Keep it Together

January 29, 2013

As you may have guessed from the name of my blog (or if you know me, then you definitely know), I live in (more specifically, across the river from) Boston.

The Back Bay form across the Charles

The Back Bay from across the Charles

You may also know that at one point, I lived in sunny and mild San Diego, but chose to COME BACK. To one of the oldest cities in the country, and home to not only the most puritanical culture, but also some of the most progressive ideas.  I love this place.  I have lived in Massachusetts nearly all my life (with the exception of the San Diego stint) and have lived in the Boston area for twelve-ish years.  When I decided to come back from San Diego, I decided one thing: that I wasn’t going to complain about the snow or rain anymore.  This is New England, and unpredictable weather goes with the territory.  While most New Englanders I know complain about the weather as a side job (in the summer, it’s too humid, in the fall it rains too much, in the spring, there are too many allergies, and in the winter…oh the winter), I chose to see the beauty. I told myself that in place of complaining about the snow, I would decide that shoveling would be exercise, and when there was a snowstorm, I’d drink hot cocoa and then take my snowshoes and walk in the woods in the powder.  What a nice idea!

December, 2010

December, 2010

Winters in New England before last year’s historic fallwinter (where there were 65 degree days in January, and only a total of four inches of snow, two of which landed on Halloween) were picturesque: branches with a crest of snow highlighting each twist and turn, snowmen dotting lawns everywhere… Well, that’s what I saw, at least.  And it’s one of the main reasons I came back to Boston from warm and consistent San Diego, where things didn’t change quite enough for this New England girl.

This Winter is a little different.  We have had snow, but LAME snow.  One inch here, another two inches there – and more often than not, it all gets washed away by cold, bitter rain before I can say slush.

Note the spotty grass below my skiis...

Note the spotty grass below my skiis…

The problem with this, is that there is no shoveling for exercise.  There is no fun winter excursion into the beautiful Middlesex Fells Reservation.  There is no beauty.  Only cold, wet, dry, barren landscapes, and compromised immune systems.  And my emotional health has taken a hit.

In the past few years, I have had some self-diagnosed issues with seasonal depression (otherwise known as SADD or Seasonal Affective Depressive Disorder).  Around mid-January, I start feeling down, for no apparent reason, and despite otherwise good circumstances.  The thing that stinks about this reality, is that there’s nothing I can knowingly do about it save taking pharmaceuticals.  I am outside periodically throughout the day driving and walking from one place to another, so I do see daylight and sometimes sunshine, and I do get exercise (though not enough recently because of the negative degree temps) which can help.  But the past two winters have been rough.  There has been no real snow, which means that my winter coping skills have needed to change along with the climate.

The one decent snow we've gotten this winter

The one decent snow we’ve gotten this winter

So, what’s a girl to do?  I eat healthfully, I take vitamins (and St. John’s Wort and Ginseng presently), and I get to see the sun.  What that means to me, is that I need to put on my big girl pants and deal with it.  Which I do.

My daily intake of vitamins and herbs.

My daily intake of vitamins and herbs.

However, feeling more tired and less alert in general does not generally mix very well with this line of work, and it is difficult to find the motivation to deal with certain things.  Plus, there are these two young ladies who spend an awful lot of time with me and depend on me to be on top of my game.  Yikes.  Furthermore, I was talking with one of my interns yesterday about how people often brush off these types of feelings because they are not completely pervasive or acute, like other more serious mental health diagnoses symptoms can be.  But!! They still should be addressed, especially if your job and clients depend on your usual enthusiasm and energy to last, even through cold, wet winters.

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Where is the line between putting on your big girl pants, and seeking help?  I have never needed to act on that latter step in the past, and with any luck a tropical vacation I am going on soon will curb some of the ennui I am feeling, but if it doesn’t, where is the line?  For those of you working as therapists or caregivers in health care or other areas, does seasonal depression affect you?  What are your solutions to that problem?  Are there any holistic treatments that have helped you in the past?  Please share your self-care techniques with me and the other readers, and we’ll make it through this, I swear! 

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Taking Care of Business

December 7, 2011

Ah…the holidays.

It seems like this time of year is here before we know it, and then it’s gone with a poof.  I have been running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to get everything done.  Between all of my contracts, students, shopping, decorating, parties, walking the dog and the shorter days, not to mention a little seasonal depression thrown in, it’s a little overwhelming to try to get everything done.

Something I’ve been able to realize is this:  If I don’t do something right away, it gets put off, and then turns into a list of twenty things that need to get done later on.

Ways that I’ve been able to make it through the holiday season [in the past] without wanting to hide under the covers all day are these:

1. Online Shopping

2. Taking holidays off

3. Exercising (even if it’s just walking the dog)

4. Saying no to things I don’t have time for

5. Watching “Love Actually” at least twice

6. Learning new songs

Unfortunately, since there’s so much to do (including a growing list of Words With Friends games to catch up on daily) blogging has taken a back seat lately, but I’m intent upon not letting my blog wither and wane.  I could use a little encouragement, though, friendly readers…

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What do you do to stay sane during the holidays?

 

Vacation

November 15, 2011

So, in my very first post, I spoke of my love for taking vacations, and my ability to do so many times a year because I’m self-employed.  I am currently on vacation in Florida for a few days before the AMTA national conference in Atlanta, and it has been much needed and deserved, as I’ve been working harder than normal lately.  This post may not be as informative as others I’ve written, because this one’s just for me.

Wish you were here!!

Reasons I Love Vacations

(particularly this one)

1. I don’t usually have to cook (something I love to do, that’s nice to have a break from).

2. It’s usually warmer and more humid where I vacation (my vocal chords like this, as well as my skin and hair).

3. I’m not tempted to spend my free time cleaning my apartment or sorting mail (because I’m not there).

4. It’s nice to have a change of pace (and by change of pace, I mean go to sleep at 11 PM, sleep until 9 AM, take a walk, eat brunch, have fun, swim, etc.).

5. No singing (obviously I love singing, but a nice vaca for my throat and chords does a body good).

6. King-size beds with feather tops and soft sheets (this doesn’t always happen, but it’s happening right now, which is a giant perk).

7. No work (I love my job, but I need rests every now and then).

8. No dog (I love my dog, but he wakes up earlier than I would like, and it’s nice to have a break – I take him here once a year, and now is not that time).

9. Blogging, Yelping and Reading (I usually have less time during the week to do these things, and since I have no work, no dog, no apartment responsibilities and no cooking, they are possible in a grander way).

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I know many, many people who don’t take enough time for themselves, and it makes a huge difference in energy level, mood and motivation.  Take time, even if it’s just a staycation, to just be with yourself, if it’s even remotely possible.  I promise, it’s worth it.

Where’s the last place you went for a little R&R, and what was your favorite part about it?

Every Day I Write the Book

October 31, 2011

So, remember this post?  It was my very first one, and I have written 33 posts since then (including this one).  I tell my boyfriend every time I write a new post.  “Hey – I just published my 11th post!” “Hey, guess what?  I just wrote my 23rd blog post!”  “I just finished my 33rd post!”  He always has nice things to say, and seems proud (as he should, as the person who convinced me I had something to say, after all).  I get so excited about each post because not only do I not normally have great follow through in my journaling (the number of one page journals I have written in my life is astonishing) but a year ago, I didn’t think I even had anything to write about.

Anyway, about that first post…

I had been burnt out for quite some time, partially because there are aspects of my work that are frustrating and exhausting, but also because there are some changes, professionally, that needed/need to be made, and I was feeling a little lost and stuck in a rut.

The things that usually get me out of my rut are: supervising students (this only happens for six months out of the year), gardening (only possible from April to October), trying new interventions at work, going to conferences, changing my schedule around, exercising and eating healthier.  Well, in July, none of those were helping (and some weren’t even possible) and I was clutching at straws.  One day, however, I was driving down the highway and had a vision – the title “The Long and Winding Road” came to me, and I thought to myself, “Self – you should write a blog about all of the many aspects of your work as a music therapist, and you should have all the posts be titled after well known songs!”  The rest is history…

I am always more motivated to do something if it has to do with helping someone/something else.  My go-to every day rainy day activity pre-blog was “Yelping” every restaurant and bar I ever went to in my life in order to contribute my experiences to the interwebs for the greater good.  I should have known that the reason student supervision is so rewarding for me is because I can share my knowledge with people and help them learn and improve.  I should have also realized that blogging would have the same effect, but I was a little slow on the uptake.

Unfortunately, my Yelping has fallen by the wayside since I began my blog, but this may be a blessing in disguise.  I really can’t afford to keep up my Yelp! habit, and I would much rather share my knowledge of the work I do, than share with the entire world all of the things I’ve eaten at Anna’s Taqueria various restaurants over the last four years (burrito pollo con un poquito arroz, frijoles negro y roja, lechuga y guacamole, y a veces uno taco al pastor).  Basically,  I kind of broke up with my hospitality industry critic-self and decided to put my remaining language skills to good use – professional use, that might actually give someone ideas, inspiration, information and insight.  And I won’t lie, it has cured my burn out this time around.

Writing helps!  Who knew?  Maybe I’m able to move forward with the help of validation I give myself by talking about my work in this forum.  Maybe it just feels good to send thoughts out into the world and see that people are receiving them.  Maybe there’s just something to be said for expressing your thoughts on a page, editing them, re-reading them, and making sure they’re suitable for public consumption. Whatever it is, it’s working, and I’m a huge fan.

Keep reading, and comment every now and then so I know who you are!!  You mysterious people have saved me from myself, so thank you!!