On Doing and Lethargy

Ever since I took physics in high school, I’ve joked that my intertia is at rest. I’ve never been a “doer.” I’m more of a … sitter. And, I suppose, a thinker. Nevertheless, I’m quite prone to do-nothingism.

(A surprising amount of people Google do-nothingism, I’ve discovered. One of my most popular posts is Battle Do-Nothingism With a Stew and Feel Better, in which I was feeling pretty depressed, forced myself to cook, and felt better in the end.)

The idea is that when you are not in a mood to enjoy or do anything, if you do something, anything, you will feel somewhat better.

But what do you do when your stike against do-nothingism fails?

Last week, I had finally motivated myself to cook something again, something more exciting than whole wheat mac and cheese, and I made a very fancy quinoa salad. Though I wasn’t feeling particularly good that day, I took the little one shopping, almost gave up when the first store didn’t even have zucchini, forged ahead, even when Sebastian tried to thwart my efforts, and produced a finished quinoa salad, with currants, dill, zucchini, and lemon …

… that sucked.

I felt bad, I pushed myself to do something, and I still felt bad.

Almost worse. There was an angry moment of failure where I wanted to cry. Just for a moment. So I lashed out at my husband (sorry, Tim). Then I went to bed.

During my many night-time awakenings, I kept envisioning drying the soggy quinoa in the oven somehow. And maybe it would have been enough to spread it on a cookie sheet and dry it that way, I don’t know. But I still needed to “do” something.

So, as I’ve already chronicled, I got up the next day and turned my soggy quinoa into muffins (which honestly, were, meh – still a little soggy in the middle, and not my favorite flavors).

And, that day, I was flying high with my “doing!” I thought,

“This is it! This really is the solution to all my mood problems! I need to “do!” And the more I do the better I’ll feel. I’ll cook all the time. I’ll spend all day in the kitchen! And because I’m in here all the time, I’ll keep it clean. I’ll have more energy, I’ll exercise more,  I’ll throw in a load of laundry here and there, clean the bathrooms, and every day I’ll just get better and better at this thing called life!”

I was all excited about posting about my new epiphany and my raised energy levels.

And then yesterday – I felt like CRAP again.

I’m not giving up on this “do something, anything” idea, though. I do think it’s essential in fighting depression. So, yesterday, I strapped Sebastian into the mei tai baby carrier and I cleaned as much as I could of this messy house, even though I was feeling terribly overwhelmed. I put some clutter away, I washed a few pots and pans, I did a load of laundry, I broke down several boxes, and put most of the tower of recyling in the garage. And I felt alright come bedtime.

And I feel somewhat better today.

I guess I’m proud of myself for not letting my cooking failure get the best of me. I kicked do-nothingism in the butt, and it did make me feel better for awhile.

It’s just that there isn’t a an accomplishment in the world that will make me feel good all the time.

My days are a series of exaggerated highs and lows in a sea of lethargy.

I mean, I know that’s pretty normal. Most “mommy bloggers” admit to being quite a moody bunch. But, then, there are also a lot of people who have a ton of energy, and aren’t overwhelmed by every little thing that must be done to keep a house clean and food on the table.

I dunno. Maybe I just need to cut out caffeine, or sugar, or gluten.

If you know the answer, please let me know!


Battle “Do-Nothingism” With A Stew And Feel Better

Do-Nothingism Stew (Lentil Stew)
In my fight against clutter, I’ve begun with my emotions. As I mentioned a couple of posts ago when I began my Clutter Kick Campaign, CLA (Clutterers Anonymous) asserts that there are three components to cluttering: physical, emotional, and spiritual.

Which brings me to last night. As you may know, I’ve been trying my darndest to make positive changes in my life. I’m trying to kick bad habits and replace them with good ones. But yesterday evening I was feeling particularly down. I was in a state where I was creeping closer and closer to tears, and really, really, really, wanted to lay on the couch and order take-out rather than cook dinner. I was dangerously close to wallowing in Do-Nothingism.

What is Do-Nothingism? It is the odious state in which you feel so bad you can’t bring yourself to enjoy or do anything – it is procrastination’s nefarious cousin. David D. Burns, M.D. wrote a very influential book that I’ve been reading this week, called Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. Dr. Burns and his colleague, Dr. Aaron T. Beck, are pioneers of the revolution in therapy that is Cognitive Behavior Therapy. They discovered, through much documented research, that there is an undeniable connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and that you can improve your mood by improving either your thoughts or your behaviors.

Dr. Burns has worked throughout his career with severely depressed patients who can’t even bring themselves to get out of bed. In his books, he demonstrates techniques for combating this severe form of doing nothing, which tends to lead you on a downward spiral of depression. He has proven that doing nearly anything at all will undoubtedly make you feel better than not!

So, I decided to take Dr. Burn’s advice and Do Something – Anything! I went to the store and bought a few ingredients to make a stew from The Eat-Clean Diet Recharged.

Simultaneously, I examined my thoughts:

“I hate cooking.”
“Cooking is hard.”
“Life is hard.”

While chopping the potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic, and brussels sprouts, I marveled at how easy this was. If broken down into components, cooking is really just a series of very easy steps! Right? And, though I felt fatigued and wanted to curl up in the fetal position and eat ice cream, I couldn’t deny that the closer my stew came to being finished, the better I felt. I mean, I was still very, very tired, but now I had a delicious stew to nourish that tired body!!! Score!

In the end, I had one of the best stews I have ever made, which I will absolutely make again. In fact, I’m certain that I will make it often enough to do so without a recipe.

Now I do feel better than I would have if I’d done nothing. I feel pride that I served my husband and myself a delicious meal (and this on the night before he had to take his Step 3 Medical Licensing Exam).

And if you want to make this delicious stew, it is really easy:

  • I used four organic russet potatoes, three large organic carrots, one onion, three cloves of garlic, and eight brussels sprouts, all chopped. I sauteed these until they were tender while boiling a cup of French lentils in a separate pot.
  • Then I added a magical combination of spices:  1 teaspoon each of turmeric, cumin, ginger, and coriander, 1/2 teaspoon of allspice, and a dash of cayenne.
  • Once mixed in, I added four cups of low-sodium veggie broth, sea salt, and the lentils. I let it simmer until it tasted ready to eat!

So, the next time you are feeling like wallowing in do-nothingism, remember that actions can change both your thoughts and your feelings. I believe that this observation is so incredibly life-changing, that I made this handy little diagram for you to picture when you’re feeling down. Cheers!

CBT Diagram

Really the arrows should be pointing in both directions, but hey, I've never made a diagram on the computer before.

Pregnancy Blues

Last week was a really tough week. I was constantly stuck at home, alone, without a car, and overwhelmed, and in, or near, tears all the time. The combination of hubby working and being on-call all weekend (and working all week on both sides of that weekend), having my car in the shop (therefore being stuck at home unless I got up and drove him to work),  not sleeping at night, and surging pregnancy hormones, wreaked havoc on my mood. I was feeling that time is running out and I’m not going to be able to get the baby’s room together, or finish preparing for my natural birth in time – especially as I’m getting bigger and more uncomfortable and more handicapped and sleeping less by the day. Plus, I’m already prone to depression, having spent many years clinically depressed and on meds for it – I had to quit my meds cold-turkey when I got pregnant. So I was tearful and hopeless, but I kept telling myself that it would pass, and it has.

So my usual advice about depression still stands – always keep in mind that it will pass – at least for awhile. And now here I am, feeling pretty good. My belly is even bigger than in that pic, which was taken a week and a half ago, and I have plenty of pregnancy pains and ailments, but emotionally, I’m doing well again. We spent the morning eating french toast and listening to NPR‘s This American Life, then Hubby puttered around with his kitchen herb garden while I worked on finishing knitting a Christmas scarf that I have to mail to my mother-in-law by Monday. I also got him to install the new shower-head in our bathroom and as soon as he’s done using it, we’ll take a look at putting together that crib, which someone lent to us and, and which came without instructions.

A couple of things that have been entertaining me lately:  bad baby names, and podcasts. As for the bad baby names. Hubby has been posting one a day on his Facebook page for a couple of months. Some of our favorites:

  • Canyon
  • Cascade
  • Remington
  • Buford
  • Mancy
  • Ace
  • Equiknox
  • Chanson….

All boys names because we’re having a boy. Somehow we find this a better use of our time than actually coming up with a suitable name for our son.

The podcasts have been entertaining me during my many uncomfortable hours of insomnia, as well as the daily walks Hubby insists I take to keep in shape for labor. I’ve been listening to knitting shows and anything I can find about birth and pregnancy. My favorite pregnancy show so far is called Baby Time, although, the couple that does the podcasts about their pregnancies with their two boys have very different views about birth than I do, which I’ll discuss in a future post.