Sunday Blues

tumblr_n600e8ayEm1rlcp9oo1_1280

I read a great article in this month’s issue of Real Simple about combatting the Sunday blues. I love my weekends and try to maximize every ounce of free time, but I often find myself winding down on Sunday evenings thinking about the week ahead instead of remaining present in the moment. I’ve gotten into the habit of settling in on Sunday afternoon, doing household chores and cooking dinner and enjoying a glass of wine. These are good, relaxing things, but instead of reveling in them, I find myself being reminded of my to-do list for the week once I begin my routine, as if the pattern triggers some sort of weekend-is-over mode.

The article (“Take Back Your Sundays” by Yolanda Wikiel) was revolutionary for me for a myriad of reasons. As noted in the beginning of the piece, Monday can wait, which is a lesson that I need to take to heart. And here’s how we can make that happen:

Do Sunday on Saturday.

This really rang true to me, as it’s something I’ve unintentionally implemented over the course of the last several months and I’ve loved the way it’s freed up the final hours of my weekend. By doing chores typically reserved for Sundays on Saturdays (namely, for me, grocery shopping), there’s more free time at the end of the weekend for rest, relaxation, or play time. Now I’m going to try incorporate a few additional tasks – house-cleaning, laundry, etc. – into my Saturday routine so that Sundays can be reserved for free time.

Be a Social Animal.

As you now know, I am an outgoing introvert, so I really, really, really value my alone time. I especially crave time to myself on weekends, so it’s not uncommon for me to hunker down for hours (and hours and hours) with a great book. There’s nothing wrong with this, certainly, but, according to Wikiel’s findings in the article, “there is plenty of research that shows that people who are less social tend to be less happy. And a Sunday already potentially mired in the blahs is when you’ll need contact with others the most.” Truth! I find community at church and in our Sunday afternoon small group gatherings, but I have found that I feel so uplifted when I do something with family or friends in the early evening hours, like going for a long walk at the park or meeting on a patio for margaritas. I don’t anticipate evolving into a “social animal,” necessarily, but I like the idea of incorporating more social interaction (whether planned or spontaneous) into my Sunday afternoon routine.

Make Over Sunday Night.

Thanks to this Real Simple article, this is something that I already put into practice this past Sunday – and it totally worked! Here’s what Wiekel had to say:

“Why is it that 7 p.m. on a Sunday feels like 11 p.m., but on every other day of the week 7 p.m. is just the start of the evening? Maybe because our idea of ‘doing nothing’ – say, binge-watching Game of Thrones – is not necessarily the best medicine for relieving the Sunday blues.

Active leisure – a book club, practicing yoga, or even going to the movies – will make you happier than choosing something that is passive. ‘If you’re engaged in an activity that keeps you moving, you’re absorbed in the moment and your mind has much less room to allow workweek worries to sneak in and take hold,’ says Cassie Mogilner, Ph.D. So while we’re forever grateful to HBO for transforming Sunday nights, you may want to DVR you favorite episodes and watch them on a night less fraught with anxiety – say, hump day.”

After small group, our friends Bri and Jordan, who host our weekly gathering, invited James and me to stay for dinner. My first instinct was to say no and head home so I could straighten up the house and generally prepare for the week ahead. But with the Real Simple article in mind, I said yes. We spent the afternoon mixing up whiskey sours (Bri added muddled blackberries and sage to ours – holy delicious!), playing with their adorable children, chasing Callie around the backyard, enjoying the weather, and creating a delicious dinner that we ate together around the table as we talked and recapped the day. When James and I looked at the clock at the end of the evening, we realized that we had been at their house for eight hours. And instead of feeling intimidated by all that I still had left to do or anxious about the week ahead, I realized that I felt refreshed, rejuvenated, and restored. My Sunday night was certainly made over, and it set the tone for a great week.

So, what do you think? Will you implement any of these tips in an effort to combat the Sunday blues?

Image via A Gentlewoman

Advertisements

Recipe Testing

3e4d4c12ece789356fcc9905169ffc7eRecently I’ve been devouring my cookbooks as though they were novels, poring over them as I lie in bed each night. I take notes on which treats I want to try and, as a result, we have been cooking a lot lately. Reading my cookbooks has also inspired me to try out all of the recipes I’ve bookmarked online over the months (okay, let’s face it, years). We’ve discovered so many new kitchen staples, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes that we’ve tried here. Nearly everything we’ve made has been a winner! Some are from those delightful cookbooks I’ve been pawing through (like The Forest Feast), and others have been gems discovered online. Take a peek at the list, and let me know if you try your hand at making any of these recipes yourself!

From The Forest Feast:

From It’s All Good:

From The Sprouted Kitchen:

From The Blogosphere:

  • Oven-Baked Chicken with Lemon & Thyme – Cooking chicken has always intimidated me, for some reason, but now I have a go-to method for making chicken that creates a flavorful, delicious, and juicy outcome. You must incorporate the lemon and thyme for extra special flavor that will have you coming back for seconds.
  • Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing – This is delicious and light, and it gets better each day that it’s left mingling in the fridge. I really liked taking this to work for lunch for several days in a row.
  • Green Detox Smoothie – I crave this delicious blended concoction on a daily basis and, as a result, have been enjoying it every morning for breakfast. I was scared of using the spirulina at first because it smells terrible but you can’t taste it at all and the superfood’s benefits are mind-blowing. The pomegranate seeds on top are a must – they are so yummy!
  • Thai Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – So much flavor! We ate these while I was cleansing so the sweet potatoes were perfect but the chicken mixture would be good on top of anything – rice, quinoa, noodles.
  • Chicken & Poblano Chili – If James had to pick a favorite from the bunch, I think this would be it. This chili is hearty and packed with great spicy flavor. (The original recipe calls for turkey, which would probably be delicious, too.)
  • Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies with Pretzels & Toffee – I mean, DELIGHTFUL.
  • Egg Muffins with Vegetables – Great for breakfast on the go.
 Image via The Everygirl

The Science of Sleep

tumblr_n3j0reGawa1soupgbo1_500

What a whirlwind of a week it’s been. Due to the heart-wrenching Ebola outbreak in West Africa, our upcoming trip to Ghana has been cancelled. Touch A Life, in conjunction with our amazing Medical Advisory Board (comprised of five physicians and one pharmacist, all of whom are equipped with immense knowledge, wisdom, and international travel experience), has decided to cancel the trip for the protection of the children in our care and for the safety of our travelers. Though Ghana is currently not one of the affected areas, its proximity to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea prompted our staff and medical team to have concerns about volunteers traveling to the region. The Ebola virus has not spread to Ghana (so the children and staff at our Care Center are safe and healthy) but the Center for Disease Control recently placed Level 3 restrictions on the affected countries, asking travelers not to take any nonessential trips to those spots. After tons of prayer and deliberation, we agreed that it was unnecessary for our large team of volunteers to take this journey, less because we are worried about the disease itself (though we are still praying hard for those affected, as Ebola is very serious and scary) and more because we are concerned about the instability of the region and the high likelihood of travel delays, flight cancellations, and quarantines in the areas surrounding Ghana. You can learn more about Ebola and the impact of this outbreak, the largest recorded instance in history, from this excellent NPR podcast – this gave me so much additional context for exactly why this specific outbreak is threatening the stability of West Africa. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all of the people and communities who are fighting the spread of this disease, as well as to the brave medical personnel who are fighting alongside them.

On a (semi) lighter note, did anyone else have to read The Hot Zone in high school? The book, about Ebola and its horrifying ability to spread rapidly, was terrifying on its on but even more so when the subject matter actually came to the forefront of our lives last week. Though Ebola has been present in many regions in Africa since the 1970s, last week’s outbreak was extremely notable because the disease, normally contained to rural areas, hopped into urban areas and across country borders, exponentially increasing its ability to spiral out of control. As you can imagine, this shift led to many sleepless nights as our staff prayed fervently for friends in West Africa, for guidance about the decision to cancel the trip, and for the safety of the children in our care. It also brought back the hilarious nightmares I had while reading the book in high school, which were so vivid then that I can still remember them to this day (let’s just say they involved a blue tiger, my history teacher, and a few non-threatening dinosaurs). I like to read before bedtime, as it makes me so relaxed, but I normally stick to books that don’t make me scared to go to sleep, things like chick lit, faith-based books, and magazines. While reading my most recent issue of Real Simple last week, I came upon a fascinating article about sleep called “While You Were Sleeping.” The premise of the article was this:

“‘A lot of people think of sleep as an inert state, like a laptop switching off,’ says Jessica Payne, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology and the director of the Sleep, Stress, and Memory Lab at the University of Notre Dame, in Indiana. ‘But during sleep, your mind and body are actually highly active with processes critical for your physical and mental health.” In fact, your body even performs certain tasks more efficiently and thoroughly when you’re at rest than when you’re alert.

This felt like a personal victory to me, as I’m one of those people who requires a good 10 hours of sleep per night and loves any article that justifies this behavior. I can (and do) go on less, but I know my optimal performance comes after a really restful night’s sleep, so I silently applauded the article’s author, Jennifer King Lindley, for penning such a great piece that didn’t just regurgitate everything we already know about sleep (including the things that we wouldn’t have to read about to know – like, duh, if we get a good night’s sleep, we know that we don’t feel tired the next day) but instead focused on some new, interesting points that illustrate how sleep makes us more efficient, thoughtful, diligent people. The main points of the piece emphasize that:

  1. Sleep heals.
  2. It enhances memory.
  3. Sleep boosts creativity.
  4. It keeps weight in check.
  5. Sleep helps conquer stress.

To those of you who think this topic is a little tired (badda bing), pick up a copy for yourself – this article is worth the read. And if you aren’t crazy about it? At least maybe it will put you to sleep.

Image via Modern Hepburn