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Monthly Challenge Update Time (or One More For 2017)

It’s the start of a new month so that means it’s the end of one monthly challenge and the beginning of another. And this time, it’s the last monthly challenge of the year for me! But before I share that challenge, I’ll recap my November challenge.

I had the challenge to work on mindfulness again. It’s a challenge I’ve struggled with several times in the past, but I really want to keep on working on it. So I decided to work on taking notes on the books that I’ve been reading that are about mindfulness. I figured taking notes and having more action steps instead of just ideas would be helpful.

I did take notes on one book, but then when I started another book I found that there were printable things that I could download and use. That was very helpful! There are checklists and guidelines to use and I’ve started to work on them. I think that the more I work with them the better I’ll get at using those skills. And hopefully the better I get at those skills the more I will be working toward recovery.

I’m feeling really hopeful about this now and I think that this was the right way to look at working on mindfulness. I can’t guarantee that this will work this time as it’s been a struggle every other time. But I feel much better than I have in the past and I feel like there are ways that I can keep working on these skills beyond the month which is nice.

So for my last challenge of the year, I was thinking about something fun that I wanted to work on. There were a couple of ideas, but I ended up settling on one that I’ve been thinking about doing for a while. I’ve decided that I want to challenge myself to improve my handwriting.

I use my computer (or phone or tablet) a lot, but I do handwrite things from time to time. I handwrite thank you notes, birthday cards, and things in my Volt Planner. And my handwriting is pretty horrible. It’s always been bad. I blame being raised by a doctor and a nurse (so I have doctor handwriting). My writing wasn’t total chicken scratch, but it’s not that nice. So working on my handwriting ¬†would be a good challenge for me.

I’ve mixed the idea of working on my handwriting and learning some basic calligraphy skills. I’ve found some things about brush calligraphy which doesn’t require a calligraphy pen (which I’ve tried using before and never liked). And there are lots of free worksheets I’ve downloaded to start working on handwriting and calligraphy. I don’t know what the plan is as far as how much I want to do every day, but the goal is to do a little bit every day.

Even if I totally fail at calligraphy, I think working on handwriting and taking my time working on this will help make my normal handwriting nicer looking. I’ve always wanted to be someone who had pretty handwriting because it always seems like such a nice touch when I do send cards to people. And I would like it if I knew when I send cards that I don’t have to worry about people being able to read them.

This is a pretty good month to work on this skill because soon I’ll sending out holiday cards to my friends. I won’t have to do a ton of writing on them, but I do like to personalize them a bit and I want them to look as nice as possible. So hopefully by the time that I start working on them (which is going to be pretty soon) I’ll have some skills I can use to make them look better than it would have looked if I hadn’t worked on my handwriting.

This should be a fun monthly challenge to end the year on, but I’m already thinking about next year. I already ordered my planner for 2018 and I’ve been thinking about my big goals for the year and what challenges I want to take on. Hopefully I figure out some good ones and I can make next year’s challenges just as good or even better than this year’s!

Another Attempt At Mindfulness (or I Think I Need To Work On This Until I Figure It Out)

I’ve tried to work on mindfulness multiple times and it has never seemed to stick with me. But it keeps coming up in my life and I feel like that is a sign of something. So I’ve been inspired to try mindfulness again and the timing is perfect since it’s time for another monthly challenge! But first, time to recap last month’s challenge.

Last month, I challenged myself to work on doing daily speed cleaning. Ideally, I would spend 5-10 minutes a month focused on a small space in my house to clean and organize it. I wanted to do this because I had felt like my cleaning was getting overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. So I wanted to take away the pressure from doing a big cleaning in my house because that seemed to be what was stopping me. I set an alarm to work on this each day and I tried my best to do what I could.

I wasn’t totally successful with this, but it went better than I thought it would. There were several days that I couldn’t do cleaning because either I was gone all day (like during the Convention) or I had no energy because I was sick. But when things like that weren’t stopping me, I really did accomplish a lot. And by telling myself I only had to do one small cleaning thing allowed me to just do it and not worry about not having time to finish it. There were some times that I did a really small cleaning job like using a new multi-hook hanger to put all my tank tops in one spot (it also saves room in my closet). And then there were other times where my small cleaning job ended up getting me motivated to do a bigger cleaning job. But it has gotten me into the habit of spending a bit of time every day working on this so that I don’t feel overwhelmed again.

Last month went well and I’m really hoping this month will too. Mindfulness has been a struggle for me each time I’ve tried to work on it. I’ve found little things that have worked, but they aren’t enough. I want to be more aware of so much in my life. This isn’t just a food thing because there are days where it seems like the entire day slipped away without me knowing what happened. I want to avoid days in a fog like that if possible.

The book that I’m reading as my 10 pages of a recovery based book right now is all about eating mindfully. I actually wish I had read this book when I first started trying to be more mindful because it’s pretty great. Each section has a lesson along with some action steps to take. And so many of these action steps are things that I haven’t done before or thought of doing before. I actually think I need to go back and start reading from the beginning to take notes on things because I haven’t been doing that. And that is part of my challenge for this month.

I want to go through the book again and other resources I can find and start finding action steps to take to work toward mindfulness. Maybe the reason why it has failed to stick with me before is because mindfulness is more of an idea and less of something I can do. If I had steps to take and work with, that would probably be better for me. I need something tangible or to check off on a list to work with and I don’t know why I didn’t think of doing this before.

This month’s challenge won’t necessarily be about putting mindfulness into practice right away. I’ve tried that a bunch and it hasn’t worked. But instead, this challenge is going to be about researching action steps and ideas to put into use over time. I want to devote time every day to re-reading the book I’ve been reading as well as looking online or in other reference books to make a list that I can use moving forward. I want to make mindfulness work for me and it’s not something that I can just turn on right away. I need to work toward it and I have failed at doing that before. Because other challenges have come to me so easily, I assumed that this one would too. But I am learning and have realized what I hope will be the missing step to be able to implement this into my life in the long-term.

I know that this seems like a much more passive monthly challenge than others have been, but this is what I think I need to focus on this month. And there are only so many things I can add to my life with these monthly challenges, so having one that is more of a reflective thing is probably going to help me not get burned out on them. And I totally don’t want to experience burn out because I just got my 2018 Volt Planner so there will be another year of monthly challenges next year!

Another Monthly Challenge (or What To Do When You Are Crazy Busy)

The beginning of a new month is always exciting for me. But it’s been even more exciting since I started using my Volt Planner last year because it means it’s the beginning for a new monthly challenge! It can be a struggle sometimes to think of a new challenge each month, but once I pick one I really get into it. And knowing that I’ll be doing that again each month is something I look forward to.

Last month, my challenge was to tweet more. Specifically I wanted to tweet more about SAG-AFTRA and union related issues. My role as a SAG-AFTRA delegate is officially just as the convention (which is this week), but I don’t want the end of the convention to be the end of my involvement. And while being on social media isn’t the most active thing, I figure that every little bit helps. And I also got a lot out of doing this because every day I was reviewing tweets that might be ones I wanted to share. So I was learning more every time I reviewed them. I feel so much more educated about union issues (and not just actor union issues) than I ever have.

This month, I struggled a bit with picking something to set as my challenge but it wasn’t for the usual reason. I have a couple of things I want to do, but this month is going to be very crazy for me. I’ve got the SAG-AFTRA convention, lots of doctor appointments, work, podcast stuff, some projects I’m working on, and then trying to have a social life. I know that I will be a bit stressed and I didn’t want to pick something that might add more stress to my life. I’ve picked some challenges that have done that in the past, and it can work when the month isn’t going to be stressful. But I know October will be crazy. I’ve been telling people my life won’t be normal again until after the 16th because that’s when I seem to finally have free time in my calendar.

But there has been one thing that I’ve had on my monthly and weekly planning sheets in my planner that I don’t see to ever get around to. I really need to clean my desk and my closet. I probably need to work on my entire house, but I really see how packed my desk and closet are and I know I don’t need everything I have. I also keep bringing more things in without removing stuff so it gets more and more cluttered. But when I look at it it seems so overwhelming.

So I’ve set my monthly challenge for October to do speed cleaning/organizing every day. I have an alarm set and I want to do maybe 5-10 minutes every day. The idea is that I’d focus on one thing each day. For example, with my clothes I’d look at tops one day and dresses another. I don’t need to look at my closet as a whole since that has been what is looking like too much of a project. With my desk, I might break it down my the drawers or by category but I’m not sure yet. And there are so many other areas in my house that I could organize by breaking it down into chunks like this.

I had read “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up” a while ago, and while I don’t agree with everything in the book there are some really good points. I only want to have things in my home that make me happy and bring me joy. My definition of those things are a bit different from what the book talks about, but the general idea is the same. There are things in my closet that I look at and get annoyed about because it doesn’t fit anymore (either too big or too small), it doesn’t fit right, or it just is something I never can figure out when I should wear it. I don’t need that taking up space in the tiny closet I have.

But besides decluttering, I just want to have a clean house that makes me happy. It’s never too dirty, but there are times that I have to spend a good amount of time cleaning every room before I have company over. I know that nobody cares if my house is a little messy, but I do. And if I worked on 5-10 minutes of cleaning a day (either by cleaning one room or doing one type of cleaning like vacuuming or dusting), it shouldn’t get too overwhelming before I have company over.

I know that even 5-10 minutes of cleaning might be a bit tough for me to do on the craziest days I have coming up this month, but that’s ok. I understand now that I don’t have to be perfect every single day but instead I want to get into the habit so that it becomes something I don’t even have to think about each day. It would be nice to know that I have a clean house pretty much all the time and not a semi-clean house most of the time and a super clean house occasionally.

Working On Priorities (or Adding And Taking Away)

Happy September! The beginning of a month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the beginning to another. And this time, my monthly challenges are related to each other. When I started doing monthly challenges, they were such huge things. Now, I’m getting to where I’ve made a lot of major changes and now I’m focusing on the small things. Sometimes it’s tough for me to remember that small changes can matter as much as big ones, but I’m glad I’m able to focus on changing things in my life even when it’s on such a small scale.

My monthly challenge in August was to work on seeing what things I’m doing every day that isn’t making me happy anymore. This was a tough challenge to decide to do because I don’t like being a quitter and not doing something anymore makes me feel like I gave up on myself. But it was getting to a point in my life where I was looking at my daily reminders and it was stressing me out too much. And it’s not benefitting me if doing those things every day was causing me stress.

I tried to be as nonjudgmental as possible this past month to see what I wanted to keep and what I felt ok not doing anymore. And it came down to 3 things that I felt ok taking off my daily reminders. The first thing I got rid of was my daily reminder to weigh myself. I used to get some peace out of weighing myself every day and being able to track how fluctuations happen. But that stopped being a good thing after I stopped taking birth control pills. I now have weight fluctuations due to my hormones and I haven’t gotten my mind to catch up with that idea yet. And until that happens, I don’t want to feel guilty for not weighing myself every day. I do still weigh myself most days, but I don’t feel like I need a reminder to do it anymore.

The next one that I got rid of was a reminder to do yoga every day. I haven’t done this is a while and I had the reminder on my phone. It was making me feel bad that I didn’t do it because I know I should get back into it. But my schedule and life have been hectic lately and it comes down to not wanting to feel guilty about not doing it. So it is off my schedule now and maybe in the future I will put it back on. But I might change it to be from a daily reminder to something I remind myself to do a few times a week.

The last one I took off of my reminders it to be mindful before eating, specifically mindfulness before dinner. I have more recently added to take breathing breaks to my schedule. I put those on my reminders at the times that are usually the most difficult for me. Having those as a part of my daily reminders (and I do take those breathing breaks and they do tend to help) has made the mindfulness before dinner reminder not something as important to me.

While I spent this past month taking things off of my schedule, this month I’m focusing on adding something to my schedule. I’ve talked about wanting to be more active in SAGAFTRA several times in the past. And that’s what my challenge for September is going to be about. While I can’t control when meetings, mixers, or events happen; I can still stay active every day as a union member.

I thought about what ways I could be involved every day and there were a few ideas that came to me. But I want to start small while I figure out what the best option will be for me. So the idea that I came up with is sending out at least one tweet every day that is union related. That could be something like news, a victory the union has won, or something that is relevant for SAG-AFTRA members to know about. I have a feeling that most of the time I will be retweeting something I see, but that’s ok. The important thing is that I want to be putting out a positive message for SAG-AFTRA members (and all union members) every day.

I might use Hootsuite to schedule tweets to do this, but since things can change so quickly and the news cycle is not as long as it used to be I might just have to be more active on twitter in general to see what I want to share. This isn’t a bad thing for me since I have wanted to be more involved with twitter and not just be passive reading other people’s tweets. I want to be a good messenger and I think doing union related tweets daily will be a great way for me to do that.

My August Challenge (or Being Selfish To Be Happy)

Another month is here! I can’t believe July is over and it’s already my birthday month! And as always, a new month brings the recap of my last month’s challenge and announcing what my challenge will be this month.

Last month, I wanted to work on practicing more mindful breathing. More specifically, I set a reminder to work on breathing and staying calm at 2 of the times that I commonly feel like I want to binge eat. This was a challenge idea I got from therapy and I was curious to see how it would go for me. Doing things like this have been tough for me in the past because I get super focused and forget to do it. Or I get distracted by something else and forget. But having a reminder on my phone does help since I have to dismiss it to make it go away.

While I didn’t always do the 10 slow breaths that I planned on doing, this still was a successful challenge to me. If I was feeling like I wanted to binge, this alarm stopped me and made me think. It didn’t always stop it, but at least I was not in the trance that I’m used to being in when having an episode. I was more aware and even if I didn’t always make the right choice I knew it was my choice. Because this gave me so much more awareness, I will be doing this beyond just last month’s challenge. I think that the benefits will continue each month that I do it and it is a helpful thing for me to have.

But doing challenges beyond the month that they are for brings me to this month’s challenge. I really struggled to figure out what I wanted to do. I’ve added so much to my days between my happiness checklist and all the monthly challenges that I’ve continued to do. I’ve continued almost all the monthly challenges beyond the month that I did them for and that’s a lot of stuff for me to remember to do.

So this month’s challenge isn’t necessarily something I will be doing every day but instead something that I want to have as a focus for the month in general. I want to focus on figuring out what makes me happy and what I want to continue to do. I have to do so much out of obligation or responsibility and I want to make sure all the stuff I add to my life are for fun and not because I feel like I have to because I’ve been doing that for a while.

On my happiness checklist, most things are things that I want to keep on there. They do make me happy and when I haven’t done something for a while I’m reminded to do so. But the ones I’m thinking about taking off are the ones that I do every day and I don’t have to focus on doing. This mainly is about reading and eating disorder recovery research every day. I can’t remember the last time I didn’t read at least a little bit. I read every single night before bed and I read a lot in my down time too. And I do recovery research every day because I read 10 pages of a recovery book every day. While these things make me happy, I think maybe I should add 2 other things to my list that I don’t do every day so I can challenge myself to keep focusing on my happiness.

And with my monthly challenges, most of the time I want to continue doing them when the month is over. But I’ve been noticing that some things are either stressing me out or I’m not doing them. I need to start removing those reminders from my phone so they don’t remind me that I’m not doing something. It can make me mad when I get a reminder to do something that I know I won’t do. But my idea of wanting to try to be perfect has prevented me from just deleting those reminders. I’m going to go through them this month and figure out what I want to keep, what I want to delete, and what I might want to add.

And when I’m figuring out what I want to edit and add, I have to work on being very honest with myself and not worrying about not being perfect or caring what other people think. That’s not easy for me, but that’s why this is a good challenge for me. It’s my birthday month and I want to make this an amazing month! And I think focusing on exactly what makes me happy is the perfect way to make the month the best it can be!

A New/Old Challenge (or Using An Idea From Therapy This Month)

A new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the beginning of another. Although technically my last monthly challenge is still going.

I set it to be my challenge last month to track all spending including cash. This is something that I’m doing for the 12 week journey for The Prosperous Heart. I had already started the tracking before the beginning of June, but I wanted to work really hard at it during the month. We are about halfway through the book’s plan so even though my monthly challenge has ended for it I’m still going to be tracking for another 6 weeks. It’s usually pretty easy for me to do my tracking since I do that for all credit card spending. But to remember to track cash was a bit tougher.

Most of the time with cash spending, I’m just keeping my receipts in my wallet and then writing them down later. But I’ve realized that I don’t always get receipts or I throw them out because of habit. I’ve been making a big effort to remember every time I get my wallet out to spend money. If I don’t get a receipt, I text what I spent to myself so I have it in my phone for when I get home to write it down. It took about a week to get used to it, but I’m now remembering to track everything including putting quarters in a meter or giving a friend money to pay for parking. I don’t know if I’ll keep up this cash tracking after I’m done with The Prosperous Heart, but it is good now for me to be hyperaware of all my spending.

When it came to my challenge for July, I was stumped for a while on what I wanted it to be. It’s not that I’m feeling unmotivated, it’s just that I don’t know what else I want to change in my life. The things I want to change are all big things and not right for a monthly challenge just yet. But as it seems each time, I got inspired just before the month started on what I wanted my challenge to be.

When I saw my therapist, a lot of what we discussed was me becoming even more mindful in life. I can be on autopilot at times and that is not a safe place for me to be. I need to stay aware and it’s not easy to remember that if I’m daydreaming or off thinking about something. I have that problem with a lot of things in my life, and what keeps me on track is to set alarms and reminders on my phone. I have so many reminders on my phone throughout the day that sometimes it’s laughable. But it really has helped me stay on track.

One of the ways my therapist has told me I can work on being more mindful is to work on my breathing. I was telling him that at times I can almost zone out while running and he said that it’s because of the rhythmic breathing. That’s the basis of meditation. So by working on more mindful breathing, I can get into that meditative state and hopefully be more mindful while doing it.

This challenge is very similar to the mindfulness one that I did last year. But it is good to repeat monthly challenges especially when I have new tools or ideas that can make that challenge better. I did pick up some ideas from my therapist that might work to make this mindfulness thing stick for me. I also have a new motivation because I have experienced this mindfulness/meditative state in other times in my day and just didn’t have the words to connect that that’s what I was doing. Now that I’m more aware of what it feels like when I get into that state, I think it will be easier to get into it when I try.

I’m doing a similar thing to my other challenges by setting a reminder for myself for this. This time, I picked a few times that I know can be tough for me and set a reminder to take a breathing break. My goal is to take that time and take about 10 rhythmic breaths to recenter myself and hopefully get myself more focused and aware of what I’m doing and what I want to do. I’m aware that this won’t stop me from binging, but that’s not the goal my therapist has for me. He wants me to be aware of when I am binging and accept that is what I am doing. If I’m going to do it, it has to be because I chose to do so and not that I’m unaware that I’m doing so.

I don’t know if this awareness will come within this month. It’s actually probably pretty unlikely that it will happen that quickly. But even if it makes some of my binges aware instead of feeling like I’m in a trance, I will consider that a huge step in the right direction for me. And I know that this challenge isn’t really just for this month. This challenge starts this month but it will likely be something that I will have to try to do for years if not the rest of my life. I want to work on mindfulness and I’ve tried to do it before, but this time feels different and I hope that the results are different too.

Another Monthly Challenge Down (or The Prosperous Heart)

A new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the start to a new one! I’ll admit that last month’s challenge was much more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’m glad that I got through it.

I originally wanted to do the plank challenge to help connect myself to my body again. It’s been weird feeling so disconnected and I had high hopes that this would help bring things back to normal. And this challenge didn’t do that at all. Sometimes, it almost made things worse because I was comparing myself to how I could do planks 10 years ago and the lack of core strength that I have now.

But even with this challenge not doing that, I finally do feel more connected to my body again. It had nothing to do with the challenge, but through just getting back to life I feel more like me again. I think I needed this challenge to force me to work on connecting with my body again, it just wasn’t the thing that did it. But having something push me to work on it was good. I might try another one of the fitness challenges in the app, but I’m not as concerned about doing them as I was before. But I’m glad that I tried and that I made it through.

And for this month’s challenge, I’m actually going to do something that I started earlier this week. The membership of the Inside Acting Podcast has done some fun book club type things this year. At the beginning of the year we did the 12 week process of “The Artist’s Way”. I’m glad that I did it with the support of the membership because I’ve never been able to complete the entire 12 week journey before on my own. I didn’t love the entire process, but I learned a lot and I’m seeing changes in my life because of it.

And this past Sunday, we started our next book within the podcast membership. This time, we are doing another book by Julia Cameron, “The Prosperous Heart”.

There are a lot of the same concepts in both books, including the Morning Pages. I didn’t enjoy the Morning Pages before and I’m not going to stress myself out doing them this time. But this book is much more focused on money and financial things.

I’ve been tracking my budget for a while now using YNAB. Using a budgeting app has been really great for me. Even though I’m still struggling a bit financially, I feel much more in control of things and understand how to pay down my credit card debt now without feeling overwhelmed.

Part of this book is to track every single expense you have. This will be pretty simple for me since I’m already doing it, but I’m going more detailed now and that’s what my monthly challenge will be. I’m not only going to track what I do bank transfers for or when I use my credit card. I’m going to track every single penny that is spent.

A lot of times, I’ll get cash at the beginning of the week and plan on using that for random things. But before I know it the cash is gone and I don’t know where I spent it. Or I don’t know where all the quarters I got for laundry went when it seems like I just went to the bank to get a roll. Some people don’t spend as much when they use cash, but for me using cash has become mindless since I don’t track it in YNAB. I need to stop this because I want to track my money better. And¬†using this as my monthly challenge is a great way for me to get into this habit.

More often than not, my monthly challenges become something I do all the time. So if I take this month to work on tracking my money better, I have a feeling that I will be able to continue to do this and hopefully it will only help me in my money management skills. I know that I’ve been doing a lot of great work with money, especially in the past year or so, but I need to do more and this might be the perfect thing for me to do.

It’s A Fitness Challenge (or Being Calm and Plank Time)

Last month, I set my monthly challenge to work on staying calm. That was a pretty easy challenge to do, but I had that be easy on purpose. I wasn’t sure what I was going to be able to accomplish last month and I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. Of course, I ended up not needing a simple challenge for the month and I was feeling like I didn’t really get that much done. I’ve really gotten used to pushing myself in my monthly challenges and last month didn’t push me. I didn’t know that my month was going to be the way it was, so I can’t be too upset. But that got me thinking about what would challenge me a lot in May.

As I mentioned yesterday, I realized in last week’s workouts how tough it was for me to hold a plank. I used to be great at doing a basic plank and could hold it for over a minute without any issues, but most of the time in workouts now they are planks with other movements too. It’s been a while since I’ve focused on holding a plank and it’s something that I just assumed I could still do. That’s not the case and I want to get back to having my core be as strong as possible.

There are a ton of 30 day plank challenges out there (even though May is 31 days, I can use a 30 day challenge and just repeat the last day). I’m going to be using an app I already had on my phone, but it seems like the set up is pretty similar to something I found online.

I don’t know if I’ll be doing the rest days, but it’s nice to know they are there in case I need it. I have a feeling that it’s going to seem really easy at the beginning but once it gets to doing them for a minute it’s going to be very tough and challenging for me. And that’s exactly what I want in a monthly challenge!

I think doing another physical monthly challenge will be good for me. Since I discovered I have the liver tumors, I’ve had some very mixed feelings about my body. I feel like my body has betrayed me because getting these tumors is such a rare thing. I’ve been working so hard on improving my body and my body decided to screw it all up. But I also feel so grateful for the strength I have now because I’ve been able to do at least 2 5Ks with the tumors in me (I have no clue how long I’ve had the tumors so maybe all my races have been with them). And by some miracle, my body has been able to shrink the tumors when nobody thought that would be possible.

Because I’ve had those mixed feelings, I need something that should be totally positive for my body and to help me reconnect with myself. It’s weird how disconnected I’ve felt lately and I don’t think I’ve ever experienced disconnection like this before. I had a similar feeling when I rapidly lost weight on the UCLA RFO diet, but this time it was even worse. I didn’t feel like I had any power over my body or what it was doing. I didn’t feel like I had control like you should have. And once I found out the tumors shrunk, that feeling continued because I don’t know what shrunk the tumors and I didn’t feel any different. How am I supposed to be connected to my body when I don’t feel the difference between a 10cm tumor inside of me versus it only being 4cm? I need to get back to feeling like myself again and I think doing a physical challenge will help me.

At the end of this month, I’m supposed to be able to hold a plank for 300 seconds. I honestly don’t know if I’ll be able to do that, but it will be interesting to see how close I can get to it. But if I can’t do it, that’s not what the priority of this challenge is for me. I need to reconnect to myself, feel strong again, and take control of my body in a healthy way. And hopefully by the end of this month I will be able to say that I accomplished that!

I know some of you have also been doing monthly challenges and I’d love to know what you are doing for May. And if you are doing a plank challenge, hopefully we can support each other.

A Challenge For A Weird Month (or French And Deep Breaths)

Another month brings another monthly challenge! It’s crazy to think that it’s a quarter of the way through this year already. It seems like it’s been flying by so far and that March went by so much faster than I ever expected!

My monthly challenge for March was to work on learning French every day. I was using the app Duolingo which I had tried to use before and just couldn’t get into. But I decided that I was going to go all out for the month with trying to learn French and if I hated it that I wouldn’t force myself to continue doing it. I did 2 lessons each day (each lesson took less than 5 minutes) and I really did make an effort to take it seriously and work hard at it.

It wasn’t easy to learn French just through the app (that might have been my problem the first time), but I was able to get through the entire month and have continued to work on it each day. I do go back and review past lessons often and the way the app is set up they do have words that seem to be the toughest for you in each lesson to work on. Some of the stuff is hard to understand because I don’t know why things are one way versus another or the different way to use various verbs. But I am understanding much more French than ever before and I am looking into other ways to work on learning the language. Overall, I think it’s another very successful monthly challenge.

When it came to planning what my challenge for April would be, I struggled with it for a while. There are several things I would love to use as a monthly challenge, but with surgery and the recovery coming up I knew there would be a good chance I wouldn’t be able to do it each day of the month. I don’t want to set myself up for failure when I know that it might be impossible for me to do something while in the hospital or while I am restricted in what I can do.

I probably thought about this for almost all of March, but I finally thought of what I could do every single day in April that would benefit me even though it is an easy challenge.

This month is going to be a stressful month and I don’t need to do anything that will add more stress in my day-to-day life. Taking deep breaths is something I don’t do that often but when I do focus on it I notice a benefit in my day. Taking time to take some deep breaths allows me to take a moment to just focus on that and not what else is going on around me. It allows me to center myself again and then get back on track with whatever I need to be doing.

There will be a lot of things that will be benefitted by deep breaths. I’ve got my MRI coming up this week and dealing with the IV needle is always tough on me. And the time inside of the MRI machine is very stressful and I know that if I use that hour inside the machine focusing on my breathing that I won’t be thinking about how small the MRI tube is or how loud the noises are. And after my surgery I’m sure I’ll have moments of pretty bad pain and taking deep breaths can give me something else to focus on instead of waiting for painkillers to start working.

I know this is a simple monthly challenge, but I’m taking it as seriously as I have with any of the past challenges. I am taking time each day to work on deep breathing and just a few days into this month I’ve already noticed a difference. And I think knowing that I have a challenge this month that will be able to be accomplished before surgery, after surgery, and while I’m recovering has made me relax a bit because I won’t be worried about trying to get something else new done while dealing with recovery. I am hoping that I will be able to continue with all of my monthly challenges while recovering, but I also know that I have to be lenient and forgiving with myself if I can’t do it. All I can do is to stay calm, take deep breaths, and focus on being the best me possible through this entire crazy month.

Meal Planning and Learning French (or Monthly Challenge Time)

The start of a new month brings the end to one monthly challenge and the beginning of another! Of course, I’ve kept doing almost all of my monthly challenges beyond the end of that month so it’s really not the end to anything this time. First, a quick recap on my February challenge.

My challenge for February was to work on weekly meal planning. This is something I’ve tried to do multiple times and I was hoping that this time things would finally stick for me. Meal planning is something I know I should do for both my health and budget, but it has never been easy for me. I’ve tried different methods of planning and nothing felt right for me. So this past month, I decided to give myself the month to test out different things and to see what I could come up with.

I started with trying a couple of meal planning apps. I was only trying the free ones because I didn’t want to pay something that I wasn’t sure I would like. I know that some people love the apps, but for me they just didn’t work. I couldn’t see things the way I wanted to and it felt like more work than it was worth. I really wanted an app to work because it seems to be what so many people like and have success with, but I can’t force myself to work with something that doesn’t work for me.

After that, I did various versions of writing down a list for the week. I’m still testing out a couple of options, but I’m finding that having this list system is going ok for me. I can work on the week’s list on Saturday or Sunday (whatever day I can go get groceries), see everything that I have for the week, and make a grocery list based on that. I’m not buying things that I don’t need, so I’m saving money. And I’m finding that if I can cook one night at home, that covers me for 3 meals and I can eat something home cooked most days.

I’m not 100% perfect with following my plan, but I’m doing much better than I expected. If nothing else, this has helped me get into a schedule with my food and I’m not having problems with not having something in the house for lunch or dinner. There is still room for improvement with this, but I would say this challenge is a success!

Moving on to March now. It was a struggle for me to think up a challenge for this month. I ended up doing some searching online for inspiration on what could be a good month-long challenge. There were so many good ideas, but many of them are similar to things I already do so it wouldn’t be enough of a challenge for me. But I kept gravitating toward some of the educational challenges so I decided to look more into those. And I finally found something that seems good to me.

For the month of March, I’m going to work on learning a new language every day. More specifically, I’m going to work on learning French every day. I’ve wanting to learn French before and I’ve tried it a few times (sound familiar?) but it’s never been a habit that I can stick with. But I know that doing something educational every day will be good for me and learning another language will be a tough challenge for me.

I’m planning on using the Duolingo app to do this, which is something I tried before. But now, I have reminders set up for me to work on this every day and I’m connecting it to my social media so I can have friends checking in on me. I’ve liked the app before, I just wasn’t consistent with it. But that was before I got really into my monthly challenges, so I’m hoping that the motivation will be with me this time and I can stick with it.

I don’t expect to be great at French within a month. I know that it will take so much longer than that to be able to learn another language. But in 30 days I can learn some basics and get into the habit of working on this. Maybe by the end of this year I can feel comfortable with how much I know. I don’t have any reason I need to know French right now, but I’ve got some motivation to learn it in the long run.

12 years ago, my mom and I went to France and Italy together. We had a great trip and have said that we wanted to go again. And if we go back, we’ve said that we’d like to go to Disneyland Paris. I know you don’t need to speak French to enjoy Disneyland Paris, but I think knowing it would be helpful and would make that trip even better. My mom and I don’t have any travel plans any time soon, but we know that we want to go back one day. And when that happens, hopefully I will be able to speak a little French and understand it as well.

I’m excited to see how a brainy challenge will go for me because many of the ones I’ve done before aren’t as much about learning new things. But I know I should be doing more things to keep learning every day, and this is a great way to add that to my daily habits!