes at a time, holding all the characters in my head, switching between the town and countryside is confusing to follow, particularly when my brain is fogged. Having a voice actor peform the audiobook, we gain so much in their characterisation and can more easily follow the changes in voice and place in the novel.

Finally read Anna Karenina

It has also been an amazing way to reread books. I’ve listed before books that I think it is worth rereading. I have enjoyed the comfort of revisiting Jane Austen and the Northern Lights series by Phillip Pullman. Though I know these books so well, you pick up extra elements on each reread and this was very much part of my enjoyment of revisiting these books on audio. The performance is adding to the nuances that you pick up on as you revisit favourite places like Pemberley or characters like the villainous Mrs Coulter

A friend recently asked me how I concentrate on audiobooks as she tends to realise she has drifted off. Well this is a danger and with the relistens is matters less because you know the story but as I have managed brand new books this year too, I think I must be able to concentrate. My secret if anything is that listening to the book is the activity rather than have it on in the background. With my fatigue condition I have been bone tired enough to rest for great parts of the day. Not always thankfully but I lot of the time I have needed to give my brain a break and as I wrote before, audiobooks have formed an important part of my active resting.

So as I go forward with a bit more energy and a lot of hope, it may be that audiobooks were just the thing that got me through 2021 and ill-health. But even if I don’t get this time again to rest and “read” I will forever now advocate for audiobooks as a great way to tackle books, particularly ones that you have put off for years.

Are you an audiobook fan?