Light at the End of the Tunnel (A Medical Explanation)

This week I was diagnosed with severe obstructive sleep apnea and sleep related hypoventilation.

I am feeling a lot of things around this diagnosis. A little fear (untreated, sleep apnea can lead to serious things like heart attacks and strokes), a little anger, but mostly relief and gratitude.

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Happy Habitiversary to Me!

Today marks the one year point for when I set my first habit goals and set up a spreadsheet to track them . I’m calling it my habitiversary. I’m not sure I like the term; let me know if you think of something catchier ;).

I started with a just a couple, and now I have a color-coded rainbow spreadsheet to track many habits across many areas of my self-care. Not to mention a blog, and a series on how to help others get started making successful habit changes.

When I started last year, deciding to track healthy habits instead of a number on a scale or clothing size was unfamiliar territory for me. I decided I wanted to be open to whatever outcomes would come.

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The Rainbow Spreadsheet! (Habit Tracking Template)

I just set up my habit tracking spreadsheet for 2016, with updated habit goals.  Since I’ve been doing this for a year now and have accumulated a bunch of habit goals (one or two at a time!), I decided to group them by categories and color code them.

I shared a screenshot of my spreadsheet in a few habit groups.

Habit Sheet

(You’ll have to settle for a crappy screenshot, because I have zero photoediting skills and can’t figure out how to sharpen the image if I expand it).

In one group in particular, people got really excited and asked me if they could share and use for educational purposes. Presumably they also loved my broad based view of health and realistic goal setting, not just the pretty colors. So, I edited my template so you can download it and edit it for your own use. (The first tab in the document is an example of what the set up looks like for a first-time habit tracker. The second tab has “the rainbow spreadsheet,” an example of what it looks like for a second-year habit tracker – me!).

Now… is the really important thing. I KNOW EVERYBODY LIKES RAINBOWS and gets super excited and wants a rainbow spreadsheet of their very own.

I urge you all to read through my entire sustainable habit series, starting with Part I, to help guide you in getting started. If you do that, your spreadsheet might look awfully monochromatic for a few months. Be patient. Don’t rush things. You too can have a rainbow spreadsheet soon! In fact, you can have one now and I can’t stop you. But I highly recommend you read all the background info and start with just one habit. Because ultimately, what’s more exciting? A rainbow spreadsheet NOW, or actual success (however you define it), and a rainbow spreadsheet later?

And yes, I’m totally okay with people sharing this post and using it for personal and educational purposes, as long as you credit Power, Peace and the Porch Gym.

Open the Power, Peace and the Porch Gym habit tracking template (aka “The Rainbow Spreadsheet”)

Enjoy, and happy habit forming!


As it Turns Out, The Water Is Fine.

A couple weeks ago I wrote a post about a new habit I had started that was provoking some conflicted feelings. A month has gone by since I started this habit, and I’ve been having some thoughts and feelings I wanted to document before I forget about them. So, you get a post! Yay!

The habit goal I am writing about is “finish my food by 8pm, 25 times by the end of the year.” I was experiencing both optimism and apprehension about adopting this habit. My biggest fear was that a habit like this would send me back into a dieting/restriction oriented mindset.

Overall, this habit is going a lot better than I expected, both in terms of emotional response and implementation.

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How to Set a Sustainable Habit Goal This Year: Part II

Welcome back! This post is Part II of a series on how I set my habit goals. If you haven’t already done so, read Part I first.

Step 2 – Choose a Time and Frequency Goal for your Habit

I answered a LOT of questions this past year about this step.

For all my habit goals, I defined a specific frequency and time frame. For example:

  • Do a strength workout 150 times this year.
  • In October, I set a goal to deposit $10 into my emergency fund 15 times by the end of the year.

One of the most common questions I am asked was “how do you decide how many times you are aiming to do your habit?”

How do you decide on a time frame?

I’m going to go over time frame before frequency, because that is easy.

I am a HUGE fan of doing a year-long time frame, for several reasons:

  • the whole persistence thing quoted in part I. If we feel we should be doing these things consistently over a long period of time, we should have a time frame that encourages that.
  • There are disadvantages to going with shorter time frames, such as the week (example: I’m going to go to the gym 3 times per week this year). Let’s be realistic here. We know that we are not going to do this EVERY week.  Some weeks we might go four times. We might get sick. We might get injured. The weather might suck. We might have to stay late at work to finish a big project. We might have to go on a business trip. We might take a few weeks to figure out how to overcome whatever obstacles were holding us back from doing it in the first place. A longer time frame allows for all of these things, while still allowing us not to get discouraged when we didn’t meet our goals EVERY week, because we are human.
  • It encourages patience and a macro-view instead of a micro-view. There certain habits that might be easier during certain times of year and more difficult during other times of year. A year-long practice encourages the development of patience and chilling the f*ck out and looking at the big picture….both when things are tough and when they are good. It eliminates the roller coaster of emotions that come with overhauling a lifestyle and then falling on your ass.

My first habit goals were set with a year-long time frame. Then, any subsequent habit goals were set with the time frame of “by December 31.” That way I could reset all the goals as needed at the same time, once per year. Your mileage may vary.

How do you decide on a frequency goal for your habit?

Here is what I did to figure out a frequency goal for each habit. It worked really well for me, as I am on track to meet most of my frequency goals by the end of the year.

First, ask yourself these questions (write down the answers):

  • How many times per week  am I CURRENTLY doing this habit? For many habits, the answer may be “inconsistently” or “not at all” or “some weeks I get 3 days, then for the rest of the month I don’t do any.” That’s okay. Make your best guess at an honest average. It is okay to put down “zero” or “less than one.” (Also, I know I said I am not a fan of the “per week” time frame, but bear with me here. It’s usually easier for most people to answer this question in terms of weeks than in terms of a year.)
  • How many times in an average week would I like to be doing this habit in AN IDEAL SCENARIO, if I was a perfect person with no obstacles to creating this habit?

Now, choose a middle ground between the above two numbers.

It should be a number that is more than what you currently do… and you should be 95% sure that you can actually attain this number over the course of the time frame you’ve chosen.

Before we move on to the next step, make sure that the number looks achievable for you. Be honest. Don’t be a type A person who bites off more than you can chew.  You are not aiming for perfection; you are aiming for consistency. Really look at that number and ask yourself if you are 95% sure you can achieve that.

But don’t overthink it. If you choose the wrong number, you can always adjust at a later date.

NOW…..convert that weekly frequency into a yearly frequency

Take that weekly number, and multiply it by 50. There’s your starting frequency.

That is not a typo. I know that there are actually 52 weeks in a year, not 50. And I also know that we all make mistakes when working on new skills, habits, and hobbies. In the case of water drinking, there may be fewer obstacles than say, going to the gym…..but you want to allow for them. The purpose of setting habit goals is to help improve your life, not to set unreasonable standards that make you feel guilty when you fall short. So, we use 50 and not 52 so we can allow ourselves a buffer for to allow for “life happening.”

What if I’m not using a yearly time frame for my goals?

Just adjust the number. Instead of multiplying by 50, multiply by the number of weeks (minus a couple) in the time frame you’ve chosen.

That seems like an awfully…..unexciting number.

I like to view these frequency goals as….goals, not maximums. If you meet your goal early, shoot for more at the end. You’ll be wicked proud of yourself. I sure am! Ask me how much fun it is to smash through goals in November, instead of giving up on my goals in January or February ;).

All right! If you’ve made it this far, you’ve probably:

In Part III, I will go over my habit tracking system, which I assure you is just as unexciting as my goal setting process, and just as effective. It also requires much less thought on a daily basis than planning and setting the goals!

A New Habit. Somewhat conflicted, but it’s going well

A couple weeks ago, I added a new habit to my list: finishing my food for the day by 8pm. My goal was to do this 25 times by the end of the year.

Why did I choose this goal? I’ve been noticing that if I eat too much, too late, I feel uncomfortable while going to sleep. My sleep is not great and I thought this habit might improve it. Why only 25 times? Because I have a past history with any “rule” that sounds like a diet rule, and I didn’t want to put too much pressure on myself. I just wanted to start experimenting with this habit to see how it felt. 25 times amounted to roughly 3 times per week.  I was uncertain  as to whether focusing on this habit is a good idea in the first place. What if it sends me back to a dieting mindset?

I noticed those feelings and tried to address them. You don’t have to do it every day. The goal is 3 times per week. That leaves plenty of room for listening to your body. If you are  hungry and need to eat, go for it. It won’t mean throwing in the towel. If you didn’t get home in time to finish eating by 8, the goal is flexible enough to accommodate that. If you are watching a movie and want a snack for pleasure, not hunger….well, there is room for that too.

This is not about restricting myself from eating food that my body is hungry for. It’s about encouraging me to finish all that food early enough in the day that my sleep won’t be compromised by a full belly. It’s about noticing where I am in this process/journey of developing an intuitive eating practice…and noticing that I have made great strides with it during the daytime, and not as much in the evening. Therefore, it’s about giving myself an external reminder (the clock) during the time of day when I feel least likely to remember to eat in tune with my hunger and satiety cues. And since the goal is not perfection (but rather, 25 times by the end of the year), there is room for me to check in with myself and decide that I DO want or need to eat after 8pm on any given night for any reason.

Even acknowledging all of this flexibility, I still notice some uneasiness with this idea. Not necessarily in a “red flag” sense…maybe just in a “notice the sensation” sense that yoga teachers talk about when holding a challenging pose.

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Letting “Good” Beat “Perfect,” Kitchen Edition

They say that “perfect is the enemy of good.” I am applying that wisdom when it comes to cooking healthy, budget-friendly meals for my family this week.

I’ve decided to add a couple more habits to my habit list. One of these habits is cooking a beans and rice dish 6 times by the end of the year (roughly once per week). (If you have a favorite beans and rice recipe, please drop me a link!)

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Tired Week Musings on Rest, Minimalism, and Contentment

It’s been a couple weeks since I’ve posted. I had some arm pain last week so I needed to minimize typing. And once it felt better, I just felt….tired. So posting fell low on the list of priorities.

As for the low energy, there were a few different factors at play. It was time for a deload week with the barbell, so it was natural that I needed some time to recuperate. I’ve also been fighting a cough for the past month. However, last weekend when I looked at my habit tracking spreadsheet, I noticed that I hadn’t been checking off the “in bed by 10pm column” as often. Well, that was a good reminder of why I chose that habit. For the past few days I’ve been making a conscious effort to go to bed instead of watching TV at night. And boy do I need it – even with the extra sleep, I still feel tired. I have some catching up to do, clearly.

Lately I’ve been enjoying the benefits of minimalism in my life. I’ve been working towards a decluttering goal this year and my husband and I have gotten rid of more than double the amount of things I aimed to get rid of…..and we are still going! I’m starting to appreciate the benefits at this point. Such as – I actually enjoy spending time at home now, whereas I used to feel overwhelmed and stressed out and needed to get out a lot. Which left things undone at home. Which left me more stressed out. Which meant my rest time wasn’t as restful as it could have been.

But today, I am grateful that I have been working towards a restful space, and I have achieved that (even though there is more I can do, I am happy with the progress we have made!). When I woke up this morning, I could feel that I needed a restful day. Thankfully, today is one of my days off from work. So I slowly got ready to go out on the porch and lift.  I read the weather on my phone, got dressed slowly, ate breakfast and took care of my kid’s shit (literally and figuratively). After breakfast (almost 2 hours later!) we headed out to the porch gym, which, today, was also a pet shop. Or a ticket counter. Or maybe both. I’m not sure.  Since it was a bit rainy and I was needing extra rest, I did not schedule any trail walking into my day.

Later, a friend I hadn’t spoken with in a long time sent me a message asking how I was doing. I caught myself about to answer “we are having a lazy day.” And I realized that sounded so negative, when in fact, I was doing a positive thing by honoring my need for rest. So instead, I said “we are having a restful day.” That felt great, and not at all self-deprecating. I think I will try substituting “restful” for “lazy” in my language, when applicable (which is probably almost always)”.

In addition to “tired,” I have also been experiencing a sense of contentment lately. I like this quote by Joshua Becker:

Minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.

Recently (definitely within the past year), I have found myself thinking self-pitying thoughts, especially about finances and lifestyle things that we can’t afford right now, such as a home with a bigger yard, and traveling to visit friends and family more. But my daily “name something for which I feel grateful” habit seems to be changing my mindset, and this morning I was feeling grateful for simplicity. Sure, I could work more, and I would have more money. I am a person who really needs a lot of downtime and time alone with my own thoughts though. And today, I am grateful that my lifestyle (and my husband!) is allowing me some of that time, several times per week. Especially since I have a child. I’m feeling happy with the way things are, right now.

Thanks for reading!