sleep

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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october giveaway!

It’s super early on a Monday morning, but I don’t even mind because….

  1. It’s Matt’s birthday and even though it’s a workday for both of us, I get to celebrate him all. day. long.
  2. I SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT LAST NIGHT! Without taking any of my trusty over-the-counter sleep meds. And without any weird dreams. And without waking up once.
  3. It’s time for the October giveaway!

I got such a great response to the Baublebar giveaway back in August that I’ve decided to bring it back for October. One lucky winner will be getting a $25 gift card to this awesome online boutique. Here are a few of my favorite pieces available on the site right now:

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Carisma Semi-Precious Pendant Necklace
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Starfire Druzy Tassel Earrings
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Wishbone Choker
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Celene Bangle Bracelet Set
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Celestrial Drops

So many fun options for the holidays, right? I’m really excited to share a $25 gift card with one of you so you can treat yourself to one of these items — or anything else you love on the site! And while I hope you use this gift card to treat yourself, it might also be a big help toward a gift for someone you love this holiday season : )

All you have to do to enter to win this giveaway is COMMENT on this post! As always, I’d love to see you share this link with friends so that more people have a chance to win (and to check out the blog!). I run a giveaway every month, so you’ll have another shot at winning something fun very soon.

I’ll draw the winner randomly one week from today, Monday 10/30. The winner will be announced right here on the blog. Good luck!

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a random fact for every mile.

I never hit “publish” on a blog post in the middle of the night, so by the time you’re reading this, it will probably be a perfectly acceptable hour on Friday morning… but, for the record, it’s currently 1:16 AM.

Until now, it’s actually been a really great week for me where sleep is concerned (a cause for celebration over here!). It should come as no surprise to any of us, though, that the insomnia that I so love to hate is back at it so close to tomorrow’s half marathon. I have to check in at the start of the race at about 5:45 AM on Saturday morning, which means I am now about 28 hours away! Please cross your fingers right along with me that I’ll be able to wind down for a solid night of sleep later tonight. (Tomorrow night? It’s unclear. But you catch my drift.)

In honor of the 13.1 miles I have ahead of me — and also because it’s fun — I’m sharing 13 random facts about myself below. I bet even my close friends and family members won’t know them all : )

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Don’t mind the man lurking behind me. I’m just hangin’ out in my favorite hat.
  1. It took me a truly embarrassingly long time to learn to ride a two-wheeler. By the time I had it down, I was probably closer to seven than six. Even then, I refused to turn left, and instead rode loops in one direction for hours at a time in the parking lot of my dad’s high school (which was the place where, after months of hard work, I finally figured the whole thing out).
  2. The fact that our guests weren’t allowed to shower Matt and I with rainbow sprinkles as we walked down the aisle after our ceremony was one of the very few things about our wedding that didn’t go the way I wanted it to. Believe me, I asked. More than once.
  3. I played Kim MacAfee in a Girl Scout camp production of Bye, Bye Birdie circa 2003. It was the single highlight of my musical theater career.
  4. Since moving to New York, I’ve developed an irrational fear of falling down the stairs. I blame all of the frantic trips down the subway steps.
  5. It took me three tries to get my driver’s license, but I haven’t so much as scratched or dented a car since then (knock on wood).
  6. I know every word to “Paradise By the Dashboard Lights,” thanks to a loooooonnnngggg family road trip to Canada a few years ago during which we listened to an old Meatloaf CD and little else.
  7. I bake a mean chocolate chip cookie.
  8. Halloween is my absolute least favorite holiday. I know this is a highly controversial opinion, but I hope we can still be friends.
  9. Disneyworld commercials make me cry. Ever since our honeymoon to Antigua, ads for Sandals all-inclusives have the same effect.
  10. As a teenager, I was one of those girls who thought it was super cool to wear cheap stilettos from Payless and the Macy’s double clearance rack to school. I felt totally fabulous, but believe me, it didn’t really match my image. Ironically, I could probably count the number of times I wear a heel annually as an adult on my fingers.
  11. When I was in third grade, I started a class newspaper.
  12. On the rare occasion that I go on a YouTube binge, I typically stick to videos of Jimmy Fallon’s Puppy Predictors and clips of “Hot Topics” from The View.
  13. I’ve always hated coffee, but now that so much of my work life revolves around meetings and work sessions in coffee shops, I’m learning to drink it. I have to admit that in the hot temperatures we’ve had in New York for the past few days, an iced coffee feels pretty good.

Happy weekending, everyone! If you’re feeling inspired by my random confessions, feel free to leave a random fact about yourself in the comments below. In case you couldn’t tell already, this is a judgement-free zone.

And don’t forget to check back in early next week… Tuesday is giveaway day! I can’t wait to share this month’s prize with you! 

 

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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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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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my word for 2017.

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you all finished out the holiday season with plenty of good vibes and that your 2017 is already feeling fantastic : )

Over here, it’s (unfortunately) looking like the first sleepless night of the new year (ugh), but I’m super excited about this post, so I thought I would get a jump on it, anyway!

Last week, I blogged about the word I used to set up my intentions for 2016 (check it out here), and I spent some time over the last few days reflecting about my word for 2017. I feel really great about using this word as a theme, and I’m psyched to be sharing it with you here. I hope you’ll help keep me accountable! My word for 2017 is…

ABUNDANCE

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Although I couldn’t have predicted it back in January of 2016, last year ended up being about paring things down. As most of you know, once things calmed down a bit after our wedding in June, I was forced to think really hard about the parts of my life that I could strip down, dismantle, and simplify. I needed to take a super close look at the things that were most important to me, and in doing so, I had to give myself permission to let go of the stresses and expectations that were making me feel so crummy all the time (and for no good reason). Lots of reflection and worrying brought me here, to this brand new world of freelance writing and the completely different lifestyle that has come with it.

I am so grateful for last year’s focus on peace. Without it, I’m not sure I would have understood how important it was for me to make some life-shaking decisions over the past few months. But after a year of stripping down and simplifying, I’m ready to take a new approach to 2017, which brings me to: abundance.

My goal for the coming year is to approach every aspect of my life with the expectation that there are abundant opportunities open to me. I want to put in an abundance of work and (hopefully) reap abundant rewards as a result. I am ready to approach my professional life with new energy and commitment, and I don’t want there to be any limits on what I’m willing to do in order to grow my writing career. In my personal life, I want to seek abundance, too. I’ve always tended to feel like there is some sort of cap on the amount of joy allotted per person (it’s silly, I know) or on the extent to which every day can feel special or magical — and I’m going to work hard to change my perspective on that. In the three months since I’ve decided to totally switch gears, I’ve realized just how abundant the opportunities are for us to enjoy the simplest things in our daily routines. In 2017, I am going to try to squeeze every last bit of that goodness out of life. I also hope that I can grow to be more abundantly generous in my relationships this year.

I’ve never been one for excess, and while my focus on abundance isn’t really about going over the top, I do want to allow myself to work for, ask for, and enjoy MORE of all of the good things that life has to offer in the year ahead.

Last year, I wore a mantra necklace (from The Shine Project, of course) to remind me to practice peace. This year, I’ve decided to give myself a daily reminder right here on my desk — there’s no way to ignore it!

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Do you have a word in mind to inspire you in 2017? I’d love to hear it! Please share in the comments below!

(P.S. — I’m still bragging my latest byline over at Refinery29. Check it out here — this was a bucket list writing opportunity for me and I couldn’t be more excited about it!)

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two month recap.

 

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Image credit: Pinterest/spoken.ly

Somehow in the craziness of the world this past week, it’s crept up on me that it has been TWO months since my last day of work pre-freelancing.  It’s hard to believe how much has changed in the four weeks since my one-month recap, and I’m happy to be sharing the strides I’ve made (as well as some of the continuing challenges!) with you today.

Here are the major updates:

  • I’M PUBLISHED!  Obviously, when I left my corporate gig to become a writer, the goal was to be a published writer, and my greatest fear was that I would end up feeling totally silly with nothing to show for my leap of faith.  Within just the last few weeks, I’ve become a regular contributor to Brit + Co, and yesterday, an essay that I wrote for The Kitchn went live.  The fact that just one month ago I was working my butt of and still waiting to see a byline anywhere and now I have a little starter portfolio of clips to my name — it makes me happier than you can imagine.  (As a reminder, I link all of my work as it’s posted right here to the blog!)
  • I’m feeling the benefits of calling my own shots.  Now that I’m getting more traction and seeing the evidence of my efforts in a more tangible way, I’m really starting to understand how the hustle works.  My success — and my paychecks — are directly correlated to the amount of time I invest and the number of ideas I can generate.  As safe as it felt to get a consistent paycheck every two weeks in my previous job, I feel so much pride when I see that my willingness to put in extra work often results in a greater reward.  It’s certainly less predictable financially (especially in these early stages), but now that I can actually see how satisfying it is to make my own luck, I am all the more motivated to be my own boss.
  • I’m meeting really interesting people.  Whether I’m connecting with fellow freelancers at a coffee shop or interviewing people who are doing really awesome things for my articles, I’m loving the opportunities I have to build professional relationships in a new way.  Working from home can feel lonely at times, and I was almost entirely isolated for my first month, so it’s been totally refreshing to network with a community of other writers and creatives.
  • My confidence is growing.  As a journalism student, one of my biggest struggles was conducting interviews.  Although I’m usually pretty self-assured, if you put me in front of a source for a story, I would immediately become uncomfortable and awkward.  It’s amazing what a few years of life experience can do for your conversation skills!  I still get pre-interview jitters here and there, but it’s nothing compared to the anxiety I used to get.
  • The bad news — I’m still not sleeping.  You can check out a post detailing all of my sleep issues here, but the short update is that I am still really struggling to get enough rest.  I’m sticking to my goal of phasing out my (formerly) beloved over-the-counter sleep aids, and I know I’ll be happy I did it in the end, but right now I just feel completely exhausted.

Sometimes I forget that what I’m really creating is a “new normal,” and that someday, it won’t feel like some wild experiment that I’m still figuring out one step at a time.  Until then, I appreciate all of your continued support as I build this new life for myself — growing  pains and all.

 

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