Side Effects

It’s no secret that I haven’t been getting as much barn time lately. Mostly because it’s literally all I talk about on this blog #sorrynotsorry. And while this is for an excellent cause and I’m really enjoying all the little details that go into planning this amazing wedding, it’s having a few side effects.

First of all, I’m so out of shape it isn’t even funny. I haven’t been this weak since before I got back in the saddle, way back in 2014. My muscle strength is low, my endurance is even lower, and I get aches and pains way more easily. Sitting wrong in my desk chair is now cause for a sore back. Rolling over wrong while sleeping leads directly to a crick in the neck. I’m trying to build in more time for workouts before work, but ya girl here is exhausted. I’d like to at least throw in some yoga or something to help me out, because this is getting a little ridiculous.

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I mostly ride like this now (also omg look at that long-suffering face on the poor guy hahaha)

Second of all, it’s not all that great for my mental health. I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with SAD in the past (check this post and this one), but luckily I found something a few years back that almost completely eradicates all of my symptoms. It’s an expensive therapy, and very time consuming, but I can’t deny that it has helped more than any other intervention that I’ve tried.

That therapy is named Francis, obviously.

Training with him has given me a needed structure to my days, goals to work towards, forced fresh air and exercise no matter the weather (hello endorphins), regular social time with friends, and that certain X factor that comes from having a close bond with a giant fuzzy wonderful creature. For the relatively mild symptoms that I’ve experienced, the structure and love he provides are exactly what I need to feel my usual energetically positive self year-round.

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“Mahm you look like we both need head scritches I shall provide”

And I don’t have much of that right now.

I didn’t really realize it until chatting with my best friend about how I’ve been in a funk lately, and she commented on my lack of barn time. The woman is a genius, I swear.

Am I miserable? Absolutely not. I’m far too busy with wonderful things to be miserable. And I still get 1-2x a week to go see my friends, move my body, brush my increasingly fluffy pony. Things really are pretty good. And extremely necessary- especially now that we’re in the final stretch, I can’t imagine doing everything ON TOP OF spending several hours at the barn most days. There simply are not enough hours in the day.

This self-enforced break is just reminding me of what I already knew- training with Frankie isn’t just good for my body, but it’s good for my heart, my mind, and my soul.

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Mental Health 2: Electric Boogaloo

As the days get shorter, I want to talk to you once more about something I feel very passionately about: mental health!

While October is for sure my favorite month of the year (Pumpkins! Pretty leaves! Drizzly gray days! Not feeling sweat dripping down my back when I do literally anything!), I head into the winter every year with the same attitude as I approach a root canal: let me get to the other side in one piece, and then I can actually return to the land of the living.

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Just wrap me in several sweaters and stick me in storage til April kthanksbye

Advice that historically has not helped me cope with Satan’s Season:

  • “Oh, you’ll grow out of it someday.” STILL WAITING
  • “Try smiling more!” YES LET ME FAKE SOME MORE EMOTIONS, SEEMS HEALTHY
  • “Just remember that it’s all in your head.” tHaT iS lItTeRaLlY tHe EnTiRe PrObLeM

However, over the years I have managed to find a few things that make a truly noticeable difference in my ability to navigate the uncaring ocean of my brain chemistry from November through March:

  • Drinking too much water. Staying hydrated gives me so much more energy, keeps me more mentally focused, helps stave off headaches, clears my skin, and keeps me moving. You know, because of all the bathroom breaks. Seriously though- I can’t emphasize enough how much of an effect this has on every aspect of my life.
  • Making my bed every morning. This creates a definite separation for me from bed time to awake time. Literally as soon as I’ve gotten out of bed, I’ve accomplished something! Sometimes that’s the momentum I need to start my day. And then when I get home in the evening I feel like I’m coming home to a neat, clean room. Even if the bed is the only neat and clean thing about it.
  • Cutting out caffeine. I know, this sounds like sacrilege to you coffee-addicts out there. But I’ve never been a huge coffee drinker, even in the summer! My sleep schedule definitely gets more sensitive when the days get shorter so I tend to cut out caffeine all together. I stick with herbal teas or cocoa when I’m craving a warm drink, but my best friend is my Nalgene filled with- you guessed it- water. Otherwise I end up staying awake for 3 days in a row and I wish I was exaggerating.
  • Staying active. That physical momentum is so helpful. And I like the way my body feels when I’m fit- I look pretty much the same all the time, but I can definitely feel the difference when my fitness starts slipping. I even invested in some stupid expensive equipment to make exercising fun, and his name is Francis.
  • Buying a horse. For realz, Frankie has been the biggest bro in the world. He gives me a huge reason to stay active- he thrives on exercise, we need to stay in shape to keep progressing, etc. He also gives good structure to my days- I can’t just go home and shlump into bed. I gotsta get dem endorphins going. And I can’t leave out the fact that he’s just the sweetest creature on the planet. He doesn’t care that there might be a few crossed wires upstairs, he just thinks it’s neat that I scratch his ears and take him on adventures. He is a never-ending source of quiet affection. Also owning a horse means I’m too distracted by stress about money to remember that I’m depressed!
  • Giving myself days off. Between work, the barn, going home to see family, celebrating birthdays, going out for happy hour, and other social events, sometimes it feels like I have something on the calendar every single day. And while I genuinely like people, I NEED my alone time to rejuvenate and re-energize. So sometimes I’ll pencil in a day to just lay around in my pajamas, watch Netflix, drink tea, and be a lazy garbage person. These garbage person days make me less of a garbage person on the other days. It’s a delicate garbage balance.

I’ve also built in a bunch of fun things to look forward to this winter: I’m visiting family and bringing Manfriend, we’re taking a trip to Florida with my roomie and her manfriend, I’ll be taking time to go compete at WEC with the Frankenator, all sorts of things like that.

So while I’m already looking forward to the warm spring breezes that bring allergens to make Manfriend sneeze real cute, I feel good about the robust preparation I’m putting into making this winter an enjoyable season instead of just a survivable one. I know there will still be ups and downs, and I’ve got the warm fuzzies thinking about the absolutely stellar support system I have- both two-legged and four-legged.

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My attraction to tall, strong, gorgeous, emotionally stable males is extremely helpful

For all of you: I would love to be part of your support system. As mentioned, I genuinely like people (weird, I know) and I like crazy people the best. I have no answers to big questions and give pretty crappy advice (usually I just tell you to hydrate more), but I’d love to chat at any time. Unless I’m sleeping. Hit me up but not before 7am or after 10pm thanks.

Cheers to a fantastic season of fun adventures and progress in all of our personal and professional endeavors!

Mental Health

Riders as a whole seem to be pretty conscious of their health: physically, mentally, and emotionally. We all want to be in sync with our horses and know that in order to do that, we have to be fit in all of those ways. I don’t mean having the body of an Olympic track athlete and achieving a state of nirvana with every ride, but achieving balance in whatever way works for each of us.

Getting physically fit has always been the easy part for me. Thanks to genetics and *mostly*  healthy habits, I can maintain a decent muscle mass without too many lifestyle changes. Where I struggle, and have always struggled, is the mental game.

I’ve mentioned in many posts how timid a rider I was when I was younger- crying in almost every lesson because I was scared to jump, refusal to move up a division even though my horse could do it in his sleep, and general terror at everything my trainer asked me to do besides trotting. But not trotting too fast because that was scary too.

And I’ve also mentioned in many posts that I’m much more confident now! I still have my “oh crap” moments, but I’m much more willing to try new things and trust my mount. I’ve done so many things that scared me as a kid and had so much fun with all of it.

So I’ve conquered one of my mental blocks (for the most part….I still get a little tense when the jumps go up. At least now I’ll still give it a try despite the nerves!). But I have another mental block that wanders its way into my life every fall. SAD. No, I’m not saying that this mental block is a sad thing. I’m saying that my mental block is Seasonal Affective Disorder.

Some of you likely have dealt with this too- it’s surprisingly common among women. For those of you who haven’t, it’s basically the winter blues on steroids. Symptoms vary from person to person- personally, I get lethargic, tired, stop sleeping well, lose interest in EVERYTHING, get super anxious for no reason, and am basically miserable from October to March. Not to say that every day is a bad day or that I take no pleasure in anything, but the balance of good-to-bad days gets thrown waaaay off.

This has come back around at me for ten years now, and I’ve handled it with varying degrees of success over the years. It’s no coincidence that I’ve changed jobs/moved/picked up hobbies almost exclusively in the fall and winter- changing things up and staying busy seems to help. Being around the horses helps for obvious reasons- it keeps me active and getting fresh air. I take vitamin D and walk outside and have a light box in my office and eat super clean and cut out caffeine and do all of the things I’m supposed to do.

And that’s all certainly helped. But I still had days where getting out of bed was TOO much, and even the thought of doing something routine like taking a shower or brushing my teeth was overwhelming. And that was not ok with me. I have too many goals to accomplish and too many fun things to do for me to be fine with lying in bed with bad breath.

So I’m really happy to say that I finally talked to my doctor about it last year and we came up with a game plan. I’m not planning on sharing my medical history (any more that I already have…lawlz), but I will say that ten years in, I finally DID something about it instead of sitting here dreading the colder weather. I got to love the changing leaves and snow like I did when I was younger.

I didn’t hate winter last year for any reason besides how STUPIDLY COLD IT IS OMG. I guess I can’t blame it all on the SAD.

The takeaway? I’d like to urge any of you who deal with the “winter blues” to talk to your doctor if it starts to get too much. And always feel free to reach out to me if you just need someone to talk to or bounce ideas off. My crazy would love to hang out with your crazy.