Is Taking Care of Yourself the New Partying in Your Thirties?

Today I fainted on the subway platform. This isn’t like me at all.

I pride myself on having an “immune system of steel.” I have an uncanny ability to always stay well around sick people. I’m the anti-germaphobe- “a little dirt never hurt anyone”- that’s what I say. I travel on planes, trains, and buses (aka “boxes of germs”) more than half the year while getting away with barely a sniffle. I scoff at Purell. I roll my eyes at hypochondriacs (secretly).

However, today something happened and I went down. I started feeling weak when I left my apartment earlier in the day. It was a strange feeling because I’d had two cups of coffee before I left and had slept a full 8 hours the night before. I’d drank my green smoothie in the morning. I’d eaten a vegan burrito for lunch. I was doing all my healthy routines.

But the weakness came anyway. And then it went away just as quickly as it came and fooled me into thinking it was gone. So I continued my day. I met with a friend. I went to Whole Foods. I headed to the gym. But once the subway doors closed behind me, I was taken by the urge to fall to the floor. It was a crowded subway on a freezing day but I got hotter and hotter until I had to remove my hat and my scarf and unzip my coat. I barely made it to my stop. Strangers asked me if I was okay- I was swaying. I didn’t look good. I politely said I was fine, just not feeling so well. But once I got to my stop and took two steps, I realized I couldn’t go any further and fell hard. A stranger rushed up to me and asked if I was okay. He asked if I was pregnant (I am not). He offered to call 911. I couldn’t move, but I felt really embarrassed. Even though I stayed unmoving, I told him I’d be okay. I didn’t want to go anywhere but home. He nicely stayed with me. Bless the kindness of random subway strangers.

Once again, the weakness started to pass. The icy air shook my limbs out of their paralyzed state and I was able to get up and actually walk home. I’m now lying in bed writing this and praying I don’t have the flu. I feel okay right now. I’m hoping it’s maybe an iron deficiency or something. Who knows.

But you better believe I’m taking extra good care of myself. I canceled my trip to the gym. I canceled my fun late night plans. I made myself ginger tea. I took my emergency multivitamins (which I never take). My roommate gave me a shot of apple cider vinegar (“it cures!” she raved to me). I’m trying to stay calm. I had the flu once 6 years ago and it was the worst debilitating illness I’ve ever been through.

A friend of mine told me on the phone tonight, “I hate to say it, but we’re in our thirties now. Even though we may feel good and strong, our bodies are changing and they’re not the same as they were in our twenties. And we have to take extra good care of ourselves. I mean, listen, I just had to get reading glasses. And I’m only 33!”

Oh no! I don’t yet need reading glasses, it’s enough that I need regular glasses…eek.

This got me thinking about the possible shift from your twenties to your thirties regarding how you need to take care of yourself. Perhaps the metaphorical ‘party’ is over? Is there an ‘invincibility notion’ left over from the twenties that needs to fade down in my thirties? I mean, I already take pretty good care of myself (lots of vegetables, lots of exercise, lots of sleep (usually), lots of water) but perhaps there are still big changes coming my way. Changes that I previously thought I could avoid with my healthy behavior.

Maybe I’m not as invincible to the 30’s as I thought, no matter how healthy my lifestyle usually is.

Well, I better go to sleep and dream about strength and energy.

I want to leave you with two articles I found about how our bodies change in our 30s. Haha, first  puberty, now this…

For women- http://www.healthywomen.org/content/article/health-your-30s

For men- http://www.askmen.com/top_10/fitness/maintain-your-body-after-30.html

[Update- I wrote this article yesterday, and still feel weak today, but have not come down with the flu. Behold the power of taking care of yourself: tons of sleep, ginger tea, apple cider vinegar, and lots of love from (and to) friends and family!]

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Did You Get an “Hour” with People you Care About Today?

As you might have learned from this blog, I love learning about ways to life-hack. Specifically, facts and numbers about how to make my life better. As you can probably guess, I’m subscribed to way too many blogs/newsletters/fan pages of self-help/life-coach gurus and thinkers. I recently got an email with a link to an article by Deepak Chopra titled “Social Media and Your Personal Growth.” The article is worth a read; it’s basically about how to form more meaningful and deep connections when using social media. I was particularly interested in this:

“Psychologists point out that being connected in a positive way for at least one hour a day with people you care about is one key to happiness.”

Do you normally get your hour of this time? I have recently. Today I did, at least. I had a great phone conversation and I felt happy and connected. This “hour” doesn’t have to be in person – you can spend your hour on the phone, or engaged in a video chat, or perhaps just even gchatting online.

It’s fascinating to me that we’re constantly told by doctors and the media that we should exercise a certain amount each day, and eat 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day…But no one talks about setting an exact parameter about social connectivity. So I’d like to propose – get your hour with a close friend(s) a day!

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Technology Burnout In Your Thirties

Sometimes I find myself laughing silently while alone in my bedroom.

I’ll look up for a moment and realize that I’m sitting on my massage chair while watching TV while posting a status update to Facebook from my phone while holding my laptop open to a Twitter-linked article.

And I’ll just start laughing. But it’s the kind of laugh that could easily turn into a slow and honest cry.

Those of us in our late twenties through forties that have grown up without cellphones and laptops in our lives are now living in a world where we’re dependent on our portable devices.

What has become of alone time without social media connection? I sometimes find myself anxious over Facebook posts, or wondering if I haven’t been on Twitter enough, or whether I should be posting on LinkedIn more. I actually spend time wondering why Snapchat is so popular and how to get more into Instagram.

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The moment I get up in the morning, I reach for my cellphone. What I see on that phone can influence my mood for the rest of the day. There’s so much going on and so little time. Then right after making some coffee, I’m immediately tempted to turn on my laptop. Once I do, I can get sucked into random article reading for hours on end.

Even in order to simply meditate, I have to open a meditation app on my phone or website on my laptop to access my music or guided meditations. How crazy is it that even to be alone with my thoughts I have to reach for a portable device???

However, when I take time off from social media, things change in my life. As much as I like social media and my laptop and my email, when I gain control and shut things down for awhile, I feel a kind of peace that is unreachable when technology’s buzzing around me at every moment.

My roommate actually disconnected from technology completely. Years before I met her, she gave away her smart phone. She sold her laptop. She has no TV. All she has is an emergency flip-phone and a radio. I can’t imagine myself doing what she’s doing, but she’s one of the most blissful, radiant people I know.

When I manage to disconnect from most technology, even for a few concentrated hours, I actually feel better (after the initial discomfort subsides). Time moves slower. Hot showers feel hotter. I find myself taking walks and feeling more connected to my body and my surroundings. I think harder about what I’m feeling and how it affects the way I breathe.

So I’m of two minds about the whole technology thing. I actually love technology and I do think it’s important and helpful. I’m extremely fascinated by the future of technology and I really want to learn HTML. My laptop is my favorite possession. My phone is my lifeline. Social Media is my way to connect the world. I love that so much information is at my fingertips at all times- I get how important it is to be able to find almost any answer to any question at any time.

Yet I also think it’s important not to get sucked into technology as a dependent habit- the same way it’s bad to get sucked into other dependent habits like smoking or nail biting. There are times when I can’t kick the urge to reach for my phone or check my email. I find it hard to simply be alone with my thoughts and no Facebook. This isn’t a healthy use of technology- it’s a crutch.

As I continue to walk the line between avoiding technology altogether (not gonna happen) and getting sucked in, I try to remember how good it feels to be without it for even just a little while. And even during those times when it feels anxiety-provoking to close the laptop and avoid checking my phone, I know that being able to live my life without technology, for even a short time, is extremely important.

Don’t be afraid to be alone with your thoughts.

 

 

Some Advice on Living Your 30s Well

So true confession. I’m PMS’ing this week. Which for me means that I’m a bit cranky and craving salty foods. And also, those hormones knock my self-esteem down a notch and lead me into funny (in hindsight!), internet rabbit holes. I do random google searching about how I feel, with the goal normally being for me to feel like I’m not alone – that other folks feel the same way I do.

Tonight I googled “thirties and feel lost.” After reading Laura’s post from yesterday, I started thinking about how someone once told me that the chances of my career choice (screenwriting) being successful was like “winning the lotto.” Thinking back on that, what a crappy and mean thing to say! In my low moments, I wonder if he was right. What if I can never monetize my writing? I’ve managed to make money copywriting and writing for corporations but that’s not my goal – I want to write for films and TV. So anyway, I started to think worst-case scenario, what would I do to make money? And that’s when I googled “thirties and feel lost” and this particular Metafilter thread came up, What Do You Wish You Did in Your 30s.

In the thread, lots of 40 and 50-somethings wrote in about the regrets of their 30s. And it was somewhat uplifting. and inspiring, so I thought I’d share some of the thoughts here.

One woman wrote:

I would have divorced my first husband sooner, because I would have somehow woken up to how I was riding a wave of denial through my own life.

I would have spent way more time creating stuff (writing, acting, making art), because even if it had been shit, I’d have been that much more practiced now in my 40s.

I would have spent more time seeking out new and maintaining my existing female friendships (I’m a woman), because that kind of bond is crucial to my well being.

I would have spent those 10 years exercising, instead of taking up weightlifting at age 39 and finally honing and actually feeling my own strength.

I would have cut the few truly toxic people out of my life sooner, including my own mother.

Having said all this, I don’t have any regrets. I only look forward.
posted by ImproviseOrDie at 2:22 PM on February 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

I liked this one a lot:

Choose the happier choice instead of the, seemingly, right choice.
posted by jennstra at 4:59 PM on February 18, 2014 [2 favorites]

Many people talked about saving money. I’m sure Laura would appreciate that 🙂

If you haven’t done it already, make sure you get on top of your retirement savings (getting any matching funds you’re entitled to in your 401k, maxing out a Roth IRA, etc). It’s hard to make up for the loss of compound interest the longer you wait to get your accounts in order.
posted by bcwinters at 1:54 PM on February 18, 2014 [9 favorites]

Can You Monetize It?

My background is in theater. I was a drama major in college who started out as an actor and quickly discovered that I also loved to direct.

After I graduated, I went in search of lots of theater to work on. I quickly found myself directing friends’ plays and also acting in plays for theater festivals and readings all over the city. I was proud of my efforts, even when they took up all my time and didn’t pay anything. Sometimes I would get what’s called a ‘stipend,’ which is a small amount of honorary money for my time and effort. Usually, no money would be involved at all- other than the money I spent out of my own pocket on the production.  I balanced my paying job (working tradeshows) with working on as much theater as I could fit into the crevices of my time off.

Sometimes I would turn down paid tradeshow work because I was in the middle of rehearsals for a production I was directing. The irony of this is that I could sometimes make the equivalent of my entire directors stipend in one day of work at my ‘real job.’

But I found it hard to prioritize tradeshows because theater was my ‘true passion’ and what I ‘really did’…tradeshow work was just a filler job. Theater became this magical universe where being paid a decent rate for your time became something of a joke, and everyone just moaned ‘there’s no money in theater, we need donations’ and continued on.

n the dressing room before a show..I'm not exactly sure what we were doing here.

In the dressing room before a show..I’m not exactly sure what we’re doing here, but bananas were definitely involved.

Then there came a time a few years ago where I reached my breaking point. I needed to put more money towards my student loans and stop turning down paid work. I couldn’t work for free anymore. So I took a hiatus from theater. The hiatus has been going on for about 2 years now…in fact, I’m still on that hiatus.

Amazingly, I’ve been pretty happy during this time off. I still co-run a theater company, so I keep a bit of theater in my life, and I’ve been able to work as much as I can and not double book paid jobs with unpaid rehearsals. I really enjoy my career in tradeshows, so I’m happily going through my days. Things are good, but I sometimes wonder about my real passion.

Now that I’m thirty, I’ve been thinking a lot about paid ‘filler’ work versus unpaid passions. There are so many options here. I kind of turned my ‘filler’ work into my main work, but I could have attempted to monetize my passion. Contrary to what I might have you believe from this post, there are people making some money from theater or theatrical work. And there are lots of people who work on all sorts of passion projects that can be monetized, but haven’t been monetarily figured out yet.

Then there are other friends of mine who know there’s very little money in their passion projects, but are okay with that. When I asked my friend how he replies to people who question his choice to be a playwright even though there’s just about no money in it, he inspired me. He said, “I tell them that I’ve worked lots of jobs that paid me tons of money and none of them made me as happy as I am writing plays. Not everything is about money.”

There’s a lot to think about here.

Do You Journal? The Surprising Health Benefits

I’ll admit it – I always thought ‘journaling’ was kind of cheesy and ineffective. I imagined that if I did journal regularly, I’d have lots of entries beginning with “Dear Diary…” and going on to detail boring day-to-day exploits including the pizza I consumed and which Netflix show I watched that night.  I have journaled occasionally, and I have several books filled with my entries dating back to junior high school. Most of these entries are about boys – the boys I liked, the boys I dated and why those boys I dated were being so damn hard-to-decipher. Since I’ve been in a serious long-term relationship, I haven’t journaled as much. In fact, the current notebook I use has entries that date back to 2008, so clearly I haven’t been journaling much. But I do experience a lot of day-to-day anxiety about things in my life: my career, friendships, moving to a new city – all good subjects to journal about.

After reading this article, Writing Your Way to Happiness, in the NY Times, I really felt like it was time I journaled more. The article was the “most emailed article” on the NY Times website for about a week, so clearly people are excited about this research. Basically, the gist of the study is that if you write about your problems, you can more easily tackle them, which leads to better overall health. Essentially, the study is saying that if you write about your problems, you can more easily “edit” the problems in your life.

Here’s a quote from the article that encapsulates the study well:

Much of the work on expressive writing has been led by James Pennebaker, a psychology professor at the University of Texas. In one of his experiments, college students were asked to write for 15 minutes a day about an important personal issue or superficial topics. Afterward, the students who wrote about personal issues had fewer illnesses and visits to the student health center.

“The idea here is getting people to come to terms with who they are, where they want to go,” said Dr. Pennebaker. “I think of expressive writing as a life course correction.” – Tara Parker-Pope

Maybe there’s something about purging your thoughts onto paper that helps. Like a mental detox. Or maybe it’s being able to get a new perspective on your problems that helps you make more effective choices.

What If I Lived Nowhere?

The Detroit Auto Show is going well…I’m more than halfway through working it. When I return from the show, I’ll have 2 days off in New York and then will leave again for a 10 day show in Philadelphia. When I return from that, I’ll leave again for a 10+ day show in Chicago…and so on and so forth.

I travel a lot for work. I work as a professional speaker and product specialist at tradeshows, conventions and auto shows. I used to think I’d simply book work in New York, and then that expanded to simply booking work in the Northeast, then the East coast, then the entirety of America, and then I even began to occasionally book international work.

The blog I used to write before this one was a blog about travel. I enjoyed traveling for work and sharing tips and tricks about how to travel easier, smoother, and cheaper. Travel is so innately built into my life- I can’t really do my job without it- that it has also accidentally become a major part of my identity.

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So after my ex-boyfriend and I broke up last summer, I thought about living nowhere. It seemed like the absolute right thing for me to do at the absolute right time. It seemed to fit perfectly with who I am. I’m away from home so much anyway that it seemed pointless to pay rent every month. And I even considered blogging about my future nomadic living experience. I actually see a lot of travel bloggers of all ages living nowhere- they put their stuff in storage and just travel for a year or more. Sometimes it’s simply cheaper for them to travel the world than to stay in their city and pay the exorbitant rent prices (cough NYC cough SF cough).

Since I’m thirty, it seemed a bit late to start such a major lifestyle change (complete nomad seemed more of a twenties thing to do), but I was ready for some major changes. It seemed like the right time to live nowhere if I was going to live nowhere.

A few of my coworkers at tradeshows/auto shows were already living the nomadic lifestyle and just traveled from show to show without having any kind of home base. They would occasionally crash on friends’ couches and/or with their parents between shows. Or they’d use their numerous hotel points to practically live at the Hilton or the Marriott. It sounded like a fascinating, yet exhausting, life.

Yet after careful consideration, the exhausting part of it led me in search of a nice, peaceful apartment in New York to call home. Some soul searching lead me to the realization that the glamour of living nowhere didn’t hold a candle to a space that’s all mine.

And I thought about something one of my friends said as I had been weighing my options: “you call living nowhere the ‘nomadic lifestyle’ but some just call it ‘homeless.”

Touché.

I love my new little Queens apartment and cannot be happier. Even though I have to pay rent for it every month. Even though I’m not there right now. Just knowing I have a place to call home lends weight to my otherwise very up in the air lifestyle.

Sometimes something may seem like the absolute right thing to do at the absolute right time. But it may not actually be the right thing at all.

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