Wellness Wednesday – plan time for fun

I mean it, schedule fun into each week, each day, maybe even in every hour if that is possible.

It is not optional. Fun feeds your creativity.

I used to take breaks to play and rest only when I had “earned” them through doing enough work. Probably that daughter-of-an-immigrant work ethic that many of us inherited. Work all day and then you can earn your fun.

But what it we turned that on its head?

Play at intervals, rest at intervals. Work deeply, but do so in a focused and paced way. 

Those of us with focus issues might prefer the “sprint/break” approach: work in 45 minute blocks with no interruptions (including email, social media or other distractions) and then get up and move, dance or walk for 15 minutes.

whimsical cat print
Whimsical cat print on Etsy

Others who like to work for longer stretches might work for 90 minutes take a 30 minute break. Most research says that the maximum focus for most humans sitting at one time without moving is about 70-80 minutes. Honor that. In the era of social media, it is likely substantially less, according to Cal Newport.

Knowledge work often requires sitting at a desk for long stretches, or enduring endless teleconferences that sometimes make you want to stab your eye out with a pencil (not speaking personally, of course).

What if you took a playful attitude toward work? You can inject a little creativity and some cartoons or funny videos into your (dreadful) required Powerpoint presentations. (I feel your pain. I have been there.)

One of my favorite wise teachers, Brene Brown says that “Creativity not expressed is not benign. It metastasizes.” Heed that wisdom. Plan some fun and some whimsy into your day. Your work will be re-energized and you will deliver at a higher level.

I dare you.

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Windows on the world

Arty colorful kitchen
Kitchen of the Airbnb with Yoshi and Yello

Yesterday was a long travel day. Longer than I expected. By the time we arrived at our final Airbnb we had been “in motion” for 8.5 hours. This included a ride to the train Doune station, a train ride to Edinburgh, a tram ride to the airport, some time eating lunch there, a short flight to London Luton, a train ride to the tube station. A couple tube transfers later, we finally made it to Canary Wharf, up three sets of stairs to a lovely and artistically decorated renovated warehouse flat here.

attract fun
mantra on the mantel of this Airbnb

Having been out & about among people for so long (and in such confined quarters on the tube) with people, I was feeling ready to shut out the world, not visit with our hosts. Hopefully they understood. My introvert self wanted to retreat, spend time alone or just with my husband. On day 13 of this vacation, I now feel relieved we will be going home tomorrow. I miss my own bed, our quiet townhome, our kitties who will no doubt be a bit miffed with us for being gone for 2 weeks.

every-moment.jpg
This applies to our trip.

I enjoy doing the Airbnb experience because it gives you a window on people’s lives in another part of the world. While I am not wild about the times we have had to share a bathroom (about half of the lodgings on this trip), I still think the experience beats staying in a standard, traditional hotel. You must read the descriptions carefully and the reviews to make sure a place fits your needs.

On the eve of returning home, sitting in this lovely apartment and enjoying some solitude, I would still do the trip this way. I may be a little more selective on locations, and try to stay at least 2 days (sometimes 3) in each, instead of the few where we only had one night en route. Given the limitations of not driving here, I would say I did fairly well.

I may have a little “armchair” sociologist in me, getting this window on another person’s life and home, getting fuel for my future stories and books I will write. And part of me enjoys the adventure of not knowing exactly what we will find each time. Not only do you save some money off the expense of regular hotels, but you also gain the benefit of receiving an inside look at some of the real ways people live.

I am taking home with me a treasure trove of new experiences, ideas, inspirations and some lessons as well. How grateful I am for all of it.

Cheers,

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

Unsung art
Unhung art from the living room of the final Airbnb in Canary Wharf.

 

 

 

 

 

State Fair – time to play

The Minnesota State Fair has begun. Around here it is known as the “great Minnesota get-together.” Typically the fair attracts over 120 thousand visitors per day. Last year’s records showed a couple of days of nearly a quarter of a million people in attendance for a total of nearly 2 million over the 12-day event.

MN State Fair.JPG
Photo credit link

We do love our State Fair, or at least those extroverts among us. Actually, I really like seeing animal barns and some of the exhibits. Oh, and I love the fried green tomatoes, the cheese curds, and the roasted corn. Almost nobody can escape without a bucket of Sweet Martha’s cookies.

sweet martha's
Sweet Martha’s Cookies

The last gasp of summer for us, or at least how it seems, is upon us. Typically public schools do not open again until after Labor Day, so this Fair marks the end of the school vacation period.

It is time to grab the family and head down to the Fair. Best to use the Park & Ride system if possible, since parking can be a nightmare if you try to get to close to the fairgrounds.

It reminds me of that feeling at the end of the summer before the weather changes, and when we used to shop for school supplies. I love school supplies. Ah, the smell of new notebooks, freshly-sharpened pencils, and new erasers! I was a classic geek in school – loved it, and was always ready to back.

By the end of the summer I had usually gotten a little bored and was ready to go back to class. This year, I am having such a blast and enjoying my sabbatical so much, that it is really hard for me to imagine getting bored.

It is a privilege to be able to enjoy the State Fair. It’s certainly not cheap, but there is a lot of fun to be had if you attend. I am reminded how grateful I am for the resources in this state, and for the ability to enjoy them.

As a slight introvert, my maximum endurance is typically 4-5 hours. Beyond that, I get a little peopled-out. But as an annual event, it can be well worth the time to get out to play, and enjoy a final day of summer as it winds down for 2018. Make time to play this month, friends. It is good for your soul.

cristy@meximinnesota.com

 

Hours fall off the clock

I may need to reinforce some limits around my writing time, allowing myself just an hour each day. At least while I am still working full time in clinical research. I can lose literally hours off the clock when I am researching or writing on a topic that interests me, and I get to play with words, ideas and stories.

This week I am at a regional work meeting in Belgium and I am called upon social with my colleagues. I enjoy the opportunity to meet 1:1 or in small groups and have face-to-face conversations with those I usually interact with via phone or email. However all of the initial small-talk required when meeting so many new people drains my energy.

It occurs to me that maybe my soul is asking for a more minimalist approach to work networking and people-time, and this is another reason I am bringing this current phase of work to a close by September.

melting clocks
One of my favorite Salvador Dali pieces – photo credit link

I feel at my best when I am doing “deep work” which involves thinking, reading, writing and synthesizing research. I still intend to make time for teaching, offering workshops and facilitating small group meetings. But my best ideas and most productive periods seem to emerge after periods of luxurious solitude and reflection.

This summer I am planning for 4-6 weeks off starting in August/September, if I can make it work between work “ventures.” Let’s see if I can honor that and keep the personal and family budget discipline it will require to make this break happen without undue stress.

I know if I declare this intention in writing, there is a higher likelihood I can make it happen. I am not as good at having accountability to others (it can sometimes cause me to rebel), but I tend to be better at honoring my word to myself.

What makes you lose hours off the clock? Do you have a creative practice or hobby that, when you start working on it, causes you to lose all track of time? 

cristy@meximinnesotana.com

 

Eating as entertainment

I was reflecting last Friday while having a late lunch with my colleagues in Guadalajara that eating has become entertainment in our culture. I considered the effects of viewing food as entertainment rather than fuel for our body, and the changes I have undergone in the past couple years regarding my own eating.

There is a social component to food in most cultures. We eat together as a sign of belonging, and invite others to eat with us or “go for a coffee” (especially in Latino culture) as a chance to connect. When I visited Jordan many years ago, I was told that to refuse food offered in someone’s home was to insult them, and so I felt an obligation to eat something each time we visited.

It reminded me of the pressure I felt to clean my plate as I was growing up. I now can leave food on my plate when I am no longer hungry, and I have let go of the guilt of “wasting” that food. I think it was Martha Beck that pointed out that food is wasted whether we “throw it on” the body or throw it away when we are not hungry. But the former will lead to further suffering by causing unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain.

Barton G
Photo of a dish from Barton G

When we go to fancy restaurants, we go not only for the quality of the food, we go for the theater, for the presentation. I recalled a restaurant in Miami where I went with colleagues called Barton G, where the food was presented in a fun, artful and surprising ways. There were Sumurai swords sticking out of the dishes, or there was a “treasure chest” filled with gold doubloons, ice cream, chocolates, etc.

We went to that place twice, in fact. The first time, I was amazed and delighted by all of the food creations, and I really did not think too much about the taste of the food. The second time, when I was looking to do something food & engaging with the team, I also enjoyed the presentation. But I noticed the food was not actually that good. The fish was a little dry, and the vegetables were overcooked. The team enjoyed the theater of it, but I had seen through the veneer.

I realize when I am on vacation part of the delight is trying out new restaurants, and maybe trying food I have never eaten. Or the joy the Mexicanos had in talking about what is truly “picante” or spicy and the different regions of the country where people tolerate the heat more than others. There was pride in being able to eat spicy food, in expressing enjoyment of their favorite cuisines in dishes.

While I partake in that joy at times, I also recognize that we create situations where there is over-desire for food. Any time we eat more than our bodies need for fuel, or we feel pressured to try a dessert just because everyone else is eating it, we dishonor our own bodies to make others happy. It is interesting to note that we never seem pick on people who are shoveling down every bit of food they can. We instead pressure others to just have a bite, or not to spoil the fun by abstaining.

Just writing about this reminds me of all the times I have been uncomfortably persuaded to do this, and how hard it was to resist their persuasion. Whether it was for wine or a piece of dessert, at the time when I was refraining from these items, I later realized it was not about me. In my own mind, I had a story that I was insulting them by turning it down. But they could choose to interpret my behavior in whatever way they wanted, and that was not my responsibility to manage.

wine toast.JPG
Photo credit link

But the powerful realization that wine and sugary desserts were actually hurting my well-being, robbing me of sleep and causing me to gain weight stood in contrast to their persuasion.  In honoring myself and my body’s own needs, I could still enjoy the meal with them, and focus on the interactions with people, and letting the food be fuel, not the entertainment. I still struggle to let go of the feeling of wanting to fit in, and not wanting to be “too different” from these colleagues.

It gets easier though, this act of honoring our own needs and realizing in the long run that if I do not care for myself, these relationships will not have integrity anyway. By doing things that I do not want to do in an effort to “make others comfortable” I deny what I know to be true. Also, getting in touch and accepting my own discomfort at not always fitting in, and being okay with that feeling, has been incredibly freeing as well. It goes totally against our culture of eating as entertainment. And I am all right with that.

What are your experiences with food and eating as entertainment? What strategies have you used to honor your own needs and desires, while in the face of pressure? I am curious to know.