I coaxed my focus away from an empty daydream and turned my desk clock to face me, 03.43am. I sighed. Fourteen hours until my thesis deadline. I’d been awake for 2 days straight, finishing the references and drafting a conclusion, finding myself more frequently than not, held hostage by micro sleeps. My thoughts falling adrift for a moment, seemingly, only to discover that I had been staring into space, my mind lost in a vacant vacuum, no recorded thoughts, for nearly half an hour at a time. I wondered to myself if this is what it feels like for Buddhist monks when they achieve a deep meditative state. Have I accidentally mastered the art of meditation through my catatonic fatigue?
I wrote out a mental sticky note for Future Emma to do a Google search for meditation V’s micro sleeps after my MBA was complete. This wasn’t, of course, the only thing I wanted to do after my MBA, far from it. The ‘after my MBA’ section of my brain was filled with copious mental sticky notes and edicts for my behaviour and activity once I was done. Built up over the last six months, it was an untidy space, like an overflowing community notice board at the back of a bookshop that hadn’t been thinned out in a while. Hoards of prompts, reminders and IOUs all stuck over one another in no particular order or priority, fighting for space to be remembered, with many of them losing their tack over time and simply floating away.
One of them dictated ‘stop drinking whisky at home when not in the company of other people!’, another suggested that I should ‘discontinue leaving a medicated cold stick up my nose for hours on end, for no other reason than being chronically board and finding it mildly entertaining’. Revisiting this space in my mind and knowing that I would not be able to action any of these things filled me with anxiety, I soothed myself with the usual supportive dialog from future Emma: ‘Look Emma, don’t panic, we’ll do it later, I’ll just owe it you, make a mental note and we’ll get round to it.’
I agreed, she’s right after all. Surely it was all worth it just to be told ‘you passed’? At this moment I was taken back to the day I passed my driving test. I reacted hastily to the good news with: ‘What! Are you sure?!’. This must be a mistake, I had deliberated, recounting that I had driven into the curb, not once but twice! Seeing the examiners lips begin to move I followed this up with: ‘Um..thanks, yes that’s great, bye, thanks again’, before making a swift and ungraceful exit from the car, ass first.
I stood up, with the jarring creak of an old garden gate and made my way into the kitchen for a snack and yet another coffee; an unknown tally of refills. I wondered if I could count the rings inside my mug, like you can with a tree, to gain some insight into its age. The fridge rewarded me with three Cheese Strings and a Pepperami, that wouldn’t be enough, though there was always fried Spam; one of my cramming favourites. I scuttered, like a common house mouse, through the empty packets lining my kitchen cupboards and confirmed: no clean frying equipment, plates or cutlery to dine with. Actually, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I ate the last tin of Spam about 17 hours ago in its entirety, my memory really was proving to be more and more sketchy during the last few weeks. I wondered why that was, and logged the fleeting query onto a mental sticky note and added it to the collection.
Early afternoon I gathered up the desk of printed papers, submission sheets and my laptop. At the bus shelter I caught the surprised eyes of a ragged and wheezing woman at the other side of the stop and was filled with empathy for her unfortunate disposition. Ripped joggers with her belly bursting its seams, scruffy t-shirt, wildly hair and dirt under her nails that were wrapped firmly around a can of cider, at 2 pm. I wondered what her story was, what had led to this state of severe poor health? I imagined it must be something terribly tragic, maybe she was orphaned as a child due to a freak farming accident, raised by wolves and was never taught how to take care of herself properly. Or maybe a plane engine fell into, and burnt down, her house like in the Donnie Darko film, leaving her with nothing but the clothes on her back, some bus money and a miraculously unscathed six-pack. Rogue embers dance on the wind and illuminate the night sky as she sits and cries in the ruins of her once home. A sombre atmosphere broken only by the refreshing sound of the first can being opened between sobs.
As I sloped off the bus an hour later a gust of wind blew into the gaping hole in my jogging bottoms, a tear that extended across the full length of my right butt cheek, it was cold and gave me the chills. I pushed my unwieldy hair out of my face as I looked down at my scruffy top and realised I had been wearing the same clothes for three days, I couldn’t quite recall when I had my last shower but a discrete nose-to-body consultation confirmed it had been a little while. This outfit was pretty much the only thing that fit me these days, after six months of progressive fat gain and loss of muscle tone, nearly all my clothes were too tight, damn you tasty fried Spam. Somewhere in between the bus and the administrators office I had unconsciously stopped to catch my breath, wheezing, apparently a four minute walk was too much to ask my perpetually sedentary body to engage in without significant argument. I wasn’t wearing my watch and began to worry irrationally that more time might have passed than I was conscious of, I began to nibble at my short nails to relieve my nervous energy. Noticing instead that they were blackened and grubby from my graphite pencil I tucked my hands into my pockets for their protection. The university clock reported it was only 3pm, filled with relief I found myself already daydreaming about retiring for an early afternoon cider, as I scaled the stairs to the submissions office.
I tasked my supervisor with taking a photo of the momentous event, me handing over my 30’000 word thesis. I immediately reviewed the photo to check its Instagram-able-ness and I shook my head in disgust, in the way a disapproving parent might upon discovering their teenager had picked up smoking. Asking themselves questions like: how did I let it get to this? And: Is this my fault? I was sweaty, grubby, covered in spots and with bags under my eyes. Although I couldn’t see it in the picture, I knew my hands were shaking under the weight of the 200 page thesis, exacerbated by my 72 hours without sleep and the incessant intake of caffeine that had, in recent days, given me frequent heart palpitations.
I was in a poor state of health and looked terribly tragic. I wondered, with curiosity, if the woman at the bus stop, with whom I had exchanged eyes, had thought so too.
I received a distinction in my thesis. ‘What?! Are they sure?’ I can only assume given the number of spelling mistakes and half finished sentences, that my work must have gotten accidentally switched with the masterpiece of another unfortunate soul.
But apparently I passed and I thought it best not to question it.
By the end of 2018 I will.. have made incremental improvements to my health in a way that is sustainable
- Have tailored my diet to reduce my intake of foods that I have an intolerance to.
- Have built a relationship with a counsellor and be getting longer-term independent support to manage the complex challenges that come about through being a human on this earth. Reminding myself that I am not the finished article, nor should I aspire to be.
- I get fitter every day, as I have the energy and time to take part in the regularity and variety of physical activity that I want.
Stock Take: First Quarter 2018 goal achievements
I’ve been procrastinating in writing this post, for three reasons:
- My health is the first thing that suffers when I am short of time (see above tragic story), paradoxically it’s my most important life goal. Pursuing health in a way that is sustainable means I need to make some hard choices about whats important to me. This is tough and progress is slow, though I do have some – WIN!s
- I have been building my own website! This blog marks the launch of my new self-hosted website and I am ecstatic. I also wanted to set up affiliate links to help with my financial freedom goal, what this means is that if I recommend products I like/use and someone buys them through the link I get a reward. Therefore some, but not all of the links on this page are affiliate links.
- There is tons that I want to write about and I’ve had trouble narrowing the scope, health is such a broad topic, an exciting topic. Lets start.
I have moved to a Ketogenic diet. What this essentially means is that my body burns fats instead of sugars or carbohydrates. It also means that I wake up every morning full of energy, I am rarely hungry and I don’t crave food. I eat yummy things like bacon and eggs for breakfast (see my Instagram page for the kinds of delicious food I eat!). I have fantastic mental clarity and don’t get tired during the day. It’s improved my sleep, my skin, my hair, my digestion and bloating (too much information). I have reduced my body fat percentage by 3.6% in two months and am on route to being lean, which is my ultimate goal. Right now, I feel incredible, Keto is the primary reason. – WIN!
If anyone has been thinking about changing their diet to loose weight or to feel healthier, check out this mini course by Dr Berg (not affiliated with this, just think it’s great).
I’ve known for a while I am intolerant to potato starch. I’ll share with you at some point an amusing story about how I tried to solve this problem – with embarrassing consequences. I am also intolerant to Corn Flour (also a starch), beans, MSG and Gluten. I never used to be intolerant to these foods and I’ve become really fascinated about why this is, particularly in light of moving to a low-carb diet where changing what I eat resulted in me feeling better than I have ever felt. Have you ever watched the film Limitless? It’s like that. I am reading a book which talks about the link between your brain and your gut called The Mind Gut Connection, technical at points, but fascinating.
“Watch your thoughts, they become words;
watch your words, they become actions;
watch your actions, they become habits;
watch your habits, they become character;
watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.”
Lao Tzu – Ancient Chinese Philosopher
I really enjoy therapy and find it really beneficial. Particularly when making a lot of life changes, an independent person can give the support that people around you may not be able to. I have decided to not work 1-2-1 with a therapist right now. Mainly because the person I want is fully booked (I’ve seen her before) and because £200+ per month floating gracefully out of my bank account is really going to clash with my other goal of buying a house. So this is something for later in the year and I am OK with that. I currently use many online resources such as Kati Morton, she is a licensed therapist and has a YouTube channel all about mental health and Alain De Botton who is an English-Swiss Philosopher. I love his ability to take complex ‘life’ concepts and make them easy to digest. – WIN!
Cortisol is a hormone that regulates metabolism and the immune responses in the body. When you are stressed, particularly over a long period, cortisol is heightened and eventually manifests itself in physical symptoms such as weight gain, poor sleep, bad skin, loss of focus and dizziness. I’ve recently decided to take some time away from work to try and focus on resetting and collecting myself. It didn’t feel too necessary at the time, but turned out to be the most crucial thing I have done for my health. Only once I stopped did I realise how sick I was, how much stress I had been under for a prolonged period and started to take things seriously. As a result I have recently moved jobs to something that better matches my skill sets and I find significantly less stressful. – WIN
Sitting at a desk for the last six years has me in a horrendous state of disrepair. Sitting for long periods can shorten your muscle groups in your legs and can cause back pain through the shortened muscles, creating pressure on the sciatic nerve and bad posture. To solve this I have taken up yoga (stretching) and HIIT (improving core) once a week to strengthen the shortened muscles, I have also arranged a standing desk at work. – WIN!
I watched a great video from life coach Mel Robbins about how to structure your day, she suggested that many successful people do two things: they wake early and they plan their day. I now get up at 6 am, make a coffee and am in my home office at 6.15, I work until 8.15 and only then leave for work. I manage to get two solid hours of work done before the rest of the world wakes up! I agree with myself a time by which I am going to switch off and stick to it so that I get a minimum of 8.5 hours of sleep a night. I no longer have my phone by my bed, it gets left downstairs on airplane mode, this means no watching re-runs of Star Trek before bed (secret single behaviour). I feel awesome. – WIN!
Hair and Nails
Are you sitting down…? OK, I no longer wash my hair. Yup you heard it right. I do a ‘no-poo’ method of hair care, which essentially means that I wash my hair with water and on occasion apple cider vinegar. But apart from that, no shampoo or conditioner in an attempt to absorb less chemicals into my body (to continue my new preachy virtues from my last blog) and I can’t begin to tell you what a remarkable difference it has made to the health of my hair. It feels full of body, it so easy to maintain, I wake up and go. – WIN!
Many people when they are stressed or anxious channel their energy through a nervous twitch. We all know the person at work who constantly shakes their leg against a communal table or clicks their pen incessantly during a quiet meeting. For me, I bite my nails. I have been practising at work, channelling my nervous energy through holding a pen and find it very useful to lessen this habit, I also use coconut oil to keep them moisturised (less chemicals, see above re preachy virtues). – WIN!
Do you recall (above) I mentioned I was hanging around my house with a medicated cold stick up my nose all day because I was bored? Don’t do this kids. It’s designed for limited usage and I’ve had major problems with my sinuses ever since. It seems some health IOUs are not easy to repay.
That said, whatever the state we are in, there is always something we can do to feel better day to day and make incremental changes to our health. Every 10 years all the cells in your body have been regenerated at least once, no wonder we discover that were such different people a decade apart, when in fact we are made up of 100% different cells. The changes I have made involve me living in a very different way, which gets me thinking: going forward will I be able to maintain my health goals whilst actively pursuing my other goal of growth and development…?
How did I get here? Read my previous blogs in this series ‘Best to start at the beginning’ for insight into Entropy Emma: