Best New Habits of 2018 For Transitioning Back To A Normal Life
As we approach 2019, I want to share the best changes I’ve made this year. As a cancer patient, I have been transitioning from a state of survival, to healing, back to a sense of normalcy and aiming to thrive beyond my health pre-cancer. Low energy is something I still deal with regularly, so I needed to find ways to better manage my time.
1 Batch prepping
For the past years, I have cultivated the great habit of cooking for me and K most of the time. This means I save money, I eat better ingredients and I get better at cooking, but it didn’t necessarily save me time. In one day, I would make several meals/snacks and did the dishes a few times. Besides that, it was a distraction to constantly be in the kitchen, I would find myself finding more things to do there, a little cleaning here, some tidying there. Starting breakfast also could mean that I would segue and something else like organizing the drawers which could turn into an hour-long project.
I started to batch prep my coffee, oatmeal, smoothies, soup, dressings, sauces. I was already cooking these things and it only makes sense to spend a little bit more time and make larger batches. But the real time saver was also making coffee and oatmeal in batches. I could save time in the morning and not burn out, I already have limited energy.
I could prepare food a day or two in advance so that when I need them, they are ready to go. I could make a 6 serving portion of lentils; 2 servings for K and I at dinner, 2 for dinner a couple nights later and 2 to freeze for emergencies. Doing this cut way down on the dishes, prep time for dinner and it makes things easier to get out the door after breakfast.
I also got into a routine of making smoothies and eyeballing the ingredients to make 3 servings: one to have right away and the other two for K and I to have the next day. I would drink my serving, then refill it for tomorrow, with one less jar to wash.
2 Eating habits per Medical Medium
After reading Medical Medium: Secrets Behind Chronic and Mystery Illness and How to Finally Heal by Anthony William. Below are a few changes I’ve made since discovering this book. Since making these changes, I feel better and the simplicity of it frees up my time.
1) More fruit every day, as a morning and afternoon snack.
2) I no longer buy eggs. According to William, they feed viruses and cancer.
3) I take spirulina every day to keep my body low on heavy metals. I use dulse or kelp seasoning on all of my savory meals; toast, rice, pasta, salad.
4) I didn’t grow up praying before meals, but after reading Medical Medium, the idea started to grow on me. It took me a while to get used to the idea but now, K and I say a prayer at dinner. It reminds us to be grateful for what we have and include friends and family who need it most.
There’s so much more to Medical Medium and what I learned. I’ll expand on this another article.
3 Meditation First Thing
We all know there are many benefits to meditation, but there are so many distractions, it’s hard to figure out when, where and how to do it. I considered getting a meditation pillow and get into a daily habit, but I just didn’t want to have to buy a one-purpose item. Each time I learned about a tip to meditate, I started up again, thinking, Yes, I’ll start doing it every day. I’ve used the Calm phone app, Headspace phone app, tried different breathing techniques, used mantras, videos and I’ve been to Vipassana which a 10-day silent meditation retreat.
It wasn’t until I read Into The Magic Shop by James R. Doty M.D. that I really became motivated to meditate regularly. I won’t spoil it for you, but if you’re looking for a fun read about a true story that will inspire you to make meditation a priority, this book is for you. It wasn’t a huge surprise to learn that regular meditation is great for health but to know that it helped improved his memory and learn complex material to the degree that it did, was very motivating.
In order to make meditation a consistent habit, I removed all obstacles that could get in the way. At first, I thought sitting on the couch first thing in the morning would be best. It had firm cushions and was comfortable to sit on. But on cold mornings, I would go grab socks, look for a sweater, change my mind to use a blanket and in between, I would get distracted as I walked by the kitchen and decide to take vitamins before I sat down. Then that lead to heating up some water to drink, putting dishes away and refilling the Berkey. Ten minutes had gone by and I hadn’t even started meditating.
Then I simplified my routine, so when I wake up, I get up to pee, come back to bed and drink the glass of water I put out on my nightstand the previous night, prop a pillow behind me, take a glance at the time and start. If I want an alarm, I would put my Casio watch bedside the night before, which allows me to press a convenient one-tap alarm. With the first press, it starts an alarm for 1 minute and with each additional press, the alarm resets to 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30-minute increments. Once the alarm goes off, the watch beeps ten times and stops on its own so that if I wanted, I could continue without having to open my eyes and fumble in the dark for it. I really like this feature because it gives me control and lets me know that I have met my daily goal and stop, or go further.
If I don’t have 20 minutes, once I wake up, I take a few moments before getting out of bed or even sitting up. I just lie there with my eyes closed and take slow, deep breaths for a few minutes. I don’t use an alarm, I only glance at the clock so I won’t run late. I use 50 counts while breathing, counting 1 for each inhale and 1 for each exhale. Counting keeps me focused on my breath and using 50 was an arbitrary number that seems to be enough breaths for me to feel centered once I am done.
4 Stay while waiting
I had a bad habit of starting a task, like setting water to boil, then going to another room to start another task. Then I would go back to check on the water, return to the other room—I’d go back and forth between rooms all day. It’s draining and unnecessary. I realized how inefficient and crazy this was when I finally started to pay attention to how I was going about my day.
It’s one of those things where it’s so obvious but not to the person going about it all wrong. Now I stay in the kitchen while my breakfast oats are cooking and use the 10 minutes to put dishes away, tidy up the kitchen, do neck stretches or do a short workout video from fitness blender.
5 Tidy only twice
To avoid constantly tidying, I do it at certain times: 11am and 4pm. Valuable energy and focus should be spent on the important things first, and tidying at a specific time is a chance to step away from the work or a desk and avoid sitting for too long.
6 Lara Bars
The beauty about Lara bars is there are only a handful of ingredients. No added sugars, no egg whites, no flour, no canola oil; and it’s vegan and gluten-free. The only sugar it has comes from dried fruit. Lara bars are inexpensive enough to buy regularly (between $1.29 - $1.79), and many times certain flavors are on sale for 5 for $5. I always keep our home stocked and a separate stash for K to keep at work.
My blood sugar can drop too low if I don’t eat every few hours. Lara help with this and it’s helped many times when I need a snack but didn’t have time. I always have one bar in my purse, it’s either a Lara bar or a Superfood Bar from Dr. Schulze.
Trying to transition to a normal life has been confusing and a big challenge. It helped me to read Option B by Sheryl Sandberg, who after going through some hardships, found herself unsure of her capabilities despite being CEO of Facebook. She doubted her decisions, second-guessing herself constantly. To deal with this, she started writing a list of things she did well that day.
I can relate because going through cancer did something to me that I am still trying to process. I’ve realized that I have anxiety, and it’s different than what I experienced before going through cancer. It’s a default low level of anxiety, a kind of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).
Most cancer patients experience this from having worries about the next CT scan, the next blood test, the next echo cardiogram. Will it reveal a new growth? A regression? If a cancer patient/survivor is returning to work, there can be a level of stress and worry over their ability to keep up with the job. If there is an upcoming trip, there is concern that they might not be able to keep up.
When I start to feel a negative feeling like overwhelm, defeat, anxiety, uncertainty or fear, I remind myself of iTAP: I Intuit and Trust that I am getting healthier/stronger/more energetic/centered every day. I Accept where I am at with Patience.
8 Work with a timer
This is so I don’t get distracted and get on another task like washing dishes, putting things away, fold clothes because before I knew it, half an hour would go by. Using a timer, brings focus and intention. It gives me a start time and an end time.
9 Chakra video
This video cycles through each of the 7 chakras one by one, displaying a chakra in the corresponding color (red for the 1st chakra, orange for the 2nd chakra and so on) with a chant using the corresponding tone (lowest-pitched, deep sounding “Uh” for the 1st chakra ascending to a high-pitched “Ee” for the 7th chakra, etc.).
The video is wonderfully simple, without instructions, an intro or an outro. You just get right into it and I find that the louder I chant, the more at peace I feel afterward. It helps bring me back to the present moment. Running errands in the city can be daunting, let alone getting from point A to B. There are small windows of time that you can go anywhere without being in traffic; it is nearly a constant thing here.
Getting to acupuncture was a 45-minute drive and so was getting to my doctor’s for chemo. Both would work my nerves by the time I arrived for the appointment. I started to play this 7 minute chakra video from YouTube at the start of my drive, especially if it were going to be a heavy trek with lots of traffic, a long drive (long to me means over an hour). During my commute, listening and chanting along helped keep me calm, but once the video (actually 8 minutes long, not 7) was over, I would find myself fiddling with my phone and getting stressed out trying to replay it in order to calm down. Talk about working against myself.
I found the option to download the video as an audio track instead at www.healingsounds.com. Then, I can ask Siri to “Play 7-minute chakra on repeat” and I am set up for the entire drive.