Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Week 2 of "Opposite December"


So, my week 2 of “Opposite December” went as planned with one major exception and that is the focus of this post.  Last week I wrote about the positive effects of abstaining from alcohol and they hold true.  But, last Monday, just as I was ready to take it up a notch exercise-wise (including the treadmill for cardio) I started getting pain in my feet, specifically in my Achille’s tendons.  I chalked it up to my feet adjusting to using my standing desk full-time, but Tuesday, the pain went exclusively to my left foot and Wednesday it transferred to my right foot with a vengeance.  My right foot was swollen and purple and it got so bad that I had to work from home Thursday and Friday: I could barely walk.  The pain wound up radiating from one focal point below my right outside ankle.  This, to me, indicated that I was having another gout flare up even though my uric acid number has fallen significantly since last June when I had my last major flare-up.  It is still affecting me today but is subsiding. 

The lesson in this is that bad health can ruin everything – health must be your number one priority regardless of what stage of life you are in.  I have more energy and focus because of the abstention from alcohol; however, having severe pain saps that energy and my attention very quickly while my brain tries to deal with the pain.  In my case, having lower uric acid levels is not the cure for the gout flare-ups and reducing or eliminating alcohol is supposed to be one of the most reliable tactics for battling gout.  With those variables controlled for, something else is going on and it is probably the stressors that I have in my life that, unfortunately, cannot be realistically reduced at this time. 

I am still trudging forward with my opposite December experiment regardless of the health setback.  I am ahead in my post-doc deliverable due by the end of the month and I had two major epiphanies toward that work that helped me to better contextualize the value of the product and knowledge to the field.   

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Week 1 of "Opposite December"

I am a week in to my “opposite December” where I am taking a 180 degree path away from what most of us do in December – slowing down, more merrymaking, etc.  I decided to take an opposite tack, to only drink twice during the month (during a team happy hour on the 17th that closes down my work year and on New Year’s Eve) and to hit the throttle on work, projects, and exercise while most are slowing down.

A week in to no alcohol has opened my eyes to the many benefits of abstention.  My reason to dial back on the alcohol is related to my health and weight and I’m noticing a significant difference already.  My sleep is profoundly better.  I am sleeping through the night (a sign of getting the deep slow-wave sleep that is foundational to consolidating memories) and I am having my old vivid dreams again.  My memory is better, I feel a greater sense of attentional control, I have greater mental acuity, and I have more energy.  I definitely feel a gastrointestinal difference – I don’t get bloated after meals and my stool is normal versus loose (I know that’s gross).  Alcohol hijacks your liver, so you temporarily have trouble metabolizing other nutrients.  I drink Rumple Minze, which has a high sugar content, making the problem worse.  So reducing or abstaining from alcohol has many metabolic and health benefits – my blood work, though good, will probably improve and the weight will probably come off easier (I am not overweight, I just need to get back down to my fighting weight).  My skin looks better and my eyes are wider and whiter.  

I have a major post doc deliverable due by the end of the month and I have made more progress toward that in the past week than in the past several months.  My attention is focused on those things that really matter; it’s easier to do when I am accelerating while the world slows down.  I have cooked two meals from scratch in the past week, which I’m endeavoring to make a daily habit.  Keep in mind that dopamine (the stress blocker) is not released as the result of an action, it’s released during the process of action (think exercising).  Doing the thing, moving forward in the right direction is the dopamine producer, so making positive steps forward helps to battle cortisol and epinephrine, the stress produced enemies of the body and brain.