Looking After My Own Joy Shouldn't be a Luxury, says Annabel Rivkin (and Does the Maths to Prove it)

LYMA helped me conquer my anxiety, says the founder of The Midult.

5 Minute ReadFeature by Annabel Rivkin

05.01.22 (Updated 22.11.22)

Annabel Rivkin is the founder of The Midult, one of our guilty pleasures over here at LYMA. An irreverent take on the vagaries of midlife, if you don't follow them yet, we highly recommend you do. Annabel is also a LYMA devotee, here she explains why. Look out for the upcoming Midult LYMA podcast series, plus a competition you can enter here*.

It is a shame, isn't it, that advent calendars are reserved for December. That daily treat – a micro-investment, if you like – in our own joy is officially allowed only in the run-up to the most joyous time of the year. And then? We are plunged into January, undeserving of any light.

And so – because small intentions can lead to profound changes – what if we launched a quiet year-round advent calendar initiative? One where, without fanfare, we make sure that we supplement our lives daily. January is the month of resolution (oh, the pressure) but we could turn that heavy-handed resolve into a kind of fairy dust that sprinkles itself steadily over our spirits every day. A bath with a little too much of something expensive in it. A two minute breathing retreat – in the coat cupboard if necessary. A fresh walk snatched in between zooms with show tunes or Nineties house music, a riotous podcast blaring through our tangled headphones, a kitchen disco.

We could remember to take LYMA every day. A £5 daily investment which, for me, shunted my life-squashing, utterly punishing anxiety off the table. Is it a coincidence that in the year and a half I’ve been remembering (unusual for me) to swallow these four, elegant little capsules, I haven't had a cold and my back hasn't given way with its customary, wearying regularity? I have decided to come from a place of abundance rather than lack. To add the LYMA or the breathing or the show tunes rather than taking away the bread or the lie-in or the tequila. To supplement, rather than to self-deny.

We are all cunning deal-makers; deeply manipulative when it comes to brokering treaties and covenants with ourselves. Oh, the bargains we make; the contracts we draw up in our heads. We juggle our micro-investments in ludicrous ways that make absolutely sense at the time: lavish, artisan coffee every day but a refusal to go to the organic butcher. Balking at the cost of laundry detergent and yet trigger-happy with Deliveroo. Running ourselves ragged chasing husbands, children, dogs and meetings (‘Do I have to do everything around here? No, not like that – here, I’ll do it') and yet too tired to spend an hour or a chunk of cash on our own health and sanity.

The maths of making bargains with ourselves. We are always at it, with varying degrees of mania. And it’s the mysteries of our own personal universes where our boffin skills really come into play.

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Sleep maths

If it’s 9.30 now and you’re on the main course, then you should be away by 10.30, which means home by 11, bed by 11.20 and lights off at 11.30 (as long as you don’t decide to read the entire internet before you attempt to drift off), which means you might make it through to 5.30 and that’s not a disaster. This is the crazy world of sleep maths: the constant calculation ticking through our brains. Let’s put Brian Cox on it and see if he can do something squiggly to time – is it linear? Is it quantum? We are far, far, far too tired to care. And, for a laugh, let’s chuck jet lag into the equation to really mess with the equations.

Alcohol maths

The little getting-ready sharpener must be included in the evening’s full mathematical reckoning, as it may be the drink that tips the equation over the edge. The booze formula can only hold true if the number of units is equal to the number of waters, and if cigarettes are introduced then the figures will not add up. Repeat, will not add up. Also, see death maths below.

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Clothes maths

I really feel like wearing that shirt but I have to save it for that thing in two days’ time so that leaves this shirt which means I have to take off this skirt (as the colours are all wrong) and change my bra so there is no gaping and wear those trousers except the boots that go with those trousers are too high for the schlep I need to this afternoon so it’s the other black trousers but that means I have to change my knickers and actually this shirt doesn’t go with them so I’ll wear my Old Faithful dress with a different bra and Adidas Superstars and I’ve got some heels at the office but I’ve just realised that the coat which goes with Old Faithful doesn’t go with the bag that I’ve left by the front door which means...CONTENTS TRANSFER ALERT.

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Caffeine maths

This calculation is an exact science aiming to hit the perfect equilibrium between corpse and fiend. The baseline must be a comprehensive understanding of the subject’s individual reaction to coffee at all times of the day, with and without other sustenance. We all know that three single shot coffees and no breakfast makes for a dynamically productive morning during which people will hide behind any available object – or even each other – to avoid contact with us.

Death maths

And for the real middle of the night moment, there are the dark sums; the balancing of mortality figures. The numbers are recalibrated according to aches, pains, missed smear tests, headaches, moles, sick friends, scaremongering headlines, cigarettes and birthdays. ‘More or less than halfway through?’ becomes the question as we throw our minds towards the big balance sheet in the sky.

So if you don’t want to be going round in circles at 3am practising your maths, it's time to make the bargains work for you. Less of the subtraction and division. More of the joyous plusses. Low investment. High yield.

*The competition is now closed.

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