Tag Archive | healthy living

Time: Having a broad margin in your life

I read a reference to someone famous writing they wanted a margin in their life. I can’t remember who, and I can’t be arsed finding the reference (it was in Gretchen Rubin’s book, Happier at Home, which I have returned to the library) as I see that as wasting the margin that I want in my life. But I think it was that Thoreau fellow. 

Anyway, I read the reference and thought, in arm pumping style, which is so not me, “Yes, that’s what I want.” 

I want a margin to allow me to do or not do things. Things that do not HAVE TO BE DONE. Things that do not shout at me to be done. A margin to breath. A margin to laze around until afternoon in my pjs. A margin to blog or daydream or gaze out the window and think about gardening. A margin to sit in front of the fan and enjoy the white noise and background family noises and be slothful. 

I used to love drawing margins in my workbooks at school. 2.5cm in red pen, using a ruler of course -how could people stand the wiggly, crocked free-hand line? The margin gave space so the page was not crammed with writing. Of course it gave room to correct errors, if, heavens above, corrections were needed in copying notes or in first drafts. But I just loved the space for nothing but to be space. 

This makes me twitch. Too cramped.

Ah!! Much better.


I want a margin in my life to protect me from work demands. (And sometimes from the demands of homeownership and adult life.)

When I’m home I want to Be At Home. When I leave the office I want to clock off from work. 

My boss sent me a text one Friday this year at quarter past five saying he’d call me later that afternoon to discuss an issue. Really, in whose definition is after five, the afternoon??? Surely the afternoon is nearly up and we are moving into the evening? And it is Friday!

I responded by saying I was now socialising and it’d have to wait until Monday morning. He apologised and explained that he’d written the text before he got on a plane and the text must have only sent upon landing. Still, he planned to contact me after his flight landed and after he had collected his luggage and got to the car from long term parking and he was driving home from the airport. That would be way after 5.30pm. Not afternoon by anyone’s standards, surely?

And by discuss issues he’d off-load a heap of shit by discussing a complaint about which I could do nothing until Monday so I’d just feel annoyed all weekend. 

I am proud of myself for managing my manager. 

Other steps on building my margin: I haven’t looked at my work emails out of hours, since disconnecting the work email account from my phone. 

OK, I haven’t been totally free after hours. Phone calls. Thinking how to deal with some issues. Discussing issues with colleagues. But still I am doing much better at “clocking off” and feeling much better. 

I’m averaging about 45 hours a week at work.  Effectively I work non-stop, maybe stopping for 15 minutes for lunch, but usually working while I eat. Really that’s enough. I am not taking my work home. 

I’m ruling a margin around my life. 

PS. On searching for images on margins in life turns out lots of people want margins and it’s a common concept in self-help blogs and books. That’s me! Jumping on the bandwagon late in life. Oh well, better late than never. Some sites tell you “Five simple ways to create margins”, others how better to use margins. Pfft. Well, der. I need to switch off my connectivity, especially from work. And walk out of the office. Who’d a thunk it??? Anyway, I’ve gone with my metaphoric exercise book margins rather than the usual metaphors of a mindful, quiet, sunset, natural image. Way too obvious!!!

Work, life, imbalanceĀ 

Regular readers know I don’t write about my work in this blog, except to say how stress from work affects my sleep and my time to blog. 


I’ve mused before out work and identity.  I don’t want to say work is not part of my life. But it is not all of me, of of my desires, all of what I want to with my time. 

I used not to take balance to mean that time has to be equal because my work ethic meant I accepted spending more time working. But then I read about the 40 hour week and how the unions campaigned for 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours whatever. Now I know that wasn’t for management but my award says I work a 7 hour day. 

But don’t you get all those holidays? ask most people and recently a Queensland pollie. Yes, but if I worked in state office, time spent over that accrues for flexi-days off. 

And a couple of minor things took places that really pissed me off. Basically bureaucrats making determinations that ignored the hours spent working and some policy determinations that were just stupid and heartless. 

So I thought I would work out reasonable work hours. And just “let it go” for all the things not done. 

Let’s look at my award. I apparently  work a 7 hour week. That’s a 35 hour week. Let’s say that is for your usual 48 weeks a year. That’s 1,680 hours a year. 

Now let’s cram that into 41 weeks of school term. That’s just under 41 hours a week. But l will donate that extra bit of an hour, effectively working an extra 4 hours above my award every year. Generous, aren’t I?

Anyway the 41 hour week equates to just over 8 hours a day. So if I work 7.45am to 4.45pm without a break, I am working 9 hours a day. Most of my recess and lunch are spent dealing with work issues, but I am happy to concede I must take 15 minutes for morning tea and 30 minutes for lunch. So that becomes 8 hours and 15 minutes a day working. 

At least every second week I have an evening function: so add 2 to 3 hours on for these, though some are much longer, over four hours. And if it is too much bother to go home, because I have work to do, I end up staying from 7.45am until 11pm. A long day!

I’m reclaiming my time. To gain back the time given to evening functions, I will leave 2 hours and 15 minutes earlier once a month for my massage; 3 hours early from once a term after a set work meeting and an hour and 45minutes  on Fridays to beat the traffic. 

Reclaiming my equilibrium and equanimity. Not just my time. 

How, you ask?

I’ve taken my work emails off my iPhone. I won’t have my email account sitting open on my desktop. I will look at the emails three times a day – on getting to work, before lunch and an hour before leaving. And I will have automatic out of office replies for holiday times, saying I am unable to access my email account. If it’s an emergency they can phone and if it isn’t they can wait. 

I will shut my door more to get my work done rather than be available to take other people’s buck passing. 

I will walk out the door and let things go if they can’t be done in the time given. 

OK, reality time. I know I will spend some weekends doing work at some times of the year. But see, it isn’t just the hours but the emotional and intellectual intensity of the work. I need to put these restrictions up and learn to be less of a perfectionist at work. 

I’ll let you know how I go. 

Lessons in going dry

I gave up alcohol for over 30 days, including Christmas parties and Christmas Day. Since finishing my 30 Day Sobriety, I have cut back. 

It really wasn’t a challenge to stay alcohol free. Given that towards the end of the school year, the pressure and stress ramped up, add in the multiple Christmas celebrations, and I think that makes it more impressive. 

Of course, there were times I felt like a drink. When that automatic physical reaction kicked in, say on a perfect afternoon with clear skies, when I could actually feel a nice cold glass in my hand and feel the joy of having a drink with Mr S in the peace after a busy day. 

And the last day of the school year! I always celebrate with a drink! It’s like a big sigh, letting go of the year. 

So why was it not hard? Here’s some thoughts/strategies/reasons in no particular order. 

  • Firstly, I committed to it 100%. I thought of drinking as I do of shoplifting. I would no more take a little thing without paying than I would steal something of value. So, one little drink was out. This meant I wasn’t tempted by the alcohol in the house. I just wasn’t going to drink. Will power can be strong but on its own it won’t work. Not for long anyway. 
  • I reminded myself of the intense physical pain I get from drinking white wine. Since suffering from this, I am never tempted to even sip white white lest I suffer again. There is no way the joy of drinking white wine is ever worth the pain. If I can stop drinking white wine, surely I can relate the same principle to all alcohol. 
  • I thought, and wrote, down my long term goals. Goals that I would achieve by not drinking – healthy living and saving money for travel.  Reminding myself regularly of these goals helped me on track. The balance is between short term reward (ie drinking and the mellow feeling) and long term goals (health and financial). I put more on the long term goals. 
  • I ate more chocolate and drink sweet drinks for the first couple of weeks. I didn’t beat myself up over this. My body was craving the sugar in alcohol. If I cracked down on the sweets, I may have faltered altogether. 
  • I mediated and did guided visualisations on what I wanted to achieve. 
  • I reminded myself of the embarrassing things I have done while drunk. This was harsh: I put myself in the place of my colleagues. How would they see me? I don’t want to be that person. And I know how harshly I judge people!
  • I made another analogy. I related drinking to something I have no desire to do: gambling. I can walk through a casino and not feel any desire to gamble. So why can’t I go to a pub and not need to have a drink?
  • I journalled daily for much of the month. By handwriting in a journal I made my goals and progress concrete. Journalling also kept me busy in the afternoon when I normally would be bored and restless and thus reach for a drink. 
  • I contributed to an online forum with other women who were trying to cut back. Encouraging others helps as much as their words to me. 
  • I challenged the place of alcohol in our society’s view (and mine) of celebrations and holidays and fun and socialising. I don’t want to be a wowser. Nothing worse! But really, we can have fun without it. I can holiday without it. I am holidaying without it. And having great fun!!!

The book, 30 Day Sobriety Solution, helped enormously. It kept me on track; helped me reflect on my drinking; kept me busy. Many of the ideas I have have written in this post, came from the book. I recommend getting a hold of it. 

    You know, I didn’t drink on New Year’s Eve! 

    Do you know that thing where you have “just a couple” and by the third lose the switch to stop? Lest you think I’m too smug, I still have that part of me saying “just one more”. Now, I remind myself that more won’t keep the nice feeling. More will make me feel sick. So I stop, even though the desire to keep the fun going is there. 

    I appreciate that for some, giving up is not as easy as it was for me. 

    For me it was more about breaking the habit of wine o’clock. Putting things in place to do of an evening; dealing with work stress on different ways. 


    Some or none of the steps I took may help you. Maybe you don’t need to cut back. But clearly many do. Look at the amount of alcohol that is seen as healthy by doctors! Hardly enough to wet the whistle. 

    My test will come when the pressure of work returns. I will face that challenge then. 

    I’m a teetotaller

    Well, for the past 27 days. And for the next 3.  I’m not going to be a teetotaller forever. But it was a catchier heading than I’ve been dry for 27 days. 

    I’ve been doing some guided thinking, courtesy of the library book I borrowed, The 30 Day Sobriety Solution; reflecting on my consumption of alcohol and the role it has in our society. 

    I don’t have some deep dark secret, some self-loathing, some trauma that drives me to drink. I don’t have to forgive myself for anything. And I quite like myself. (The book has many chapters on theses themes – finding the trauma that made you start drinking, with stories of people remembering when they were three and hearing their parents talk of not being able to afford the kids or a sibling saying happiness is in the bottle. Variations on child abuse or wanting to find happiness or love or belonging. I’m not saying it may not be so for some, and looking to release something from the past may work, it’s just not me.)

     I have, since my early twenties, had episodes of binge drinking, always at social gatherings. I remember the first time I drank to excess and had a blank out of the night. I’ve also had too numerous to count episodes of vomiting as a result of drinking too much. 


    Basically when I’m having fun and have had two or four, I don’t stop.  And then, opps, too much. Too much varies on the night. Alcohol is a funny drug. You can have four and feel fine, or two and be as tipsy as. Some nights you sit on a glass and sip it slowly; others a glass goes down before you’ve had time to put the glass back on the table.


    So that’s the binge drinking in me. 

    Then there’s the “too frequent” drinking. It came around from the confluence of several factors. 

    Taking on a promotion that came with lots of stressors and needing to relax and chill of an evening. 


    My children no longer needing me to drive them around of an evening as we moved to a place they could get everywhere by foot, bike and public transport and they were old enough to do so. 


    Boredom and habit. Being at a loose end of an afternoon, a drink before dinner, especially on sunny days, became a nice way to fill the time. And one glass became two. Two became three, and “then I’ll serve dinner.”

    So I broke my own previous “rule” of never drinking alone. And drinking became more frequent. It became a habit, not an addiction. Habits are hard to break but not impossible. 

    I used to have a habit of having several bikkies every time I had a cup of tea. The association was so strong that every time I had a cuppa, I had to have bikkies or I didn’t feel right, I had an automatic physical response. It took repeated perseverance but I broke the nexus and now happily have tea without sweet bikkies to dunk in my cup. 

    I read that drinking among 50-something women is increasing exactly for the reasons my drinking increased. Time, being at aloose end and grown children. 


    I’ve had many comments about picking a strange time to quit – what with all the Christmas celebrations. Except for me a challenge is not a challenge if it isn’t challenging. I need to know I can do it when all around me are drinking. 

    Anyway, starting wasn’t thought out. I didn’t plan to stop drinking. I saw the book and knew that it was right. And turns out it was. 

    It’s been interesting seeing and hearing the responses. Rolled eyes. What the? I couldn’t stop. I wouldn’t, I mean why would you. But it’s Christmas!

    I don’t lecture. I’m not a reformed smoker. I just say, I was drinking too much, too quickly, too often. 

    Alcohol has such a strangle hold on our society. Is it the advertising that promotes it as a way to freedom, happiness, social acceptance, fun? Is it the role its had in Australian history? (Right from the start it was used to get the convicts to work and as a way to forget they were in a god-forsaken hell hole. God, who wouldn’t drink!?!) Binge drinking seems an issue in all English-speaking countries. So maybe the historical reasons go back further?

    Alcohol is so central to our concept of fun and celebration!?! The book raised an interesting question: could you think of a tropical holiday as being fun without alcohol? Whoa! Now that’s challenging! A cruise, a resort, a tropical island holiday. They all feature alcohol. Cocktails. Bubbles. Beer. Wine. Pretty much integral part of them. Would it be fun without the alcoholic beverages? Would I resent it by challenging myself to not drink if I went on one of these holidays? Would I come home and ask what the fuck was I thinking denying myself cocktails. Is it adult to just have a couple every night on a holiday? Or is it a sign we are all so addicted that are perspective is warped?

    All the memes that surface on FB (some of which I have used here) try to make light of excessive consumption of alcohol. If you’re in the right mood, they’re funny. But at other times they just seem sad and point to people hiding their inability to stop drinking to excess. 


    I don’t know what my self-imposed rules will be. I will drink alcohol. I quite like the loose feeling from a couple of drink. And red wine really helps when my muscles are tight. On a sunny day a beer or a glass of bubbles goes down a treat. I don’t want to set rules that I will break and then feel a guilty failure. 

    Maybe I will have no rules. But randomise my consumption so I don’t get into any habit?

    Maybe I’ll start exercising again to fill the time?

    Back to basics

    Right! Let’s not think of what might happen in five years let’s think of right now. 

    Actually thinking of now, in terms of health, will help with being active and being able to travel in five years time. 

    I’m talking about the ongoing struggle journey to be fit and healthy. 

    I have been walking quite regularly but I feel a need to get back to basics on my healthy living quest:

    1. Drink more water. At least 1 litre a day. 
    2. Sleep better. 
    3. Eat more fruit and veg. 
    4. Do regular weight bearing and stretching exercises. 

    I’m cheering me on. I can do it for myself. I can do it for my body. I can do it for my fifties. 

    Starting with water. I will fill the litre bottle and put it on my desk at work. 

    Easy!


    Steptember – Week 1.

    There’s been a cycle in my journey to health and fitness. I start a program of exercise, keen and eager, and then, well, umm, it kinda tails off.

    So right now I’m in the up cycle. My Fitbit has given my walking a little boost.

    Love the instant feedback. Love the motivation with the flashing lights. Love the graphs. Love how my iPad gets the data from somewhere. (Don’t love how I can’t save the graph as a picture so I can post it here. šŸ˜¦ And don’t love how I can’t upload graphs straight to WordPress. I was wong on that little matter.

    My Week 1 daily average is 9,579. Just short of my goal of 10,000. But better than the weeks before when I first got the Fitbit and my goal was 8,000. (I kept quiet lest the gadget was a dud or I didn’t stick with it.)

    Monday: 11,605
    Tuesday: 9,671
    Wednesday: 10,263
    Thursday: 8,749
    Friday: 7,612
    Saturday: 8,383
    Sunday: 10,773

    Key to getting my goal: going for a walk AND doing lots of incidental walking during the day. Walk to the printer. Walk around work. Walk to speak with people rather than phone or email.

    Either on their own is not sufficient to reach the goal. So free hint: get your incidental walking up. It’s good for you. And if you can’t go for a walk (too dark, too cold, too wet, uneven footpaths and low branches make it too dangerous) the steps taken for incidental walking all count!

    Do you think you’re drinking a bit too much?

    Short answer. Yes.

    It has crept up gradually. A few drinks on a Friday night and weekend.

    Then it moved to “school nights”. Just a glass while cooking dinner. Or just a glass before dinner. Or just a couple with Mr S on the back verandah.

    Before I knew it, every night was a glass or two or three.

    And alcohol and cooking dinner went together like a cuppa and a bikkie. I’ve broken the tea and something sweet nexus, have to break the habit of pouring a glass when cooking. Wednesday night I really noticed that habitual feeling. I was cooking and didn’t feel like a drink at all. But I felt that twinge. You know the one you get when you haven’t done something that is a habitual part of your routine, like leaving the house in the morning when you haven’t brushed your teeth? Or driving off and feeling something is wrong and realise you haven’t buckled up your seat belt? Or the twinge you get when you are not giving into some bad habit, like biting fingernails?

    It is not a yearning or desire for alcohol. It is a habit that wants attending.

    Just thought of a novel solution! If my family took over cooking, I wouldn’t have that connection. Yeah, not going to happen!

    So as part of my continually evolving journey to gorgeousness and healthy living I am cutting alcohol Monday to Thursday unless it is a special occasion or holidays.

    Success so far? Last week. Tick. And that included a dinner out. And this week. Tick.

    What about you? Drink too much? Developed other unhealthy eating habits that stem from habit rather than conscience thought and decision?

    20140727-094841.jpgOur wine rack. Made from horse shoes!

    Getting enough sleep?

    My answer is a resounding no.

    Of course, the question demands another question: how much is enough?

    My answer is I’m still not getting enough. And not enough good sleep.

    I’ve been trying to improve my sleep for years. Bad habits such as falling asleep on the lounge reappear all too frequently. I relax on the lounge and then am too tired to do my before bed routines. So I sleep for a few hours, and then make my way into bed, only to toss and turn for hours.

    So no putting my head down on the lounge. I know I will fall asleep.

    And off to bed by

    20140622-223209.jpg

    What about you? Getting enough sleep? Getting the right sleep?

    Half-made May

    Half way through the month and half made over?

    All I can say is, No!

    I stood on the scales, well, just because. But I knew it wouldn’t be pretty.

    Yes, I’ve been having a healthy breakfast (porridge) and going for walks.

    But the eating front. Well, look at some of yesterday’s consumption.

    20140515-064925.jpg

    Not this many. Four of them, I think. Mindful eating, not.

    And these:

    20140515-065020.jpg

    Homemade meringues. So soft and crunchy. Dissolve in your mouth. How many? Lost count.

    And two of these:

    20140515-065222.jpg

    The day before I ate half a sausage roll and a small piece of chocolate cake.

    Oh, and everyday I’ve eaten too much chocolate. Much too much.

    So any guesses which way the scales went?

    Made-over May

    A week into Makeover May! And am I made over?

    Well (and don’t you just know that when someone starts with “well”, you may as well just skip to the rationalisations), sort of.

    I have resumed porridge for weekday mornings. So tick on that front.

    I haven’t eaten biscuits. Goody, another tick.

    No alcohol on Thursday 1st and Tuesday 6th. Look at all those tricks lining up!

    Done quite a bit of walking. Can you believe how virtuous I am?

    And I have remembered to eat nuts and fruit everyday. Are you getting bored already?

    Well, stop asking, “But what about the chocolate?” We don’t talk about that in our family.

    OK, I’ve eaten chocolate. Not the big bunny. But a middle-sized egg and a very small-sized egg or two.

    And one evening, when enjoying too many glasses of red, I opened some strange snacky things that Mr Sans bought. Not actually nice, but goodly crunchy in a very crunchy-that-goes-with-alcohol manner.

    And, hanging my head in shame, I haven’t resumed my oh so boring strengthening exercises. I know they are better for me than just walking, but I enjoy going for my walk. It is never boring – time to relax and think. But I don’t have time to do both.

    So there you have it. Not quite made over yet.

    Oh, and my weight? The same. But I don’t feel so bloated.