Hello fine reader(s) (Hi mum) and welcome to my brand new blog, Clear-air Turbulence. If you’re wondering what it’s all about, please review my about page. Otherwise I sincerely hope you enjoy my very his first series of posts – a very personal review of my 2019.
The first post will look at my health, both mental and physical. Following that I’ll review my career, writing and other work related projects, then family, home and travel, and finally finances, insurance and charity. A follow up post will outline my goals and pledges for the coming year.
I should add that two simple questions drive my thoughts in these posts. These are:
What went well?
What could I do better?
MENTAL & PHYSICAL HEALTH 💪
I can say without a shadow of doubt, the greatest personal victory for me has been getting a handle on my personal struggles with depression and anxiety. It’s something I’ve been reluctant to share with most anyone for a long time. Honestly I’m apprehensive about bringing it up now, but I believe the time has come – as part of this journey – to put those demons to bed. To talk about it publicly is testament to that. I’m not afraid, or perhaps better said, I’m no longer afraid to be afraid. To be openly vulnerable is a strength not a weakness. I understand this now.
One day I hope to share my story in depth and with a greater audience, but for now I’ll just open up by saying, I had a problem. One that has set me back for a long time. As anyone who has suffered with the same knows, it feels like you’re drowning silently. I should stress, I was never at the extreme end of the spectrum – always fit to fly if you, the reader, are in any way concerned – but that I definitely needed help. And it was help that I put off getting for a very, very long time. The personal victory that I’m most proud of this year is as simple as that (although I can assure for anyone who suffers, it is far from a simple act) – asking for and getting help.
In doing so and working with my therapist, and on my own, I’ve come far further in four short months than I ever dreamed possible. The knock on effects have been significant influencing almost every aspect of my life. That’s not to say the journey is over – I guess it never will be – but I’ve certainly turned a corner. For the first time in a long while I’m genuinely excited about what the future has in store.
So, how exactly has this breakthrough changed my day to day life? Let’s break it down.
ROUTINE and SLEEP
I’ve worked hard on perfecting my day to day routines over the last half year – in the process cementing a number of positive habits that has had a profound effect on my general mood, motivation and productivity. Not only have I been far more consistent in going through my morning routine, the implementation of an evening routine (as recommended by my therapist) has, among a number of other benefits, helped improve my relationship to sleep tremendously. Listed below is a breakdown of my current morning and evening routines in detail for any interested readers. (Side note: I am always looking to improve, tinker and expand upon it).
#1 Wake up – Drink a glass of water and make my bed first thing! (This sets the tone).
#2 Go to the bathroom – brush my teeth and weigh myself.
#3 Change into workout clothes – then Meditate for 10 – 20 mins without fail!
#4 Exercise for 5mins (if nothing else) to 1 hour (usually 30-40mins of HIT or Weights/Strength training)
#5 Shower, groom and get changed into my best clothes.
#6 Make lunch – low carb/high protein -(I usually skip breakfast as part of my fasting window in which I only eat during a block of 8 hours a day) with coffee or tea.
#7 Go to Office -review my day plan/goals and write in my 5 minute journal (5MJ for short).
#8 Write or work for 1 hour. (Sometimes in the chaos of playing with my boy or doing other things I’ll ear-mark a period in the afternoon- usually when my son has his nap – for work and/or writing ✍️).
#1 Have dinner as a family at the table – mention one thing you’re grateful for today and one thing you could have done better (works well as a conversation starter).
#2 After dinner – run through Liam’s bed time routine and put him to bed.
#3 Go to the office immediately after and write tomorrow’s plan/goals and also in my 5MJ.
#4 Shower and change into pyjamas.
#5 Make a cup of tea to enjoy on the couch – watch some TV/play games (Limit to 1 hour or 1 movie) and/or read.
#6 Stretch (while watching TV) or 30 mins of Yoga.
#7 Brush teeth then go to bed with Holly – TALK TO EACH OTHER EVERY NIGHT WITHOUT FAIL! (How have you been doing today? Are you OK? What are some things you have been thinking about or are bothering you?)
#9 Evening meditation (visualisation) then sleep.
Meditation has been an enormously helpful tool for me. I’ve been meditating on and off for years, but have always struggled with consistency. I now rate it as the most important thing to do and prioritise as such making it the first thing I do in the morning. Finding that consistency has been crucial in dealing with my issues of depression and anxiety. It is because of this that meditation is a non negotiable item on my morning routine. No matter how rushed I will, at the very least, make time to meditate, even for as litttle as 5 mins. As we approach the end of the year I’m currently on a 100 plus day run streak. I fully intend to meditate every single morning of every single day in 2020. That is one of my pledges for next year. On top of which I want to look into doing a transcendental meditation course as well as attending a silent retreat to further my practise.
EXERCISE and DIET
Continuing with the topic of health, I’ve been far more consistent with exercise as well, doing so almost every morning. I vary my exercise routines between High Intensity training (HIT), weights or strengthen training and core/mobility work throughout the week. I aim to exercise at least 5 days a week, if not 6, depending on how I feel physically, mindful of my body’s need to rest and recover.
On top of this I’ve started a routine of intermittent fasting during the week, although I’m less consistent with this. On a perfect day I won’t eat till 12 noon and make sure I don’t eat anything after 8 pm, giving me an 8 hour block in which to eat (16 hour fast). This has proved tricky at times given my job, having to fly at odd hours while constantly managing a shifting body clock, but I’m trying hard to keep this schedule and stay on Hong Kong (home) time. It seems to be working, recovering from trips quicker and feeling less lethargic. This year I’ll try to schedule a few longer fasts from 1 to 3 days every 3 months. I’ve only just begun to learn about the health benefits of fasting but it’s clear they are significant. I will do more research before deciding on the length of my longer fasts for next year.
In terms of diet I’ve been trying to eat a high protein/low carb diet 6 days a week (Got to have me a cheat day 😋). I’ve also cut down significantly on the amount of alcohol I drink in recent months – mainly as means to improve sleep but also because hangovers and children don’t mix! I now make sure I have one alcohol free week per month on top of at least 4 alcohol free days per week outside of that (unless on holiday of course 😎). As a result of everything I’ve lost a few kilos (from approx 80kg to 77kg) reducing my body fat percentage by 2-3% (from 21% to 18%) while looking leaner and meaner, but most importantly feeling immeasurably better.
INJURIES and ACTIVITIES
Looking a little closer at what I could do better with regards to improving my overall physical and mental health next year I can think of a few things. Firstly my back continues to bother me as it has done for a number of years now since I injured it 🤕 training for a Marathon in 2014! I think it’s important I keep trying to manage it better. Not to let it get me down as it has in the past! I can, after all, still do all the things I want to physically. That said, I still need to think long term and understand that if I want to remain mobile as I age, I absolutely need to take better care of it. Finding more time to stretch it out – not only after exercise and in the evening as part of my daily routines – but when I’m sitting for any length of time (when writing or at work). GET THE F*** UP AND MOVE even if you’re tired. You’ll regret it if you don’t. Continuing treatment with the physio when I feel it’s necessary and looking to seek treatment with other specialists to see if I can actually mend this pesky problem once and for all are additional plans.
The other thing I want to look at in 2020 is becoming involved in some kind of activity based hobby such as a martial art🥋, rock climbing or even dancing, that I can carry forward indefinitely. Something that I truly love doing. I’m not sure what this is yet, so goal number 1 in this department will be finding it. To that end, I’ll look to trial a number of activities until one sticks. Perhaps a different thing every week? A good way to do this might be scheduling a new activity before dinner every date night with Holly (seen as we have one, or at least try to, every week).