Mindfulness Mondays 4/6: Rising Early and Greeting the Day with Gratitude

So this past weekend was a bit jarring in that it definitely was not my typical weekend in how I would normally spend my time, which is working on school. I spent a lot more time with friends and family, shopping, and eating than I normally would even in a regular week! My typical reaction would be to begin stressing on my Sunday evening, or even all throughout Sunday, thinking about the many “things” I needed to get done before the week even began. However, I made a few small efforts that dramatically changed my typical response, which has positively impacted my approach for this week. I realize it’s Monday, however Monday is almost over and my enthusiasm has not deflated yet despite I’m starting to get tired.

Last week I came across a blog called zenhabits, and I checked out a bit about the writer and what the blog was about. Everyone should read this blog. You feel that you’re talking with someone who is so kind but also down to Earth, which makes their expectations/suggestions sound reasonable. One title intrigued me: The Most Successful Techniques for Rising Early. Lately I’ve been struggling with getting out of bed early like I had started in January, when I would meditate or practice yoga in the morning and have much more time to just process my day before it actually began. After reading this article, I was motivated to give it a try. My main takeaways in practice were to start gradually, along with following the 3 steps on actually getting up. Since reading the article, the next morning I set my alarm 15 minutes earlier than usual and then increased that everyday since (yes, even on the weekend). I also have been putting my alarm across the room and jumping up to it. Something that was hard was not going back to bed (I’m still working on this but today successfully only snoozed it twice at 5-minutes each). The biggest piece for me was having a reason to be excited, which was that I planned to run 2 miles! (I hadn’t run since early December).

Today, I officially got out of bed at 6:25am, and completed some light stretches. I put the coffee on, and did a few light things around until my boyfriend finally rose.  Then I did something I haven’t done in a while in the morning- I meditated! This entire weekend, though different than my usuals, was calming overall and just a nice experience. Nothing was too chaotic and time was well spent with good people doing fun things. This left me feeling very thankful for the people around me, the time I’ve spent with them either in person or talking on the phone, and with how at peace I’m feeling rather than noticeably stressed. I went back to the Stop, Breathe, Think app and did a quick check-in, and then chose the recommended meditation “Gratitude”. Though it was a five-minute meditation, it was all I needed to get me in a grounded state where I felt good about the things happening around me, and it was an excellent way to start my day!

Since this morning, I’ve been so productive in my amount of readings accomplished and my overall demeanor. I wore a bright yellow cardigan and was excited for the pleasantly warmer weather and sun. I actually did an assignment that I had already done 2 months ago, but hadn’t realized it. Instead of being upset or feeling that I wasted my time, my initial reaction was satisfaction in that I had re-read the material and was able to synthesize it better than the first time. Stepping outside of myself for a minute here- it was really great to watch myself respond so pleasantly! Then I finally did it, I stuck to my exciting goal of running 2 miles. I didn’t just have a 2-mile run however, because that would be too plain. Nope, instead my excitement and motions kicked up my acid reflux and at mile 1.7 I vomited on the side of the road as I had just reached the top of the hill. I guess there’s a first time for everything?

After a quick check in with my body and decided I wasn’t going to let that stop me. I still had another tenth of a mile back at least to my house, and so I knew one way or another I had to get there and I was going to attempt at finishing my run. What do you think happened? I took those last 3 tenths on with a smile to some great motivating music, and relished in my accomplishment and sticking to my goals. I reminded myself of this morning’s earlier meditation, and how grateful I was for my experiences- even the not-so-pleasant. I knew that my vomiting was not a sign of sickness or weakness, just more a reaction to one of my ailments that I could come back from without much effort. I knew I’d be okay, it wasn’t worth reacting over with stress, and I was happy that I had given myself the time to go out and run in the first place in the pleasant weather.

All in all, today has been a good day. It’s still nice out. I’ve had some good conversations and gotten a lot accomplished. I’ve even gotten my blog post done earlier than usual. Yes there’s more to be done and it will get done. I’m liking this “soaking up the good vibes” feeling, and just taking the time to appreciate the things happening around me and how I’m reacting to them. I’m going to keep rising early and meditating on gratitude for the rest of the week, and see just how I do. I don’t see it ending badly 😉 .

If you’re thinking about ways to try and get up earlier, here’s another short and sweet article that is pretty blunt about how to get started and why it can make a difference. Remember to stop and ask yourself at least once this week, if not once a day- What are you grateful for?

Good luck this week y’all and happy Monday!

Mindfulness Check-In 1/26: Migraines and Joy

“Better late than never.”

So I know it’s in the evening, but posting late is better than not posting at all, and this is an important update! I want to tell you about my migraine, my pain, my progress, and how at the end of the day I overlooked the pain and saw the joy, all while watching a hockey game. First off, I am horrible at getting into watching most sports. Though I love to play many sports, watching them is a completely different experience, and usually I find myself in “squirrel! mode” where I simply cannot pay attention. During my undergrad times, all my friends would become ecstatic for the football and hockey games. I would go for the “experience” of friendship and raw excitement, but I often found myself just dazing off and completely missing every goal or touch-down- I just wasn’t interested. So by late Sophomore year, I told myself I would never attend another game. Sure, I take part in the Super Bowl festivities, but only for the food and people.

Now let me tell you a key piece of information. My significant other and his family love hockey. I was luck my family never stressed about watching sports in a crazed fashion but I also respect that for some families, it’s what they do. For Christmas I had the genius idea of buying hockey tickets at my University for myself, my significant other, and his parents. They live 2 hours away so we thought it would be a good idea for them to come out, experience the school pride and hockey, and get some awesome local pizza! What a great idea, except for the migraine.

Since I was 6, I’ve experienced chronic headaches and migraines. I go through waves of time where it seems my life just consists of tension headaches, spasms, and then the migraines. Then I have times where it’s just peace and quiet, and yes, NO MIGRAINES. Well since the new semester began last Tuesday, my sleep has been completely off and my stress levels higher than usual. That’s a great equation for, yep, a migraine that lingers for almost a week. In fact, I can feel it still here now, but luckily only as a headache. Yesterday I felt the dull pain encasing my entire skull, like a heavy crown just pressing on my head. I went through my mental checklist and took the precautions I normally take to avoid medicine and thought, “Maybe I’m just really hungry but will be okay after some pizza?”. (This pizza is from Antonio’s and I had been waiting for it for 2 weeks as my indulgent meal, so I couldn’t tell if it was a hunger headache or a craving headache- though I was mindful in trying to discern the source of my hunger and headache.) I took my time eating the pizza, to really enjoy it and experience what was happening around me in the process: the packed restaurant, the people skirting around outside, the bright sun coming in through the windows, the different pizza slices around me, and the pure blissful silence of our family eating pizza happily amongst the buzzing restaurant chatter. I didn’t finish one slice because I really was trying to see if I was truly full by scanning how I felt! Well right after I finished eating and left for the arena, that’s when it came- the migraine came. 

All I will indulge in the experience of the migraine’s pain is that I actually had to visit the EMT to ask for ice packs, and kept them on my head during the game while borrowing some sunglasses to shade my eyes from the bright lights. What’s more important here is how I still had a great time. Remember how I said I would never attend another hockey game? I knew this one was either going to be 2 hours of horror (migraine) and boredom (hockey), or 2 hours of joy with family. As soon as the puck was in play I made sure to keep my eyes focused on the general picture of what was in front of me. In the past I tried to just focus on the puck, or certain players, or even just the goals. But through my yoga and meditation practice, I’m learning to let my gaze just look out, and not necessarily focus on one image but just take in what it notices naturally. I also kept reminding myself to breathe long breaths in and out, since I knew I would be there for a while with a migraine, and wanted to have a good time. This reminder to breathe and just take time in that moment despite the pain I felt, just be there amongst the lights, loud noises, and distractions, was extremely challenging but also gratifying. By the end of the game though my head still hurt, I was so excited at my progress- I had seen every goal shot, and actually enjoyed my time there!! I laughed, allowed myself to eat a bit of candy, cheered for my team, bonded with the family, and barely thought about anything on my to-do list. I was “in the moment”.

I wanted to write about this today because I know I had a choice. I had a choice to be honest about my feelings and experiences, and how I was going to explain my mindfulness progress while having a migraine. The best part about my mindfulness challenge is being able to just “be” with whatever my experience is at that moment and the feelings it stirs within me and decide how I want to engage with them. I don’t have to feel bad that I had a migraine and then have that stir up more emotions and pain for me if I don’t want to. I’m not saying that I felt glorious during that game, and that I didn’t think about asking to leave or crying. But what I am saying is that I was able to accept what was going on and just sit with it, and not let the migraine ruin my time by choosing not to engage with it in a way to endure more suffering. I definitely want to get to the bottom of these headaches/migraines, but also would like to go to another hockey game again. Without this experience, I wouldn’t have learned that I could in fact stay at a hockey game and watch its entirety. I wouldn’t have learned that even though I had a migraine, one of the worst I’ve had in a few years, I could still have a good time. I definitely would not have known I had the power to take this into my own hands and ground myself in the pain through acceptance, and then letting it go instead of resenting it. I don’t resent my migraines, and if anything I feel much stronger and more equipped to handle them in the future after this past Sunday. This is what is gratifying and empowering, and this is why I will continue to practice.