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7 Reasons I Hate Halloween

I hate Halloween. I do. And I’m sorry. I understand that most
people love it. My kids love it. They adore it. They might like it
more than Christmas, but as much as I’ve tried. I can’t like it.

1. I abhor going down the Halloween costumes aisle at the store. I do
it because I know how much my children love dressing up and they
want to fondle all of the new costumes. I hate the SMELL of those
plasticy, rubbery disgusting looking masks and I am so sad for the
little ones who are absolutely terrified when big brother or dad
gets a thrill scaring the living shit out of them.

2. I hate the blood and guts and gore and gross images around every
corner. I hate seeing the gross witch faces, zombies, spider webs
and spiders on every corner of every street. The most recent
thrill? A yard filled with dolls on spikes. Yay.

3. I love chocolate almost more than coffee but no, thank you Mr.
Marketing Man, a chocolate EYEBALL is not my idea of a treat. Nor
are waxy, sweet vampire teeth or

4. I hate carving pumpkins. Every freaking year we have to get 5 or 6
pumpkins and then I spend hours scraping out the disgusting
insides of each one while my kids squish their hands through the
insides and tell me how to carve pumpkin. Or they draw some
elaborate design that I am supposed to spend hours cutting out
times 4 pumpkins. Yeah. Fun. Then – I get to clean it all up. Yay!

5. Haunted houses freak me out. Every time. Hate them. Peeled grapes?
Gross. Put my hand in Jello? No freaking way. Yuck.

6. Halloween party food is stupid and disgusting. Sandwiches that
look like fingers? I’ll pass. Cake that looks like a spider? It’s
hard to get me to pass up cake, but ummm….pass.

7. Costumes for babies are dumb. Baby in a lobster pot? Nope. Baby as a burrito? Please stop.

Believe it or not, I don’t hate the fun the kids get going trick
or treating. I know this is a fun ritual and I love visiting
people in our neighborhood and saying hello (when we live in a
neighborhood). I don’t view it as panhandling (like some parents
do) because we’re all in on it.

Mostly I think I hate Halloween because it’s about death and
really, I don’t want to celebrate death and decomposition. I like
celebrating life and living and well, eating.

I know my kids will always choose Halloween and it’s dark, candy-
filled madness, but give me Thanksgiving any day of the week.
Thanksgiving is the least stressful holiday – cooking and eating
and drinking and eating some more.

0

Life Off Grid: A Weekly Shower

For the last year, I’ve only had the opportunity to take a shower once a week – sometimes a little more, sometimes a little less. I covet showers. I adore them and welcome them back into my life like a long lost friend. But I no longer need them the same way I once did.

Every morning since I was 14 (maybe 12 or 13), I’ve taken a shower before starting my day. Of course, there were times when that didn’t happen, such as after the birth of a child or during an illness when I went two or three days without. There were camping trips and expeditions when I went as many as 10 days without a shower. But these occurrences were rare and were always followed up by years at a time when I did, indeed, shower each morning. Sometimes twice in a day if I did my daily walk or run late in the afternoon.

Then I moved to Alaska. In a little cabin, off the grid, without running water. We hauled our water to our cabin from a little spring and had plenty to drink, cook with, clean the cabin and ourselves as well as give to our animals. But we didn’t have a shower. Or a faucet to clean dishes and get a drink of water. Instead we have (we still use this water “system”), a 5 gallon jug with a pump in it and an aquatainer which runs water out just like a faucet.

We brush our teeth, clean our faces, clean our dishes and cook our food with plenty of water. We just don’t shower very often.

For the first month or so, after getting off the daily shower habit, I felt grubby and gross and smelly after day three. After a while, it started to be day four or five. Now, my body has acclimated and I notice that after about a week – about the time I’m “due” for a shower – I really feel like I need one. This goes for my hair as well. I notice my hair starts to look dirty (at least to me) right about day 6. I usually wear a ponytail on those days!

Here are some other things I’ve noticed. My skin is rarely dry anymore. I used to have alligator skin on my heels and elbows and lower legs. Not anymore. Not one rough patch. I also used to lose a lot of hair. My hair brush was full of hair and I noticed some in the shower. Likely from washing it so much. Now, there’s hardly a hair anywhere except on my head – including the gray ones, which I really wish would just take a leap at this point.

I’ve also noticed that even though I’ve tried to take long showers, like I used to, I just can’t. I can’t stay in there that long. In fact, I once used $2 in quarters for four minutes in a shower at a Laundromat (Alaska has a lot of these, I love Alaska) and I was done and kind of standing there waiting for the water to run out. It was a little weird.

Anyway, what’s my point? Stop taking so many showers! I’ll bet your skin and hair get healthier and after the initial acclimation period, you won’t even notice. If you have a water bill, I’ll bet it goes down a bit, too.

0

The Family That Travels Together, Pees Together

And also eats, sleeps, plays and yells together.

We live in a bus. Believe it or not, this was not the result of some sort of hopeless, sad story, but a choice. We choose to live in a bus. It’s a cool bus. It’s big and blue and old. Inside we have an awesome lofted bed for me and the man and the toddler. And the kids have a big futon and some air mattresses to pull out at night. Our living room rug from the cabin is in the bus, so it looks like our old living room and the wooden crates that hold our books make it look almost completely normal.

Inside the bus we have a little camper porta-potty. Unfortunately, we don’t have a little separate area for it yet and so it’s a little embarrassing when someone has to pee – particularly in the middle of lunch. But well, we’re accommodating.

One of the reasons we chose to live in the bus is that we wanted to see more of the world and leave behind our homestead in Alaska where we had lived for the last year trying to fulfill a dream of living the life of homesteading pioneers who hauled their water and lived off the land.

We’re not ambitious enough, I’m afraid, for all that. Because while the setting was idyllic and we accomplished our goal of living off the grid in the middle of nowhere, it got a little stale. There are only so many games of Uno and Scrabble one can play with the under 10 crowd before you really want to start pulling out your hair. Unless most of it is already gone – as mine is – because you sleep with a toddler who thinks it’s a hoot to grab onto your hair in the middle of the night and shove her feet into it, removing full ponytails full at a time. My husband has this same experience with his chest hair, but let’s face it, if he goes out to the store without a handful of chest hair, no one is going to point and laugh.

Continue reading

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I ATE CARBS! Be not afraid…

I recently got over a fear of carbs. When I was a kid we ate carbs all the time. Only I didn’t know they were “carbs” then, I thought they were just food.

It turns out that these devilish little things – the carbs – have been making me fat for years, except that I wasn’t fat. Well, except for the time that I was but truthfully, being pregnant or nursing every day for five years in a row will also make me pudgy no matter how many or few carbs I eat.

Several years ago, I fell into this low-carb, no-carb, no grain diet thing. And I was pretty good at it. And I lost some weight. Of course, it didn’t occur to me that I also was running a dog team, running 5 miles a day and over year past having a baby and that was probably why I lost a lot of weight. But I felt like I was doing something positive, so I stuck with it.

Then one day I hate some carbs and I didn’t throw up, die or get fat. So the next day I ate some more. Same thing. In one day I ate both bread on my sandwich at lunch AND potatoes at dinner! The horror!

Guess what? Still not fat. OK – I’m not really THIN, either, but truthfully, I never have been.

Frankly, I’m tired of worrying about what’s in my freaking food all the time. I mean, sometimes I wish I could be one of those ignorant people, slurping down their gallon jug of Mountain Dew and gnawing on chips and Kraft Mac and Cheese all day.

I do.

I want to make dinner in a microwave and be like, “Yeah, I cooked.”

But I can’t. Because I can like, read.

Instead, I’m obsessed with label reading to the point that I even evaluate the junk food we eat to make sure it’s at least a little less awful then the alternatives. Yes, I buy the natural hot dogs. Because the fact that we’re consuming fatty beaks and eyelids isn’t bad enough – I have to make sure that the eyelids, beaks and butts weren’t soaked in sodium nitrate first because that matters.

Like most women, I’ve also been pretty obsessed with my pant’s size and weight for far too long. I’ve tried most diets and flirted with most eating disorders. I even considered trying to become anorexic once, but then I got hungry and gave it up.

Having had morning sickness eight times pretty much put the kibosh (I don’t know what this is exactly except that it means I didn’t do it) on excessive drinking and any consideration I ever gave to sticking my finger down my throat.

Pretty much, I’ve just decided that I’m going to eat as well as I can except when I can’t – or don’t feel like it. As for those last 10 or 20 pounds (yeah, it fluctuates) that I’ve been trying to lose since I had my fourth kid about 10,000, I mean 16 years ago. Screw it. They’re going on the anti-bucket list, the list of stuff I used to think was important and now realize that I will likely never do it, because really, I don’t want to.

Yup, watch out world. I’m gonna eat and exercise and eat some more. And then maybe I won’t exercise at all. Maybe I’ll just sit here. Yeah. Take that.

Other things on my anti-bucket list include running a marathon – OK, running more than a mile or two anymore at all; eating kale more than like once a month; and skydiving. None of it. Not gonna happen. And I’m OK with that.

6

Last week I was pregnant.

I am having a miscarriage today. I wasn’t very far along but each cramp and other unpleasantness reminds me that for a couple of weeks, I was pregnant. I was kind of in that stage where you’re pretty sure you’re pregnant but not so sure yet. I was really sure last weekend, then on Tuesday, I knew I wasn’t anymore.

I’m kind of “old” to have a baby but I looked it up to see if anyone else at 42 ever had one – and there have been many. Savannah Guthrie (the host of the Today Show) just had a baby and she’s 42.

I was a little scared to have another baby, what with my new disease diagnosis and a recent flare up that was quite severe. But then I was excited. I know it sounds crazy, but I’m always excited to have another baby…even though the thought of being that huge again – and I do get HUGE – is very unappealing.

I can picture myself trying hard to desperately lift my huge belly and swing it over to the other side as I turn in bed. I also spent a lot of time imagining myself making 30 trips an hour to the bathroom.

But, I’ve done that before. It’s not so bad. And I have a lot of really cool people around to help me out so I was good with the idea. I even went so far as to warn the kids about a potential new person. They were happy.

I always feel a little less when I have a miscarriage. This is my fourth. So I’ve been pregnant 12 times total in my life. This one is, at least, only at the 6 week mark – so not as emotionally-wrecking as the one I had well into my fourth month.

I know that miscarriages are nature’s little safety net – a way to make sure that if your arm is really growing out of your ear, then maybe we should try again. The idea of being pregnant gave me a little light in what has been a very dark time in my life. It’s feeling a little darker today.

But anyway. last week, I was pregnant. I’m not now.

0

You Know You’re A Rural Mother If:

pee

You might be a rural (no, not redneck) mom if:

You can’t get a moment’s peace, even in the outhouse.

Your backyard swimming pool is a very deep mud hole.

The people who work at the local feed store know you by name and animal feed type.

You have laundry hanging in your living room.

Your Carharrt pants are your good, going to town clothes.

You pay hundreds of dollars every week to buy food, fencing supplies and housing materials for the farm animals.

You tell your kids to wear their mud boots to town when their pants get too short.

Your four-wheeler isn’t a toy but an extra car.

You have ever driven your kids to swimming lessons on a four-wheeler.

Your kids grab on to the car seats and holler “YEE HAW!” as you drive up your dirt driveway.

A cacophony of animal sounds either A.) welcomes you home from the store or B.) alerts you to something (like a bear) lurking in your yard in the middle of the night.

You go to the library to stock up on movies and use the high speed Internet because you don’t have TV and the service at your house either A.) sucks or B.) is limited by some inane satellite service FAP plan or C.) is cellular based.

You have a blog and a Facebook account because no one lives near you and you need a social life.

Did I miss anything…? Add it to the comments!

Do you want one of my books? They’re pretty funny too!

 

 

6

On Being “Sick”

Because Facebook is sometimes a rumor mill and not a great place to clarify information, I am posting this here on my blog so that those who are curious will have a place to verify it :-) Yes, I gave up my sled dog team because I have Lupus. This blog is much better at explaining it than I am.

Here’s what I know. I know that Lupus can sometimes be caused by the shingles virus (Herpes Zoster). I know that at about the same time Kiara got sick with Bell’s Palsy, I started to get worse – although it appears that I’ve had flare ups for longer – possibly since the older kids got chicken pox and John got shingles way back in 1998.

Every 10 -14 days I experience a series of symptoms that are impossible to stop. I have  a rash on my legs that comes back (it never disappears completely but it does go dormant during my “off” times.) Then I get ferocious neck and upper back pain that makes it impossible to move those muscles well. The day after, I will usually get feverish off and on coupled with a crushing fatigue that has me falling asleep in the middle of the day – randomly. Lately, I have had mini-seizures during the fever. I thought we were having earthquakes. I also have the craziest dreams the night before the sleepy days. Then I have a few days where I sleep until like 10 am and still need a nap during the day. John really loves me on those days. Along with all of this, I experience massive nausea and gastrointestinal pain and some times pain in my legs or shoulders. Then it subsides and I think I was crazy.

Ten days later, it  starts again. Another quick link to what Lupus does.

When I was training dogs and training myself physically to get in shape for all those races I wanted to do, the symptoms became so severe that I was experience pain in my chest and fatigue so severe that I didn’t even want to get out of bed to run dogs.

Lupus is aggravated by stress and anyone who knows about running dogs knows there is a bit of stress involved. I was stressed from training both myself and the dogs, stressed from the financial issues of running races, stressed with the marital discord that the financial stress brought and stressed because I felt like I was depriving my children of my time and money.

I also learned that at my present pace, if I continued on, I would likely die sooner than I would like. Lupus doesn’t just make you feel like garbage – it’s eating away at your organs while it’s doing it.

So, I made the hardest decision of my life…again. Sometimes, you have to see the writing on the wall. While one of my greatest dreams might be to run the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest, it’s not going to happen. Because, you see, my other great dream was to have a large family and be with them as much as possible. They are my dream and I will not let them down at the expense of my personal desires.

I have now tried this mushing dream of mine a few times and each time I hit a wall. So, sometimes, you have to admit defeat and do something else. I am admitting defeat. I truly don’t know if I will ever find my way back to mushing and owning my own kennel again. I pray every day that God will fill the space in my heart where mushing lives. I doubt He can.

But that’s OK. Not everything has to go the way we plan. I know many mothers who have lost children and that hole will never be filled. Plenty of people don’t get to be or do the things they want. I’ve gotten to do almost everything I’ve ever hoped for. Not running the Iditarod will be a life long sorrow, but it will not keep me down. I will find other things to do.

My favorite line in a movie is this: “It will be alright in the end. If it’s not alright, it’s not the end.”

It’s not the end.

3

When Did Americans Get So Squeamish?

 

Our humble outhouse.

According to the EPA, the average American family uses 400 gallons of water every day. So about 100 gallons per person. The bathroom is the largest consumer of the water.

For the last year, my family has lived in a small (400 square foot) cabin off-the-grid in rural Alaska. We have consumed, on average, two (yes, two) gallons of water per person, per day. There are seven of us in the cabin – my husband, me and five of our eight children. Three of our children are now grown and on their own.

We haul our water from a spring about two miles away. We fill up five gallon jugs, load them in our truck and drive them over our trail. Six months out of the year, we have to use either a four-wheeler, snowmachine or our legs to bring the water in the last half a mile.

I was watching a show the other night – a show I will never watch again, but the premise looked interesting – about a group of individuals who are trying to make a “Utopian” civilization. One of their biggest concerns was “when will we get a toilet?” They had to have a toilet. So important to have a toilet.

My question is, “when did we humans get so squeamish?”

For thousands of years, people have been digging holes and composting their own “manure.” Now, while I greatly appreciate modern sanitation practices, the fact that we now require, not recommend or even prefer, but demand and require that all households have an appliance or two or three that flushes gallons and gallons of drinkable, potable water into pipes – or the ground without ever passing the lips of a person or washing a dish, is absolutely sickening to me.

The UN says that average person needs 13 gallons of water each day to drink, eat, clean and the like. I’m telling you that even that is overkill, but we do a lot of sponge baths during the week and then pay for a shower at the Laundromat or go to the pool once or twice a week and use the showers in the locker room.

In Africa, average daily consumption is about five gallons per person per day. So really, my family has existed quite easily, I might add, on what a normal African family might have. The difference being that we have beautiful fresh water available to us all of the time – we just have to go and get it.

And yes, we use an outhouse. It’s not a horrible thing. It doesn’t smell – well, no more than our bathroom ever did after a number of us used it. Even going outside in the dark in the middle of the winter is not such a big deal. I have a good parka.

We empty the water that’s used to wash the dishes into a bucket and that water is used to either “dampen” down what’s in the outhouse hole or water plants. We generally use biodegradable soap – when we can find it. If we don’t have environmentally friendly soap – into the outhouse hole it goes. Or we use it as a “weed killer.” Although, truthfully, where we live, we don’t care a lot about weeds – in fact, we like most of them – particularly the fireweed, which is quite beautiful and surrounds our house.

In the winter, when it was particularly difficult to get out and get down into town (we live about 16 miles away from our town, down a very treacherous in the winter road), I melted snow so that I could clean our laundry by hand. That takes a lot of water – about 20 gallons to wash and rinse. We then hang our clothes up on the line inside the cabin. When we can, I take our clothes to the Laundromat, but we always bring them home to hang – it’s cheaper. So, if we do laundry at home, it does take quite a bit more water. Bumps our average up to about five gallons per person, per day – so we’re at the African average. Not quite hitting that UN goal. Hmmm, somehow, I’m not thirsty.

What’s even more interesting is not that it’s possible to live on this amount of water every day, but the fact that none of us feel deprived or “put out,” doing it. It took us about a week – maybe two – to get over the novelty of hauling water and to develop a system. Now, it’s absolutely a no-brainer. And we don’t smell more because we only shower once or twice a week.

In fact, we have all noticed our skin and hair is healthier, smoother and in less need of lotions because we shower less.

The only thing I truly feel bad about is the fact that my youngest daughter, Anais, who is now 19 months and has spent most of her life in the cabin, is absolutely terrified of running water when we go somewhere that has it. It’s truly a foreign concept to her. I wish it could always be that way.

 

0

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Decision Making

 

We make hundreds, maybe thousands, of decisions everyday. From the minuscule to the huge. From “Do I wear green socks or blue?” to “Do I really need to buy that car?” Every time we have to choose, no matter how small the choice may seem, we are depleting our energy and creating stress.

Making decisions is hard work. The key is to make fewer decisions and reserve your energy for the big ones. President Obama, in a Vanity Fair article, said, “You need to remove from your life the day-to-day problems that absorb most people for meaningful parts of their day… You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”

1. Your brain requires glucose to make good decisions.

Psychological scientists X.T. Wang and Robert D. Dvorak from the University of South Dakota studied how blood sugar levels affect the way we think. “Volunteers answered a series of questions asking if they would prefer to receive a certain amount of money tomorrow or a larger amount of money at a later date. They responded to seven of these questions before and after drinking either a regular soda (containing sugar) or a diet soda (containing the artificial sweetener aspartame). Blood glucose levels were measured at the start of the experiment and after the volunteers drank the soda.

“The results, reported in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, reveal that people’s preferences for current versus later rewards may be influenced by blood glucose levels. The volunteers who drank the regular sodas (and therefore had higher blood glucose levels) were more likely to select receiving more money at a later date while the volunteers who drank the diet sodas (and who had lower blood glucose levels) were likelier to opt for receiving smaller sums of money immediately. These findings are suggestive of an adaptive mechanism linking decision making to metabolic cues, such as blood sugar levels.”

While drinking a soda before you make a choice is not the answer, keeping your blood sugar levels up by eating small amounts of healthy food throughout the day will likely improve your decision-making abilities.

2. Bad decisions come from mental fatigue.

Once you start getting tired, you start making bad decisions. Whether you’re not eating well, have had a long day or are simply tired, bad decisions will start to happen. If you’re “too tired to care,” then Oreos for dinner might sound like a great idea. Or instead of going to the gym or for a walk, sitting on the couch and watching TV becomes very enticing.

According to a research study published by the National Academy of Sciences, psychologists examined the factors that impact whether or not a judge approves a criminal for parole.

“The researchers examined 1,112 judicial rulings over a 10-month period. All of the rulings were made by a parole board judge, who was determining whether or not to allow the criminal to be released from prison on parole. (In some cases, the criminal was asking not for a release, but rather for a change in parole terms.)” While you might think the judges were affected by the type of crime committed, you’d be wrong. Instead, the judges choices were more influenced by whether or not they had just had a food break. Most — about 65 percent — of the potential parolees, received parole early in the morning or after a break, regardless of the crime.

Those who had their hearings early in the morning or after lunch were much more likely to get parole than those who sat before the judge at the end of the morning or the end of the day, when the judges were likely, let’s face it, crankier.

3. Develop routines to overcome decision fatigue.

I have a pretty solid morning routine, no matter what my day is like. I wake up, make coffee, check email and social media – just to “wake up.” Then I get right into writing my first couple of articles. Then I eat breakfast. I do this every single morning. I get a lot done this way too. I also have routines for when I feed my dogs (I have 23) and different but similar routines for my workouts and different days when I have to be in different places. Routines are essential to good decision making because they eliminate the minor decisions that often take up the day.

4. Eliminate decisions.

Plan out your decision making before you have to make it. Put out what you’re going to wear in the morning. Decide what or where you will eat. Deciding these beforehand, eliminates the need to spend time on the decisions the next day — and potentially fighting your willpower. Be resolved to wake up and work out and you will.

5. Sleep well.

Sleeping better helps you make better decisions. If you are feeling rested, you won’t be tempted by that mid-morning doughnut or the temptation to not go for a run. Try and get to sleep about the same time every night. Make it a routine. If there is a day every week that plays a show you like on TV, incorporate that into your routine or record it for viewing at an earlier hour. It’s important to get the right amount of sleep for you. If you can, incorporate a nap into your schedule. Even 20 minutes can give you a boost and help you conquer your decisions.

6. Make commitments, not decisions.

Don’t stand at the door trying to decide if you should go for a walk. Instead, plan it into your day. Think about the things that you want to do — I mean the things you really want to do and plan for them. If you want to lose 40 pounds, figure out the steps necessary to make that happen. Plan out your meals and schedule workout time. Making this a part of your daily routine means that you don’t have to decide anymore. You just have to follow your schedule.

I used to hate going for a walk or a run. I thought it was boring. But I knew I had to do it in order to lose the weight I had to lose and get back into shape. So I scheduled time in my afternoon. Coincidentally, this time (about 3pm) is about the time everyday when I used to want to lay on the couch, watch TV and take a nap. Now, even if I feel like laying down, I lace up my sneakers and start walking. Usually kind of slowly at first, until I get into the groove and start running or do some sprints. All of a sudden, I’m having a great workout. But I wouldn’t if left to my own devices. Plan. It helps.

7. Prepare for moments of weakness.

I know that everyday around 3 pm, I’m not going to feel like walking or running. I have to mentally prepare myself for this little argument I have with myself. Sometimes, it’s just about changing motions. I have to go and get a fresh pair of socks, put on my shoes. And then, well, I have my shoes on, I might as well just walk a little. I don’t have to go really far, I telly myself. Just get out the door and get some air. Then I grab one of my dogs and we walk along and pretty soon I’m running or jogging or climbing hills with them, having a good time. Now that I’ve done this routine everyday for about four years, I know I’ll feel better once I get going. But it wasn’t always like that. I had to prepare for that weak moment.

This is also true with food. I love carbs and sweets. Really. I would eat them all the time. Bread, cookies, you name it. I had to stop. I also had to learn to walk away when my cravings got bad. I learned that I would eat a treat around 9:30 or 10 pm in front of the TV. For a long time, I started going to bed at 9 pm with a book. I would read and then fall asleep, never getting the treat because it was down in the kitchen instead of staring me in the face. Learning to prepare and act before the weak moment comes is key to good decision making.

8. Take time for yourself.

If you are at work and you are constantly confronted with decisions, you might, just like the judges mentioned above, start to get a little cranky. Take a break when this starts to happen. Go outside and walk or sit under a tree and read a book you like. Getting a mental break from issues that aren’t your own is essential to your own mental clarity and will help you make better decisions later on in the day.

9. Shopping is exhausting. Avoid it if you can.

Why is online shopping so much easier than shopping in person? You are making fewer decisions. If you know you want a certain pair of sneakers, online, you can just go get those sneakers and buy them. At the store, though, you have a multitude of options and then, decisions to make.Researchers found that those making shopping decisions gave up more quickly on a math test.

10. Let your unconscious mind work for you.

Have you ever felt confounded by a problem? Have you ever gone to “sleep on it,” and awoken understanding the problem better? Sure, we all have. Sometimes, relaxing, focusing on something else or getting some sleep, can help you clear away the detritus around the problem and let your mind do the work. Believe it or not, your brain is still working whether you are thinking about something or not. Relax. Go play volleyball and let your brain do the heavy-lifting for a while.

This post originally appeared on Lifehack.org