J’s blog: Unplugged

Physical AND mental health are important to maintain aren’t they? About a year and a half ago, I had written about coping with the sudden ill health of my husband and my delayed emotional and mental reaction to it. Today, I want to touch on mental well being again for different reasons. How overwhelmed do you feel with the constant dripping of negative news that is seen on TV, on your phone, on the radio every single day? Has it affected you in any way, or do you feel numb to it now?

I don’t know about you, but I pretty much hate cell phones. I do, and I don’t. I love the convenience of them, but I hate that I can get addicted to it. I hate that I spend time scrolling through mindlessly during breakfast and lunch, and in my down times, looking for what? I don’t know. I love the fact that I get to stay connected with my family and friends from back home in the UK and in Australia via Facebook and Instagram, but I hate that I devour the latest news, gossip and meaningless Buzzfeed info with the zealousness of someone who constantly wants to be in the loop.

Last May, I took a trip to the Scottish borders to go visit my dad and my stepmum whom I hadn’t seen in 12 ½ years. When I got to Edinburgh, jet-lagged and driving an automatic car (which was unlike anything automatic I’d driven here in the US), I realised that I wouldn’t be able to use my cell phone because of the US plan I had. So, I popped into Berwick upon Tweed (my teen home town and shown several times in the Netflix movie “Outlaw King”!) and got a £5 cheapo phone with international calling & texting plan and no internet so that I could stay in contact with the ever lovin’.  I couldn’t use Facebook ‘cos my dad’s computer is driven by a hamster on a wheel, and he wasn’t sure of his FB password, so I couldn’t log him out of it.

So, no cell phone and no social media for a week. How would I cope?

Well, it was pretty darned awesome. I relaxed. The only time I saw the news was around tea time on the TV. I spent a lot of time walking around my old home town of Berwick upon Tweed (a beautiful place, 9 miles south of my dad’s village, fortified by old Elizabethan walls on the North Sea, on a great salmon fishing river) with my camera, chatting for ages to the waitress at a local chippy whilst enjoying a huge plate of the best fresh caught fish and chips and strong builders’ tea, visiting Berwick Parish Church built in the 1600s (where I was a teen chorister), talking with the vicar about my memories of the church, strolling down to the pier and lighthouse and chatting with an elderly Australian man whose wife had passed away the year before. He talked for over an hour about her love of art and music and how she taught him to love it too despite his logical, mechanical and engineering mind. I didn’t do a lick of “working out” but I moved a LOT. I walked and walked and met many strangers who stopped to chat and shoot the breeze.

One afternoon, I found a walking path called “Nine Wells” around the corner from my dad’s house. I followed the path past a field of bulls, down through some shady woods with the sounds of birds so different to American birds, down to an old slow moving mill stream full of  darting minnows. I walked that path by the stream up through more woods and wild rhododendrons and finally past a field bright yellow with rape-seed. I came out on a road with no idea where I was, took a guess, and 15 minutes later, spied the village in the distance where I’d started from. By the time my week ended, I felt totally rejuvenated and full of energy, with a clear head and aching legs. I could have stayed for a couple more weeks if I’d been able to.

However, I had to come home, and as soon as I landed, I made the mistake of turning my US cell phone on, and was immediately inundated with pings and buzzes and notifications left, right and center. I could feel my “zen” eroding and slipping away and my stress levels rising. Nearly a year later, desperately needing to stop “stabbing” myself with the news,  I’ve started an experiment

In the mornings, my usual routine is: stumble out of bed, go downstairs to make coffee and breakfast, grab my phone, sit on the sofa with my breakfast and coffee and turn on the news. Watch the news, scroll through my phone, mindlessly eat my (delicious) breakfast and mindlessly glug my (beautifully dark, strong, fragrant) coffee. Rush to get dressed for work. Run out the door, hassled and stressed.

This past week my routine has been: stumble out of bed, go downstairs to make coffee and breakfast, turn on Classical WMHT, sit at the dining room table, eat my delicious breakfast and drink my even more beautifully dark, strong and fragrant coffee, spend some time reading a good book, get ready for work and go out the door.

The difference has been pretty darned amazing, let me tell you! My mood feels a little lighter, my mornings seem more enjoyable and peaceful and I arrive at work ready for the what the day will bring. How long can I keep this up?

Nancy recommended a book to me, which I ordered and have on my pile to read. “Digital Minimalism” by Cal Newport. If you click on the link, it will take you to a podcast about using your technology with intention. The book isn’t a phone or tech shaming book, it’s about helping us to use with INTENTION, not mindlessly and surely that’s a good thing?

Next blog will be back with some recipes, new good stuff I found at Trader Joe’s, and by then my new DEADLIFT ONE REP MAX which I’m going to attempt this week. Eeeek!! Thanks for indulging me in this “mental” blog. And, if you ever take a trip to the UK, please make time to go visit Northumberland, the Scottish borders and the beautiful town of Berwick upon Tweed. You WILL thank me.

Until then, stay strong in body AND mind,

J x

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