health

healthy work-from-home habits.

When I put out my last call for questions that you’d like to see addressed here on the blog (you can still submit them here!), a few people asked me about how I’ve kept up a healthy eating and workout routine while working from home, and if my approach to it has changed at all since I left my former life in corporate America. Due to some recent circumstances, I’ve made a bunch of adjustments to what I was doing before — both a few months ago in my freelance life and a few years ago in my 9-to-5 life — so it seems like the perfect time to share what’s been working for me lately!

Some of you may know that I’ve been working through some more general health concerns over the last few weeks, a process that’s forced me to take stock of how I’ve been treating my body and what I can do to better serve it. I’ve been pretty passionate about nutrition and exercise since my early college days, but the (thankfully minor) bumps in the road I’ve encountered these past few months in terms of my health have been a welcome reminder that there are lots of ways to be “healthy.” Just because I think I’m doing all the right things to stay well and in shape doesn’t mean that those hard and fast rules work for my body. For many years, they did, but I’m learning to make adjustments and it’s actually been a really good thing.

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I’ve written previously here about both my chronic insomnia and my long-standing digestive issues, but what I haven’t shared is that I also deal with intense hives. Without allergy medicine every day, I will literally find myself covered in a hot, itchy rash 90 percent of the time. At one point, I thought it was simply sensitive skin or a harmless allergy, but as it grew worse earlier this year, I began to wonder if it was somehow connected to my sleep and stomach issues — and if all of these problems could be addressed with one magic solution. Over the summer, I met with an allergist and immunologist, who worked with me on a few tests that were ultimately inconclusive. I have some other doctors to see that will hopefully have more answers for me, but in the meantime, I’ve adopted some new habits at the recommendation of the immunologist, and they’ve definitely impacted my general health!

Our recent trip to California also forced me to take a step back and reconsider my health habits. I guess it’s pretty cliché for my New York self to come back from the west coast with a new lease on food and fitness, but what can I say? Call me cliché! In the three weeks since we’ve been back from our vacation, I’ve noticed some changes in my health philosophy. Combined with the changes suggested by the doctor, those mental shifts have felt really good, especially within the framework of my work-from-home life.

  • Sleep: You may already know that I’ve been dealing with insomnia for the better part of four years now, but one tiny little adjustment has made a big difference recently. Vitamin D! My autoimmune doctor suggested it and I’m so grateful. It’s just the generic drugstore kind, but one pill a day has been making it a lot easier for me to fall — and stay — asleep. Game changer!
  • Diet: Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been managing chronic digestive issues that are still generally undiagnosed. Thanks to some changes in my diet, my belly problems have gotten mostly better, but our trip to California inspired me to test out some other dietary routines, and I’m so happy did! What I realized in California (warning: another total cliché coming up) is that I haven’t been placing enough emphasis on real, well-made foods. I’ve been focusing so much on what’s gluten-free that I’ve almost totally eliminated foods that can actually fuel me, turning instead to anything that had that “GF” label on the package. And guess what? A lot of those foods aren’t really that good for you! I realize how lucky I am not to have Celiac Disease (I took gluten out of my diet a few years ago — along with garlic and onion — when I experimented with the Low FODMAP diet, a process that really did cure most of my symptoms), and I thought it was time that I start bringing a few whole wheats back into rotation. I’m still sticking with gluten-free pastas and staying away from anything too gluten-y (I know it’s not a word), but I’m feeling much healthier since I said goodbye to gluten-free packaged snack foods and started allowing myself a fresh piece of bread here and there. I’m leaner and more energized, and I suspect that this change might also have helped my sleep. Garlic and onion are still my major triggers, so I won’t be bringing those back any time soon.
  • Exercise (and not exercise): For years and years, I’ve relied on exercise as the primary factor in my health. I viewed myself as a healthy person because I worked out six days a week, and I pretty much assumed that the rest would fall into place. Exercise is still really important to me, but when I last went to see my doctor, he schooled me on how much stress I put on myself when I go to the gym on just a few (or zero) hours of sleep. This is the kind of stress, he said, that causes hives and an intensification of my stomach pain, so I’ve tried to force myself to take more rest days — and I definitely don’t push myself toward a hardcore workout after a sleepless night. Instead, I’ll take a long walk outside mid-afternoon, which has the added benefit of clearing my head and getting this WFH-er into the outside world! I’m still going to the gym about five days a week, but I’m also looking for other opportunities to be active in different ways when I know it’s better for my body.
  • Meals: Figuring out my meal schedule — and resisting the urge to snack constantly from my all-too-available kitchen — has been an ongoing process since I started working from my home office, and lately, I think I’m in a good groove. Here are a few tips:
    • Make breakfast the night before. I prep my oatmeal every night before bed so that it’s ready and waiting for me when I wake up the next day. This way, I’m not tempted to creep (yes, creep) around my kitchen considering less healthy options, and I know right when I wake up that there’s a hearty, delicious meal on tap.
    • Maintain consistency. When it comes to breakfast and lunch, I pretty much eat the same thing (or a variation of the same thing) every day, at least for a few weeks at a time. It takes the guesswork out of planning my meals for the day and helps me avoid those bouts of hanger that will typically lead me to a handful or five of chocolate covered pretzels. I picked up this routine while working in a more traditional office, and it hasn’t failed me yet!
    • Take advantage of meal prep and leftovers. I love a good Meal Prep Sunday as much as the next girl, but we’re on the road so often on the weekends that I usually can’t swing it. Instead, I’ve been upping the quantities I’m cooking at dinnertime (especially salads or veggie side dishes) and packing them away for the next day.
    • Plan your snacks. I’m a grazer by nature, and no matter how hard I try to resist temptations, my fridge is always going to be just a few steps from where I’m working. Instead of driving myself crazy fighting off snack cravings, I plan ahead by buying snack foods that won’t make me feel sick or guilty, and budgeting time to eat them into my schedule.

If you’re still working on your health journey (or if you’re in the market for advice that’s way more expert than mine!), check out the Kickstarter campaign for my friend Meghan Meredith‘s Whole Body Fitness planner. I can attest to the fact that it’s an awesome product! It’s also really special to be able to support Meghan’s big dream, which has been such an investment in time and sweat equity for her. Check out Meghan’s recent guest post for a preview of what this resource is all about — then pledge your support on Kickstarter if you’re feeling inspired! 

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my bed (a sleep + work update).

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The big news in the Kosik household is that we are getting a new mattress this weekend.

If you think that I’m being sarcastic when I say that’s the big news, I promise you that I’m actually not. My husband — who is a major research buff — has been diligently (obsessively?) comparing mattress models for the past few months, and last week he finally picked one. It’s getting delivered tomorrow morning and, honestly, there’s so much excitement about it that I’m not sure anyone will even be able to sleep on the mattress we already have tonight. It’s like Christmas morning! When we moved in together, Matt inherited the bed I brought with me when I first came to New York back in 2012, which happens to be an older Sleep Number model — and he likes to joke that we’ve been sleeping on a “giant raft.” I’m pretty content with what we have, but he’s convinced that getting a new mattress will help solve my sleep issues. With that logic, I’m willing to make the investment and give it a try!

Given this major new development, I thought I’d do a quick check-in about my sleep problems — what’s worked, what hasn’t, and how I’m managing my insomnia these days. For those of you who are new to the blog, I started struggling with sleep about three years ago. I go through periods during which I literally just can’t fall asleep for days at a time, or (even worse) when I’ll sleep for a total of nine hours in a three-day period before I break down and take an over-the-counter pill. I’ve talked to several of my doctors about these issues, and we haven’t been able to work out a great solution, so I’ve more or less been figuring it out as I go for the last year or so.

When I wrote my first post about my sleep (or lack therof) a few months ago, I was totally blown away by the outpouring of love and support. It’s amazing how many people have had a similar experience to mine, and I sincerely appreciated every single suggestion I received.

Sleep — and getting back some level of normalcy with my sleep cycle — has continued to be a priority for me. Each month, when I put together my list of monthly goalsSLEEP is always listed at the top of the page. I’ve gone through a few pretty rough periods — recently, for about a month and a half straight, I was waking up at 2:00 AM no matter what time I went to bed — but in the last week or two, I’m finally starting to see an improvement. Here are the small changes I’ve made that seem to have made the difference…

  • I’m eating smaller portions at dinner. I mentioned in my last post that I’ve recently switched up my daily routine. Incidentally, because of my new schedule, I’ve been eating lunch later in the day (usually around 1:30 or 2), and I’m finding myself less hungry at dinnertime. Dinner used to be my big meal, but ever since my evening appetite has decreased, I find that I’m falling asleep faster… and actually staying asleep through the night!
  • I’ve given myself permission to fall asleep to a TV show. For so long, I was trying to follow the “no screens” rule before bed, because so many experts say that watching TV or playing with a phone late at night is bad for insomniacs. Recently, I’ve been watching episodes of The Brady Bunch on Hulu as soon as I start to get too tired to read, and usually, I’m out cold within ten minutes. If I happen to wake up again in the middle of the night, I put my headphones in, turn the episode back on, and fall right back to sleep again. It just goes to show you that everyone’s different and that rules (like “no screens”) don’t necessarily apply across the board.
  • I’m “taking back my bedroom” with my new morning routine. This one might sound like a bit of a stretch, but hear me out — in my last post, I mentioned the fact that I’ve been bringing my laptop into bed to work for an hour or so every morning. Usually, I use this time to draft emails, take care of general administrative stuff, and tend to any follow-ups… pretty much any project that doesn’t require a lot of of focused brainpower (for instance, I never do serious writing in bed). By 9 AM, I’ve completed about half of my to-do list, and the day just feels like it has a lot more momentum. Ever since I started doing this, I’ve been sleeping better. My theory is that taking this time for myself each morning (even if it’s work time) has finally made my bedroom feel like a less stressful place. For so long, I felt totally out of control as soon as I got into bed and tried to go to sleep. When I’m working, I feel so in control, and it’s like this crazy switch has now flipped in my brain that allows me to feel that same control when it’s time for bed, too.

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I knew that I was really starting to see progress when I realized yesterday that I’d been having dreams every night for the last week. Dreams! I haven’t had vivid dreams like that since the insomnia set in a few years ago. It’s been a bizarre experience having them again, but believe me — I’ll take it. It will be interesting to see if this new mattress helps even more!

It can be such a struggle not to sleep, and I hope these tips can help you if you’re also feeling the pain. Sweet dreams, and happy weekend snoozing, everyone : )

(P.S. — Monday is giveaway day! See you then!)

 

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seventh month recap.

Happy Monday, friends! Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, I hope you got to enjoy some quality time with loved ones over the last week. Matt and I were traveling to see family for the weekend, but just like that, it’s back to the grind today! Saturday marked seven months since I left my job in corporate America, and since I was busy watching my sister’s college team kick butt on the lacrosse field, I’m sharing my monthly recap today instead (you can check out the last recap here).

Check out some of this month’s developments below. The spring weather (and blooms!) has really given me a new outlook on work, life, and everything in between. I’m loving it!

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  • I’ve been switching up my routine. Initially, I was more or less sticking to my old 9-to-5 schedule: get up and out of the apartment early, get to the gym, then switch into office mode for the rest of the day. In the last few weeks, I’ve sort of naturally changed things around, and I’m really liking the way it’s flowed. I’m still up and moving by 6:30 or 7 at the latest (I’ve always been an early riser, plus Matt is out the door by 6:30, so I’m usually awake, anyway!), but instead of getting right into my workout, I’ve been doing an intense hour-ish of work — and usually in bed. I know, I know… I was pretty high and mighty early on about “never working from bed,” but I find that if I can get the bulk of my administrative work and emails out of the way first thing, it gets my day started on a really productive foot, and if bringing my laptop under the blankets with me from 6:30 to 8 makes that easier, then why not? Lately, I’ve been getting to the gym for a workout (usually a run, since the Brooklyn Half is just a few weeks away!) sometime between 11 and 1, which is a nice way to break up the day.
  • I’m feeling healthy again. After the holiday season, I found myself in a bit of a rut with my exercise and nutrition. I was struggling to control my sweet tooth, having trouble finding ways to eat healthy during the day, and generally feeling icky about myself — and the lack of Vitamin D certainly didn’t help things. Over the last week or two, I’m finally starting to feel back on my game, and I think that changing up my schedule has had a lot to do with it. As much as I love to stick to one consistent ritual, I’m realizing that making small adjustments can totally change my outlook and state of mind.
  • I’ve started taking advantage of outdoor workspaces. I can definitely admit that this is a luxury of working from home, but I’m happy to say that in the first week of spring weather, I indulged in it — enthusiastically. Who knew that so many of the city’s outdoor spaces have WiFi? Over the years, I’ve struggled a lot to figure out if NYC is the right place for me, and I’ve been finding that when I have more opportunities to explore it in the fresh air, I feel a lot more at peace with being a New Yorker. Pretty soon it will probably be too hot to bring my laptop outside, so in the meantime, I’ll enjoy this fun little season of afternoons working on rooftops and in Bryant Park!
  • I’m having to say “no” to things. It’s hard to believe that seven months ago, I was practically begging for any gig I could get my hands on. I still have a long way to go in building out my writing career, but there have definitely been periods lately when I’ve had to force myself to politely turn down new projects, or press pause on hustling for new opportunities. It’s a delicate balance between stalling the growth of my business and letting things get too out of control, and figuring out that balance seems to be an ongoing process!
  • Money is finally feeling less stressful. My natural state is to be frugal, so I don’t think I’ll ever be totally comfortable financially, but seven months in, it feels like my income is now reliable (knock on wood, right?). In the beginning, I often thought to myself, “There’s no way I’ll be able to earn money like this again next month,” and I’m finally starting to believe that my work is paying off in the form of consistent paychecks. It’s important not to get complacent, but it does feel good to be able to take a deep breath and relax about money… and to treat myself to a new pair of shoes every once in a while : )

On to month eight! Thanks, as always, for being the best cheerleaders out there!

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gratitude diaries #5

It’s been a total whirlwind of a week. I spent about 24 hours in Pennsylvania yesterday, driving back and forth on our local highways to a few meetings and doctor’s appointments, trying to make time to stop at the occasional Starbucks to catch up on e-mails here and there. Needless to say, although I’ll definitely have some work to do this weekend, I’m so excited that it’s Friday. Matt and I are having a little staycation in honor of the holiday weekend, and I’m looking forward to catching up on sleep, finishing my book, and two date nights.

To help give myself one last boost to get me through the rest of the day, it seems like the perfect time for another Gratitude Diaries. It’s been way too long since I posted one of these (check out the last installment here). I’m going to try a more casual format today (did I mentioned how tired I am?). Here we go!

I’m grateful for this unseasonably warm weather. It was such a treat to walk outside today without my heavy coat, and even though it’s bound to be short-lived, I’m enjoying every second of it while it’s here. 

I’m grateful for my parents and for the way my relationships with them continue to change and evolve in my adult life. 

I’m grateful for my Origins Charcoal Mask for being a total lifesaver for my face after two days full of driving. 

I’m grateful that I found a (legal) parking spot close to the apartment last night so that I didn’t have too far to walk when I made it back to Brooklyn at 11 PM.

I’m grateful to Matt, who had fallen asleep on the couch last night but set an alarm on his phone so that he would be awake and ready to catch up with me as soon as I arrived.

I’m grateful for the Hamilton soundtrack, which kept me going in the last hour or so of my drive back to New York. There were cars quite literally drag racing around me on the highway, so I was in dire need of something to distract me.

I’m grateful for the many interesting people I’m meeting and getting to interact with in my writing life. 

I’m (really) grateful for chocolate cupcakes.

I’m grateful for my cozy little apartment, which I am alway so happy to come home to.

I’m grateful for the promise of a fun night eating Thai food and catching up with my girlfriends over buy-one-get-one-free cocktails. 

I’m grateful for the (slight) improvement I’ve been experiencing in my sleep cycle lately. 

I’m grateful for the ability to take my work on the road so that I can experience life and take care of myself without having to cut corners professionally.

I am grateful, grateful, grateful. 

Check out some of my favorite thoughts on gratitude from the fabulous Danielle LaPorte. Danielle’s incredibly inspiring, and her #Truthbombs rule.

 

What are you grateful for this week? Let me know in the comments below!

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let’s talk lunch.

Happy Monday, everyone! I hit the ground running this morning, and I don’t know about you, but as of today, it feels like 2017 is officially in full motion.

It felt great getting back into my usual schedule last week, but on Friday, I realized that I’d been struggling with one aspect of my routine. By the time Matt got home from the office at the end of the week, ready to start our weekend together, I was feeling run-down, dizzy, and totally exhausted. As he is always such a rock star at doing, my husband immediately sat down with me on the couch to talk through things and try to figure out what was going on.

Real talk: As I’ve mentioned previously, body image has been a challenge for me for the better part of my life, and while I’ve managed to get to a pretty good place with all of it these days, every now and then, I realize that my eating habits have gotten a little weird. Working from home has been really beneficial and, generally speaking, I feel better than ever. Unfortunately, I realized last week that I had really not been taking good care of myself where daytime eating is concerned. After a good breakfast after the gym, I was mostly just grazing on small bites throughout the day. Because I tend to work out pretty intensely every morning, my body definitely needs better fuel than I was giving it. It should have come as no surprise that I wasn’t feeling so hot by Friday!

I’ve never been a big fan of lunch foods. As a kid, I didn’t like sandwiches or yogurts or any of the other things that the rest of my classmates packed regularly. On the weekends, I would pick at leftovers or other snacks. In the years since, I’ve gone through phases where I’ve been very unhealthy about lunch (in college, often eating nothing but an apple all day), very healthy about lunch (doing a full meal prep every Sunday while I was working and bringing in grilled chicken and veggies to eat), and everything in between. Because lunch isn’t my favorite meal, I just don’t usually crave a meal in the middle of the day, and since life got so busy around here before the holidays, I admittedly wasn’t paying very good attention to my body.

The way I felt this weekend was a good wake-up call, and with training for my next half marathon starting up in just a few weeks, I’m feeling extra motivated to get back on track. I was at Trader Joe’s this morning before it opened (in the freezing cold!), and I went out of my way to pick up a few extra things that looked good for lunch. Earlier today, I mixed up a big batch of this quinoa salad, and it was really delicious. I’m excited to have it on hand for the rest of the week.

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The ingredients to this salad are quinoa, sauteed baby spinach, edamame, cucumbers, chia seeds, salt, pepper, and a dash of parmesan cheese.

Do you have any other suggestions for healthy lunches? I’m willing to get back into the habit of setting time aside for weekly meal prep or daily cooking if it means I’ll feel better and more energized! I’d love to hear about some of your favorites.

As always, I appreciate your love and support! It’s not always easy talking about my challenges and stumbling blocks, and it feels great to know I have the support of this online community : )

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