A recurring topic for many of us (and by “us”, I mean scientists & non-scientists alike) is taking the time to take care of ourselves. Sometimes it involves calling it a day in spite of the dozen other things we need to get done. Other times, it’s about daily practices to keep us healthy.
Lately I’ve been dealing with some major stress of the unbloggable kind; such is life. Of course, as fate/luck/coincidence would have it, this comes at a time when I have more than the usual amount of stuff on my plate at work, stuff that requires focus and attention, which can prove difficult when distracted and stressed out. I’ve been through enough stressful occurrences to know that I can easily fall into cycle of letting stress squeeze out those things which make it easier for me to deal with the stress (kind of ironic, isn’t it?).
So, especially since returning from the holiday break, I’m trying to be particularly vigilant in staying out of that cycle. I’m keeping up my food journal and sticking pretty closely to a meal plan. Almost every meal for the week comes from my kitchen, and on the occasion that I do get takeout, I’m mindful of my selections. (That being said, sometimes you need a cheat meal, and last night’s BBQ chicken pizza was heavenly, even if it did come from the freezer section at the grocery store.) I’m limiting my alcohol intake. I’m trying to keep a consistent sleep and work schedule, making an effort to catch the same early train even when I really don’t want to drag my ass out of bed (which can be difficult when it’s 3 friggin’ degrees Fahrenheit outside). I’m also trying to maintain a good level of physical activity.
It’s the last one that can be the hardest to keep up, the one that carries an element of guilt, especially when there’s much to do in the lab, because it actually takes time out of the day. Having a gym across the street helps, and I often try to plan my workout time around long incubations for experiments and take less time for lunch. It also helps that my boss considers maintaining non-science domains of one’s life as an essential part of being a productive scientist. Even so the motivation to work up a sweat can wax and wane. Two weeks ago was great but last week, not so much.
Sometimes, though, a little external motivation can serve as an excellent catalyst. Last weekend, Dr. Isis issued a challenge to earn 50 activity points in one week. One activity point is earned for every 80 calories burned… So that’s an extra 4000 calories in 7 days. I decided to take up Isis’s challenge. I typically walk to and from my apartment to the train, but this week I added a walk from the train to work, when I would usually take the bus. I also bypassed the elevator and took the stairs more this week. These activities to get places I was already going amounted to just over 14 APs for the week. Some days I added an extra 10 or 20 minutes of cardio to pick up an extra AP or two. My workouts – ranging from a couple of miles outside to a couple of hours in the gym (the full breakdown collected here) – accumulated almost 40 APs. I ended the week with 54 APs.
I also ended up with the first consistent week of running I’ve had in ages – 4 days for 11.5 miles. And I pushed myself hard enough to clear some headspace, even if for a short time, and to a point that made it easier to sleep at night.
Today I’ll be taking a day of rest, after 8 straight days of feeling the burn. But tomorrow I’ll be back in the gym, for the sake of body and mind.
Oh, and thanks for the extra nudge this week, Isis!