Last December, in a desperate attempt to shake things up in month 9 of quarantine, my boyfriend and I decided to try eating a completely vegan diet for a full week. We had been thinking about doing a challenge like this for a while – he was curious about how it would affect his athletic performance, and I was curious about how it would affect my health in general. I’ve always wanted to try a vegan diet but, as someone with nut allergies, I was worried about having to navigate a world of nut-based meat and dairy alternatives, so I never felt compelled to make the full leap.
I already eat a mostly vegetarian diet, so changing to a vegan one was not a drastic change. That being said, we did use the challenge as an excuse to seek out and try specific vegan swaps and recipes, and not settle into our normal meal plan sans dairy (how boring would that be!).
What did I learn from this week-long challenge? Read on to find out!
My first week of work in 2021 was… stressful. I was off between Christmas and New Year, and definitely settled into my daily routine of waking up in the late afternoon and doing whatever I wanted. Because of this, transitioning back into work was jarring! And not to mention other current events happening at the same time! I wanted to crawl back into my bed and never leave!
Back when I could go into the office, I actually used to meditate a lot during my work breaks. On nice days, I would go to a nearby park and sit in the sun; on not-so-nice days, common in New England, I would retreat to an empty conference room. It was a great way to clear my mind on particularly stressful or tedious days, and I almost always returned to my desk with more focus.
However, it’s been difficult to work meditation into my new, perpetual work-from-home routine. I’ve been using my breaks during the day to exercise (which is still a good mental break, but doesn’t quite have the same effect) and have never really dedicated time outside of work hours to meditate.
Because I was so stressed out after my first week of 2021, for the next week, I decided to purposely take time out of my day every day to take a meditation break to see if that would cure my mental ails.
My week of meditation went well! I ended up different amounts of time off at least once a day during the week, ranging from 5 minutes to 30 minutes. Most of the time was spent with silence or playing relaxing music, though I did do some guided meditations on particularly distracted days.
One major change during this week was that work felt a lot less stressful. However, it was admittedly difficult for me to pin this result specifically on meditation. I work in customer service, where my workload depends heavily on people asking questions, and perhaps that second week had a lower volume of submitted tickets. Maybe they were easier tickets. Maybe I had more time to clear my queue. Who knows! Either way, this was a welcome change.
My favorite takeaway from meditating was not anything about my current work specifically, but about the future. I spent a lot of my meditation time thinking about where and how I want to move forward in my career, and was able to make more actionable, concrete plans to meet those goals. Sure, I may have found time to reflect outside of meditating, but it was nice to have that time carved out for my brain to wander and find the connections organically.
Additionally, my mindset toward work shifted as well. While this may be due to the week being less busy overall, I do think that part of this is due to meditation as well. I am the type of person that can work well under stress, but I can also burn out quickly after being on overdrive. When things feel high alert for too long, that burn out only gets more intense, and it continues even after things have cooled down.
Because of this, meditating helped me step away from and reframe my current workload to realize that things weren’t as busy as they were before and that I didn’t have to put as much pressure on myself anymore. I was able to stop scrambling and handle new questions with grace and calmness, instead of being shocked and strained by every new thing that came in. A good mindset for work – but also a good mindset for life as well!
After my week of meditation was up, I admit that I haven’t taken time out to meditate again. I’ve fallen back into my old habits of exercising or tidying up during my work breaks, which are still productive and meditative in their own ways, but not the strict habit that I had set for myself previously.
However, as I write this post out, I wonder if I should pick this habit back up. I completely acknowledge that meditation is best done consistently, done during the good times and the bad, but I’ve never been able to set up a constant “streak” outside of this single week. Moving forward, I will likely never meditate daily, but I will continue to look for more nooks and crannies in my schedule to fit sessions in, even if they’re just quick ones!
Every New Year, I hear a lot about resolutions. I consider myself generally self-motivated and do my best to address bad habits when I realize them popping up, and not usually waiting for a specific time like the new year to tackle them. However, there is one bad habit that I’ve had my entire life that I still have trouble breaking: waking up early on a regular basis.
In normal times, I had no trouble waking up early when something exciting was happening, like a big event or catching an early flight. However, I’ve never been able to regularly wake up on time for everyday life, like going to work or class on time. This habit has just gotten worse in self-isolation, when I could literally roll out of bed and check-in to work without putting on a face of makeup or donning real clothes.
So, in the spirit of the New Year, I decided to take a week to meet one simple goal: wake up before 9AM on every work day. (Yes, this is something that I was not doing previously but I should have been! Things are getting bad!) Read on to see how my week went…