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!

 

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

 

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Flight 93 Memorial

In this post, I review the Flight 93, September 11th Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

 

This summer we took a road trip out East.  As part of that, we visited the Flight 93, September 11th Memorial in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. (For anyone who isn’t aware, United Flight 93 was one of the four planes hijacked by terrorists on September 11, 2001.  They believe this one was headed towards the capital when it was brought down by the INCREDIBLY brave passengers who were trying to take control back from the terrorists.)

Author’s Note:  I usually try to keep this blog light and carefree.  Unfortunately, there is really no way to do that with this post.

I felt like I lost my innocence in a lot of ways on September 11th, 2001.  The metaphorical curtain was removed and I saw the depravity, hate, and evil capable in the human spirit.  I also felt horrible feelings within myself that I didn’t even know were there.  It was the first time in my life I understood how it felt to actually hate another human being, to feel like I wanted to lash out and hurt someone who was responsible for hurting others.  When you see innocent people being harmed, dying in horrific ways, knowing that families are being ripped apart, forever altered, it makes you angry.  You can’t understand why some people would want to hurt others like that. (As someone who has a degree in human psychology, I can understand that these feelings are perfectly normal as a reaction to such a trauma.  It’s still alarming to see those feelings manifested in myself, however.)

The Flight 93 Memorial Visitor’s Center

We started at the Visitor’s Center which was very well done.  It highlights the events of September 11th with various video and audio recordings that actually occurred that day (news reports, recordings from air traffic control, even some of the messages people on the planes left with their families–those were particularly heartwrenching.)

The Visitor’s Center at the Flight 93 National Memorial

It was a very emotional experience to visit this memorial, as I assumed it would be.  Mr. Trekker and I realized this is the only national memorial we’ve been to that commemorates something that happened in our own lifetime. (I’ve also been to the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial which is very beautiful.  We hope to visit Ground Zero at some point in the future, as well.).

I can’t imagine the thoughts and emotions that the people on the plane felt.  They knew what was happening and that they were likely to die, so they were facing their own mortality on top of dealing with this attack on their homeland.  I have always been awed by their bravery and their final act to try to stop the attack and take control back.  I pray I am never in a situation like that.

The memorial brought back memories of that fateful day.  Mr. Trekker and I were (barely) freshmen in college, we had only been there a couple of weeks.  Funnily enough, that was one of the first times we remember actually spending time together.  We went to chapel together with a group of friends that night…

One of the spooky parts of that day for us was our college was located only about an hour from Chicago.  A lot of the kids we were in school with were from the Chicago area and they were all worried that the terrorists might be targeting the Sears Tower (now the Willis Tower).   

Related Posts:  Hershey’s Chocolate World!; Gettysburg Battlefield

This was the first national crisis Mr. Trekker and I had ever lived through, it was definitely a defining moment for our generation. (I realize this is an indication of just how blessed life is for most of us in the US…the fact that we were almost 20 before we had to deal with a crisis like this and that for most Americans, this type of national crisis is a once or twice-in-a-lifetime experience.  We are so blessed not to live in a war-torn country!)  This was our “Pearl Harbor moment”.  I will never forget where I was or what I was doing that morning, what the weather was like, or how we found out “something” was wrong.

While walking through the memorial I just kept thinking, “I know our country and world are divided right now but man, I can’t contemplate one person having so much hate for another, and for seemingly innocuous reasons.  How can you want to kill someone who isn’t posing a risk to you or your family, who is just existing…most if not all of the victims were completely innocent (some were children even!)  

The Wall of Names

The Wall of Names is the actual, granite, memorial stone that looks much like many other memorials around the country.  It also sits at the bottom of the hill, near the final flight line and boulder that marks the crash site.  It features a separate stone for each innocent person killed on the flight with their names engraved in the marble.

The Wall of Names

Flight 93 Flight Line and Crash Site

The actual crash site sits in a field below and behind the Visitor’s Center.  It was once an old mine that scarred the land.  Now it is a lovely green area filled with wildflowers, surrounded by trees and accentuated with birdsong.  I think it is a perfect memorial to the people who died.  I’m glad this former scar on the land got a new lease on life, so to speak.

Flight 93 flight line. The mowed area is the final path the flight took before it crashed into the field.

According to one of the guides we spoke with, the plane hit the ground at over 500 mph with hundreds of gallons of fuel onboard.  Needless to say, the resulting explosion left very little behind.  So a boulder is used to mark the plane’s final resting place… 

The boulder is the site of the actual crash of Flight 93. No one but the families of the victims are allowed out near it.

Walking Trails at the Flight 93 Memorial

There are several walking trails that ring the field that marks the plane’s final resting place.  One is the Avenue of Trees that is a paved trail lined on both sides by trees.  It circles one side of the field where the plane crashed and leads from Memorial Plaza, at the bottom of the hill where ceremonies are held, back to the Visitor’s Center.  It leads past the 40 Memorial Groves where more than 1500 trees were planted to commemorate the people who died at this site that day.

The Western Overlook Trail is a dirt and grass path that forms the other side of the loop around the field.  It runs from the Visitor’s Center down to the actual stone memorial and the crash site itself, and then on to Memorial Plaza at the bottom of the hill.

The Avenue of Trees

Tower of Voices

The Tower of Voices is located elsewhere on the monument’s property.  It is 93 feet tall (in honor of the flight number) and it features 40 different wind chimes (one for each, innocent person killed on the fateful flight.)  It needs at least a 12 mph wind to chime well.  It wasn’t ringing much the day we were there but what we heard was pretty.  It’s an unusual, haunting, and very subtle sound.

Click here for a video of the chimes in action. (This link takes you to the virtual tour of the site on the Memorial’s main page. Click “Enter” to start the virtual tour, then click on “Tower of Voices” at the upper right corner of the map.  Then click the musical note in the upper right corner. Sorry it’s convoluted, this is the best sounding video I could find.)

The Tower of Voices
A look at the chimes that make up the Tower, from below.

US 30 through Southern Pennsylvania

We brought the scenic, US 30 back from the memorial.  This road holds a special place in my heart as it was the same route we drove to college (from home, in Indiana) and I took a portion of it from home to North Carolina when we lived there.  It’s funny how certain objects (like roads) can sometimes play a role in our lives.  As another example, US 6 ran right near where I grew up.  It also ran right through Mr. Trekker’s hometown, even though we grew up almost 800 miles apart.  We were connected long before we even knew it! 😀

This is a VERY pretty, country drive.  The route curves through forests and over and around hills–I use this term instead of mountains–technically we were in the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains.  HOWEVER, they are thousands of feet shorter than the Black Hills in South Dakota, so I also call these uplifts hills. 😀 (Even though they are almost twice as tall, the Black “Hills” may be called that because they are thousands of feet shorter than their big brothers to the south and west in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana. 😀)

**Final snarky note (I felt bad putting this further up) 😇 :
People wonder why I don’t like to fly (I’m probably one of the only ‘travel bloggers’ who hates to fly! 😂)  I don’t like dealing with airport security (which admittedly has gotten worse since 9/11).  I don’t like packing for it, I don’t like having to take my shoes off; I don’t like that flying in a plane is essentially just public transportation where they pack you into a tube, like sardines (though not necessarily during COVID which is a WHOLE other thing. 😝 )  I don’t like that my flight in Michigan can get delayed for HOURS because it’s raining in California and I’m flying to Florida. 🙄   I’m also terrified of the prospect of crashing to my death from 30,000 feet in a fiery tube (and that’s just from good, old-fashioned, mechanical failure, that’s before the idea of terrorists comes into play.) 🙄  All of this is why the Trekkers’ road trip! 😂  

I really enjoyed our visit to the Flight 93 Memorial.  It is situated in a beautiful setting in the country.  It’s peaceful and tranquil, with the tweeting of birds surrounding you.  I couldn’t help thinking this would have made me mad if I had been there when the crash happened.  How dare the birds tweet happily on this horrible day! 😝  It is a wonderful, final resting place for the people who died on that fateful day, however.

For this weekend, which commemorates the 20th Anniversary of September 11th, I want to end this patriotic post with my favorite song that came out after 9/11.  I still get chills whenever I hear it…Courtesy of the Red White and Blue, by Toby Keith

Have you been to the Flight 93 Memorial?  What was your experience like?  Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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September 11th was seared into the mind of all Americans. Read on for my experience at the Flight 93 Memorial that commemorates that day.

 

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Happy Blogiversary!

In this post, I ruminate on my last five years of blogging and what I hope to achieve in the next five years

The Tranquil Trekker turns 5 this month!  That’s a pretty major Blogiversary milestone.  I can’t believe it’s been that long!  For fun, here’s a link to the first, full-length blog post I ever wrote:  Dugout Gulch Botanical Trail (#77).

How It Started…

I started the blog in 2016 kind of on a whim, not knowing ANYTHING about blogging.  I did it mainly to make it easy to share pictures and stories of our adventures with our family and friends.  At the time we were living more than 900 miles from our closest family members and people were always asking about the random trips we took.  I originally assumed “no one makes money on a blog”, so I didn’t start it with that intent at all.

What’s Changed…

SO MUCH has changed in the last 5 years!!!

–In 2018 I left my full-time job and started social media accounts for the blog.  I also switched from a free hosted blog (WordPress.com) to a self-hosted blog (WordPress.org).  I can honestly say that I LOVE both Bluehost and WordPress.org!  They make blogging easy for me, the technologically-challenged, “geriatric” millennial. 😝 (I also now know the difference between the two WordPress options. 😉  If any novice bloggers out there want help deciding which option is right for them, let me know!)

–I monetized my blog!  Contrary to popular belief, it is actually possible to make money blogging! 😮   I’m still not making much, but at least it’s something! (And at least now I know what affiliate programs are and how they work!)

–In 2020 I FINALLY learned how to do SEO and started ranking on Page 1 of Google for many posts! (I still hate SEO, it still feels to me like you’re speaking “robot” to make a computer happy–which you kind of are.  It’s hard to make the blog post feel authentic to ME.  But…I understand the need for SEO.  At some point, if you want your blog to be seen by others, you have to make it easy for the Google Bots to “see” you first.)

I’ve even had a couple of freelance jobs where I did proofreading and helped with SEO optimization on other blogs.  I definitely NEVER thought THAT would be a job for me! 😮

What I’ve Learned…

You could ask, when did my blog really start?  In 2016 I was lucky if I was publishing one post each month as I was busy with my full-time job and other projects.  In 2018, when I finally got on social media, I really started pushing my blog to the masses.  But it wasn’t until 2020 that I finally started really doing the SEO.  So, did I “start” my blog in 2016 and I’m just a REALLY slow learner, or did it really not “start” still 2018 or 2020?  Whatever the answer you can see I have learned SO MUCH throughout the whole process.

I also learned how to code…barely. 😉.  Really I just learned how to look tips up online to tell the webpage how to do what I want it to do.  Sometimes, Google really is your friend! (If anyone has any suggestions on coding classes I could take, specifically for web development–namely HTML and CSS–let me know!  I’ve been on the lookout but haven’t found anything that really fits just yet.)

Over the last five years, I’ve made a lot of friends in the blogging world, specifically travel/outdoor recreation bloggers.  I’ve done guest posts on other blogs and collaborations with other friendly bloggers (click here to see those!)  There are so many supportive people in the blogging world, I’ve been SO impressed by how many want to help each other.  It’s a really encouraging community to be a part of!

What’s Next?

What will the next five years bring?  Who knows!  Once we fully get through the COVID saga I hope to attend my first blogging conference, in-person.  I’ve also been working on a project for the last several years that I’ve been keeping very hush-hush.  I’m truly hoping to make enough progress on this to reveal it to you soon…🙏 🤞  I do hope to continue the blog, at least in some form, for the next many years!

Thank you for hanging out with me for the last five years.  I have grown to love blogging and I TRULY appreciate the supportive readers I’ve gained along the way.  I hope we have MANY more years of blog enjoyment ahead of us!

What brought you to my blog Dear Reader?  What holds your interest and gets you to keep reading?  Do you have any suggestions of things I could change in the future or topics you’d like to see me cover?  Let me know in the comments!

 

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I hit a major Blogiversary this month! Thank you to my Readers! Read on for what's changed, and my hopes for the future.

 

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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!

 

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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.

 

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Microadventures: Fun Close to Home!

In this post, I review a recent adventure the Trekkers pursued, “chasing” the Neowise comet!

I’m going on a Microadventure!

What is a Microadventure?

“Microadventure” is a term that’s come about in recent years.  It basically means you’re going on an adventure that’s close to home, easily accessible, and can be completed in as little as a few hours.  It can range from anything from a Saturday picnic in the woods to a several-day long camping trip.  It can be enjoyed at any time, though it’s become increasingly popular in the days of Covid-19 when many people are choosing to save some money, and to not venture too far from home.

Microadventures are a great way to find the hidden gems to enjoy in your local community and region.  They’re especially important during the days of Coronavirus when we’re all stressed, depressed, and worried about the current state of the world.

The Trekkers live for microadventures, be those outdoor activities in the Black Hills, or storm chases in the nearby plains!  Recently, we got to enjoy something that doesn’t come around every day, we “chased” Neowise, the comet that made a surprise appearance in the skies above us!

This isn’t the first comet I’ve seen in my life.  I’m old enough to remember standing outside my childhood home, in the 1990s, with my mom one night, checking out the Hale-Bopp comet through the binoculars.

How do I find a microadventure near me?

It helps that we live in a beautiful place that makes these opportunities many and easy to find, though you can enjoy these types of activities in most places if you know where to look.  Go to your local community park or just take a drive in the country outside the city lights.  So many places have walking paths and greenways now, even in more urban areas.  There are also museums, historical and natural sites, and additional recreational activities, such as ropes courses to explore.

We actually started our chasing adventure on Skyline Drive, which traverses the ridgeback that splits the town of Rapid City in two.  Unfortunately, the light pollution from town made it difficult to see the comet.  A few evenings later we visited Badlands National Park, with MommaTrekker and Puppers in tow.

Badlands National Park, by-the-way, is one of the best places to view the night sky that I’ve ever seen.  As the park’s location is the epitome of the “middle-of-nowhere” and being that this area is more arid, where clear skies are a common occurrence, this is a place with very little light pollution where you can view the night sky in all its grandeur.  It helped that the night we went, the moon wasn’t up yet.

My mom agreed that she had never seen so many stars, and she’s spent the last 40 years living on a farm in Indiana!  Several different constellations, planets, and the Milky Way were also easily visible to the naked eye.  I can also attest, from previous experience, that this is a GREAT place to view meteor showers! 😮 

Several days later, we finished our adventure with a short drive to Pactola Lake which is about a half-hour to the west of Rapid City.

Neowise over the Badlands!

Whether you don’t have much spare time, or you’re trying to stick close to home due to Coronavirus, or if you’re trying to save a little on expenses, try out a microadventure.  See what you can discover near you!

What sorts of activities do you enjoy on your microadventures?  Tell me about them in the comments!

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Looking for something fun to do close to home? Why not try out a microadventure and enjoy some hidden gems in your local area!

 

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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!

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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.

 

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Easter Ends the Lenten Fast!

In this post, I discuss the success of my annual, Lenten Fast.

Happy Easter everyone!  The Tranquil Trekker survived another Lenten season!  Easter, which falls on Sunday, always perks me up as it marks the end of my annual, six-week-long, Lenten Fast.

How did my 2021 Lenten Fast go?

I felt like my Fast went pretty well this year.  One interesting note, usually I crave carbs when I give up sweet treats for Lent.  This year that wasn’t really the case.  Instead, I craved salty things hard-core (probably because we’ve also been attempting to implement features of the low-salt, DASH diet that Mr. Trekker’s doctor put him on a few months ago.)

I only ended up losing around five pounds total, though I was pretty happy with that (especially because, when I look in the mirror, I feel like I’ve lost more!  That still gets me to one of the lowest weights I’ve been at in many years and without too much hassle.  I think I’ve also found a few lifestyle techniques to implement going forward to help me maintain some of these healthier practices.  The goal is this will result in continued healthier food choices and lower weight for myself!

Elements from my Lenten Fast that I’ll maintain going forward

I will enjoy breaking my lengthy fast Easter morning with some naughty and delicious donuts! 🤤  I’m also looking forward to MommaTrekker’s pecan pie for dessert after Easter dinner!

Related Posts:  Low-carb Lent; Final Thoughts on Low-Carb Lent; A Sustainable Low-carb Lifestyle; My Lenten Fast

It’ll be nice to be able to eat without restrictions again, though I am hoping to continue implementing some of my healthier eating habits.  This will mainly be in the form of:

      • A more mindful approach to drinking soda:  I love soda, L-O-V-E LOVE it! (and I’m talking the full-sugar stuff here, that diet stuff tastes like crap, is AT LEAST as bad for you as the regular version–maybe worse?–and it triggers my IBS).  I want to be more mindful about how I drink it though.  Rather than chugging through a 20-ounce container of it with dinner, I want to focus more on drinking water, tea, etc. during dinner and enjoy the soda afterward.  That way I can solely focus on the flavor and “bubbles” that I enjoy.  I will view it more as a treat or almost a dessert, rather than simply a way to slake some thirst (it doesn’t work well for that anyway).
      • We will continue to be sticking with the low-salt, DASH diet as much as is reasonable:  This diet is kind of hard because nothing tastes right, it turns out salt plays a HUGE part in the way we think the foods we eat “should” taste.  But I am “slowly” learning how to add just enough salt to home-cooked meals so that they taste good, without using the MASSIVE amounts of the mineral that are in normal, processed food (this includes pizza crust, bread, salad dressings, tomato sauce, etc.  I have learned that basically anything that comes prepared that isn’t made at home from scratch is LOADED with salt.)

To Conclude

So, Happy Easter everyone!  I’m off to go enjoy some chips and dip, soda, and a few jelly beans! 🤤 😁  Here’s to another year of trying to implement more healthy eating practices!

Did you participate in a Lenten Fast?  How did it go?  Tell me about it in the comments!

 

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As much of the world just celebrated the Easter holiday, I look back at the Fast I assigned myself this Lenten season, and discuss how it went.

 

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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!

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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.

 

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38 Years of Blessings!

My 38th birthday was this week. Here are my thoughts on turning another year older.

The Tranquil Trekker turned 38 this week!  That’s right, I just told you how old I am, and I am not ashamed!  But seriously ya’ll, how is it possible that I am this old?!

I’m more excited about this birthday than I was last year, partially because, as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t like odd numbers. 😝  I think one reason I’m feeling more positive this year is that we seem to (hopefully 🙏 ) be SLOWLY emerging from the COVID cloud.  That’s enough to make anyone smile! (Maybe that’s why last year felt like a downer b-day, I was anticipating the misery to come! 😂)

What does “getting older” mean for me?

I feel like I pretty much stopped “growing older” at around 30.  I’m more mature now than I was then (I think? 🤔) and I definitely feel much more secure in who I am and what I want out of this life (and the world).  So far, my 30’s have been good to me and I feel like I’ve really come into my own in the last few years.

So what does it mean to notch another year on the proverbial stick that is my life?

Another birthday means being hopeful about the future!

I have every intention of living to be 85 or so, at least.  This isn’t an unreasonable goal, as I was blessed with pretty good genes.  All but one of my grandparents lived into their 80’s (and plenty of other family members have lived at least that long, sometimes far longer).  While nothing is guaranteed, of course (my anxiety forces me to put that qualifier in, we don’t want to jinx anything do we? 🙄) it’s a fair guess that I’m not even half-way through my lifespan yet…which is a WONDERFUL thing.

I have grand plans for the future.  I want to travel, I want to write, I want to see and learn new things, I want to leave my impact on the world.  I don’t have time to feel old!

Getting older means energy!

I’ve got just as much energy as ever.  I still don’t need coffee to wake me up in the morning (anyone who knows me well will tell you the LAST thing I need in the morning is MORE energy 😇).  Everything just seems to move so fast these days, I feel like life is racing by!  The hours, the days, the weeks, the months, the seasons, the years!  I want to embrace life and enjoy it as much as I can, and that can be hard to do when it feels like it’s just whipping by you!

May 38 be a year of blessings

My goals this year are similar to last year.  I want to continue striving to appreciate the little positives that each day brings.  I want to continue to embrace life’s small moments, so maybe each year won’t race by so quickly anymore.  I thank God for every one of my 38 years, and I pray He chooses to bless me with MANY more!  Like I always say folks, don’t complain too much about getting another year older, it’s better than the alternative!

What are your thoughts each year you approach another birthday?  Tell me about them in the comments!

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It happens to all of us. Each second, minute, day, month and year we get older. Read on for my positive take on another successful trip around the sun.

 

 

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My Lenten Fast

In this post, I review my Lenten Fast that I endeavor to complete each year.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the Easter Season is upon us again!  This is the time of year I embark on my annual, Lenten Fast.

Why fast for Lent?

During Lent, or the six weeks that fall before Easter, many Christians choose to “fast” from something (usually a favorite food such as chocolate, but it can be other things as well, such as tv or social media).  The Catholic faith outlines more of a regimented fast, whereas Christians of other denominations tend to just give up something they are sure to miss as a personal sacrifice. (I explain more about the season of Lent in another post.)

What I am giving up for Lent

A few years ago I outlined my long journey of trying out a low-carb lifestyle over Lent.  As we learned then, I am apparently the only person in all of humanity who doesn’t benefit from this diet. 😝  It actually made me utterly MISERABLE, and literally left me depressed (and I do NOT use that term lightly).

This year I will be following a similar Fast as last year, where instead of going “low-carb” I am going more “slow-carb”.  This basically means I will not be limiting my carb intake other than trying to focus mostly on whole-grain, healthier items.  In addition, I will be trying to stick with “cleaner” food overall.  What will that look like?  Well, for many years I gave up sweets for Lent (cookies, candy, etc.).  One year I also gave up soda.  With my “slow-carb” fast I give up all of that.  In addition, I also fast from junk food (such as fast food, chips, really greasy pizza, fried foods, etc.)

Mr. Trekker’s doctor recently put him on a low-salt diet called the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension).  I figure this change will be beneficial for us both, and since I’ll be grocery shopping and cooking low-salt for him anyway, it just makes sense to do it for myself, as well. 😁  So, I will be implementing this as part of my dietary changes too.

Related posts:  Easter Ends the Lenten Fast!; Final Thoughts on Low-Carb Lent; Low-carb Lent

What I hope to get out of my Lenten Fast

As always, I am hoping to lose a little weight from the fast (that is always a welcome–if not somewhat selfish–side effect of Lent for me 😇).  I am also still trying to kick my soda addiction.  I LOVE soda, I could drink it all day, EVERY day (and we’re talking the full-sugar stuff here.  I’ve never liked the taste of diet soda and my IBS doesn’t tolerate it anyway).  I don’t allow myself to drink a lot of it, but it’s always been a guilty pleasure of mine (and yes, I know it isn’t good for me, clearly that isn’t enough motivation to get me to stop drinking it 😝).

A Lenten Fast should be an adventure!

I’m always excited about the challenge a Lenten Fast brings.  It is a struggle, as it is supposed to be.  They don’t call it a “fast” for nothing! 😉  But it should also be an adventure, a time to try out something new during a time frame that isn’t that long anyway. 😁

Do you participate in a Lenten Fast?  If so, tell me about it in the comments!

 

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Do you fast from a favorite food or item during the Lenten season? Read on for details on the "no junk food" Lent challenge I'm attempting.

 

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