Forests, Nanaimo Bars, and Setting Myself Up for Failure

View of forest from zip line stand

Allow me to apologize for the lack of posts during the past couple of weeks. I was on vacation. While I alluded to this in previous posts, I didn’t want to announce that we’d be away from our house for that time, even though we did have a house / dog sitter.  Anyway, I’m back and thus a new post.

Before delving too deeply into this post, let me remind you that my previous post was “Don’t Come Back From Vacation Feeling Like You Need One.” I need to get better at taking my own advice.

Vacation was mostly good. We saw friends and family and had some great adventures. We spent a few days in Vancouver and then several more days on Vancouver Island including in Victoria and Sooke Harbour. I recommend both places and look forward to visiting that area again when I can. We went zip lining in actual forest, whale watching in the Pacific, and did high tea at the Fairmont Hotel in Victoria where I enjoyed drinking the Rose Congou Emperor tea, which was apparently Princes Diana’s favourite. It was delicious so I bought a bag to bring home.

Getting out in nature and spending time with friends and family were both good for me. I listened to waves crashing and the sounds of the various birds, felt the sap on tree trunks, gazed at trees as I flew through the air on the zip line and watched humpback whales diving for food, smelled the ocean breeze and the scent of flowers. I really felt the joy that can come from using your senses to take in nature, something I’ve heard referred to as “forest bathing”.

I stuck to my promise to myself, my wife, daughter, and doctor that I wouldn’t have any alcohol on this trip. It’s been a year since I’ve had any and I still don’t feel like it’s time to return to it.  I’ve never been a heavy drinker, but I do enjoy the taste of red wine, as well as Scotch, or a cold beer on a hot day, but right now I’m protecting my mental health.

Despite lots of laughter, adventure, and some quality time with nature, I came home feeling less than good. While away I didn’t get enough exercise that included getting my heart rate up. According to my Activity app I walked more than 60 miles on the trip, but most of it at a slower pace than I would do on the treadmill. I’d home to do some outdoor runs, but there was nothing but hills everywhere, so I walked instead.

I also ate to much. Several of the people with us were Americans and had never eaten a Nanaimo Bar. They’re decadent and full of fat and sugar. Someone purchased a package and five of us in particular devoured them. Then there was gelato and lots of restaurant food. When we got home, the number on my scale didn’t make me happy (but wasn’t surprising), but the more important issue was how I felt. I felt exactly like I’d spent ten days not getting enough exercise and eating food that was mostly not healthy. I was sluggish and unfocused, and felt completely off my game – physically, mentally, and emotionally. 

I’d also slacked off on my daily habits, not getting enough water some days, not keeping up with my journal, skipping my morning stretching at least once, and I didn’t write a single word in my novel the entire time. Even though I tout how important my Manifesto is to me, I had clearly ignored the parts about caring for my body and prioritizing my daily personal habits.

And upon coming home, I attributed how sluggish and off I felt to being out of my routine for ten days.  I even said that to a few people at work and that I was going to focus on getting back into said routine now that I’m home. I was talking like I had been completely on track prior to leaving on vacation and now that I was home I’d just get back to it. The more I’d thought about this, however, I realized that I wasn’t really on track before we’d left for our holiday.

The Nanaimo bars and gelato weren’t the start of me ingesting too much sugar, and restaurant food wasn’t the start of me having too much salt. I had been eating too much of both during the several weeks leading up to us going. I was already starting to feel sluggish before we left, but I was exercising daily, which helped to counter that to some extent.  When I look back on the tracker I used for my daily habits, there had been several days before the trip that I’d missed one or more. 

The reality is, that while I set out to take care of myself and not come home feeling like I needed a vacation, I’d set myself up to fail.  It was highly unlikely that being away from home for 10 days was going to result in me starting to eat healthy or be better about completing my daily habits. If I wasn’t doing them before, eating in restaurants and staying up late to spend time with people I only see once a year wasn’t going to set me on a better course.

I had a few minutes of beating myself up about this, but then turned to what lessons I’d learned and changes I would make. First, I need to refocus on eating healthy, or at least a lot less sugar and salt than I’ve been consuming. 

Second, if my habits are truly important to me, then I have to make them a priority and get them done. If they aren’t, then I need to drop them from the list to make sure I have time and energy to do the ones that are. 

Third, I’m thinking about routines and what happens when I’m away from my usual context. I can’t expect to keep my home routine when I’m not at home. I need to have routines in mind for when I’m traveling. For examples, when I make plans to attend a conference or I’m invited to speak in another city, I make sure that the hotel I’m staying at has a place to workout. I need plans for what I’ll eat (and how much) and make sure I have healthy snacks with me. In other words, I need to do what I can to set myself up for success.

Anyway, it’s good to be home. 

Featured post by me, Heather M. Ross, and carries a CC-BY license.

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