September 7, 2023

Healthy Structures and Rhythms

Lifestyle & Pop Culture

Listen, not trying to shock you today, but I am about to do some real sexy talk. This is heart-pounding, titillating stuff. I’m bringing the heat as I whisper into the universe: “Let’s talk about healthy structures and rhythms.”

I know, right? The sexiest conversation in the zeitgeist! Nothing gets my blood flowing like restored order. I am a real vixen like that. The thing is, I so enjoy Beginning of Summer Me when I become a loose, free-spirited bohemian and we are just “going to live like we want” and “relax into less structure” and “unplug our clocks”…for like two and half weeks. And then I no longer enjoy 2:30 p.m. teen wakeup times and middle-of-the-night “dinners.” In my core, I am an old lady with a map-studying habit and a weekly evaluation of my Money Market account. I like a tidy life, okay? 

Having said that, when I read a treatise on healthy rhythms and there are like 12 action steps, I immediately quit. I like tidy, but everyone take it down a notch, damn. So now that we have exited the wild west of summer and handed our children back to the real adults (teachers), these are my top three areas to wrangle back into submission, and you are only allowed to pick two at the most. So get excited! You get to automatically ignore one of these. You are already winning. 

One last suggestion: Choose the areas that feel the most out of control. Some of us managed summer eating okay but went full frat house on basic self-care habits. You maybe kept up your yoga practice, but the general budget went into cardiac arrest. We don’t all slide into sloth in the same ways. So turn inward, feel around for what areas seem the most chaotic, and just start there. 

1. The cooking and the eating sitch. 

It is how it is. The people want to eat every day. Now that the household is up at a normal hour again and mealtimes have resumed a sane schedule, the Fend For Yourself model has to be updated. It takes far more energy to resist this task (always last minute, never planned, generally frantic) than simply to organize it a bit. 

First order of business: if you have a partner, meals should be shared work; maybe not 50/50, but shared for sure. Configure this however makes sense for your family: someone takes breakfasts, someone takes dinners, someone has weeknights, someone has weekends, someone does lunches, someone takes three nights, someone manages the others. Whatever, man. Split it and share it. Feeding a whole family seven days a week is too much home labor for one person. 

I probably cook dinner three nights a week. The others are leftovers, takeout, sandwiches, or the thing I have now called No One Is Here. On Sundays, I open one tab for recipes and a second tab with Instacart. As I decide what to make that week, I pop the ingredients into my online grocery cart. This takes around 20 minutes (19 involve going into the pantry/fridge to see if I have that thing). This has now taken the decision fatigue out of the rest of the week. I’ve planned it and shopped for it. Food is handled. 

Also moms, I told my kids since elementary school that if they wanted to bring their lunch, they had to make it. If not, school cafeteria food it is. Sydney and Remy made their lunches for a decade and the boys ate I guess school instant mashed potatoes and chocolate milk. Idk. I can’t care about everything. 

2. The money and budget sitch. 

Summer money is a weird beast. Everything drifts into entropy. Costs are astronomical. More food, more activities, more trips, more expenses. It always blows my mind. 

The back-to-school season is the perfect time to adult the budget. 

Good news! You don’t have to figure this out alone. Three years ago, I had to track down every single financial data point, reorganize it, clean it up, and create a whole new budget as a divorced person. When I tell you I didn’t even know how much money I made. It was a full mess. I remember sitting in my financial planner’s office just crying. I couldn’t answer any of his questions. He gave me a short list to do and told me to come back in 90 days:

  • Go through every bank account, credit card, and bill and write everything down. Total up your income and all your bills (including flex figures like groceries and Amazon Prime). Get two hard numbers. I couldn’t believe how much this alone helped me feel less out of control. There it all is. Exactly what is coming and going. 
  • Cancel every unnecessary subscription and monthly fee. You can literally do this on your phone. Those “small” monthly costs add up. I had 23. TWENTY-THREE. Tidy up. 
  • Make a budget. This isn’t as hard as it sounds. There are tons of online tools. The simple effort of HAVING A PLAN takes so much chaos and shame out of money management. Your budget will include paying off debt and/or creating savings, so everything is in there. The effect on your wellness will shock you. 

3. The health sitch. 

This one always gets wonky because of all the shit out there (and in here) (points to brain). It’s just that this matters so much to every other area. Back in May, I learned the reason I hadn’t had a period in four months was because I was in perimenopause. I’m a quick study! Tired of feeling weird, fatig

ued, emotional, and yucky in my body, I decided to just care. 

Over the last three months, I pulled some health levers. I met with a functional doctor, had a blood panel done, and found all kinds of issues. So I started supplements to improve stomach absorption, thyroid function, insulin resistance, inflammation, estrogen dominance, and all my vitamin deficiencies. I went gluten-free (my inflammation markers were sky high and I have an autoimmune disorder). I started intermittent fasting (strong links to menopause relief). I joined a pilates studio. Those were my levers. 

This was quite a frontload admittedly, but once the puzzle was worked out, the pieces came together and now this is just the daily stuff I do. My body responded immediately. I feel better in every way. It just feels good to care about yourself, to move and get stronger and sleep better and nourish your body. It’s like how you feel when someone else is really, really nice to you, but the person being nice to you is you. 

Also, pilates! I love it! The reason I always quit exercising is because I hate the exercise. But I genuinely enjoy pilates and thus I am doing it. Maybe just find some way to move your bod that doesn’t make you rage. All movement is good movement. It all counts. It doesn’t have to feel punishing. (If I didn’t live in Texas, I’d probably enjoy long walks but it sucks here. Pass. I’ll take my air conditioned pilates studio.)

For me, these three areas take the hardest hit every summer. Even applying a small degree of order calms my overstimulated central nervous system. The tail doesn’t always have to wag the dog. And like all good rhythms, getting started is generally the hardest lift, and then the machine becomes operational and hums right along. 

Until next June of course…

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