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Gettin’ Organized, Stayin’ Healthy, Movin’ Forward

Super-quick recap: Magnesium rocks, hormones suck, and aging is hell on the body. Yes, I know I’m not all that old yet, but man…my metabolism decided to just go on vacation once I hit the late 30’s, and now in my 40’s I’m trying rather desperately to drag it back and get it under control. Annoying, but possible, perhaps. Now that I’ve gotten my supplements in line and my focus & motivation back (thank God), I’m weight lifting again, which feels really good, and hopefully will be the final piece in my “put your metabolism back to work” puzzle. I don’t miss much about my younger years, but a healthy, fast metabolism is definitely one of those things.

In any case, the whole “getting my focus back” thing has made me realize just how nutty my brain actually was for the last few years, and also how much I need to put some new organizing structures in place now that I can actually see the way forward again. Some of that is household related – budgeting, meal planning, restructuring routines, and some of it is side-business related – namely, publishing. I started wondering how I’d kept things going for so long in that ridiculously unmotivated mindset, and then I realized, I really haven’t. Which is probably why I’ve been having trouble keeping track of things with this latest release I’m trying to do. I needed to buy ISBNs, and kept forgetting. Had a huge struggle with cover art for a lot of reasons, but one was not having a clear vision of the series as a whole. And then getting formatting scheduled, leaving myself time for uploading and getting the print copy put together and the print wrap done and writing a blurb, getting a couple new web sites up and running for the new alter-ego….

I was sort of drowning in everything, to be honest. And I knew what I needed was something (paper, digital, whatever!) to help me manage my writing projects. I’ve needed something to help me keep track of characters, profiles and important scenes for a long time, and nothing’s worked long term, but while I was looking for project management software this week (and not really wanting to pay an arm and a leg for it after buying more ISBNs), I actually came up with something I think will work perfectly for me, both for publishing project management and keeping writing projects organized.

If you haven’t heard of mind mapping, go check out MindMeister. It’s mind-mapping on steroids, and includes notes, task lists and due dates, and is easily used by collaborators if that’s your thing. And then MeisterTask is a sort of companion program, and you can actually create a mind map, and then export the items into a MeisterTask list in order to have a very convenient and easy to organize “kan ban board” style of task list. And both the mind map and task list have email notifications, so you don’t have to keep checking the list for what’s next if you set deadlines right up front.

Not everyone’s mind works this way, but I tell you what – just using the free versions of those two tools got my latest publishing project organized in about 20 minutes (and that’s just due to the learning curve). I can’t see myself ever needing more than the free version of MeisterTask, and I may eventually pony up for the lowest tier of MindMeister just for the ability to print maps that I make for my series books.

Yes, I get excited about new organizing tools. I love them – always have. I’ve been using “You Need A Budget” (YNAB) for budgeting, which I both hate and love at the same time. I hate budgeting, period – always have. But I need to budget and get some debt paid down and just get control of my spending, so I’m forcing myself. It’s not always easy, and never actually “fun”, but it is working, so I’ll keep doing it. *sigh*

I really need to do the same basic thing with food – “budget”. I’m kind of a food hoarder, so I buy way too much, and then waste way too much. I also spend too much time deciding what to make on any given day for both lunch and dinner (except Mondays, when lunch is always burritos, Thursdays, when dinner is always pizza, and Fridays, when lunch is always…leftover pizza). I need to develop a good solid meal plan and dinner rotation so the decisions are made on the weekends, and I don’t have to think much during the week – just cook.

Note: the calendar software I have already has meal-planning capabilities, so while there are “sexier” programs out there, I’m doing my level best to use what I have. I think I may have the most luck though with a couple of simple menu boards for the kitchen. Sometimes low-tech is still the best way to actually get something done.

In that same vein, I may have just ordered some new cookware for one of my cousin’s online Pampered Chef parties. I have a small kitchen that is overflowing with Pampered Chef (and other stuff), but I managed to convince myself that new bakeware would come in handy.

So. Menu-planning to use food, and now to use/justify new cookware too. Sounds about right. Right?

Magnesium, Muscles & Motivation

For those (few) of you who were waiting anxiously (ha!) for this week’s post, my apologies for being late. We had a mild family crisis of sorts Monday night, which pre-empted my writing this. Crisis averted, so…back to normal.

Last week, I was talking about supplements. After some trial, error, research, and really uncomfortable hormonal shifts, I figured out that it was the magnesium bringing me mental clarity, and the calcium/mag combo had to go. I ordered some Magnesium/B vitamin supplements, got off the calcium, cut back the vitamins to half dose, and my head is clear and focused. All is mostly right with my world, or will be after a few weeks of adjustment. Magnesium is amazing, and also very easy to find information on. Google it, read bunches of stuff, and try it, if you’re so inclined.

The mental space and focus…man. Awesome. And as a nice little side “perk”, I’m finding it far easier to resist things that used to be very tempting to me, like donuts, cookies and breads of any kind. Even a week ago, I was drooling over muffins. This week? Saying “no” is no problem, really.

Which means I’m also sticking to my diet plan better, and between that and being motivated to work out, and work out hard, with weight training (which is really the only exercise my body has ever responded well to), the weight is starting to slowly lose it’s grip on my poor, tired hips.

I fell in love with weight training back in college, when I’d head down to the free weight room at the Y between lifeguard shifts and lift while I oogled the big burly guys. Weight training just feels good to me – the pressure on my muscles, pushing them to fatigue, and then getting that little adrenaline rush and kick of dopamine when you wonder if you’re going to be able to pull out that last rep and then you…just do it.

I’ve trained since then, but not often, and never with enough true stress to actually make much of a difference. My body tends to respond well to heavy stimulus, but not light – so while yoga in the morning keeps me limber, I will never build muscle. Same with pilates or cardio or any of that. It’s incredibly difficult to get my heart rate up enough for cardio to do any good.

So, just after the first of the year, we bought a set of dumbbells at Costco (really nice set). Last week, I went downstairs and between the dumbbells, the Total Gym (yes, the Chuck Norris thingy – it’s actually awesome as far as bodyweight trainers go), and running upstairs and back down between sets to check on Murphy, it was a fabulous workout, and also hard enough that I felt it for the first time in a long time.

And it felt good. Really good.

I think my muscles needed to be reminded of just how good it feels to work, and work hard. I was really looking forward to Monday night’s workout, and ended up skipping, so Tuesday night I finally got to workout again, and it felt awesome. Again. Better yet, I wanted to do the workout, and I felt motivated to do it. And that is something I haven’t felt in a very long time.

Motivation paired with focus is a magnificent thing.

So, less cravings, more focus, more motivation…fabulous.

During the first workout, there was lots of clicking and popping of joints while I went through my sets. By the second workout, just a few little token pops here and they subsided as the workout went on. I’m not lifting too heavy ( just 15 and 20lbs on shoulder raises), so they should strengthen fairly quickly.

Now if I could just convince myself to get a full 6 hours of sleep every night for the rest of the week, that would be pretty great.

On that note, I’m off to bed. Next week, maybe we’ll discuss budgeting. I’ve been doing that too lately. It’s both annoying and gratifying at the same time. Mostly annoying, but I don’t have an overdrawn bank account anymore, so there’s that…

Where the Body Goes, the Mind Follows

Everyone make it out of this past weekend’s bi-annual time warp okay? I like daylight hours well enough, but nighttime is when I feel most alive, so this is my least-favorite time change. But, I’m managing passably well, I suppose. Only six more months until my inner vampire will be happy again.

A few things about me that might be of interest before we start talking about supplements:
– My body is incredibly sensitive to supplements, vitamins, drugs, etc.
– My personality is such that I pay attention to and notice the *tiniest* changes in my body (yes, it’s annoying – I generally don’t share).
– I’m a control freak, and I studiously avoid anything that fogs my brain or slows my thinking for any length of time. That includes most pain-killers, psychotropic drugs, and large amounts of alcohol. I’ve been tipsy, but only had one hangover, ever, and I’ve never done any kind of street drugs or been “high” aside from the occasional contact high with friends or in concerts. My greatest fear is probably general anesthesia, which I wouldn’t even let a dentist use when he wanted to pull one of my teeth (I’ve had several teeth pulled, fully conscious, thank you very much). Yes, I have a high pain tolerance.

All that said, I am constantly studying herbs, spices, and various vitamins/minerals in order to try to keep my body running as well as it possibly can. And a very interesting (I think it is, anyways) side effect of this is what happens to my brain in the process. Depending on what I happen to be “experimenting” with on any given day/week/month, my thoughts can either be completely chaotic and have the texture of a bouncy ball, or they can be overwhelmed with anxiety in several different forms, or they can be calm, focused and downright serene about life. That calm focus is the goal, of course, but sometimes a new supplement or different percentages of things can screw that up almost instantly.

Toward the beginning of that whole mid-life “thing”, I started taking MSM because I thought it would help with…some aspect of my body (I forget what…it was several years ago, in my defense). I did all my research, and as usual, nothing mentioned anything about mental side effects. Just how great it was for so many things. So, as usual, I tried a quarter of the normal recommended amount first (because…sensitive). The first day, things were okay. The second, things were a bit weird. My body felt fine, but my thoughts were starting to race a bit. Still, I have my off-days like everyone else, so I didn’t think much about it.

Long story short, by the end of two weeks I was an anxiety-ridden mess, misinterpreting people’s actions/words (I’m normally pretty decent at interpreting people), and not interacting well at all due to all the weird and confusing thoughts going through my head. By then it was pretty obvious that it was the MSM giving me some sort of odd mental reaction, so I stopped it, and within a day or so, I was back to “mid-life” normal.

It’s kind of freaky how stuff like that happens. And if you’re not paying attention and keeping track of what’s changed in your life (for me, a new supplement), it’s very easy to miss the cause of such a quick onset side-effect.

In any case, I’ve taken a multi-vitamin for years, and during the mid-life thing I found that fish oil really helped to calm the anxiety in my head. I started taking it to balance out my cholesterol and get more omega 3’s in, and realized not long after that my thoughts were clearer. I stopped it for a few days to test, chaos returned. Started it again, and within a week, I was mentally more stable. I’ve made sure I am *never* out of fish oil since then – it makes that big of a difference for me.

I’ve tried a lot of things, with varying results, and I could share them, but the thing is, everyone’s body and chemistry is different, so what works for me may not work for you, and vice versa. Right now, I’m experimenting with new supplements that are made in Seattle to replace the basic Costco variety we normally buy. The difference is night and day. We have a calcium supplement, whole food vitamins for women/men (same basic mix on the label, just proportioned a bit differently), and new fish-oil tablets that are stronger than our usual.

I’m not gonna lie – it’s not all roses right now. There’s a fair amount of vitamin D in both the calcium supplement and the vitamin, and that tends to wreak havoc on my system (physically). There are a lot of other vitamins/herbs that have been blended together, and according to the company, they’re put together in specific amounts that should make all of the elements more bioavailable. Which for me, is basically code for, “These things are strong – start slow and pay attention.”

Of course I didn’t, because I’m trying to figure out if there’s anything out there that will help talk my body into letting go of extra weight (unsuccessfully). I just went ahead and started with half a dose of calcium, and a full vitamin dose. Which, predictably, made me physically miserable for a solid week until I backed off on the vitamins (cut to half-dose).

But, while my body was rebelling, my mind was doing something very interesting…like…nothing. My anxiety shut down, my thoughts calmed, I could focus without even really trying, and I wasn’t worried about much of anything – just like when I was younger. It was glorious!

When I cut back on the vitamins, the mental effect was still there, just not as strong. Which was disappointing. So now I’m kind of playing with the amounts of the calcium/vitamin supplements to balance out for my physical comfort, and hopefully once I get that figured out, the mental benefits will stick around as well. If they don’t, you can bet I’ll be breaking down those vitamins and figuring out what gave me that shining “moment” of serene relaxation again. Because that is the person I want to be.

All this to say…what we put in our bodies has such a huge impact not just on how our bodies work, but how our minds work as well. I’ve done so much as far as cleaning up my diet, and it’s still not perfect, but it’s pretty decent, overall. And I know I still don’t get the vitamin/mineral balance I need just from diet alone, so supplementation is an important part of my life. Naturally, as our bodies age, the things we need change, so it’s not really a “set it and forget it” type of thing – it’s something I pay attention to and tweak often, because what helps one day or week may not the next, depending on what’s going on.

Now, to sleep. I haven’t been getting all I need of that lately either, so I’m making a better effort. Except for tonight (Mon/Tues), so I can get this post out (since I have to be up early anyways). But the rest of the week, you can bet I’ll be getting my 6 hours in.

I wonder if those years of sleeping 4.5 hours a night contributed to my mental issues…could I have saved myself a lot of angst just by sleeping more? Something to ponder further, perhaps. After I get some sleep.

On Sulfur, Anxiety & Other Fun Stuff…

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try sulfur (MSM) eye drops for my corneal degeneration condition (the drops my eye doc recommended started making my eyes hurt). I did some initial research (because I’m sensitive to a lot of things in ways other people aren’t), and found lots of information on how good it is for you primarily because it opens cell walls and allows them to heal and function better. The side effects listed on medical sites seemed mild, so I started the eye drops, and then a couple days later, started taking a very small dose (a quarter dose once, instead of twice per day…like I said, I’m sensitive and thus leery) of MSM powder too, thinking maybe it would help heal from the inside out (and also do something for my arthritic hand – MSM is often used for joint pain).

The week I was taking that stuff was one of the worst I’ve had in a long time, and I didn’t realize why until I first stopped taking the powder (just got lazy/apathetic), and then finally stopped the eye drops (which allowed it to completely flush out of my system).

Physically, I was fine. Mentally, I was a hot mess, and in doing some very targeted research after my brain snapped back to normal, I found out that in some lucky individuals (including myself, apparently), MSM/sulfur can cause anxiety – like, major anxiety, and insomnia (I hadn’t been sleeping well either – because my mind was spinning). That post last week about seasonal angst? I wrote that while taking MSM & using the eye drops, and my mind was going 24/7 with constant worry, paranoia, anxiety, and obsessive/compulsive thinking. It was bad, and thank goodness I’m an introvert with few actual friends, because my best buddy had to listen to all the nasty stuff via email, and it also aversely affected my attitude and actions at work. I was still able to function and do my job without breaking stuff, but it was a serious struggle, and staying away from people as much as possible became my main goal because I *knew* something just wasn’t right with the way I was interacting/relating to others (severe paranoia along with the anxiety – warranted paranoia, as it turned out).

So. Not. Good.

Note that in order to find other people with that same reaction, I had to dig pretty deep into discussion forums and such, because when things cause mental side effects like that, the medical community tends to ignore them, or brush them off as some other problem. Same thing happened when I tried to use Splenda and it made me crazy-angry all the time, or when I tried to take extra Vitamin D (because none of us get enough, right?) and it screwed with both my head and my hormones until I stopped taking it.

I do have minor anxiety issues if I stop taking fish oil (to a far lesser extent…I’ve never experienced anything like this sulfur-induced craziness). So I may well be prone to those problems anyways, but the fish oil (brain food!) keeps me on a nice, even keel, and the MSM just basically threw me off a mental cliff and into a seemingly endless free-fall. I truly thought I was losing my mind.

In any case, one day last week (Tues, I think) after I became too lazy (or anxious – whatever) to worry about something so trivial as eye drops or extra supplements (because I was obsessing constantly), I had a horrible headache all day, but I could *think* again. All the anxiety/paranoia/obsessive thoughts just completely disappeared, and my mind was calm and rational again – like a switch flipped, just that abruptly. The headache went away after a day, and I’ve been fine ever since – mentally peaceful and focused. The only thing I changed when the anxiety shot up was taking sulfur, and the only thing I stopped when my mind cleared was the sulfur, so I’m sure that’s what it was.

The bummer of the whole thing is, the sulfur was working well for my eyes – they actually felt better than they have in over a year when I first started the MSM. But, I’ve found some other eye drops that work okay and don’t make me nuts, and I vastly prefer being logical/rational even if my eyes are a bit worse off. So no more MSM for me.

I have to say, it did give me a renewed respect for what people with clinical anxiety go through every day. I couldn’t have handled it much longer without doing *something* to stop it, because it was just completely crazy…I felt totally out of control and the lack of sleep certainly didn’t help. Dealing with other people was nearly impossible between the paranoia and obsessive thoughts, and I just wanted to go crawl into a cave far away from everyone. I never want to experience that again.

Needless to say, that took up a good chunk of last week and the week before, and since the haze cleared, I’ve been working like mad trying to catch up on all the stuff I didn’t get done as far as the writing/writing related stuff goes. I think I’m pretty well caught up now though – all the newsletters should be hitting inboxes sometime today, my serial scenes were all posted last Friday, and I can start this week with a clean slate.

On another happy note, Independence Day is this coming Saturday here in the states, which means I have Friday off work. Three-day weekend, and I do believe I’ll spend the time catching up on some much needed updates to my personal web sites, including the BSB site. I’ve been thinking about adding a mini-social network to the BSB site so I might play around with that, and I also have a book (not by me) that I need to get edited and sent back to the author, so I’m hoping to get that done this weekend as well.

Believe it or not, I even have a reading post done and scheduled for Wednesday. Don’t get too used to that – it’s more of a time issue than anything else and I have seven drafts to keep up with right now, but hopefully I can at least make it a monthly thing.

Alrighty then. Here’s to a good, level-headed, mania-free week. And hopefully a quick fix for our A/C, which isn’t working yet again just before the hottest day of the year so far…

But hey. Good excuse for a late-night ice cream float, eh? 😉


 

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