Daily Rituals

There’s something freeing about a schedule, when you embrace one. It’s those times fighting it that become painful, especially when it’s your own thing you’re fighting. I’ve been thinking back lately on my own failures and successes, and most of them come down to how I planned everything.

There’s reasons I’ve been thinking about these things lately. Most days I’m up at 4am, regardless of what time I went to bed – some days I’ve fallen asleep at 4pm and others I’m up until 2am. My sleep has always been hectic, but what’s changed is the overwhelming tiredness. When I was young I was an insomniac – I’d be up for days on end, sometimes as much as a week.

This was back when I was 19; I’d only recently moved so had no job, I was flirting with college through bouts of insomnia and depression and anxiety, and I spent morning, day, and late night on tumblr. I had internet friends in multiple time zones, as far as the UK and Australia. And no matter how tired I was, it all felt like the eternal dread of a chemically imbalanced youth. Now? I just feel old.

I’ve been in my current schedule for almost three years. I go in at 6am most days, then work over nights once a week or so. I used to love getting off early; I’m usually home between 2pm and 4pm. I always felt like I had so much free time, especially with only ever needing 4-6 hours of sleep. I’d wake up groggy (if I woke up at all – some mornings I’d just work through the lack of sleep), shake it off, grab some coffee, and go. Maybe I’d take a nap afterwards, for a few minutes, maybe an hour. Then it’d be back to the internet, or back into a book, or back into streaming a season of television.

I… I just can’t do that anymore. I’m only 27. I’ve always joked about having an old soul, but this is highly annoying. It seems like the last 12 months have just been a steady decline. I struggle to stay awake, and then I struggle to stay asleep, in a constant cycle. I used to be able to fool myself anytime I read those articles online about sleep and anxiety. I have a schedule, I’d tell myself. Sure, it’s not enough sleep, but it’s there. It’s somewhat regular. Is it though?

I’m also the heaviest I’ve ever been. It’s hard to believe the two aren’t connected. I was always a bit pudgy, the kind of guy people would scoff at if I called myself fat, but I was the only one who saw under the layers of clothes. I didn’t necessarily hate myself, I knew it could be worse. They don’t scoff anymore. (Well, the nice ones do.)

So I’m fat, and tired. And I’m still anxious and depressed, all these years later. For the longest time I’ve been telling myself I’ve always been fat and tired, and then I got fatter. And more tired. Like, I get it. I’ve always had a problem consuming and ignoring my feelings, either via calories or mind-numbing distractions, and anxiety and depression and weight and sleeplessness, they’re all friends, they ride deep, they’re at each others’ weddings, giving toasts. But right now they’re a very deadly gang, a roaming hoard, crazed dementors. And, pardon the turn of phrase, I’m tired of it.

And then I failed. I didn’t just get off the bandwagon, I hopped off as it was barreling down a hill, head first into devil’s snare, and I was struggling. Two family cats, both whom I’d lived with in defining parts of my life, my grandmother’s and my mother’s, were both put down due to cancer within a week of each other. And look, I was sad, sure. But I’m not going to pretend I didn’t use it as a full, all-in excuse to jump ship. Sorry for mixing metaphors.

I’ve always done this. In 2014 I lost 30 pounds, and I gained it all back. And I stayed there for a while, and I let myself just… sit there, because I always just sit there, letting myself make excuses. And then I gained 30 more, and I made other excuses until I couldn’t anymore. This inspiration point gave me a couple of really good months: between January and March 2019, I lost 15 pounds, but more importantly, I felt good. I was gym-ing! Multiple times a week: Me! I was regulating vitamin intake, I was counting calories, I was a vegetarian keto king, I was Cardio B, I was hydrated like a motherfucker, I yoga’d! I felt good. I was good. I was hashtag-goals. My depression and anxiety were at all time lows (in the good way, however you phrase that). People noticed. They were commenting on my dedication, from the Apple Watch notifications of my gym progress to my hashtag-NSVs (no scale victories). And then I stopped.

I’m tired of stopping. I’m tired of faltering. I’m just, you know, tired. And instead of focusing on the negatives, I want to celebrate myself for my past accomplishments. I want to look to what I did, not ignoring where I failed, but using it to strengthen the process. I had a good process going; most of that was in a daily ritual. It freed me from the stress of what I wasn’t doing, by focusing my time on what I was.

That’s a hard thing for me, getting motivated. I’m the kind of perfectionist that never reaches perfection, because by the time I would’ve gained any expertise, I’d given up by then. But having a schedule and a mindful attitude – and the right dose of vitamins – was working. It was only when I deviated for an extended time period (the week of multiple deaths) that the process broke down. I was handling the smaller, occasional deviations well because I was practicing mindfulness regarding the process.

mind·ful·ness/noun

  1. 1. the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something.”their mindfulness of the wider cinematic tradition”
  2. 2. a mental state achieved by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.

I was methodical about the process. I tracked everything: what I consumed, what I felt, what I did, how they all reacted. I saved articles on vitamins and diets and would tweak where needed. I was body hacking at the simplest, most boring levels. I woke up two hours early to prepare meals and be mindful, I limited caffeine, I went to bed at reasonable (early) hours for how early I was waking (very). Everything was falling into place.

It’s time, I think, to replicate the experiment. The new moon, a symbol of beginnings, rises in two days, a perfect window to get everything situated. Appropriately, the new moon reaches it’s peak at 3:30 am, about the time I generally need to wake. It’s not exactly science, sure, but symbolism is a powerful tool, especially to manifest intention.

The New Daily Rituals

Before I explore what the daily rituals look like, I need to set some ground rules, with enough leeway to allow myself to practice self-forgiveness and prevent an emotional, internal fight or flight.

The Rules

  • Don’t eat out more than 2x a week.
    • It’s a financial strain and dangerous temptation.
    • When I do, don’t do it alone, and still follow the diet plan – even if I have to OMAD (one meal a day).
    • The treat is in the community, not in the food. Only eat out with others. I don’t need to stray from my goals to have a good time.
    • This means no Starbucks, no quick pick me ups, no I-deserve-it treats. Seriously.
  • Forgive but don’t forget: learn. Grow. Produce results. Let every failure be a turning point of radical, productive positivity, rather than a thinly-veiled excuse to hit the self destroy button.
  • 1500-2000cal/day average is the goal, not the minimum.
    • It might seem small for my size, but 1200cal is the average needs of someone at my goal weight. But I’ve got the excess reserves to burn, and I’m maintaining energy and vitamin levels. Part of my mindfulness approach is examining if I need more or less, and why.
    • Rewire my thinking process: we’re not limiting how much I can intake: we’re reaching a goal. History has shown when I follow a diet and feel good, I often come in under calorie goal and need to eat more.
    • Remember, this is a daily average goal. Some days will be less, some days will be more. Some days will be a lot more. Which is fine, because that keeps the metabolism going, according to the internet. And the internet wouldn’t lie, right?
  • Intermittent fasting.
    • An 8-hour window doesn’t work with my schedule at this moment (this maybe something to play with in the future). A 12 hour window, from 5am-5pm, is probably the best we can do.
    • In the future, if my energy levels allow, I may try moving breakfast into the workday – say, in place of lunch, then a lunch after work, then dinner, all in an 8 hour window. But this isn’t a proven formula for me yet. We’ll play later.
  • Go to the gym 3x a week.
    • It’s a start, yeah?
  • Don’t rush the system. It’s ok to start slow, introduce new things over time, and accept when something is outside of my comfort zone to an undoable degree. The goal is to cumulatively grow over time, not in spurts but in steady practice.
  • Water, water, water. Dehydration just makes ,e cranky and weird.

Here are the tenants of my daily ritual. Each step comes with a dose of mindfulness: being present with the action (limiting distractions), and listening for the cues of success while forgiving and growing from the signs of momentary failures. In order to keep these tenants, I need to form the process into a daily schedule, one that is easy to follow, designed around my goals, and is customizable enough to limit excuses to stray.

Here it is:

The Process

I’ve decided to phrase this part of my life the process. There’s something about the word “process” and it’s meanings that feel powerful: 1) A series of actions or steps taken in order to achieve a particular end. 2) A natural or involuntary series of changes. 3) A systematic series of mechanized or chemical operations that are performed in order to produce or manufacture something.

synonyms: procedure, operation, action, activity, exercise, affair, business, job, task, undertaking, proceeding

In the end, is that not what I’m attempting? To change, to grow, to develop, via a series of systems, of tasks, of procedures.

Morning

I need to wake up about 2 hours before I need to. I’ve got things to do. And if the dog is up before then, I’m up. Going back to bed only introduces complacency. I will fail if I go back to bed.

  • Wake: 3:30am – 4am.
    • Accept that it can be a struggle to do so. Do it anyway. Practice self respect and self love in doing so: not internal screaming, not degrading, but gentle and logical coaxing. Practice intent: I am waking up now.
    • Put on the Apple Watch now to keep track of time. We won’t be touching the phone for a while: it’s a distraction.
  • Taking care of the dog.
    • While taking her outside, utilize this time to breathe in some fresh air.
    • While feeding her, acknowledge and internalize that someone who can take care of others can take care of themselves.
  • Taking care of the self.
    • Daily Vitamins.
      • Vegan multivitamin.
      • Moon Juice SuperYou. (For stress, fatigue, and energy management)
    • Daily caffeine allowance.
      • V8 +energy drink. (80mg caffeine from green tea extract + B vitamins.)
      • Eventually I want to cut all caffeine, but, come on.
    • Mindfulness In Review.
      • Look over learning/ study goals, diet, the events of the day. Is everything going as planned? What needs work? What can I celebrate? Am I practicing self-love or self-punishment?
    • Making Lunch.
      • 400-600cal. Salad or sandwich, depending on breakfast (limiting carb intake)
      • Making lunch in the morning gets me working and helps prevent the day from being too affected by bad decisions the previous day. It’s a daily reminder of my dietary goals.
    • Skincare-as-a-Service. (SaaS, get it?)
      • When I think of it as a chore, I need to breathe. Skincare is self-love.
  • Make/ have Breakfast: 5am.
    • 200-300 cal. Avocado on keto toast, Greek yogurt, etc. Most of these meals will be pre-planned for the weak utilizing MyFitnessPal.
    • Having breakfast keeps me satiated enough by lunch time that I’m not willfully ignoring my pre-made lunches. Part of mindfulness is working and strengthening my willpower over time. I am weak to the dark side, and must use the force intelligently.
    • Waiting until 5am is good for two reasons: everything else is done by now and I can relax. It also means I’m starting my 12 hour food window.

Mid Day

  • Work days
    • Only eat the pre-made lunch. Only. Snacks ok, in moderation.
    • Spend this time enjoying life. This is my browsing memes time. It’s a break from work, it’s a break from life. Chill.
    • That being said: maybe a mindfulness walk would feel better? Something to consider.
  • Non-work days
    • Only eat the pre-made lunch. Only. Snacks ok, in moderation.
    • Spend this time working on my priorities, not wasting them away. That being said, Chill.
    • And maybe take a mindfulness walk.
  • Work days when I work at night
    • Use the day time to do what I’d do on a non-work day/ after work.
    • Take a nap. It’s fine.
    • Swap “pre-made lunch” with “pre-made dinner.” Working at night isn’t an excuse to break ranks: but maybe some caffeine, if needed.
    • Go to bed. Like, right away. I’ll be sleeping in, but I still need to wake up two hours before I have to the next day. Research* ways to maintain sleep schedule/ internal clock on these days.

Evenings

  • Take some time for more mindfulness. Record any notes* on the process, check in with myself. How am I feeling? What do I need? What’s working? What’s not?
  • The day’s not over: by this time, I’m often sitting on the couch ready to break everything. Don’t. I may not have the amount of time I’d have on a non-work day to work on personal projects, but I’m sure there’s something I can do for enrichment. That being said, I won’t punish myself for submersing in an hour of television or in a book.
  • Or, hey, go to the gym.
  • Caffeine: only if I’m dying. I’m only a couple of hours away from sleeping. Is it really something I want to risk? There are alternatives* to caffeine for staying awake, and I will wake up in the night. I’m not 20 anymore, I can’t just down caffeine with no ill effects.
  • Dinner: before 5pm.
    • I’ve only had 600-900cal by now. I’ve got room to eeaaatttt. I just need to make sure I’m sticking to my macros, taking any snacking into account, and reaching my 1500-2000cal/day average.
    • Early, I know, but 5pm is the food cut-off for my 12 hour window.
  • Sleep: 7-9pm.
    • It’s early. Like, old man early. But it ensures I get enough sleep (6-8 hours) for the next day’s early mornings, meaning I’ll be all the better prepared to trust the process the next day.

Weekly Check In (1-3 hours)

There’s an amount of prep work every week that goes into maintaining the process, especially since the process is meant to be an evolving one. Every week there’s some things I need to re-evaluate: some changes may not show effects right away, but a weekly check in may show results in ways a daily check in won’t.

Most likely to be done mid-day on a Thursday or Friday based on average schedule.

  • Mindfulness: what’s working, what’s not? What vitamins should I try upping? Are the macros working as intended?
  • Weigh myself. If I do it daily, my willpower will waiver. Track the weekly results on MFP. Forgive lapses, celebrate the process.
  • Plan the next week’s meals according to needs and potential tests. Morning, Lunch, Dinner, Snacks.
  • Grocery store visit: I’ve made the plan, now it’s time to materialize it. Schedule any mid-week visits for fresh produce, if needed.
  • Plan the week’s 3 gym visits and stick to it.
  • Blog it, maybe? I’ve got #content here, I may as well share it.
  • Schedule next week’s Check In.

Looking Ahead

The process isn’t infallible because my mind is involved, which is why I’ve tried to instill a healthy dose of checks and balances. Making it public, notating/ recording everything, mindfulness at every step: these are only tools, and they’re nothing without the most important tool of the process:

I am following the process.

And I must do this everyday, because any day that I’m not investing in the process is a day the process is failing. There’s an inherent form of expressing intent that states you must phrase your intent as happening now, not simply what you want to be happening. I don’t want to start. I am starting. I don’t want to follow the process, I am following the process. I am expressing my will, taking control of my willpower, manifesting my desires. I am, I am, I am. Every day, every hour. I am, I am, I am.

I am strong.
I am well.
I am healthy.
I am following the process.
I am, I am, I am.

To-Do’s

Things I need to do this week in preparation of my first Check In.

  • Find a note taking app that will maintain reverse-chronological order. I accept that physical notebooks don’t do it for me, partially because they’re never around when I need them like my phone is, and partially because of my handwriting.
  • Research ways to maintain a sleep schedule when it’s interrupted by an over-night work schedule. Are there herbs or vitamins to incorporate?
  • Research alternatives to caffeine to get through the mid-day hump. Is it just about downing some MCT oil? How is energy categorized anyway?
  • Plan the first week’s diet + gym plan, to be started August 30th (2 days from now). Maybe I should write a blog post regarding this, framing it in terms of mindfulness. What am I eating and why? What excuses have I historically been making through out the week to prevent success?

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