Stop. Summertime!

I had the most frightening dream. The walls were closing in and I was hopelessly trapped. A storm rolled in, the rain poured, and I had no shelter or protection. The water was rising and I was drowning. Suffocating, freezing and choking, I desperately clung on, hoping against hope for a miracle, for someone to come and save me.

Just as I resigned myself to fate, a hand reached out, grabbed me by the wrist, and pulled me from the wreckage. At that moment, overwhelmed by the struggle and overcome with emotion, I blacked out.

When I woke up, the storm had evaporated, the sun shone brightly in the sky, and I was safe in my own bed. It was the start of summer.

But I couldn’t help wondering: was it really a dream? It felt so real… Continue reading “Stop. Summertime!”

Spring!

A breeze so kindly

Softens a winters grip

Please wait with me

We can take in the sun

– Birds of Tokyo, White Leaves

 

Today, 1 September, marks the beginning of spring!*^ And it’s an absolute pearler.

1-flowers
Just don’t look at the forecast!

*In the Southern Hemisphere.

^Some may argue that seasons start at the equinox/solstice. They’re wrong. This is my blog, and I say they start on the 1st.

This turn of the calendar came to my attention when a fellow blogger posted about her plans to write 30,000 words this month. (Good luck, Lauren! 🙂) I’m not going to do that. But I would like to take the opportunity to “spring clean” myself a bit. Continue reading “Spring!”

Introducing National Mental Health Day

Watch winter melt away

Look for longer days

The sun comes out

Come up from underground

Yellowcard, The Hurt Is Gone

 

We all need a mental health day sometimes. But what if the whole country could have one at the same time?

Allow me to propose a new public holiday for New Zealand.

nmhd

Hard Times

I’ve noticed people around me seem a bit down this week. Work colleagues are visibly unhappy, even the usually bubbly ones. My flatmates tell me the situation is the same in their offices. I’ve been way off-colour myself.

This got me thinking: Is there something in the water that’s making the whole town upset? Am I generalising from myself with a heaping dose of confirmation bias? Have I just been unlucky with a small sample size? Or is Wellington just feeling flat right now?

I hit up r/Wellington to take the pulse of the community. The response was overwhelming.

rip my inbox

I got 39 replies in 24 hours. Not quite r/AskReddit levels of “RIP my inbox”, but strong for a modest community like ours.

Many culprits were suggested for the citywide gloom. Many workplaces were complained about. We even considered calling in Wellington Paranormal. But several commenters pointed to another cause – one that runs wider than any workplace.

SAD city

At 41° south, Wellington doesn’t get a whole lot of sun between May and August. This (somehow or other; reports vary) leads to the well-documented phenomenon known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Not everyone experiences it – some of my colleagues are still delightful rays of sunshine! But it’s common enough that it could plausibly bring down a large proportion of the city’s office workers.

Whatever the cause, mid-to-late August is the worst time of year for it – we’ve suffered for a while, tempers are starting to fray, and the end isn’t quite in sight yet. And as it stands, there’s no public holidays for two months either side. What better time to give everyone a day off?

Holiday spirit

How does one celebrate National Mental Health Day? As the commenter above suggested, it’s simple: Just do whatever you’d do if you took a day off work! Relax, socialise, create – whatever (healthy) activity brings you joy and gets you ready to face the world again.

And while you’re doing that, spare a thought for those of us for whom “mental health” means so much more. A National Mental Health Day would be the perfect conversation starter for New Zealand’s mental health crisis.

Awareness events come and go, websites are easily forgotten, but a public holiday would give the issue a permanent place in our consciousness.

Tell me you’re not thinking about Labour Day already. It’s still two months away! We could give mental health the same recognition as the 40-hour work week. Wouldn’t that be amazing?

calendar

New Zealand needs a National Mental Health Day.

To bridge that pesky gap between public holidays.

To blunt the impact of SAD.

To recharge for the final stretch of winter.

And to get people talking about mental health.

Let’s make this happen, New Zealand!

 

And in the meantime, fellow kiwis: Hang on till the hurt (of SAD) is gone.

Change comes for you

Even if you’re hiding out

So wake to this truth

And maybe you’ll believe me now

Gym, day 1: Commitment

1 what lies beyond
What lies beyond the trees?

After I shared my soul-searching post, members of my community suggested that exercise is definitely a thing I should continue doing. This makes sense of course – it has all kinds of health benefits, and it’s a great form of self-improvement. But my gut feeling is that fatigue from gym workouts was a big factor in my breakdown. What to do? I thought long and hard, and here’s what I decided:

I’m going all-in on the gym. Starting today.

But – and this is crucial – I’m going to manage the other factors so I’ll have more energy for exercise. (I’ve already covered one, and I’ll expand on the others in due time.)

Why?

Three reasons come to mind:

  1. Reward. Exercise is a strange beast. Depending what you read, it takes anything from three weeks to three months for the body to get used to it. Until then it’s kind of miserable. But you have to go through it to get the benefits. Since the novelty of joining wore off, I haven’t exercised with any consistency, and I’ve been stuck in the miserable part. My mission is to break through that barrier and start reaping some real rewards.
  2. Habit. They say it takes 66 days to form a habit. I’m going to test that theory. Today is Sunday, 27 May. So by Wednesday, 1 August, hopefully I’ll know if it’s worked!
  3. Commitment. I’m terrified of commitment of any form. My mind likes to continually seek something new and abandon the old. Because of this, I don’t like to promise anything beyond the short-term for fear that I’ll lose interest, break my promise, and let everyone down. But I know that without commitment, I won’t gain anything from the gym. It’s scary – but it’s the only way. So this is a test for me. I’m out to prove, to myself and to the world, that I can commit to something.
The plan

This is my weekly exercise program. It’s my commitment – to you, dear reader, and to myself.

Three weights sessions, one cardio session, and one yoga class per week.

Here’s the day-by-day plan. (I reserve the right to rearrange this.)

  • Monday: Yoga
  • Tuesday: Weights
  • Thursday: Weights
  • Saturday: Weights
  • Sunday: Cardio

Weights is a 10-part circuit devised by a trainer, focusing on the upper body and core.

Yoga is a 75-minute, fast-paced class in a heated studio – conveniently located inside the gym.

Cardio is an hour-long spin or 45-minute run. If it’s nice out (unlikely at this time of year), I might take this outdoors.

I’m a tall, scrawny guy. My body is naturally suited to running and cycling, not lifting and pulling. This routine is firmly aimed at covering my weaknesses rather than building on my strengths. It’s supposed to be a challenge!

Milestones

This may come as a shock, but I don’t have any specific goals in terms of “I will be able to lift x kilograms by time t”. Right now this is more of a mental game. But there are some boxes to tick along the way.

  • Break through the initial pain barrier
  • Work up from 2 sets of each weights exercise to 3
  • Reach a point where the starting weights feel too easy, and up them
  • Learn more exercises and mix them into my routine for variety
  • Graduate from the beginner weights machines to bars
  • Form that habit! I want the gym to feel like an extension of my home, and not the big soulless barn it feels like now.

I’m not putting a time limit on these, but I trust that they’ll come in due time if I put in the effort. Maybe later on when I figure out how this stuff works I’ll set an actual goal! For now I’m just doing what the trainer told me to do, getting a feel for it, and taking it as it comes.

Accountability

It’s all well and good to talk about committing, but another thing to actually do it. To that end, I’m making one more commitment: Weekly updates on this blog. If I skip a workout, you’ll know – and there’ll be a black mark on my blog for eternity. If that’s not commitment, I don’t know what is!

It’s day 1. I’m off to the gym for a spin. I’ll let you know how it goes.

2 shoes on
Shoes on. Bag packed. Let’s do this.