I have to admit that mornings have become a challenge since we got back from Christmas holidays. This is due to a number of factors, beginning with the fact that we were sleeping late during the holidays and got into a routine of waking up whenever we felt like it. It was glorious!
Coming back to the regular working schedule and having to use an alarm clock again feels like torture. I am completely out of my routine, and the cats are waking me up earlier and earlier each day - this morning it was 5:20AM. This was normal pre-holiday, but is a real struggle at the moment.
On top of the return to an earlier start to my days, I am now responsible for John in the mornings. Normally, we just do our own thing in the morning, but since he can only hobble around on his crutches right now, I am helping with his breakfast, transferring his things from upstairs to down, etc., plus managing all of the household chores, feeding and cleaning up after the cats, loading/unloading the dishwasher, cooking, shopping, etc.
Upon Szymon's instructions, I have also started using the Elite HRV app to monitor my heart rate variability. It actually measures the periods in between each heart beat to better measure the autonomic nervous system, and gives information about stress and recovery and help you to plan and optimize training. Read here for more information.
When I wake up each morning, in addition to being irritable at waking up in the first place, I am now annoyed with the cats, and despite my interest in using and benefiting from Elite HRV, I am simply irate about the process of locating my Wahoo heart rate monitor, putting it on and then waiting the five minutes for the app to conduct the reading. On a normal day, my heart rate automatically races upon waking. I've never thought it was a serious problem; it feels like anxiety for a minute or so, and then usually goes away. So with this little extra thing to do - a thing that I want to do and am curious about - it seems to have made me a little more anxious and even a bit angry.
So, last night I decided I would find a way to manage this better. As an executive coach, I work with people everyday on self-management strategies and have applied them elsewhere in my life. What better opportunity to try them out in this area of my life? I knew it would make a big difference to how I start my day.
So, I thought about what's really happening when I have these panicky, angry mornings. When I am awoken, I suppose I am triggered into a fight-or-flight threat response (particularly since I am being awoken by noisy cats and alarm clocks - not exactly a gentle way to come out of sleep), so I am reacting to the threat (or the anticipation of threat). In addition to going to bed early last night and doing a mindfulness session using my Headspace app, I decided that I would also focus on the following thoughts before I went to sleep:
1. I thought of reasons I want to use the HRV app:
2. I reframed the behaviour of the cats to something more positive:
3. I reminded myself that by taking care of John while he is injured, I am also nurturing our relationship:
And the outcome? It worked really well. I was calmer and interestingly, the cats weren't nearly as bad this morning. Pip even had a little nap on me while I was doing the HRV reading. I was able to use my mindfulness practice to observe little Annie's noisy cries as she recklessly ran around looking for things to destroy, and I felt like my whole perspective changed. I even made a proper breakfast with poached eggs and toast for John and I to enjoy before I got ready and left for work.
I should also say that while it is great for me that I was able to employ this simple yet powerful strategy, there are times when we are going to think negatively and feel stressed. It's human. I have been sick in addition to taking care of John and working a full-time job, and I have to be okay with the fact that I won't always be able to self-manage my way out of gloominess or irritability.
But we do make choices about these things and today I felt well enough to make the choices that bring me closer to my goals (namely things that will get me healthy and strong again so I can get back to training and preparing for Bikingman!). I had a short session on the bike last night and today have a short strength session to do. By this weekend, I hope to be back on the bike outdoors and clocking some more kilometers!
Quick update on John: He had another check-up with the surgeon yesterday, and they are happy with how he is healing. He had some of his staples removed and he seems to be doing better and better each day. Thank you again for your messages and support.