Hurray for Benefits

Confession time – last week, I visited the optometrist for the first time in 10-years.  I know this because the glasses I’m wearing (as of writing) I got in 2007 before I went to Kenya, and I haven’t updated them since.

I was very lucky to be  covered under my parent’s benefits plans for so long while I was still in school, but once I moved away, it was inconvenient to schedule medical appointments on the few weekends I took the bus back home.  This is a  terrible excuse, and I don’t pretend that I’m the victim of circumstance.  The truth is I got lazy when I should have taken ownership of my health.  My undergraduate tuition included partial health and dental benefits, so other than deductibles, there was no reason for me to let it slip for so long.

And it proved to be quite the stint.  After my doctor retired from regular GP practice, I’ve been without a family doctor for 5 or so years, I hadn’t seen the dentist in a decade, and as mentioned at the outset, my eyes hadn’t been checked in as long.  In principle, I believe in preventative maintenance, but  the barriers of cost and navigating the system on my own were enough for me to choose to avoid confronting it head-on.

I only started going to the dentist regularly almost 2-years ago now because I thought I had a cavity.  I was in emergency maintenance mode, where I only tended to medical problems and illness as they arose (through long waits in emerge or walk-in clinics).

I am very fortunate to have good benefits through my work.  I may grumble when I see the aggregate amount of money that I pay on my side of the coin, but when I am able to get reimbursed on most of the costs for semi-annual visits to the dentist, and my recent eye exam and new pair of glasses I’m glad I pay into the system.

I know that I’m in the minority here – most people do not have this kind of access to preventative health support, let alone the high costs associated with health care not covered by our provincial health plan.  It’s something that I’m very grateful for, and I should keep this in mind in my entitled moments.

Now… if only I could keep up with preventative maintenance and go to the gym more regularly…

 

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

May Sleep Check-in

Oof!  Failure!

After a status quo April (here are the entries for January, February, March, and the first Quarter analysis), I really back-slid for May with 4(!?!) nights.

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In general, May 2017 was not a good month for a number of reasons – poor sleep, poor exercise, and some listlessness about my career.

Reviewing May, I have a number of observations I’ve noticed:

  1. I had one really good stretch where I, for the first time, hit 3 out of 4 nights in a row  of 7+ hours of sleep.  This coincided with my partner being out of town (not correlated, but something I am noting), and it also falling on the long weekend.  With the long weekend, I was able to sleep in on the Monday.
  2. I had a couple weeks with a lot of meetings and extra work, which might have created a new spiral of: little sleep -> tired -> weak will -> making bad choices -> going to bed later.  Without a system (e.g. an enforced, bed time), I’m letting my whims dictate my actions.
  3. There are a number of nights were I’m in bed for 7-hours, but I’m experiencing restless period of sleep, which lowers the amount of sleep I’m tracking for.  Generally, if I’m getting between 6.5-7-hours of sleep, I’m likely to have been in bed for at least 7 hours.  Anything less than 6.5-hours means I’m probably not going to bed until closer to midnight.  Again, this is just an observation.  My main conclusion is that I need to increase the amount of time I’m in bed (i.e. go to bed earlier).

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Here’s hoping that I learn from my mistakes and do better next month.  One thing I’m going to test in June is to see if this level of failure will motivate me to be more mindful of sleep.  If things don’t improve by the time July rolls around, I think I will set a concrete target for the number of nights I want to hit my sleep target.

 

Stay Awesome,

 

Ryan

Honest Check-in: Failing Fitness Upkeep

Brutally honest time: I’m not exercising regularly (yet again).

I will grant that I’ve been noticeably busier in the last week or so, however the last trip I logged at the gym was Tuesday, May 9th.  I don’t even know off-hand the last time I rowed (and there’s no point in looking it up, since it probably won’t be good).

This latest round of trying to build a better habit of exercising has, so far, not taken root as I had hoped.  This is not to say that I’m abandoning the effort.  I don’t see a need to give up because I’ve failed to implement the system.

The important thing is to reaffirm that I want to commit to it, then get back on the horse to try again.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

 

Quarterly (+1 month) Sleep Review

Last week, I gave my fourth sleep check-in for 2017.  With four months of data, I thought I’d put it all together to see what trends shake out and what I might learn from the experience so far.

2017Q1 Sleep
(Note, I missed the opportunity to review a true quarter, but an extra month is just more data for me to dig into.)

The single best day for sleep for me are Sunday’s.  This makes sense, as I typically don’t work Saturday nights at the bar anymore, and I consider Sunday to be a down day – I don’t set alarms unless I have something planned.  Therefore, it makes sense that I hit at least 7-hours of sleep 10 our of the 18 Sunday’s in the first four months (55.5%).

If Sunday’s are successful, why aren’t Saturday’s?  I attribute this largely to working at the bar Friday nights.  When I work a bar shift, I don’t get off work until 2:30am, which means that by the time I get home, wind down, and finally push myself to go to bed, it’s 4am or later.  Since I don’t like sleeping too late on Saturday’s and wasting the day, I’ll often get up by 10 or 11am, well before I hit the 7-hour sleep mark.  Because of this, it doesn’t surprise me that Saturday’s are displaying the worst results.

With the Monday through Friday results being largely similar, I can offer some brief commentary on their successes.  Sleep results from Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday are the most likely to be successful for me since I often have those nights free, and am able to go to bed around 10pm.  In this case, I’m not successful because I’m usually not in bed until after 10:30pm, meaning any kind of restlessness while I sleep cuts into the narrow margins.  While the opportunity for success is there, poor execution on my part is to blame for the poor results.

Thursday’s results are curious.  Thursday’s come after I work the Wednesday night shifts at the bar, so you would expect me to have as poor of results as Saturday.  However, what’s not captured in the graph is the time I go into work Thursday mornings.  While I’m *supposed* to start work at 9:30am, I’m often sleeping in Thursday mornings and not getting to work until 10am.  That probably accounts for the times I’m hitting the 7-hours.

Friday’s are a little anomalous, as I would expect them to be on par with Monday through Wednesday.  I suppose there’s a few things going on there: I’m a little fatigued by the end of the week, so I’m making poorer choices; or perhaps my sleeping schedule shifts later because of Wednesday night.  It’s also possible that there are other externalities that I’m not accounting for, such as other events in my calendar that I’m not including here for simplicity.

Of course, it needs to be pointed out that we should not draw a lot of inferences here.  All things considered, four months is not a lot of data, and I’m still performing poorly in terms of the sleep challenge.  In the four months (120 days), I hit my target 25 times (20.8%).  Not accounted for, as well, are the near-misses where I slept over 6.5-hours in a night, but less than 7-hours.  Also not accounted for are the nights were I was asleep for 7 or more hours, but due to restlessness, getting up in the night, or being disturbed by my partner and pet, I was tracking less than 7-hours on my Fitbit.

Still, near-misses are failures, and I must accept those instances where I barely fail my goals.  With more intentionality, mindfulness, and better systems, it is possible for me to improve over the next four months.

Stay Awesome,

Ryan

April Sleep Check-in

Adding to my January, February, and March check-in’s, here is my sleep progress for April:

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7/30

No progress to speak of, as I kept pace with 7 nights of sleep for the month.  I’m starting to notice a few trends, having the month laid out for me in full.  For instance, I see that my most common day to hit my sleep target is Sunday.  While it’s not reflected here whether that means I’m going to bed at a reasonable hour (my gut tells me this is probably not the case), or if I’m sleeping in, it’s something worth reflecting on.

Over the next week, I’ll review my sleep progress for the first quarter of 2017 and see what the stats say, and what I can learn from my experiment so far.

 

Stay Awesome,

 

Ryan

March Sleep Check-in

I decided to hold off on posting the March sleep check-in in favour of discussing the job related stuff while it was fresh and ongoing.  However, now that the bulk of that is out of the way, I can return to updating my progress on getting more sleep.

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6/31 days, or 19.3%.

As you can see from my daily tracking, basically no change over February.  I did get one less night of sleep over 7-hours last month, but overall I stayed consistent with the previous month in the number of nights with over 7-hours in a month.  Obviously February and March don’t have the same number of days per month, but I’m treating this as a rough estimate.  Ideally, I would have liked to have seen an improvement, so it’s something to keep in mind for the rest of April.

Hope you had a great Easter weekend!  Talk to you next week.

 

Stay Awesome,

 

Ryan

The Motivation of Failure

Last week, I was passed over on a job opportunity for a more qualified candidate.  Such is life, and I don’t bear any ill-thoughts for the results of the job search.  I’m disappointed, but not soured by the experience.  It’s an opportunity to learn and grow, and I find that more important to focus on than to give in to a fixed mindset of self-pity.

After the feelings of sadness ebbed, I found myself experiencing a different feeling – motivation.  This has happened a few times in my life, and it was strange to be reaquainted with it.  There have been a few critical moments in my life where I failed at something important, and that failure created a fire within that motivated me.

It happened when I climbed Mount Kenya in 2007 after I failed my summit in the summer of 2003 of a mountain in Alberta whose name I’ve forgotten.

It happened when I joined the Campus Response Team and became a Coordinator after I failed twice to be a residence don.

And it happened again last week when I wasn’t selected for the job.  The self-critical sadness was overtaken by a motivation to go to the gym.

As I’ve written previously, It’s been a while since I’ve visited the gym.  According to my fitness journal, the last time I was in the gym was around Hallowe’en.  I’ve been rowing this last month a few times a week in the mornings, but I haven’t lifted iron in around five months.

Initially, I stopped going to the gym after my routine was disrupted by travelling to Scotland.  Then I didn’t go out of laziness, and then I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like I could justify going to the gym when I was supposed to be marking assignments and prepping my lectures.  By the time December rolled around I had regained my weight, but I also proposed to my fiancee, and started the planning process for moving out of my apartment.  Along the way, I was tired from a lack of sleep and dissatisfied with what I saw in the mirror.  Yet, it was never enough to overcome my inertia.

Failing to get the job was the final push I needed to hit the gym.  Maybe I needed a physical outlet to vent some frustration.  Maybe it was a form of punishment.  I’d like to think it was something more constructive – I accepted that I failed but I also saw that I could do better next time.  It is within my power to learn from the experience and grow.  The failures seemed to stack until it hit a critical mass; a line was crossed that set off the warning bells that I was heading in a direction I didn’t want to go.

It was time to make the first step and correct my course.

 

I vlog occasionally for my buddy’s YouTube channel, Artpress, and posted this immediately after I got out of the gym.

So, I hit the gym and pumped some iron.  I was nervous to go back as a beginner again, and overcoming inertia was incredibly uncomfortable, but I did it.

Now the trick is to keep it up.  That’s, perhaps, the greater challenge I face.

 

Stay Awesome,

Ryan