I have been feeling a little cranky for, oh, it’s been months now. There are several factors contributing to this: current events in general, the rising low-level hysteria when I ponder the college search, application, and payment process ahead of us for M, witnessing J’s frustration with the fact that she still has to be in middle school until June, and the sheer physical splendors of perimenopause.
So I am trying to just generally be a little nicer to myself in a multitude of ways. Here are some that have worked.
A doctor visit. Okay, this one was basically because my older sister (or, as I like to call her, my much older sister, ha) has been urging me to get some blood work done because there’s a family history of just getting fantastically out of whack at this particular age. I dutifully made an appointment for a physical. It had been way too long: so long that I was worried that the doctor’s office would tell me I’d been kicked off of the patient rolls at the busy practice, something that I know has happened to others. But, phew, they hadn’t forgotten about me, after all, and the physical went fine, with the bonus of a shot in each arm (flu and tetanus booster). While most of my various levels were a-okay, I’m low enough of D that I’m re-committing myself to supplementing.
Hydration. I am already a champion water-drinker, but with winter coming, all of my bodily surfaces havestart shriveling up, prune-style. So I treated myself to a new jar of face lotion to supplement the usual stuff and I am liberally coating myself morning and evening. But here’s my other little trick, which I will recommend to everyone with dry Upstate Winter hands: I have a little tube of hand lotion that I leave in my car, and then when I stop at red lights I put some on. It’s quick multi-tasking, plus it gives it a few minutes to soak in when I’m not doing anything else with my hands except steering, so I don’t feel like I’m leaving lotion hither and yon.
Petty annoyances solved. Speaking of the car, one thing that had been bugging me for much too long was that I didn’t have a good place to put my purse or backpack as I drove kids around. By myself I can just toss stuff next to me on the seat, but with a kid riding shotgun, the purse would either end up kicked around on the floor or inaccessible in the back seat. I mentioned that I needed a solution to this vexing problem and Cute W said, “You need a hook,” and I looked at him and thought to myself, “that is the suggestion of a person who doesn’t actually carry around a purse,” because I didn’t need a hook, which wouldn’t allow me to do the sort of quick rummaging around that is the standard practice with purses. I clearly needed some kind of hammock thingy that would let me shove my purse right there, in the magical spot just above and out of the way of that center console, if only such a magical item existed. And sure enough, just as I had imagined it in my head, some clever woman before me had conceived of the idea and created a product on Amazon, the Car Cache. Well played, lady. I salute you.
Escape music. Also in the car, it is all about the pop music when the girls are riding along, and that is completely fine with me. But then sometimes I drop them off and I am approximately up to here with Ed Sheeran and Maroon 5 and Ariana Grande (all of whom I enjoy well enough, but it is the lack of moderation that gets me). So I switch to public radio and something really dreadful is happening on the news. And that is when I switch to a good old-fashioned retro CD, like Carole King singing to me that I am as beautiful as I feel. It is the musical equivalent of a blankie.
Kitties. Speaking of cuddliness, if you are looking to alleviate stress, kittens are awesome. There is nothing like observing two kittens fiercely attacking a strip of paper. I mean, Ruth and Dave put all of their considerable natural instincts and their possibly more limited intellectual faculties into epic battles to defend themselves and each other from all manner of threats including yarn, wooden beads, and the terrifying-yet-intoxicating laser pointer. It is a delight to behold. They also like to help me fold laundry (and yes, the flowers behind them are drying flowers from our recent curbside trash removal).
Delightful Smells. I have gradually noticed that having lovely-smelling soap in my bathrooms gives me a little charge of joy every time I wash my hands. So I am not just buying whatever random soap is on sale this week. Instead, I spend slightly too much time finding things I love to smell (I am a sucker for floral), and then I get them and stockpile them when necessary. Two favorites right now: the limited edition jasmine lily Method soap for around the house, and a little rollerball of TOCCA Florence perfume to take with me wherever.
Pedometer. Okay, this fitness tracker was a complete impulse buy when it was on sale just as I happened to have some Amazon credit to burn after my birthday. And it is absolutely not perfect. It needs to be recharged a little too often for my tastes (reviews said it would last several days, but I usually don’t make it much past two days) and I have yet to figure out how to make it properly measure my heart rate properly (if I am going to do a crap-ton of burpees or a HIIT class, is it too much to ask that my device acknowledge that some cardio was involved?). But I am deeply attached to it. First, I find it weirdly cute, in a very pretty color.
But I have also found that I am so super-motivated to do at least 10,000 steps every day. Like, it is a little ridiculous because early on, if I realized as I was brushing my teeth before bed that I was at 9,800 steps for the day, I would just run up and down the stairs to put myself over the edge, because it was annoying to get so close without hitting the target. Now I’ve gotten a little bit better at gauging how I’ll do for the day (I can rack up tons of steps if I do Zumba, rake the lawn, or run errands, but a weight training class or a short walk around the block don’t pay off nearly as much as you’d think), so I rarely pace at bedtime any more. It also does a little buzz if I sit still for too long during the day, which is excellent, because if I get absorbed in working at the computer, I can look up and realize that hours have passed and I basically stagger when I move off of my chair. So it has been a game-changer.
Sauna, baby. Okay, this is the most surprising self-care measure that I’ve adopted, and I love-love-love it. I have been going to the JCC for approximately forever, and I’d never even go into the locker room. Which is mostly because I’m rushing to try to get to a class on time, usually for a 9 am class, and then I’m rushing back home because I have a long list of things to do afterward. But recently I’d been thinking to myself that if I’m, say, traveling somewhere or even visiting someone else’s gym, I love me a sauna, and I should probably try to take advantage of my “home” sauna, right? Well, this coincided with my recent obsession with getting in all of my steps, and I realized that when a day’s been way too inactive (which especially happens on Wednesdays, my busiest workdays), I can head to the JCC in the evening for a little treadmill action and follow it up with sauna time. I go late enough that the whole place is pretty quiet, and it’s a delight, I tell you. After my first sauna, I thought to myself, “with some tweaks, this could be marvelous,” and so now, I’ve got a little sauna bag, and here’s how it goes. After whatever workout I do, I’ve got my flip flips and an extra water bottle and a big fluffy beach towel for the sauna along with some delightfully fragrant body wash (floral, natch) and–and this is key–my pajamas. So I work out, I have a little sauna time, I take a little shower, and then I change directly into my pajamas and I’m ready for bed. You might think that it is just atrocious to have to schlep out into the cold parking lot and drive home after all that, but I think of it like the Finnish-style sauna, where part of the experience is to alternate hot and cold. It doesn’t feel cold; it feels refreshing. You might think that I would be embarrassed about walking out in public in my pajamas, but it really just cozy clothes like loose yoga pants and a t-shirt, which is standard gym wear, anyway, and like I said, it’s quiet in the evening, anyway.
So, it’s a work in progress. Some self-care attempts fizzled (escapist audio-books weren’t sufficiently distracting, you can tell I haven’t picked back up with the daily blogging quite yet, and I have yet to figure out how to stop grinding my teeth all night long), but these have definitely improved my mood and hopefully made me a more pleasant person to be around.