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Health

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I ran 10k for the first time and I liked it

I am not a runner, and have never run 10 kilometers consecutively before signing up for this 10k race. My body had always given in after 5, 6 or at most around 8 kilometers. But then something interesting happened on the day of this event.

If you’ve ever run a few kilometers/miles long, you would know that the first part of the run can oftentimes be the hardest. Your body is just warming up, your feet are getting used to the speed, and your heart is still adjusting to the new pace. For me, those first few hundred steps are always unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

On the day of the race, I was not feeling my best self. My legs were a little sore from the previous day’s workout, and my stomach was jittery with nerves. Unsurprisingly, the first half of the race was gruesome; I was counting the kilometers as I passed each marker and thinking to myself, “I won’t be able to make it” over and over again. Having my dad run alongside me – motivating me each step of the way – was very helpful as always, but it couldn’t ease the discomfort that had already taken over my body.

My iPod decided to go dead nearly halfway through the race – something that has never happened before. I gave up trying to revive it after a while, and this surprisingly made my run more… bearable. I had prepared a pumping music playlist specially for this day, but I realized that I was actually better off without it.

Running is usually such a lonesome activity, and I usually rely on music as my companion. But having thousands of people running behind, beside and in front of me was the best companion of that day. Yes, I could hear people’s steps akin to the sound of fat raindrops – incessant, notorious and all around me. Occasionally, we would pass by someone gasping heavily for air, and at several points we were in par with a guy whose keys jingled exasperatingly in his pocket.

But that didn’t matter. We were, after all, in this together. The people in front of me were the ones showing me the way; those beside me kept me company and urged me along; the ones behind showed me how far I had come, pushing me to keep on going. This was enough motivation to keep me going, regardless of how slow my pace was.

But something curious then happened after hitting the 5k mark: I started gaining momentum. It was as if my body had rejuvenated itself, and I found myself running more vigorously than before. My breathing came under control, my steps became wider, and I felt stronger. Like I said before – I am not a regular runner, so I don’t know what exactly happened at that moment. Basic research on the internet tells me that I might have experienced what is called a runner’s high – a rush of endorphin. It was a great feeling that spread all over my body physically and emotionally, enabling me to get a glimpse of why long-distance runners do what they do.

The feeling of power and control over your own body. The sense of accomplishment even before you finish the task. The genuine pleasure that comes from inside you while you’re still running, your mind free from any burden. You hardly get these feelings of triumph while doing other (healthy) activities.

I have never experienced this in any cardio exercise before, because I have never challenged myself to such extent. I am curious to see whether my runner’s high will continue to kick in the next time that I run the same distance, or how it will change as I (hopefully) run longer distances. As for other sports, it’ll be interesting to see if this ‘high’ happens too!

-Michelle

how to recover from a burnout

BURNOUT: physical or mental collapse caused by overwork or stress.

We are all familiar with this. That moment when… anything and everything seems to be too much all at once. When you just want to shut the world down, and make everything stop. When you’re no longer stressed, but on the verge of falling apart. When you lose that drive and sense of motivation that you used to have.

I have experienced my definition of high stress, social anxiety, and demotivation for short periods at a time. I don’t think I’ve actually experienced burnout to the point of being unable to go back to work, unless it was due to some external reason. However, I do have a few methods, that I have used myself, to help you recover from any form of short-term burnout (if you experience a heavy, long-term burnout, please consult a professional):

1. Schedule time for yourself.

Turn off the notifications in your phone, stop checking social media, and let the emails go. One cannot truly relax if one is constantly being interrupted by things as distracting as Facebook, Instagram, and emails. You live in the now, in the present moment, not in the pictures that random people post on Facebook, nor the chaos in the news nowadays.

Acknowledge it, value it, live it.

2. Do something creative

Whenever I delve into something fun, like practicing brush lettering, taking pictures, or even just journaling, it feels therapeutic. I put on some soothing music, and it becomes me and my art. It allows me to recharge creatively and lose myself in the beauty of it for a while.

Simply choose something that you consider fun, creative, simple and relaxing. For me, it usually has to do with some form of pen and/or paper. I love journaling, planning, brush lettering, doodling and painting in a coloring book. It’s easy and soothing, and it gets me going.

3. Get out.

This one never fails me. Whenever I feel stuck, stressed, and even on the verge of a breakdown, I force myself to go out if I can muster the energy to do so. I’m lucky to live in a neighborhood surrounded by parks, and that’s where I go. Not somewhere crowded with people talking; just nature, people walking with their doors, and cars passing by.

Nature, besides it being there to allow us to live, is the best natural form of therapy. It will allow you to breathe in the fresh, fresh air. Let you slow down for a bit, and enjoy your view as it is. Get you up and walking, without going anywhere in particular.

4. Get active.

Following #3, once you’re outside – take it to the next step! You could start by walking or jogging, or skating, or biking, or taking your pet for an afternoon together. Make it an event. Get your body moving and your blood pumping. You will have to focus on your task at hand and, consequently, get your mind off your work. Your body will also automatically release endorphins, which will inevitably relieve you of the stress you were experiencing, and make you feel much, much better overall.

You can get active by going out for a simple activity like the ones named before – walking, jogging, biking, etc. or by signing up for a class that you’ll have to go a few times a week. I do both, so I get my dose of endorphins pretty much everyday – whether I feel like it or not – and always end the day feeling sore, but refreshed.

5. Get your zzz’s.

I know, I know. There is not enough time to sleep. But there is if you make it a priority. I prioritize sleep because:

  • It allows me to perform hours of productive and concentrated work everyday; if I don’t, I end up spending twice as much time in each task and accomplishing half as much.
  • I maintain my body’s health and weight by doing so; if I don’t, I end up eating more than necessary, oftentimes caffeinated products or just food my body doesn’t need. Your body should not be dependent or coffee or any other food at all if you get your sleep.
  • I love to wake up early. I’m not an early bird, but I can wake up relatively early if I sleep at a proper time, and a consistent schedule is what allows me to be the best version of myself every day.

This is also key to prevent oversleeping, which will most likely depress you even more, as you’ll feel like you’re sleeping your life away. In order to take care of your body, maintain your health and recover from a day of work, is to sleep no more than necessary. Lie in bed for a while after waking up, but don’t fall asleep again if you’ve slept enough, or you’ll wake up more restless than before.


Lastly, forgive yourself if things don’t go your way. I cannot reiterate this enough. More often than not, your day will not go as planned. When that happens, acknowledge your mistakes, forgive yourself, and move on. It will all be alright at the end.

-Michelle

on keeping a journal

I think what makes a journal so precious is that no one sees it besides yourself. Sure, you can show it to others, but most of the time only you see it. You can write as trashy or as beautifully as you like, as badly or as neatly as you want, and doodle as horridly or artistically as you feel like – no one cares. This kind of liberation encourages me to find the purpose of writing when absolutely no one knows that I’m doing it. No one cares, but me.

The hard thing for many of us is being consistent with this task. I have had myriads of journals ever since i was young, from store-bought pretty diaries to online secret blogs, and for many years I failed to keep it up. Last year, however, I decided to pick it up again, and I haven’t stopped ever since. I journal at least 5 days a week (unless I’m traveling), and… it’s part of my life now.

After exploring different kinds of journaling, I have stuck with 2 ‘types’ so far:

  • 5 minute journaling: I spend about 1-2 minutes each morning to do this, and I’ve freed myself from doing it at night as I find it redundant.
  •  morning pages: I basically write whatever comes to my mind on my Hobonichi Cousin daily spread. I don’t write 3 pages – just enough to get my thoughts flowing.

As you can see, I’ve taken 2 popular types of journaling and tweaked them to my best interest, enabling me to journal because I want to, and not for the sake of it. Here’s what I’ve learned so far from journaling:

1. On lasting habits and self-discipline.

Making journaling become part of my morning routine has forced me to look at it as part of my everyday life. I’ve reached the point in which, even if I stop journaling for a few weeks due to external factors, I can get right back to it in no time. I feel that establishing a habit goes hand-in-hand with self-discipline, as it’s something that only you can reinforce. The benefits of journaling can only be felt after a period of time – just like many other habits – and if you can muster the energy to do it every morning knowing why you do it, I believe that you have learned to form a habit through self-discipline.

2. On mindfulness and emotional support.

There’s a certain sense of… freedom when you write without a structure. When you just let your thoughts materialize in paper. It has helped me solidify my troubling thoughts, and spark ideas that may have been buried inside me. As an introvert, I often ponder about things on my own, and having an outlet in which no one can judge me for it is very refreshing.

Additionally, by writing about stressful events, issues or problems that I have, I give myself the opportunity to step away from the event and reflect upon it more externally. The relief of passing my burden to writing, and reflecting upon it more calmly is a emotional support (for me, at least) in itself.

3. On your handwriting.

Journaling has also made me more conscious of how I present my writing. I’ve started to pay more attention to the type of pens that suit me best (gel pens, with tips no more than 0.4mm). Mainly, though, it allows me to practice my handwriting daily. Print or cursive. Calligraphy. Decorating writing. Any kind that I want. And though this is a more superficial point, it’s a small detail that adds to the perks of journaling.

4. On creativity.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned since last year, i that creativity harness growth and development. I hate doing things the mundane and rigid ways. I love routines, but I love making them my own. I love creating, tweaking and thinking about different ways to do things, because only then can I do them on my own volition.

It’s very important to do things, including journaling, because you genuinely want to do it. Not for any external factor other than the one that exists within you. I believe this is key to sustain any habit or activity that you wish to do in the long term, as only then can you pull through even if obstacles stand in your way. Only then can you use your creativity to make this activity yours, and yours only.

Good luck!

-Michelle

a productive morning routine

Mornings are my sacred time. I love waking up early and spending a couple of hours nourishing my mind and body, giving me that kick-start to a great day. This is what currently occupies my mornings:

  1. Wake up. I usually get up around 7:30 (or at least try to). I stay in bed and roll for a while, and then put on the radio to get me out of my foggy state of mind. I drink some water to get rid of my horrible morning breath.
  2. Morning workout. I pull my hair up in a bun, and get ready for my short morning workout. I used to do the 7-minute workout, but I’ve found it really hard to keep it up during the summer when the days are unbearably hot, so I have switched to Blogilates’ morning workout. I don’t normally follow her videos, but I really like how she combines an easy and graceful workout + stretch in her video. It’s just the right amount of each.
  3. Get ready. I go to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Also, I always wash my face after the mini workout (instead of before) as I do sweat a little. I change my clothes into something really comfy and simple.
  4. Eat breakfast + read. I make myself some breakfast. I usually have chicken, two eggs, and avocado. It’s enough to last me for a few hours, but I’ll usually snack on fruits and/or nuts before lunch. I always eat breakfast with a book in my hand. I spend between 40-60 minutes reading.
  5. Five minute journal. I picked up this habit this year, and it’s a quick way to focus your mind on the things that you can be grateful for each day. I don’t actually have the five minute journal, I just write the prompts and answers on a little notebook.
  6. Plan + journal. I’m currently using a Hobonichi Cousin as my planner, and I love the system! I also do some real journaling (‘word vomiting’) to let my thoughts flow on paper, and try to doodle around my writing.
  7. Meditate. This is the last thing I do to conclude my morning routine. I sit down on the floor in my bed, put on some meditative piano music, and meditate for 10 minutes. As it’s still morning, I don’t meditate for longer than that lest I fall asleep (I love sleeping).

This is pretty much the end of my morning routine, but it’s still morning by the time I finish, so I’ll just get on with things that I want to work on:

  1. Emails. I check my personal, blog and work email. It sounds like a lot, but I really only get email occasionally. I’m subscribed to a few morning news and a Highbrow course, so I’ll most likely check them now.
  2. Music intervals. I have a background in music, and this is one of the areas that I’m currently working on to improve. The key is to spend a little every day practicing, so I do this for about half an hour.
  3. English idioms. I like to think that my English is pretty fluent, but improving my linguistic flair is one of my continuous goals. Right now I’m just making flashcards on idioms I’m unfamiliar with to study them a little each day. I hate doing this so academically, which is why I don’t spend more than half an hour on this either.
  4. Blog! My little place on the internet. I’ll usually work on a blog post, practice my photography, or just work on small things here and there. The thing about my blog, mistyprose, is that even though no one really follows me here nor anywhere on social media, I’m still determined to keep on blogging. My anonymity, writing and work is what allows me to write freely, and I really enjoy that.

It should be lunch time by now (1:30pm), so that’s what I do next!

Thanks for reading about my morning routine 🙂 Also, just a side note – I’m currently in my gap year, so I have a pretty flexible schedule to handle.

-Michelle

take a walk

I choose between three options: bike, jog, or roller skate.

Biking is the easiest one, so I always try to bike longer distances. Jogging is the most physically exhausting one, so I only jog about 4 km on average. Roller skating is neither easy nor physically exhausting for me; it’s just… scary, for a novice like me. I trip and fall over small bumps, and I can’t even go down slops on my own at all. So I skate for 4-5 km as well (usually with my dad jogging alongside me).

There’s a huge park/sports area of 15 minutes walking distance from my house. I go there every time I want to do some outdoor exercising. The park is basically a huge 4 km loop, which surrounds a huge territory of grassland and the Minister of Defense in the middle. An increasing amount of people go there every day at all times, which is nice to see. Fitness is finally getting contagious.

But I have never walked the whole loop. I see many people walking whenever I’m biking, jogging, or skating. I see them because I’m always going at a faster speed than them. I don’t walk because it doesn’t make me sweat as much. No, that’s an excuse; it’s mainly because I can’t stand the slow pace of walking.

Which is strange because I consider walking to be the most calming and therapeutic thing to do. It’s the one thing that reminds us to fully enjoy the journey, to be fully aware and present each step of the way. I started taking walks in different places and at different paces. On my way to the sports park; in another (smaller) park with fewer people; on my way to somewhere. I don’t listen to music, unlike when I’m exercising. I don’t walk with anyone; I’m my own company. I like to tune in to my senses: what do I see in the space that surrounds me? How do I feel, right now, in this moment? What (pleasant) smells do I sense that are out of the ordinary? I don’t actually say any of these things to myself (that would be plain weird). But I do make these observations and, gradually, I tune in to the environment that surrounds me.

All day every day, we are being saturated by all kinds of things. We are always checking our phones, laptops, and other screens; whether it’s for work or for leisure, it’s an inevitability in the modern age. We listen to all kinds of things – music, news, cars honking, people talking; we rarely get a chance to be alone unless we choose to be alone. But when everyone around us is doing the same thing, it’s hard to not be part of that crowd.

And before we know it, we’re in the black hole.

But when I walk… it’s as if these things, all these distractions and burdens, blur into the background. Everything that goes on around me is completely unrelated to me. People are minding their own business. I may cross paths with them, some even may glance my way if I happen to rush through with my bike, but they’re all too focused on themselves to care. They’re all too busy with their lives to notice this tiny person walking quietly by herself.

And so I open myself to what surrounds me as a whole. I acknowledge the horrible traffic that overwhelms the streets at rush hour. I observe the people that walk quickly, calmly, or slowly. I see the houses that are on my field of vision and wonder what kind of lives live within them. I listen to the music the nature sings to me. Sometimes, I pause for a mere few seconds, and am so glad that there are so many parks near me, even if some are amidst the busy streets.

What is life, if we can’t even take a moment to walk around at a steady pace? Must we always rush our lives at a speed faster than is good for us?

-Michelle

Depressed And Depression

It’s no coincidence that our modern way of living is in correlation with the rise of mental illness symptoms. The improvement in technology and other inventions are not rising in tandem with our social advance. As a millennial, I have known several people my age who have suffered from a mental illness, and dozens who have experienced symptoms. It’s horrifying how some headlines show that teenagers today have similar anxiety levels to that of asylum patients back in the 1950’s. This shows how much we have improved in diagnosing people with a mental illness, but it is also a reflection of how our mental health has not improved.

I am no expert in this field, and I can only talk from experience and my own knowledge, but there are a few perceptions that I want to address about this topic.

Being depressed is not the same as having depression. Just because you feel sad, depressed, anxious, or lonely, does not immediately entitle you to say “I have depression”. I am someone who tries to be as specific with her language usage as possible, and there’s nothing more annoying than people throwing words that they think are interchangeable around. It’s completely misleading for two reasons: 1) You are convincing yourself to be in a worse state than you are, which in turn could make you feel worse, and 2) You are letting others believe that mental illness is more widespread than it already is.

As advanced as neurology is, I don’t fully trust medical diagnosis of mental illness simply because there is so much that we yet don’t know. Each of these illnesses also has a range or spectrum, and it always varies from individual. This causes problems, as we may often resort to the Internet and books to learn about these symptoms ourselves. I do believe that there are countries whose medical system is more advanced – in those cases, I have more faith in their diagnosis. But in a country like the one I’m living now, I’m as wary as ever. I mention this because a diagnosis with a mental illness does not immediately mean you have such and such conditions. It’s not so black and white.

Mental illness is glamorized all over social media. I’m more aware of the occurrences of the Western World, so this mainly applies to the ‘big’ Western countries (e.g. the US). There are so many social media stars on YouTube, Instagram, and whatnot, and many of them get really personal on social media. And many of these also share things like having depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder. To be honest, I feel that this act is double-sided.

On the one hand, by showing your vulnerability, you’re letting your followers and other people know that you’re a human being with feelings. On the other hand, it’s a weakness that becomes so “common” that people start to question whether they are mentally ill or not. I have seen in Tumblr, in particular, this glamorization of mental illness. People feel the need to label everything that they have – which may be professionally or personally diagnosed.

Though no one wants to be mentally ill, feeling like you have ADHD or anxiety is like an excuse to not do what you don’t want to do. I have also seen this happen in my own school, and it’s… not good.

Mental illness should be addressed, not promoted. Western societies welcome the opinion of the individual. We’re in a time where every movement is raising its voice to be heard in society. This gives people the motivation to voice their differences and conditions – which is great. But there’s a thin line between addressing and promoting an issue like depression. By addressing the issue, we are acknowledging every individual that has experienced some form of depression in their lives. But by promoting it, we’re getting more people to believe they have depression, until they do.

I believe that in Eastern societies it’s not as spoken about, mainly because it’s a cultural thing that families don’t want to believe is that serious. Despite being Asian myself, I haven’t lived in Asia for a long time, so I won’t really go into this side of the story. But this leads me to my next issue:

It can be perceived very differently in different parts of the world. Most of what I have talked about is partly based on what I have read and seen online of Western cultures, and partly of what I have experienced here (Latin America). This has also prompted me to think about these conditions in other parts of the world, namely Europe.

“Switzerland Is One of the World’s Happiest Countries And One of Its “Suicide Capitals” – Smithsonian.com

Despite my overall negative tone towards how mental illness is portrayed in the Western society, there are benefits to ‘promoting’ depression. I believe that having more people talk about depression does help people cope with it, as it enables you to feel isolated and more able to relate to other people. Switzerland being one of the suicide capitals is due to several factors, as mentioned in the article quoted above: higher rate of car deaths, and assisted suicide or euthanasia – the latter which countries like the US is completely against (throwback to when I read and watched Me Before You!).

I also feel that Switzerland, by being the happiest nation, enables mentally ill people to not recover and ultimately commit suicide. Let’s say you are in a room by yourself. There are other people around you, all happily doing their own things – playing with their pets, talking to their loved ones, simply having a good time. You just lost your job, and you have no one to call to comfort you. Everyone in the room is having a good time… except for you. Even if you are just depressed, and aren’t diagnosed with depression, you will feel like you do. Because you are the only one who feels that way in the room. It’s a horrible feeling, and I can see that leading to worse outcomes.

I don’t really know much about Switzerland’s mental health system, and I am sure (I hope) it does all that it can to take care of these people, but you can’t change the reality outside. If every normal person around you is happy-go-lucky and you’re internally suffering inside, it’s unlikely that you’ll pull out of it without help. And most people find it hard to get help when they have depression, anxiety, or some other disorder that they may feel ‘shameful’ about.

However, if the conditions were changed and the people surrounding you complain about the stress that they have, and how anxious they get, it will probably help you feel more normal when you experience similar symptoms. As introverted as you may be, we are all social creatures, and we are all affected by our external environments. Just like the weather can lead you to be depressed (Seasonal Affective Disorder), the people surrounding you can also affect you similarly.


If you have any thoughts on this topic, or if you believe that I was wrong on any of the points I made, please comment below!

Misty Prose