Listen to Your Body

Whenever I haven’t worked out for a week or two, I can feel my heart beating a little harder when I lay down at night. There’s a bigger rhythmic thud in my chest. And if I have an ear buried in the pillow I can hear and feel my pulse in my head more than usual. A more noticeable heartbeat and pulse have become a clear signal that I need to get back to exercising regularly. If I’ve been lazy, or have lost track about how long it’s actually been since the last time, I’m more aware now of ways my body is telling me where I’m at.

Perhaps you get similar messages. From your heart or the tightness of your chest. Jitteriness, shortness of breath, or a general feeling of anxiety. Aching muscles and tendons. Rumbling and popping in your digestive system. Difficulty getting your mind to focus on more than simple, short things. Headaches and bags under your eyes. The color of your pee and the (ab)normality of your poop. (Yeah…poop. You know about the Bristol stool scale, right?)

All of these things–and more–are signals of how your body is doing and what needs attention. How near or far you are to being balanced and healthy. The fewer, more regular signals you have, the more likely you are well off. If every inch of your body hurts, or you feel like you could close your eyes and pass out, you need to slow down and heal.

The signals are not always easy to detect or interpret. Maybe you don’t feel something until you turn a certain way or lie down. Some signals can be unfamiliar until you look into it a little more. You need to do a bit of Googling or ask professionals what’s going on–while making sure you keep cyberchondria in check. Other signals you only begin to pick up on clearly when you do some kind of mindfulness or meditative practice that gets you more in tune with yourself. Things like stress, worry, or sleep deprivation can drown signals out completely.

The causes behind the signals are not always obvious either. Am I short of breath because I’m out of shape? Because I’m at a different altitude than usual? Because I forgot to eat before I had coffee? Because I freaked the hell out when I thought I saw a giant spider 20 minutes ago?

But even asking such probing questions at all is a revealing and meaningful start. Ultimately, the signals are there so we can do something about what we’ve put our body through. The food and drink that goes in, the sleep and rest we make time for, the stressors we’re being bombarded with, and the things in the environment around us that are impinging on our cells. The signals have a source, and if we can identify the cause then we know what to change or adjust to find balance again. Emotions are their own special kind of signal, often revealing where we’re at with our relationships and attachments.

Every so often, I get lightheaded and have a harder time concentrating and spitting sentences out. I put it together a while back that it happens when I didn’t eat a big enough meal or the right combination of food. In those instances, I need to stop what I’m doing and find some applesauce or a handful of gummy bears. After that, I can feel my energy and focus come back online, like WALL-E after soaking up the sun’s rays. I’m glad I’ve got that signal figured out now.

So listen to your body. Try to be aware of the signals it’s sending, and figure out what’s causing them. We’re all meant to have balance, energy, strength, and focus. Homeostasis. Listening to your body will help you understand what you need to do to get there.

This Week in Upgrades: February 13

Hi! Happy Monday to you. I took a bit of a break last week, so I apologize if you were waiting for a weekly assortment of interesting things you may have missed. Obviously, that never happened. Sad face emoji.

Breaks and balance and rest are vital. I took my opportunity when I had it. I thrive on staying informed and browsing through all sorts of commentary about what’s going on in the world. But over the last couple weeks, I found myself mostly just getting frustrated at everything little dumb thing. I had to give my brain and emotions some time to recuperate. Have you ever been there? What do you like to do to feel like yourself again?

A recent study suggested that if you’re not getting good sleep you should go camping. Need to get back out in the woods soon.

Here’s what else caught my attention this week…

Do you like spicy food? How do you feel about a “heatless” habanero?

A number of teenage girls are experiencing major depression, with some saying they “get their ‘entire identity’ from their phone…constantly checking the number of ‘tags, likes, Instagram photos and Snapchat stories.'” Yikes.

It’s not just teenage girls. A majority of people will have at least one mental health struggle in their lifetime. What are we doing to support mental well-being?

Thank you, Kids Try…, for making me laugh out loud even in dark times.

The most remote place on Earth, the Mariana Trench, has an “extraordinary” amount of pollution. Humans literally impact every inch of the planet.

Here’s a remarkable look at the unpolluted ocean we should be protecting.

A reminder that much more automation is coming, so we better get ready.

Will this Chrome extension help get us out of our ideological bubbles?

A few books I’ve read recently that I definitely recommend: The Nordic Theory of EverythingInfinite DistractionThe Earth and I

Have a great week!

 

 

This Week in Upgrades: January 9

Well, hello! A very pleasant Monday to you. Here comes week two of 2017. Are you ready? We’re in that kind of weird post-holiday period where we got all hyped up and now it’s over. What happens next? A lot of cold and quiet for most people, I suppose. Let’s fill it up with good things. No reason for the midwinter to be bleak.

Here’s some of the most interesting stuff I saw this week:

Music has forever changed because of the microphone.

Has a favorite restaurant of yours closed recently? It’s nearly impossible to keep one going nowadays.

Maybe just don’t give kids tablets?

Neature.

With fewer than 30,000 left worldwide and a rapidly warming climate, “the future for polar bears is pretty bleak.”

We still haven’t figured out work-life balance.

The National Institutes of Health now recommends introducing peanut products to babies in their first year to decrease the chance of allergy. Fascinatingly counterintuitive.

If we gave everyone checks to cover their basic needs, would it lead to laziness?

Have a wonderful week!

This Week in Upgrades: July 25

Oh, hello! Here we are at the start of another week. How are you doing? Rested? Eager? Ready to keep the world new?

We’re in the midst of a fire-pocalypse in the LA area. Wildfires are common in California, but the Sand fire in Santa Clarita is uncommonly dire. Looks like the end of the world when the smoke-obscured sun glows an ominous red-orange, and ash is snowing down on you. Very unsettling.

What else happened this week?

Amazon is looking to use lampposts as part of their drone delivery network. Maybe drones are better than pooping pigeons?

We learned more about how wild birds and humans team up to get honey. Wonderful things happen when we work with nature instead of trying to subdue it.

Here’s everything you’d want to know about campfires. Just keep them contained, OK?

When we’re at ease, humans gravitate toward equality. In stress, hierarchy. Very interesting.

Do you remember what it was like to be small and the world seemed full of magic? We’re learning more about how kids understand fantasy, reality, and pretending.

Here’s Tesla’s “Masterplan Part Two”. Ambitious, but encouraging for society if they can make it happen. “The first time, possibly ever, that a green product with significant environmental credentials has been the thing everybody wanted.”

In the midst of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, members of the media try to explain why the media is failing us. This American presidential election has been a wild and depressing ride. Hopefully, a lot of beneficial change–media included–emerges out of the ashes.

Have a great week!

 

How to Adult: Laundry

Laundry. Does anyone get excited about it? Like most cleaning, you probably wish you could have the results without doing any of the work to get there. If you love cleaning clothes, I have a basketful that I’d be happy to give you.

For the rest of us, we’ll let our dirty clothes pile up on the floor or in a hamper until we have to wash them out of necessity. Eventually, there’s nothing clean left to wear. Fortunately, with a little bit of willpower to build a habit, and some basic understanding of how to clean the different types of clothes in your wardrobe, laundry can be less of a chore. Maybe you’re relatively new to doing your own laundry. All good. Follow the steps below, and you’ll be a responsible pro in no time.

Pick a day or a time to do laundry each week. It’s so much less of a burden to do one or two loads of laundry every week than four or five (or more) loads once every few weeks. Doing laundry every week means you’re cleaning clothes more often, but it’s far fewer items to worry about at once. I find this much less stressful. Plus, you’ll never have to go long without any particular item of clothing. Your favorite athleisure pants or kickass dress will always be clean.

Sort your laundry into the right groups. Colors all together. Whites and grays together. For most items, it’s as simple as that. Your regular laundry night will consist of a load of colors and a load of lights. If you don’t have a full load of one or the other, be kind to the earth and save it for the next week. Some things you may want to wash in more specific groups: just blankets and sheets, just towels, or just sweaty workout wear or other super-soiled things.

And some items do require special care. It’s always a good idea to look at the tag when you buy something so you know how you’ll need to clean it. If it’s dry clean only, it will obviously have to be taken to a dry cleaner nearby. Some items dictate that you tumble dry them on low heat, or to not put them in the dryer at all. Etcetera. Check out the chart below for a quick reference to the laundry hieroglyphics you see on tags.

Fabric Care Chart
via GQ

Find the right detergent and fabric softener for you. This may take some trial and error. My wife and I both have somewhat sensitive skin, so we use a free and clear type detergent and fabric softener. Also, the washing machine we use is high efficiency, so we picked out a detergent that is also rated HE for ideal cleaning. You may have particular convictions about the environment, and there are plenty of detergents to choose from nowadays that are more selective about the components they’ve put into the bottle. Or maybe you really like a particular scent to your clothes. If you want Christmas Meadow, Apple Mango, or whatever else, you can probably find it.

Try some different detergents and softeners out over time and see what you like best. Again, follow the instructions on your clothing labels and on the back of the bottle or box to make sure you’re getting the best results.

I am not a fan of bleach, but if you think you need it there are plenty of easy to find instructions for that too. Just be considerate of others if you have a shared washing machine. No one likes a bleach surprise when they go to wash their own clothes.

If you’re not sure about cycle and temperature, default to cold, permanent press. Hot or warm water may be best for certain items, but hot water does not equal cleaner. Warmer temperature water may even cause your clothes to wear out faster or result in color problems. Many detergents clean just as well in cold water as they do hot, so you might as well play it safe and save energy with cold. Here’s an explanation of the different cycle types if you want to play around with them. You don’t need to obsess about it, though.

Have something awesome to do while your clothes are cleaning. Whether it’s a book, a podcast, planning out your meals for the week, catching up with a friend over the phone, an episode of a show, or something else, laundry time is the perfect time to do something awesome for yourself while you wait. Get the clothes started washing, set a timer for the machine, and get started on a little me time of your choosing. You’ll have another block of time to enjoy while the clothes are drying. Nice.

Dry your items properly to help them last. Some things you don’t really want to put in the dryer: bras, coats, sweaters, and more. These things are usually best air-dried on a hanger or a hook of some sort. For sweaters, jackets, and other tops, try to get wooden or other sturdy hangers instead of the skinny plastic ones so you don’t get dimpled, saggy shoulders as they dry. If you have things hanging outside, make sure you check the weather for anything inclement on the way.

Fold and organize like a champion. I don’t know what your home setup is like, but we have a small closet with a rack for hangers and a small dresser with drawers. We like to hang all of the tops that aren’t t-shirts in the closet so that they don’t get super wrinkled: dresses, sweaters, button-downs, etc. T-shirts, underwear, sleeping wear, and other items like them, can be neatly folded and put into drawers or on a shelf in a closet. I toss clean socks in a pile on the corner chair and match those up after everything else is put away. (I do roll them up instead of folding them. Sorry Marie Kondo).

Find an organization setup that works for your clothes, and come up with a simple system for folding and putting things away once your laundry is done. This will help you to actually put them away instead of leaving clean things in a pile of their own somewhere.

That’s it! Are there other tips and tricks to consider? Of course. You can get washing bags for delicate items. You’ll probably want to wash specially dyed pieces of clothing or especially colorful clothes once or twice on their own before including them in a load of other things so you don’t get weird color transfer. You can refine your process even further: stain-treatment, ironing, and the like. We can talk about that more in the future. How to remove a stain is probably a post of its own, and I’m not an expert on that myself yet.

But for now, you’ve got plenty to work with to become a professional laundry-washer–to become more of an adult–and tackle the dreaded pile of dirty clothes. By getting into a weekly routine, you’ll never have too much to do, and with plenty of time to do other things while your clothes are washing and drying, laundry night can actually be a block of time that you look forward to because you can do whatever you want while you wait. For all of us sane people that wish the clothes would just wash themselves, that’s not too bad a consolation.

 

Yoga: It’s More than the Pants

As a younger me, I did not in a million years think that I would ever get into yoga. In college, as many classmates and coworkers began to find their way into studios every week, I wondered what exactly was so appealing about methodical stretching and deep breathing. Yoga is bodily in the fullest sense. Practitioners often show up in minimal clothing, are in close proximity to one another, and fill up the room with sweat and the occasional aromas of flatulence, active feet, and old mat. To this day, I much prefer to do yoga at home by myself for those reasons alone. The introvert in me is entirely uncomfortable being that unfiltered with other people. Maybe that’s irreverent. I apologize to the hardcore yogis committed to judgement-free group work in the studio.

I’m decidedly low-key and solo. I haven’t received extensive instruction on the asanas–the poses. I don’t do yoga because I’m seeking spiritual enlightenment or a transcendent experience. I have a DVD and a mat in my living room at home that I take out a few times a week. Close the blinds and begin. And the DVD? It’s a “power yoga” course from the 90s that is so 90s: saxophone and synth dad-music, original VHS-quality video, and cutoff jean shorts for workout wear. Just watch some of this! The first dozen times I used it I went back and forth between calm focus and hysterical laughter. The most-sensitive-man-in-the-world intro still gets me every time.

I think when I see that unintentional comedy it helps me shake free of the crazy things that happened during the day. And then begins the stretching and breathing stuff, which is unexpectedly powerful. How can something so simple and mundane be so beneficial and transformative? I find myself grateful for giving the seemingly uninteresting practice of yoga a very open-minded chance, and the purchase of a random DVD to try doing it regularly on my own. Serendipity is a wonderful and amusing thing sometimes.

Now, I get frustrated at myself when I go a week without yoga. On vacation, I’ve gone into the corner room where we’re staying and played the same accidentally hilarious video on my phone just to make sure I do a little bit. Why is this?

There’s an incredible thing that happens when you push the pause button on everything else in the world a few times a week. The whole be present in the present mentality is overflowing with a sense of silly spirituality, but there are some profound things that happen to you when you eliminate busyness and distractions and just be for a little while. No phone, no work, no social pressure. I’ve come to realize how much I need that. Now I long for that recharge and clarity through the week.

Yoga also presents physical challenges that compel me to keep coming back. Even if you do the exact same set of poses each time, you can always go a little deeper. With each position, you’re working at the edge of increased flexibility, strength, balance, and calm. I would not be surprised to find that one of the reasons yoga is so engaging for mind and body is because it puts you into so-called flow. You’re challenged just enough that you can rise to the occasion, and every time you complete another session you feel a little stronger and a little more whole. I’ve been doing yoga regularly for a couple years now since stumbling into it, and I can honestly say that I have more energy, sleep better, have less body pain, and feel better prepared to tackle what the day throws at me because of it. That’s no small thing.

Give it a try. Get some cool ass pants if it helps. You feel like a rockstar with yoga pants on. Based on how often they’re worn in public, apparently a lot of people think they’re made for feeling like a rockstar when you go shopping. I can tell you that if you do wear them around town you’re probably going to feel even better in them if you actually do yoga. That incremental increase in strength, flexibility, and the rest, leads to an increase in body confidence as well. You feel good and look good. This is a whole-body thing in a very tangible way.

Get an awesome retro yoga DVD. Or sign up for a class in your neighborhood (if you can handle bodies without boundaries).

Whatever it takes to commit, I promise it’s worth it. We all could use a bit less stress and anxiety, exercise that we actually look forward to doing a few times a week, and regular recharge and refocus. To my great surprise, yoga is an excellent way to achieve it.