4 Tips for Digital Mindfulness at Work

In this post, I outline some steps we can all take to be more mindful regarding the use of work laptops, phones, and messaging programs when we’re supposed to be enjoying some “downtime”.

 

I started a new (more normal) job recently after COVID pretty much killed my freelance career. 😝  I still work from home a lot but I also visit with clients out in the community.  Because of this, I now have two laptops and two phones (one each for work and personal use).  As you may imagine, this does not lend itself to tranquility, peace, or a dearth of technology in my life. 

I’ve felt like the old grandma at work, trying to figure out her grandkids new-fangled technology. 😝  I actually did this same job 10 years ago but back then all I had was a Word document, a flip phone, and a laptop. (It took real effort to locate a WiFi signal anywhere away from the office back then, and there were no hotspots on my flip phones!)  Today, almost everything is web-based.  While this makes things far more convenient (and saves trees, a definite plus!) it also means there are countless more assessments and paperwork items that are screaming for my attention at all times.

All of this runs completely counter to the mindfulness principles so many of us work so hard to maintain in our lives.  We want to be Present in the current moment…we strive to focus our mental energy on one task at a time…and then we’re slammed by multiple devices pinging and dinging with alerts like “you’ve got mail!”, “someone’s calling!”, or “your next meeting starts in 15 minutes!”  It’s EXHAUSTING!

So, how do we use these devices as tools to help make our work-life run efficiently, so we can focus our mental and physical energy on what is most important, thereby leaving LOTS of time to live life?  Read on for the Tranquil Trekker’s tips for digital mindfulness at work! 

Author’s Note:  My intent with this post is NOT to complain about my new job.  Having a work phone and laptop actually makes a lot of sense with the work I do.  My home IS my office.  Also, since my job is fairly mobile, it only makes sense that my work is mobile too.  I also VERY MUCH appreciate that my company has provided me with work devices as I DON’T want to have to use my own. 😝  

And bottom line, SO MANY people are in this same boat.  Having multiple devices is really just becoming the new normal (especially with the popularity of flexible work options and the rise in work-from-home due to COVID.)  My goal with this post is to encourage people to view these devices as necessary evils and to help them figure out how to use them as beneficial tools without allowing them to take over our lives.

Compartmentalize your Work Devices

Compartmentalize with your work laptop, phone, and any messaging apps if at all possible.  You can accomplish this by only having these work-related programs on your work devices.  Also, be sure to turn these off at the end of every day and on your days off if possible (I realize this isn’t always an option if you are on-call).

If you feel this isn’t an option in your case, my question would be, are you actually on-call?  If not, is there truly an expectation that you respond to calls, emails, or messages during off-hours?  To put it bluntly, are you actually jeopardizing your job (or future promotional opportunities) if you don’t respond promptly?  Or, is this a self-imposed prison?  Is it not actually necessary for you to be available at all times but do you feel like you should be?

Many people have their work email come to their personal phone (even though oftentimes this is voluntary, and is NOT required by their job).  I think they’re nuts, personally 😉, but I also can’t help but feel a bit sad for them.  They need (and deserve) a break and I just don’t see how this practice achieves that for them.

So my advice is to talk to your boss.  Get a clear understanding of what the expectations really are.  If the presumption is that you be readily available during off-hours, then you’ll have to decide for yourself if that’s the work environment you want.  Just know that studies show you’ll be a better employee if you have true downtime. (Don’t take my word for it, you can read about some of them below! 😉)  And if you’re the boss, check out the links and please, don’t be an a-hole! 😇)

Harvard Business Review–The Upside of Downtime  
Forbes–Downtime is Important!

Multitasking Makes you Less Productive

In addition to compartmentalizing your work devices, the studies linked below also show that contrary to popular office belief, multitasking DOES NOT work, and it actually DAMAGES your productivity! 😮

Forbes: Multitasking is Bad for You!
Cleveland Clinic:  Multitasking Doesn’t Work
Forbes:  Multitasking Hurts Productivity

Multitasking is almost NEVER a mindful practice, as mindfulness requires you to put your full mental energy and focus into ONE task at a time.  As an example, think about taking a work call while driving (we’re going to assume you’re using hand’s-free devices.)  If you’re paying attention to driving (which you should be) you CAN’T be putting all your mental energy and concentration toward the phone call you’re having.  And if you’re aren’t focusing on the phone call whatever/whomever you’re trying to serve with that call won’t be getting your best effort.  Also, you can’t take notes while driving, or look things up on your computer or phone as you may need to. (I would also ask, how do you pay close attention to driving if you’re distracted by a call?)  So all this multitasking scenario succeeds in is making you less of a safe driver while also providing lousier service to your job task at hand.  It’s a lose-lose situation!

Prioritize Downtime

Now that I’m back to working more like a normal person, there is nothing better than 5:00 on a Friday, when I log out of my work email, turn my work phone off, close my work laptop, and put all of them (screen down) in the office, not to be looked at for the next several days.  I think it’s important that we have that break whenever/wherever we can take it.

That break is important for our mental health and it makes us better workers.  It gives us a chance to recharge mentally and physically so we have more mental energy to face the challenges of the job when the next work week comes.  I worry this appreciation for the benefits of downtime is something that’s gotten lost in recent years, in our always-on society.

Find Unique Places to Work

This one may be difficult for some people.  Depending on the type of work you do you may need to be in front of a video monitor often.  Or you may do highly technical work that requires you to be tied down to some sort of office environment.  But for many of us, one of the joys of flexible work situations is that you can pick where you want to actually work.  So don’t limit yourself to being locked in your home office, the basement, the second bedroom, or wherever you usually work from.  If it’s a nice day and you have the internet access you need, work from the front porch or the back deck.  Go sit at a local park, beach, or other green/blue spaces.  If the Great Outdoors isn’t really your thing, go to a local coffee shop.

Obviously, make certain you are still ensuring all necessary confidentiality your job may require.  Use screen protectors so others can’t read your screen, talk quietly if you’re on the phone or seek out private places to talk, or use headphones if you’re in a meeting or a training session (anyone sitting within earshot will appreciate this anyway!)

To Conclude:

This is somewhat of a complex subject as our jobs all vary so greatly in terms of the circumstances that surround them, what our supervisors may require, the security necessary to protect the information we work with, and the practicality of how our jobs function.  I just want us all to “think outside the box” when it comes to flexible work options. 

One of the best things about these work options is they allow us to get out of the office and better fit our work into the lives we live.  So take advantage of this!  Set boundaries for when and how you use your work devices.  Recognize that while multitasking may make you FEEL more productive, in all likelihood it’s probably, actually hurting your productivity.  This isn’t good for your company or the clients you serve.

Also, remember to prioritize your self-care.  If you aren’t in a good place it will be almost impossible for you to put your best foot forward in terms of the work you do.  Part of this self-care means making your work environment the most pleasurable it can be (while staying within the confines of what is required for your job, of course). 

So, the next time you go to grab your work laptop or phone on your “off” hours ask yourself, “Is this really what’s best for me, my client, or my company?” If the answer is likely “no” go do something enjoyable instead!

Do you have any tips for keeping a healthy balance between work and home when your digital, work devices follow you home?  Tell me about them in the comments!

 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you struggle to separate yourself from your work devices during your "off" hours? Read on for tips for digital mindfulness at work.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Mindful Thoughts on Coronavirus–One Year Out

In this post, I look back at what a year with COVID was like from my perspective, living in western South Dakota.

Author’s Note:  I struggled with writing this post.  I don’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m making light of the awful circumstances we’ve all been living through the last year.  I want to be clear that I believe COVID is real and that it is serious.  I know it is highly contagious (and that even the vaccines may not be a magic cure-all depending on how they handle new variants as they arise).  I am also fully aware the disease can have horrific results for people who fall victim to it.  I believe in wearing masks and social distancing for both my safety, the safety of my family, and that of the local community (the Trekkers have been wearing masks in public since March of 2020).  I also believe that vaccines are a net good and are important to try to get society back to functioning normally. 

However, the COVID experience for many of us in South Dakota was VERY different from what it was for many others in the US and the world.  With this post, I wanted to give an honest depiction of what the last year has been like from one person’s perspective, from one very small corner of the world.  My family and I have been very blessed that we haven’t suffered any extreme difficulties due to Coronavirus, for which I am VERY thankful.  I know that there are MANY people in this world who cannot say the same.  Each of us will have our own COVID story when we finally emerge from this crisis.  This is mine…

 

Welp, it’s been a year since COVID started and the world ended (metaphorically speaking)…I CAN NOT believe it has been that long! 😮  Living through the last year has been nothing short of surreal.  One year ago today, I wrote a post about my current thoughts on the Coronavirus pandemic.  At the time, the disease was just starting to explode in the US and the world was basically shutting down.  There was a lot of fear and confusion.  No one knew exactly what was coming, how bad it would be or how long it would last.

Spring 2020 vs. Spring 2021

I have been feeling very pensive the last few weeks.  All the memories of what was happening last year at this time, and how worried and confused we all felt, seemed to come rushing back.  Last spring I remember feeling like everything was, literally, going to hell.  Everything just seemed to be crashing down at once.  So many people lost income, many lost their jobs (I did), and many lost their livelihoods.  So many people had their lives changed and things still haven’t returned to normal…

…now here we are, one year out, and it feels like a miracle in so many ways!  Many parts of society are beginning to open up, the economy and jobs are coming back, and–in the US at least–vaccines are widely available.  The Trekker Parental Units and Mr. Trekker are fully vaccinated (they qualified early) and I’m scheduled for my second shot next week! 💉

In regards to the vaccine rollout in the US, I have to say that I don’t want to hear people criticize the US healthcare system in comparison to those in Canada, Australia, or Europe/the UK any more.  The availability of vaccines and the orderliness with which their rollout has been handled here has been INCREDIBLE!  I don’t care who is to thank, Trump, Biden, Drs. Fauci and Birx, it doesn’t matter to me.  It’s actually helped to restore this skeptical Libertarian’s faith in her government just a little bit. 😮  

So today, one year out from COVID, I wanted to take a look back and see how things have progressed and how far we’ve come…

State Shutdowns for COVID

The Trekkers live in one of the only states that never officially shut down during the crisis.  Our local town had a minimal shutdown, for about one month, back in March of 2020, when this all began.  Basically, all that meant was most restaurants were only open for delivery/carryout or they had their capacity limits greatly reduced, and the schools went fully online.  However, that was just in our local city, put in place by our local mayor/city council.  A few other nearby towns implemented these restrictions as well, but not all.

Our governor never officially shut down the state and we never had a mask mandate in place (even locally) though many businesses have required people to wear them (or at least STRONGLY encouraged it) to shop there.

At this point, I feel obliged to mention that our “freedom-loving” Governor was adamant that people should be allowed to decide for themselves what was best for them and their families regarding their personal health throughout this mess (such as the wearing of masks and social distancing).  It’s just too bad she doesn’t show the same consideration to her constituents regarding the medicinal choices they make for themselves. 

Since last November, when the voters in her state passed a majority vote to legalize medical marijuana (passed with over 70% approval) she has actively worked to hinder the implementation of this new law.  It seems that she only supports peoples’ freedoms when they choose to engage in an act that she agrees with.  She fights against their freedoms regarding something that could potentially help many sick people or those in pain, and that poses virtually no risk to others.  This strongly riles my Libertarian leanings. 😡   Governor Noem, the people of your state need you to do better!  (Now back to your regularly scheduled program. 😇)

A Year with COVID in South Dakota

As I said earlier, the only word I can think of to describe what the last year has been like for me is “surreal”.  Living in western South Dakota watching COVID explode throughout the world felt like watching a natural disaster occur someplace else, far from here.  I KNOW it’s happening; I KNOW it’s real, and I have SO MUCH compassion and sympathy for the people who are suffering through it.  It just seems like the chaos always happened “somewhere else”, for which I am incredibly thankful.

The Bad News

It’s now time to address the VERY large elephant in the room and acknowledge that there are probably few people in the US who haven’t heard about South Dakota throughout this pandemic.  Unfortunately, most of that news wasn’t good.  Our state ranked very poorly in the overall statistics of the virus:

        • 1 in 500 South Dakota residents died from COVID in the last year
        • 1 in 8 residents have had the disease
        • Around 10% of the total South Dakota population has been infected with COVID.

Admittedly, these numbers are NOT good.  The strange thing is, it never felt like we were living in a state that had some of the worst COVID numbers (and we do live in the second most-populated portion of that state).  It’s surreal to feel completely disconnected from a crisis while living in a state that, according to statistics, has been one of the worst-hit by said crisis.

It was a little scary at first, mostly because we didn’t know how bad things would get, just how contagious the virus was, etc.  For me, the scariest part was the day I went to Walmart and there were bare shelves, like A LOT of them. (I realize this very much falls under the realm of “First World Problems”, but I have never experienced that before.). I never really thought our country was going to run out of food, per se, but I was concerned that trucks may not be able to get through as easily so supply would be an issue, especially for us way out here in the middle of nowhere. (As it turned out, with the exception of toilet paper, Bounty paper towels, shelled edamame, and hand sanitizer, that never ended up being a problem–thankfully.)

The Good News

That first day at Walmart I could tell people were scared, but since then, we’ve all pretty much learned to live with the virus and people are just carrying on with their everyday lives. (The biggest impact I am aware of is the parents who were highly stressed by schools having their schedules altered so greatly.)  Regardless of what the statistics might say, in a lot of ways we got VERY lucky with our COVID crisis in South Dakota.

Basically, since the middle of last April, when you went out in public here, stores and restaurants were busy, people were smiling, laughing, and chatting with each other. (Once things opened back up, aside from schools being fully-online last spring, the masks many were wearing, and the occasional social distancing measures at restaurants, you almost wouldn’t have known there was a pandemic going on.)

Many people wear masks, though not all (the Trekkers have been wearing masks religiously since last March.)  Our local city council tried to pass a mask mandate twice, both times they failed and eventually they gave up.  Some restaurants did, and still do, adhere to lower capacities with patrons spread farther apart, though not all (the Trekkers stick with the ones that follow social distancing guidelines.)

South Dakota’s COVID Vaccine Rollout

I believe in giving credit where credit is due.  As bad as our statistics were for COVID rates, South Dakota is doing VERY WELL with its vaccine rollout.  We are currently ranking #6 in the nation for getting the vaccine out to residents.

Again, this feels so surreal.  I am still reading about schools that have remained closed and lockdowns that are still in place in many other parts of the US and the world.  It seems like such a far cry from what we have experienced here.

In South Dakota, most people seem almost bored with the virus.  Our local public schools have been open since September!  They have had occasional transitions to all-virtual learning for short periods of time, in individual schools, when cases increased dramatically.  They have also altered between how many days/week they spend in the classroom vs. virtual learning days. Hybrid classes are an option for students/parents, as well.

Mr. Trekker has also been having classes in person since this fall.  His classes have been a mix of hybrid and fully-virtual depending on various factors, but we have seen very little negative fall-out for the community since allowing the students to physically return to campus. (His school imposed far stricter social distancing and mask requirements than the general community, which I’m sure helped.)

I find it hard to say all this without coming off as tone-deaf, and that is not my intent.  I just want to explain what my pandemic experience felt like from our little corner of the northern Great Plains.

Living in the Middle of Nowhere During COVID

The truth is I have no idea how we’ve been so lucky here.  By all reasonable assumptions, our results should have been awful.  I’m sure most of you are aware of the infamous events that went on here this summer despite the pandemic (President Trump and our governor hosted a large firework show at Mount Rushmore and the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally went on pretty much as usual.)

Many here seem to just be “tired” of COVID and relatively “over it.” Many public places have stopped implementing strict social distancing protocols (though not all) and I see PLENTY of people wandering about without masks.  I would say that attitude is awful; however, we saw no swell in cases after either Thanksgiving or Christmas, even though there were no restrictions on group gatherings in place.  Our cases have remained fairly steady and low for months.

I don’t know why it hasn’t been “that bad” here.  Some studies are starting to suggest we may be benefiting solely from our low population density.  We are one of the least-populated states in the country.  We also had a mild winter so perhaps people were able to get outside more?  I know very few locals who have actually gotten sick.  I’ve known many more people from back home in Indiana (both family and friends) who have been struggling with the virus.

I can’t explain it.  Here in South Dakota, we’re basically doing everything wrong.  We were told our rates of infection were some of the worst in the nation, if not the world, yet we didn’t really see any negative effects from it.  Our hospitals were pretty crowded for a few months.  Some people were sent to other states for treatment (however, that happens with other conditions on a normal day anyway, we just don’t have the specialty hospitals in our state to accommodate certain conditions.)  But the field hospitals that they were preparing to build at the local National Guard base last spring were never needed.

Our experience just seems SO DIFFERENT from that of so much of the rest of the country/world, surreal is the only way I can describe it.

Mindfulness in the Midst of a Worldwide Pandemic

I think it’s important to be mindful of how the pandemic ACTUALLY played out vs. how the experts feared it might end up one year ago.  There have been more than 550,000 deaths in the US from COVID, and to be clear, EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of these is awful!  However, last year at this time they were projecting as many as 2.2 million deaths in the US alone, and that was with social distancing protocols being implemented.  I don’t mean to make light of the tragic losses that have occurred, but this FAR lower statistic is a pretty amazing feat!  It is a testament to the scientists, researchers, medical professionals, and technology we have available to us at this point in history!

One year out we can see so much good that has happened!  Vaccines were produced in an absolutely unheard-of, record time.  So many people bound together to help each other get through this crisis, from wearing masks and social distancing in public to those who volunteered their time to make masks for local schools and hospitals.  Others ran errands for people who felt they couldn’t go out.

I think a lot of the world’s goodness has been shown in the last year.  I know I’ve learned a lot, both about myself but also about the reality of country-wide/worldwide crises:  how they proceed, how people react to them, the good and the bad.

A Light at the End of the Coronavirus Tunnel?

The Coronavirus pandemic isn’t over yet.  We seem to be nearing the end of this very dark tunnel but we still have a ways to go.  I’m so thankful for how far we’ve come and what we, as humanity, have been able to achieve.  Unlike last year at this time, I actually have pretty high hopes for the next year!

What has the COVID crisis felt like where you live?  Share your experience in the comments!

 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

It's been a year since all of our lives stopped thanks to COVID. Read on as I look back on what I personally experienced.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

 

Dealing with Strong Emotions During a Pandemic

In this post, I discuss the complicated emotions I’ve been feeling regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and how I’m trying to work through them mindfully.

I’ve been struggling with whether to even write a post about the COVID-19 crisis as I’ve been dealing with a lot of complicated emotions regarding it.  I try to keep things positive on this blog and I find that hard to do on this subject as I’ve been having so many negative emotions surrounding the pandemic.  Things seem as though they may finally be improving a bit, though, so I’m going to try to express my thoughts and feelings and discuss how we can remain mindful during these difficult times. (To be clear, I am in the US, so my opinion is US-centric.)

First the negative feelings I’ve been dealing with

Angry feelings over COVID-19

Anger is by far, one of the strongest emotions I’m working through.

–I’m angry at hoarders.  They seem to think only of themselves and don’t save enough products for other people (some who may be seniors or the immune-compromised who really shouldn’t be going out).  If you aren’t the Duggars, and you aren’t buying toilet paper for multiple families, you don’t need that much, just stop. 😡 (On the other hand, we’re told not to hoard, but then the CDC comes out and says to have up to a month’s supply of food on hand…what are we supposed to do with those two bits of contradictory information?) 🤷

–I feel almost sense of rage at the news media.  I’ve distrusted them in the past but my anger is palpable at this point.  They mislead at every turn if it can cause controversy.  I shouldn’t be surprised anymore but I still am at points.  I read a clickbait headline that makes one claim and then goes on to almost disprove that claim if you read the actual text of the article, or watch the entirety of the video clip they reference in that very same article.  They aren’t openly lying, because there is a semblance of truth in what they say, but their claim is so far from the truth that it may as well be a lie with the message they’re proclaiming to the masses (and for the record, I don’t care which news source is your favorite, I’ve seen ALL of them do this.)

They seem to take pleasure in reporting bad news and stirring people up.  They don’t take the time to fully research information, that would apparently take too long. 🙄  It seems to be more important that they are “the first” to break a story.  I think people’s mental health is taking a beating from this crisis and it is partially the fault of the media…but I don’t believe they care.  They just go happily along reporting bad news every chance they get because it may help a reporter’s career or a certain company’s reputation.

Feeling confusion about COVID-19

Confusion is the second biggest emotion I’m currently dealing with.

–The idea that a minuscule event in one corner of the world can shut the entire globe down is astounding to me.  I always worried something like this could happen, but I always assumed it would be due to one of the REALLY scary diseases, like Ebola, or germ warfare involving smallpox that we don’t have the ability to deal with, something with a 60%+ kill rate.  I’m not trying to say the idea of social distancing is wrong, just that it feels strange to do it with a disease that is believed to have around a 98% cure rate.  It’s just something I’m having a hard time wrapping my brain around.

–As I mentioned earlier, I also struggle to wrap my head around contradictory news reports.  First, every article seems to say DEATH AND DESTRUCTION WILL BE RAINING UPON US!!! (and then buried somewhere in the middle of the article you always find the same message, “most people will only experience mild to moderate symptoms and will recover”.)  I just haven’t quite figured out how to reconcile those two extremes…that the world is basically ending (at least according to the media) but that most of us are going to be fine. 🙄

–I’m also strugging with all the shutdowns.   I think in the long run they were for the best and probably helped slow the spread of the disease significantly.  I also don’t have a problem with continuing social distancing measures long-term, if necessary, on a limited basis.  It makes sense that large groups like in-person schools or sporting events may not be able to occur for a while.  This is a far cry though from locking everyone down in their homes.

I am glad to see that there are now guidelines for things being able to open up again, at least on a limited basis.  I lean Libertarian at heart, and it’s hard watching our civil rights being taken away with no real end in sight.  I just don’t see how it’s possible to keep any normal society running, long-term, under lockdown conditions?  You can’t just stop providing all “non-essential” services to people for very long.  Eventually, they will become “essential”.  And what happens when wildfire or hurricane season comes and people have to evacuate in large groups to evacuation centers?

Feeling Depression and Anxiety about COVID-19

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I struggle with anxiety.

–Obviously this is a stressful time in all of our lives and we’re all worried about our families, our jobs, the future, everyone’s health.  One symptom of anxiety is catastrophizing.  It’s so easy for me to jump to worrying about the worst-case scenario and that’s SO EASY to do in situations like these.

–I’ve had to almost divorce myself from social media.  At first, I tried just “quieting” a few people who constantly shared negative things on my newsfeeds, but then I started seeing so many of these articles shared that it became overwhelming.  I know things are difficult and scary right now and I understand this is a situation that needs to be taken seriously, but people are already feeling really bad and low.  I don’t understand everyone’s seeming desire to say, “Hey, we all feel awful, let me share MORE terrible news with all my friends, THAT will help things!” 😝

I just don’t understand why people want to immerse themselves in misery and then feel the need to share that misery with everyone else they know.  I’m not sure why I feel such a strong reaction to this, as I don’t think these people are bad or that they have bad intentions.  I think they’re legitimately just trying to get the word out, and they want others to understand why it is so important to socially isolate, to be careful, etc.  I think because we’re already getting that information from so many sources it seems the need to share it further feels unnecessary, like pouring salt into an already gaping wound. 

Maybe part of the problem is that plenty of people don’t take things seriously unless they have the crap scared out of them?  Maybe people think if they share the scary stuff, others will finally understand the severity of the situation?  Maybe they worry that if we only consider best-case scenarios, we won’t be prepared and/or people won’t take things seriously enough to enact protection protocols so we’ll end up with a worst-case scenario?  

I believe I’m technically an optimist at heart.  I try to focus on the positive (although I worry about the worst-case scenario, of course, especially with my anxiety).  But it just feels like so many other people only want to focus on the worst thing that can happen and they want to scream that to the world.  Why?  Why do we seem to focus on things that make ourselves and others miserable?

–I also think I’m feeling a true sense of depression for the first time in my life.  Anyone who is a regular reader knows I struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) during the dark, winter months.  That’s a different thing though.  I know what it is and I know how to deal with it.  I also know it will end and almost exactly when it will get better.  This mess just feels like a sense of dread, confusion, and concern about the unknown that doesn’t seem to have an end at this point.  We’re all just hanging here, waiting for someone to tell us more bad news and things to potentially continue to get worse, and we have no idea if or when it will all end and how long that will take.  It’s mentally and emotionally exhausting!

Now for some positive thoughts!

Stay Mindful by Relying on Logic, not Emotion During Difficult Situations

I believe we have to be calm and be logical when dealing with all of this.  I don’t mean to sound snarky, but why can’t people stay rational in these situations without immediately jumping to APOCOLYPSE?!  Things change SO FAST (which is a GOOD thing)!  We jump from shutdowns to new forms of testing and treatments seemingly emerging each week…now, the same doctor who came out with millions of deaths possible worldwide has revised that death total down exponentially.  I understand this is due to all the social distancing people have been doing, but it’s still INCREDIBLY good news!  It means what we’re doing is helping and it’s SO EMPOWERING!  It means that each individual person can do something to help control this monster.  It means there is hope!  It also helps to better explain the frustration I mentioned above.  People were SO QUICK to embrace the worst-case scenario and now it’s shaping up to be something far different.  

Stay Mindful by Searching for Hope and Encouragement in Crisis Situations

I’m also feeling a sense of hope.  This is a unique time in our lives.  Many of us have never experienced something like this before.  As a (very OLD) Millenial, the only country-wide crisis I’ve really had to deal with was 9/11.  I grew up hearing stories about my grandparents’ generation dealing with World War II, the rationing of meat, the transitioning of factories to make equipment for the military, the various drives people who remained home engaged in for the “war effort”.  I always wondered what it would be like to be able to do something like that to help your country.  Maybe this is our chance?

I’m also encouraged by all the good we’re seeing:  local distilleries that are transitioning to making hand sanitizer instead of beer; factories that are now making ventilators and medical equipment; local people and programs with 3D printers that are able to make medical items or sew masks; companies all over the country and world that are rushing to send additional medicine to the places that need it most.  It reminds you that there is a lot of good in the world, and times like these are when it really shows.

I will say, there are a few things I hope to NEVER hear again once this crisis is over:

“CDC guidelines recommend…” 😝
“social distancing” 🤮
“the new normal” 😝

To Conclude:

We need to find things that make us happy during this time.  In the northern hemisphere at least, we’re heading into warmer weather and longer days.  Many of us live outside of big cities.  We can get out in our backyards, in local parks, or nearby woods.  This is still “socially distancing”, but at least we can enjoy the beauty of nature that surrounds us.  Some people can’t do this for various reasons, but even they can open a window and breathe in the fresh, warm air, or at least enjoy the sunshine streaming in, or the birds tweeting outside…there’s always SOMETHING we can do.

I believe in a lot of good things.

–I believe in God.  Not everyone does, and that’s ok, you do you.  Billions of people the world over do seek peace during this troubled time from a Source higher than themselves.  I don’t care what It is, what name you use, or Who or What you pray to, if you pray, embrace that.  It will help you get through this time of trouble.

–I believe in human ingenuity.  As much as this sucks, this is the best time in history we could be dealing with this crisis.  I read an article recently that said if this had happened 100 years ago more than a BILLION people could have died around the world.  Even the worst-case scenarios show nothing of that sort today.

–I believe in the technology we have at our disposal, from computers that help us figure out cures FAR more quickly than EVER before, to the best medical technology ever experienced to help us survive this mess. The computerized technology in factories that can help us mass-produce equipment and supplies at a far faster rate than simple humans ever could.  The technology that allows many of us to work from home so we can continue to be productive citizens and still make money for our families (this doesn’t apply to every person in every job, of course, but it’s far more available now than it was even a few, short years ago).  This same technology allows children to continue a modicum of education, as well.  I think how, just 10 years ago, many of these things would have hardly been possible…

–I believe in doctors and nurses and our leaders.  I don’t care what political persuasion you lean towards, I’ve seen signs that our leaders are working together to get us through this time of crisis.

I think there are MANY things to be positive about and be thankful for right now. So, let’s keep things positive!  What POSITIVE things have you seen during this time of crisis?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Have you been feeling a lot of strong emotions during the pandemic? I sure have! Read on for ways to maintain a mindful mindset during this difficult time.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Spring Forward: Daylight Saving Time

In this post, I discuss how my SAD symptoms decrease with the time change.

It’s that time of year again!  We pushed our clocks forward one hour this week (in the US at least)!  Before all you haters start complaining about how the time change messes up your sleep (and it does 😝) I don’t really want to hear it! 😉  I love time change day (in the spring)!  It is the day my SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) dies ya’ll!  

For those of us in the Northern Plains, the time change really does make the best use of our daylight hours that fluctuate wildly throughout the year.  If we stayed on Standard Time all year, it would start getting light at 3:30 am in the summer (no joke).  Whereas if we stayed on Daylight Time all year, it wouldn’t get light till after 8 am in the winter.  I’m not ok with either of these options.😝

Winter passed quickly

I am AMAZED at how quickly this dark winter flew by.  It always goes more quickly than I think (worry) it will, but this year was one for the books.  I was VERY fortunate as my SAD was super mild this year.  I hardly noticed it at all.  I think it’s probably due, in large part, to the mild winter we had.  We had a good number of sunny, warm days all through December, January, and February (sometimes with temps as high as the 50s and 60s)!  This meant Puppers and I were able to enjoy a good amount of time outside which I think helped things IMMENSELY! (The few robins that stuck around and sang to me all winter were a nice touch too, Mother Nature!)

Mr. Trekker was also home more than normal, thanks to some remote classes he’s been teaching due to COVID.  Having some company around the house certainly helped, as well. (Full disclosure, due to some other circumstances–partially COVID–I was also on low-dose antidepressants for the first time this year.)

Related posts:  Why the Time Change?; Summer Solstice: The Longest Day; Therapy Lamp and Calm App Reviews; I HATE Seasonal Depression!Enjoying the Winter Solstice; Increasing Daylight as Winter Wains; Embrace the Dark Winter Days

SAD symptoms end with the time change

I am always amazed at how much better I feel once my SAD symptoms start to ebb.  It really gives you an appreciation for how strongly they affect your life.  You don’t always notice it while you’re experiencing them.  You know that everyone seems to be keen to IRRITATE THE HE** OUT OF YOU! (must they swallow so loudly?! 😂)  And you can’t help the tears that come when EVERYTHING YOU TRY TO DO FAILS MISERABLY!!! (Why am I the only one whose life is so difficult?! 🙄)

I hope it’s obvious that I’m being sarcastic with these statements.  In all seriousness though, I find it amazing how my SAD symptoms cast a shadow on every other aspect of my life.  Even though I personally experience it, it’s hard to believe it can cloud your judgment so much on whatever thing you’re dealing with at any given moment.   Every problem seems 10x worse when SAD is already weighing you down.  Any other stressor you feel is amplified.  As someone who struggles with anxiety throughout the year, the SAD worsens those symptoms, as well.  I am a master champion at catastrophizing future events that I’m worried about on a good day.  When I’m dealing with SAD, as well, that ability becomes a superpower. 🙄😝

Every fall I swear, I’m not going to let it affect me as much this year.  I know what’s coming, I know how to deal with it, I know it WILL END, I just have to get through it…and then every spring I’m back to, “Wow!  Was all that extra angst I was feeling JUST from my SAD?”  Maybe someday I will learn. 😐

Take back your power from SAD

Our brains are powerful tools, and they can allow our imaginations to run away with themselves if we permit them.  While its important to always be patient and understanding with ourselves, it’s also important to try to reign in the negative thoughts, especially when we can speak the name of the demon they come from (“SAD”).  By doing so we can help to lessen its control over us.  Fortunately, we CAN control that demon, and it’s time to take our power back!

Do you find the time change affects your mood?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

The time change is upon us again! As we once again "Spring Forward", I reflect on how the time change eases the SAD symptoms I experience each winter.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Stay Mindful by Using a Smartphone Purposefully

In this post, I discuss ways to lead a more mindful lifestyle by using technology as a tool rather than as entertainment.

Mr. Trekker and I are pretty good about not being glued to our phones.  We have a standing rule at our house that there are no phones at the dinner table (with the exception of emergencies/family situations or, sometimes, when making travel plans on the run).  We’ve actually had strangers comment to us (in a good way) how unusual it is to see two people sitting together at a restaurant just talking to each other, with neither of us being on our phones.  They always seem so impressed.  I hope, by this small act, I can inspire other people to use their smartphones purposefully, as well.

My Week Without a Smartphone

A while back, I lost the use of my phone for almost a week. 😮   I was reminded of what life was like before we all had computers at our fingertips at all times. 😂   It was due to this weird situation where Verizon pushed an update through and that basically “broke” my cellular ability.  So I could use apps when I was connected to a WiFi network, but that was it.  I couldn’t make any phone calls AT ALL (which is ironic since wasn’t that the whole point of having phones to begin with?!)  After troubleshooting several things I decided that my phone was shot.

Fortunately, I have a warranty so I was able to get a free replacement from Apple.  It was the same, old model I already had, and it had a crappy camera that took pictures with pink backgrounds 🙄  but at least it worked.  I didn’t want to spend the money on a whole new phone at the time (we had literally just bought one for Mr. Trekker a few weeks before) so this was a good enough replacement.

On a personal note, my local Verizon store was FAR more helpful in dealing with this issue than Apple was over the phone. (The nearest Apple store is almost 400 miles away, in Denver).  I’ve had good luck with Apple customer service in the past, but the Verizon store won this round!  Apple seemed somewhat confused as to what exactly was wrong with the phone.  Even though they told me not to bother with the local store because “the carriers don’t deal with this issue” Verizon was able to understand my problem and diagnose it almost immediately.  This potentially saved me $100’s in replacement costs!

Remember the days before Smartphones?

It was weird to be thrown back to a life without a smartphone.  I appreciated the break from the constant temptation to check social media or email while doing mundane things like standing in line at the store.  I did feel very isolated though, and cut-off from the world.  I could contact people via Facebook Messenger if I had a WiFi signal, but I couldn’t text.  We haven’t had a landline phone in over a decade so, even at home, I realized I had no way to make a call to 911 if it was needed (fortunately it wasn’t).  It was humbling and frustrating.

Part of me would love to throw all this tech-garbage away and just go back to an old-fashioned “dumb” phone.  I used to love my old flip phones, where I could send a quick text message or write a simple note to myself.  I could even take the occasional picture (if it was REALLY important because they were EXPENSIVE!)  I could *gasp!* call someone (or have them call me) if we needed to get in touch.  I really miss those simple days, they feel so 2006-ish! (Yeah, I didn’t get a cell phone of any kind until after I graduated college in 2005, told ya I was old-school! 😉)

How to Use a Smartphone Mindfully

Smartphones do have their benefits.  They’re pretty handy when I’m away from my computer and need to make an update to my blog or handle other work-related business.  Basically my entire livelihood is made via the internet so having access to my blog, social media and email (let alone old school phone calls) from almost anywhere means I can be far more productive with my freelance work (and it gives me far more freedom to be away from home–the office).

I read the book Digital Minimalism, by Cal Newport, recently as research for another project I’m working on.  It was a very interesting read!  I’d recommend this for anyone who feels technology has too much control over their life.  In it, he stresses using technology, such as phones and social media, as minimally as possible to pursue more fulfilling things in life.  I don’t feel like I struggle as much as many of the people he discusses in the book, so I didn’t feel the need to implement all of his strategies.  However, the book did help me to structure my free-time better and prioritize things I really care about.

I pride myself on not being a technophile, but this book really brought home to me the importance of using technology as a tool rather than as a device for entertainment. (It made me think we should view it almost like a pen or a drill, that is needed solely to complete a task.)

As an example, rather than scrolling through my Twitter or Facebook feed, I strive to only check a few, individual people who I follow.  This helps me stay up-to-date with family and friends who live far away.  I also check a few, specific, news sites so that I remain in-the-know on current events.  There are also a few, individual groups that I am a part of that help me to achieve my blogging and writing goals (I rank these under Professional Development).  That’s it.  If I’m not using my phone or social media for those purposes, I try not to use it at all.  There are always other free-time options to pursue.  I’ve got a stack of books I’m working my way through, I’m also still enjoying the Star Wars, adult coloring book Mr. Trekker got me for Christmas several years ago, and I’ve got other projects to keep me busy.

Our lives are hectic enough!  I challenge you to look for ways to reduce your smartphone use.  Maybe instead you could interact with some flesh-and-blood humans 😉; take a walk, read a book or go throw a baseball with your kiddo (or a tennis ball for your pup!)  Let’s try to be more mindful and purposeful when using our smartphones!

What do you think?  Have you seen any benefit from being more mindful with the use of your phone?  Let me know in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you find yourself constantly reaching for your phone? Read on for ways to be more mindful and use your smartphone purposefully.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Using Mindfulness to Overcome Road Rage

In this post I discuss how we can use mindfulness to better deal with annoying things in life, like slow drivers.

“The gas is on the right grandma!”

“If you can’t drive, get off the road!”

We’ve all been there right?  We all get irritated by slow drivers…or the person who pulls out in front of you which forces you to slam on your breaks…or that special model of car that apparently wasn’t built with a blinker…🙄

Unfortunately, we can’t avoid the slow or less-than-perfect drivers that we encounter in our daily lives. However, instead of letting our frustration take control in those situations we can use mindfulness practices to help overcome that road rage.

The Importance of Being Mindful while Driving

There have been several occasions when I was irritated at being stuck behind a slow driver.  Though I felt my Road Rage Meter soaring, I couldn’t pass them safely, so I waited.  Inevitably, we soon came around a curve and there was a deer standing in the middle of the road.  Our slower speed allowed both myself, and the driver in front of me, plenty of time and space to stop.  But if I had raced around that corner…

On other occasions we came over a hill and there was a cop waiting on the other side.  Because I was stuck behind the slow driver I knew I had nothing to fear, but if I had been happily zooming along at the speed I wanted to drive…my wallet would have been the one feeling the rage.

My point is, maybe that slow person has been placed in front of us for a reason. Call it a Guardian Angel, Fate, or the Universe stepping in, but maybe that obstacle in our path is actually there to help us.

Mindfulness Helps us Embrace the Current Moment and Decrease Road Rage

I try to see slow drivers as God (or the Universe, or Fate) telling us to slow down a little.  I believe these situations present themselves to us as opportunities, chances to be more Present in the current situation that we find ourselves.  I mentioned in a previous post how much I enjoy long drives on winding roads.  When we find ourselves stuck behind a slow driver we can be mindful and appreciate the sunny day, or the scenic countryside, that we’re currently driving through.  Or maybe this is our chance to connect more meaningfully with the person sitting next to us.  Maybe it’s not a beautiful day at all, but rather the rain is drumming peacefully on the windshield; something I find to be incredibly relaxing.

I see (and hear) some people, in their cars, who appear to be very angry.  They lash out at anyone who pulls out in front of them, or who doesn’t drive quickly enough.  You can see them gesticulating wildly, or hear them yelling at another driver. (I’ve even see people standing outside a stranger’s car, at a red light, screaming at them through the window.)  This type of behavior is frightening, but I also think it’s indicative of a larger problem in our society today.  Many of us are overstressed and are strained to our limits.  Some of us are hurting in one or more areas of our lives.

If we can show a little patience towards each other, to be understanding if someone pulls out in front of us (or wave an apology to them if we are at fault), if we can show just a little extra kindness towards each other, maybe it will make another person’s day.  Maybe it will pull them out of the dark place they are in, just a little bit.  Maybe it will give them a little hope that there is still some kindness in a world that can be difficult to navigate at times.

To Conclude

I get just as irritated with slow traffic (or the large family milling about, blocking my path at Walmart 😉) as the next person.  But we never know when these obstacles are put in our lives for our benefit.  So the next time you find yourself stuck behind a slow–or bad–driver, instead of getting angry and yelling at them (or using gestures that you wouldn’t want your mother to see 😮), look at it as an opportunity…to spend a little more time enjoying the beauty of the world around you.  Besides, if we can put a little positive energy and light out into the world, I believe it will come back to us.  Also, it’s a simple way to help make this big, blue ball we all live on a little better place, for everyone.

Do you have any suggestions for how to be more mindful while driving?  Let me know if the comments!

 

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you find your blood pressure rising when you get stuck behind a slow driver? Use mindfulness to help reduce your frustration!

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

A Tranquil New Year

In this post, I review the goals I accomplished last year and the hopes I have for the coming new year!

We have FINALLY made it to the end of 2020!  Happy New Year!  What a year it was huh?  This was supposed to be “my year”…I just KNEW IT!  I had SUCH positive feelings going into 2020 (I think a lot of people did).  Well, we all know how THAT turned out, don’t we? 😝  I think we can all pretty much agree that 2020 sucked! 🤯  I’m not gonna lie, this was one of the more difficult and stressful years of my life (due to COVID and a few other things).  But as I reflected on the year I realized some pretty great things happened too…

My COVID accomplishments:

I FINALLY learned SEO!

This was one of my primary career/blog-related goals for the year.  I realized this was pretty much make-or-break.  If I couldn’t master SEO and get my blog to start ranking on Google, I’d have to give up on this dream. (For the non-bloggers among us, SEO means Search Engine Optimization.  These are basically techniques to use when writing a blog article to help Google “see” you.  The goal is to “rank”, or to be listed on page 1 of Google’s search results.)  So I set out in January DETERMINED to master this challenge.

I took a few online classes/workshops and through those met some other pretty great bloggers.  And I can now say that after a year I am ranking on the first page of Google for NUMEROUS keywords and posts!  This, along with the help of some of my new friends who help to spread the word about my blog, has helped me to more than quadruple my traffic over last year!

I became a consultant!

I lost my long-term content-writing job this spring (thanks COVID 😷) shortly after being promoted to a better position within it. 😩  HOWEVER, a few months later, something happened to me that I’ve always thought was only a legend that happened to OTHER people.  I NEVER thought it would happen to me…A great job literally fell out of the sky for me!  It is a consulting job (which I also NEVER thought I’d have) working for a local agency utilizing skills and connections I gained at my previous “real job” (that I left several years ago).  A friend from that old job learned of another friend of hers who was looking for some consulting help with her business, and I immediately came to mind.  Don’t let anyone tell you that doing good work in one area can’t help you in unseen ways in the future!

Also, just in the last few weeks, I acquired another, hopefully, long-term content writing job!

I monetized my blog

This was another opportunity that basically fell into my lap.  One of the blogs I follow leads a Facebook group.  There the author announced a unique opportunity to join an ad supply company.  They usually require a minimum number of monthly visitors to your blog before you can join (a standard which I didn’t meet yet) but they were offering a short, open-enrollment period where they were waiving that requirement.

I signed up, figuring I wouldn’t be lucky enough to be accepted, but I was!  This has helped to increase my ad revenue from my blog significantly.  I have made as much in the last 5 months with this new ad platform as I had in the last several years with Google Adsense!  While I am still not making much, for the first time in almost 5 years I can say my blog made enough to cover a portion of the annual costs for maintaining it!

I read the Bible!

In 2020 I did achieve one other long-term goal.  It took me more than 2 years but I finally completed a full read-through of the Bible!  Now I have to find something new to read in 2021.

I’m a total nerd when it comes to learning about various religions.  I’ve already read the Book of Mormon and the Apocrypha, I’m considering the Torah and/or maybe the Koran…if you have any other suggestions of religious texts I may find interesting let me know in the comments!

Family living nearby

For the first time in almost 20 years (and the first time in my adult life) we now live near family.  The Trekker Parental Units moved to the Black Hills in early 2020 (they snuck in just before COVID began making life difficult).  It’s been weird, going from only seeing them once or twice a year to seeing them frequently.  It’s been nice too though.  I’ve been enjoying Momma Trekker’s company (not to mention cooking 😉).  She keeps us well-supplied with delectable treats.  Mr. Trekker and I aren’t sure if we gained the “COVID-15” or the “Mother-in-law-15”! 😂

Looking forward to 2021!

 I always feel a little melancholy on New Year’s Eve.  I don’t like endings or goodbyes.  They feel drug out, like we’re forcing something that should be left to rest in peace.  I feel this way about most endings, whether that be of the calendar year, a birth year, etc.  I find myself impatient to move on to the adventure that lies ahead.  For me, this makes New Year’s Eve somewhat bittersweet.  I always have the urge to throw off the shadow of the old year as quickly as possible and embrace the brightness of the new one.  After the last year we’ve had, I think this is especially true for 2020!

New Year’s Day, on the other hand, I love!  I LOVE new beginnings, new journeys, that “new car smell” the new year brings! 😉  New years, new birthdays, they’re all ripe with potential for us to turn over a new leaf, to move away from bad habits, to improve ourselves and our relationships!  They’re so exciting!    

I’m hesitant to say it after what happened last year, but I’m feeling tentatively positive about 2021 (cross your fingers, knock on wood, all that stuff!🤞🙏)  Vaccines are beginning to be disbursed and medical professionals are learning better methods/treatments to fight this awful virus.  I’m sure our problems aren’t over yet but I feel like we’re on the downhill side of this monster.

I don’t have a lot of big goals for the next year.  I hope to continue growing my blog, and I’m hopeful that job opportunities will continue to become more readily available as society begins to open up again.

I also have a special project that I’ve been working on for some time that I’m hoping to be able to share positive news about in the coming months…

To conclude…

Not everything about 2020 was awful.  Many people learned to slow things down a little and appreciate the little things in life, such as their families, taking a simple walk in the woods, making cookies on a rainy Saturday…maybe this difficult year taught us something after all?  I feel this way every new year, but especially after 2020, I pray for the healing of illnesses and divisions throughout our country and the world.  Maybe we can all get a redo for 2021!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

2020 was tough! Read on for a recap of some of my personal accomplishments this year and some of my hopes as we dive into 2021!

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Want to be notified when a new post is published?  Add your email and click the “Follow” button at the bottom of the page or the sidebar to the right.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Why the Time Change?

Did it feel like your life was an hour longer on Sunday (or Saturday night)?  It was, thanks to “Fall Back”!  Don’t worry though, in a few months you’ll lose that hour when we “Spring Forward” again. 😝

The time change is so weird!  Why do we do it? 😋  For the first 18 years of my life, I lived in a state that didn’t observe Daylight Saving Time.  So, during my formative years, we never changed our clocks.  In the winter, prime time TV would start at 8 pm and the late news would come on at 11.  During the summer, Prime Time would start at 7 pm with the late news coming on at 10.  Other than that, we never noticed any differences at all (though we lived near the Michigan border and I knew that state did this weird, time change thing 😜).

My first Time Change experience

In my freshman year in college, I got to experience my first “Fall Back”, I was so excited! 😉  Do you know what’s really crazy?  I went to college in the same state I grew up in! 😂

“Huh?!” you may say.  So, it’s complicated.  Back then, the very few counties in Indiana, that were near Chicago, did observe the time change.  This was because many of the people who lived there actually worked in Chicago (or at least northeast Illinois). 

My new college friends thought my reaction was a little strange.  I found the idea that we got a whole extra hour added to our lives to be fascinating!  There was one particular guy there, that night, who found my weird reaction amusing…I guess it didn’t bother him too much though since he asked me to marry him a “short” eight years later! 😂

The History of Daylight Saving Time

The time change has been “a thing” since the early 1900s, at least in some areas.  It became popular in the ’70s (before my time, for the record 😉) during the gas shortage/energy crisis because, in theory, it would help to reduce energy use.

This may be true in certain locations, but in western South Dakota, we have less than nine hours of daylight during the darkest points of the winter.  Whether those hours fall 7 – 4 or 8 – 5 doesn’t really matter…you still have more than 14 hours of darkness to contend with. 😝   

Various state governors have also implemented the time change to help keep school children safer, as falling back an hour allows more daylight around the time the kids are traveling to school.

Standard Time is actually helpful

I do think the time change is ultimately a good thing, at least for those of us living in the more extreme latitudes.  If we stayed on Daylight Saving Time all year, the sun wouldn’t come up until AFTER 8 am during the darkest months…no thanks!  In contrast, if we stayed on Standard time all year, the sun would (literally) be coming up around 3:30 in the morning in the summer–especially seeing as we have an east-facing bedroom, I’m gonna pass on this one, as well. 😋  So, while it may be a complete pain-in-the-a$$, I think the time change does make the best use of the extensive variations in the amount of daylight we experience over the course of a year.

The effects of the time change

I’ve talked at length about my struggle with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) in the past, and the time change usually triggers it fully.  Funnily enough, I don’t remember EVER experiencing it growing up in Indiana.  Not even when it seemed like we didn’t see the sun from October through March (unless temps were below zero 😱)–for anyone who isn’t aware, the Great Lakes region is known for being rather cloudy, especially in the colder months.

I don’t even remember noticing the dark so much in college, which was the first time I experienced true darkness before 5 pm.  I’m not sure if it was because I was so busy with classes, homework, and college life, that I just didn’t have time to pay attention?  Or if life was relatively easy, being that I was a college student without any major responsibilities 😇?

Another funny note, the full state of Indiana does now participate in time change (they started after we moved away), but they’re STILL weird.  The vast majority of the state is on Eastern time and changes with New York City, but those few counties near the Illinois border are still on Central time and change with Chicago (for the same reasons I mentioned above). 

Current SAD symptoms

I’ve definitely been feeling the SAD in the last few weeks.  The weather in the Black Hills is usually fairly decent, but Fall does tend to be one of our cloudier times of the year.  That, and the lack of daylight, tends to exacerbate any SAD symptoms I’m currently feeling.

It’s INCREDIBLY frustrating when you’re already feeling lousy and Mother Nature just smiles at you and keeps kicking your emotional butt with her cruddy weather…but there’s something oddly calming about it too.  Like she does not give a SH*T about how we feel.  She just does her thing, completely oblivious and ambivalent about our needs or comforts.  It’s humbling, and I find the consistency of it somewhat comforting, strangely enough.

This time of year, the few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving, are usually the roughest for me.  The excitement and decorations of Halloween are over, but it’s too early for Christmas (despite what some might tell you. 🙄)  I’m not sure which is the chicken, and which is the egg, but I also find my SAD symptoms compound (or are worsened) by any other stressors/worries I have going on.  I think SAD heightens your sensitivity and lessens your tolerance overall, making you more susceptible to the negative effects of these other triggers.

I LOVE Thanksgiving though, so once we get to that week it gets easier.  Then the Christmas Season is in full swing, complete with all the lights, music, and holiday spirit, so I’m happier.  Things are also a bit easier with my rambunctious, four-legged “office mate” to keep me company (she doesn’t seem depressed. 😉🐶)

Who can be unhappy with that face looking at you?

So, for the next few weeks, I’ll be hanging out in front of my therapy lamp while popping the Vitamin D3. 😋  We just gotta buckle down and “embrace the darkness” for the next few months.  Fear not though…it’s only about seven weeks till the Winter Solstice, and then the days will start getting longer again! 🌞

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Ever wonder why we change our clocks twice a year? Read on for an explanation, and how it affects my personal struggle with SAD (Seasonal Depression).

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Enjoy the Holidays Mindfully

Why does our society always rush us from one holiday to the next? In this post, I discuss how detrimental I think this is and how Mindfulness practices can help us keep our sanity, especially during the Holiday Season.

Gird yourself for the Holidays folks, ready or not…they are coming! 😮  

Here we go again…so I walked into my friendly, neighborhood, home improvement store the other day, excited to see Halloween decorations on the shelves.  It made perfect sense as we’re nearing the start of October…and they were available…right across the aisle from the GIANT, CHRISTMAS tree, and decorations display! 🙄  EVERY year this happens and EVERY year it makes me irritated. 😝

One of my biggest pet peeves is the overt rush to the Holiday Season, which seems to start in September. 😋  Why the rush?  It completely goes against all principles of Mindfulness and being Present, or living in the moment.

I will acknowledge during our COVID days, the pretty lights do help to lighten the mood a little…but there are plenty of Halloween/Fall-related decorations we could be focusing on right now! 😛

Christmas…in Fall?!

It seems like a week or two before Halloween each year, the seasonal sections of stores are already alight with Christmas decor.  Not one or two things, here or there, mind you.  No, there are rows upon rows of Christmas lights, outdoor and indoor decorations, and fake Christmas trees already filling the shelves.

This isn’t that big of a deal.  It happens every year, so I know I should be prepared for it and should just ignore it.  At the very least, it is NOT important enough to be wasting my precious, mental energy on.  Yet every year it irks me more.  I just get irritated that while I’m busy thinking about goblins and ghouls, Christmas decorations are shining at me from the shelves. 😝

The stores have Halloween candy out in August!  Seriously, if you buy the candy then, it would be gross come the actual holiday.  And let’s be honest, who could keep it in their house that long without eating it?  Maybe that’s the plan of the stores and candy companies, get it out early so we start enjoying it…so then we have to buy more by the time the actual holiday comes. 🤔  They’re making us fat while simultaneously slimming our wallets! 😡  They probably partner with the weight-loss companies…we’re on to the conspiracy now though! 😉  (Ok, time to take off the tin-foil hat.) 😇  

Have we always rushed the Holidays?

I wonder if this rush to the Holidays is really a new thing?  Maybe it has always been this way?  The over-commercialization of Christmas is even mentioned in The Charlie Brown Christmas movie from the 1960s.  Perhaps our rush to the next event we are anticipating is just a weakness of human nature?  I wonder if people who participate in less, mainstream holidays experience this, as well?  Are those who celebrate Diwali, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa allowed to enjoy these holidays in their proper season?

I think one reason this yearly phenomenon bothers me so much is that it makes me feel rushed.  I feel like it adds an additional level of stress to the everyday pressure I already struggle with.  It’s no wonder we have so much ADHD and anxiety in our world today, we’re constantly being rushed from one commercialized holiday to the next and never given the opportunity to rest and enjoy a given event in its moment.

Stop Rushing the Holidays!

You barely finish your hot dog and watch the 4th of July fireworks…and “Back to School” is being rammed down your throat…then, a month before Halloween even occurs…and THREE FULL MONTHS before the Christmas holiday…I’m supposed to start getting excited about Santa and his reindeer…?

It seems like we skip right over Thanksgiving, which is so sad.  That is the holiday where no gifts are expected, we can just enjoy the moments spent with family and friends.  It’s the one time where we are actually supposed to reflect on our many blessings and how thankful we are for them.  It’s one of the most mindful holidays of them all!

…then with the Christmas holidays barely past, we’re already seeing chocolate hearts for Valentines Day…then green clovers start appearing for St. Patrick’s Day…and shortly after, candied bunnies and chicks, for Easter, will be on the horizon…then the red, white and blue, patriotic decorations start flying for the summer festivities…and before we know it we’ve returned to Back-to-School and Halloween again.  And I swear we JUST took our Christmas tree down a few weeks ago! 😅

No wonder the years seem to fly by, we’re all living three months in the future at all times!  It reminds me of a scene from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Upon learning that another holiday is just around the corner, Charlie Brown’s sister, Sally, states, “I haven’t even finished eating all of my Halloween candy yet!”  I remember having this same thought as a child. (Regular readers will note I reference Charlie Brown rather frequently.  The Trekkers like Charlie Brown ok, those stories taught me good lessons during my childhood, I’m not sorry! 😉) 

I just don’t understand the constant need to always be reaching for the next thing.  Do we ever take the time to just enjoy the current moment?  Are we even able to anymore?  On one hand, it seems silly to be concerned about this.  But on the other, I think this is just another example of our over-stimulated, modern culture where we need to be constantly hyped up about something at all times.

Enjoy the Holidays Mindfully

Mindfulness principles can be really useful here.  By focusing on and appreciating the individual moment, event, day (or at the very least, holiday) that we are CURRENTLY experiencing, we can help keep the stress and pressure of the Holiday Season at bay.  We will feel less stress when we aren’t always preparing for something that won’t occur for several more months.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE everything about Christmas, I just REFUSE to participate in holidays until their appointed season.  For the Trekkers, this means no Fall decorations until the first of October is ‘nigh, and I 100% refrain from engaging in anything related to Christmas until Thanksgiving has come and gone.  Then it’s Merry Freakin’ Christmas all day, every day! 🙃 

To Conclude

I think this rush to the Holidays is detrimental to us, and I’m not alone in those concerns.  It increases the pressure of the already-stressful Holiday Season for many people.  There are so many things that always occur at once:  parties, religious and school activities, and family gatherings (or, during COVID, the lack of any of these enjoyable things. 😝)  All of these can cause us angst.

This time of year can also be very expensive for many people, with all the gifts, and the–sometimes lengthy–travel involved to see family and friends.  On the other hand, not everyone has a loving family, so this time of year can be very lonely for them.  I think it’s pretty obvious that we would all benefit from putting a little less focus on the commercialized Holidays, and a little more on making our world a better place.

I know that after 18-months we’re still in the midst of COVID chaos and it shows no signs of ending any time soon. I’m not trying to be a Debbie Downer.  Anything that helps make our crappy situation more bearable we should embrace, I just think we need to do so mindfully is all. 😇  

Do you find that the coming Season is over-hyped?  Tell me about it in the comments!

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Ever feel like we're constantly hurried from one holiday to the next? Read on for how important being mindful is when enjoying holidays.

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like, or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest

Just Groovin’: 5 tips for Using Mindfulness to Lower Anxiety

I find myself stressed, many days, over the simple tasks of daily life. Read on for how I’m striving to reduce this, and ways you can too!

I find myself feeling anxious over dealing with day-to-day items and stressors.  I know this isn’t healthy for me mentally or physically.  I want to be more Present and live in the current moment.  So, I’ve set the goal for myself to use mindfulness practices to help lessen my anxiety levels.

I Feel Anxious Every Day

I think the anxiety stems partially from the freelance lifestyle that I mentioned in a previous post.  Things like always needing to search for more work, always being concerned about where the next paycheck will come from, etc.  I think the stress is also due, in part, to the general anxiety I deal with on a daily basis.  I just have a tendency to worry about things in the future.

I think many people struggle with this.  We worry about situations from daily life; we worry about interactions or disagreements that occur in our family, friend or work groups; we worry about the health of people we care about.  Basically, we just worry a lot!  Often times there’s nothing particularly awful occurring, these are just the situations we encounter over the course of life for any given day, week or month.  These are normal things to concern ourselves with, but what can we do to ease the strain caused by that constant level of stress?

How I Lessen Anxiety with Mindfulness

I’m striving to implement a “Just Groovin'” mindset†.  Read on for tips on how to use this to reduce your levels of anxiety and to live in the moment…

†You may remember this from a post from last summer, where I discussed us visiting a great BBQ spot in Marble, Colorado.  It was called Slow Groovin’ BBQ, but their message was basically to just take time to enjoy the simple things in life.  The Trekkers have made this into a personal, family motto of sorts, though we edited the name to “Just Groovin’!” 

5 Tips to “Just Groove”:  Using Mindfulness to Live in the Moment and Reduce Stress:

1)  Stop Catastrophizing!  This is a therapeutic term that basically means, don’t imagine what horrible things can go wrong in a situation when it hasn’t even happened yet, or you don’t even have all the details regarding it yet. 

This is something I struggle with regularly.  I am striving to not worry about *insert-situation-here* until it actually happens.  Usually, things play out better than I imagined they would anyway.  Often, I build up all this angst around an impending event and then it ends up proceeding far more smoothly (and often more quickly) than I had anticipated.  Then I’m left with this surplus of negative energy that had been consuming me that, as it turns out, was completely unnecessary.  Now I have no way to release that pent up strain, so it is just added to my ongoing stress load. 

Instead, I want to “just groove” through life, to just deal with things when and if they happen.  

2)  Don’t Stress Yourself Out Over Everyday Tasks.  I have this habit of rushing to get everything that’s on my to-do list for that day, or week (or month) done as efficiently as possible.  While it’s good to not procrastinate when necessary tasks need to be completed, and its also good to implement productive, time-management practices. 

We shouldn’t let ourselves get stressed out about these things.  That causes unnecessary mental and physical tension.  Again, I am usually able to complete all the to-do items that day (or at the very least that week or month) and it often takes less time than I thought it would.  So then I am stressed out, and for what?  Time and again, the list has been completed (usually more easily and quickly than I anticipated), and all I’m left with is a further build-up of negative energy that I now struggle to relieve.

Are you seeing a pattern here? 😋  This compounding of stress just further contributes to the unnecessary tension we feel in our daily lives. 🤯  Ugh!  This is why anxiety is so mentally exhausting!

3)  Stop Stressing About the Future:  We need to remove the word “might” from our vocabulary.  People with anxiety are always worried about what “might” happen in the future.  “My boss MIGHT yell at me when he calls me into the office; those routine tests at the doctor MIGHT show something bad…”  Let’s stop with the “might”! 

There’s only so much we can control in life.  Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  Not everyone is big on the Bible, but I think this is some advice that can benefit all people, whether they are religious or not.  We need to stop worrying about what “might” come tomorrow, next week, next month or next year.  Because these things are only MIGHTS, they aren’t actually occurring yet, and we can’t deal with them until they happen.  So, let’s be mindful, live in the present, and expend our precious, mental energy on what is actually occurring RIGHT NOW!

4)  Don’t Miss Out on Today’s Joys by Worrying about Tomorrow.  Not all stress comes from negative events.  We have a tendency to want to rush through life so that we can get to the good stuff, though that may mean we don’t fully experience or appreciate the simpler, everyday nuggets we encounter along the way. 

A famous philosopher once described this problem in his young apprentice, “all his life he has looked away to the future…to the horizon…never his mind on where he was…what he was doing…” (If you’re imagining a small, elderly, goblin-looking creature, talking about Luke Skywalker…you’d be correct.  Hey, Yoda was sort of like a philosopher!  I’m a Star Wars nerd and I’m not sorry. 😉)

It’s good to enjoy the fun and exciting parts of life.  But the humble joys of our daily existence are important too.  Things like watching your children play on the playground, having a talk on the swing with an aging parent or pulling off the side of the road just to watch a particularly, stunning sunset.  In the end, these are what we experience most often and they are what we’ll remember in the long run.  These are the little things that make life worth living.

5)  Just Groove!  My goal for the next six months is to learn to just “go with the flow”.  I will strive to not allow myself to be anxious about things unless I KNOW that there is something to be anxious about. 

You may be thinking, “ever thought of trying some meds?”  Anti-anxiety medication is always an option, of course (full disclosure, I do use it, occasionally, on days that feel particularly stressful).  But I don’t want to have to rely on it for the rest of my–hopefully lengthy–lifetime.  I don’t want to need it just to get me through the normal pressures of daily existence.  It seems to me, being that most of us live in a time and place where the quality of life is about the best it’s ever been, throughout the entire course of human history, that I don’t have any excuse to build up so much stress over just getting through the day. 

This is where the concept of “Just Groovin'” comes in.  Basically it means, take life as it comes.  I am striving to embrace mindful minimalism, and only concern myself with problems as they present themselves (rather than wasting mental energy to worry about them ahead of time). 

Want to join me on this quest?  Tell me in the comments about your tips for using mindfulness to lessen daily stress, and live in the present moment.

Did you enjoy this post?  Pin it!

Do you get anxiety from just trying to get your daily to-do list completed? Read on for 5 tips to using mindfulness to lessen this stress

 

Like what you read here today?  Please feel free to leave a comment, like or share this post!  Add your email at the bottom of the page, or the sidebar to the right, to be notified when a new post is published.  By signing up for the email list, you will also receive a free copy of the Tranquil Trekker’s Top 10 Tips of Trekking Do’s and Don’ts!

You can also follow the blog on social media by clicking the links below!

Facebook

Twitter

Instagram

Pinterest