§15 – A great recipe to be stressed out

(Part 27 of 37 in series, Study inspired by Pakour & Art du Déplacement by V. Thibault)

Have you noticed: Once you know something, you see it everywhere?

Reading this section, I’m reminded of Joe Erhmann’s ideas from the book “InsideOUT Coaching,” and of Steven Covey’s, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” Both of which also counsel beginning with what’s inside; Beginning by taking a step back and noticing — perhaps _learning_ to notice is the first step — the broader context.

Over a decade ago, the previous-me was entirely focused inward, on myself, on the small picture. That previous-me molted as I managed to become self aware and began learning empathy. With empathy came the ability to listen and, most recently, the ability to communicate, “How can I help?”

And yet I still regularly find myself stressed out.

My impatience regarding…
fat loss
movement progression
the podcast
memento mori

…grows, and the things I appreciate– the things I have now which I have worked so vary hard for to this point– …well, I’ve grown accustomed to them and while I still internally appreciate them I’ve stopped showing that appreciation externally.

I need to shift my goals.

I need to move the goal posts.

I need to set milestones at smaller intervals.

When you make some new connection, one then suddenly sees it everywhere.

On a recent Saturday — a day I usually jam full of goals — I accidentally set so few goals for the day, that by 4pm I was completely done. Normally, I set my goals at “do all the things” [meme image omitted :], and at some point each day I surrender with a fatalistic, “that’s enough for today!” It took me a long time to get comfortable knowing I’m organized and motivated enough that I will make progress towards my long-term goals. But every day is either a day “off” with rest and relaxation with minimal work towards goals, or a day “on” where everything is ordered– flexible, adjustable, prioritized sure, but ordered none the less.

On this particular Saturday, at 4pm…

It was surreal. It was just a nice feeling, like, “Okay, what do I want to do?” I wandered around in this daze of, “Gee, the weather is nice,” “Wow, the feel of the concrete under my bare feet is nice,” “I’d forgotten to notice how comfortable this chair is,” and “Wow, this food is particularly yummy.”

What was different? Nothing.

I still had — still have! — an enormously-complex, personal productivity system which holds all the things I’m working on. That’s not bad; That’s good. It helps me greatly by remembering everything for me, so I can use my brain for having ideas and doing things. I still have a house with a sort of strange spot on one of the ceilings that I think means the roof might be leaking. I still have a leak in the shower that I haven’t figured out. There’s still some firewood to be split.

…but for one evening — a Saturday from about 4pm until I went to sleep around 9:30 — for one evening, I clearly forgot to put in one (or both!) of the ingredients that make up the recipe for being stressed out.

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Ever-present mental stress

Most people have been in some version of this mental stress state so consistently, for so long, that they don’t even know they’re in it. Like gravity, it’s ever present — so much so that those who experience it usually aren’t even aware of the pressure. The only time most of them will realize how much tension they’ve been under is when they get rid of it and notice how different they feel. It’s like the constant buzzing noise in a room you didn’t know was there until it stops.

~ David Allen from, https://www.librarything.com/work/1844807

The key insight for me was once I realized there are two “directions” to thinking: I was always good at vertical thinking, going down thru a project (big or small), planning, organizing and doing. This was simply “thinking”, and how could there be more than one “direction” in which to think?

Unfortunately, I often got stuck when my brain started doing this other direction of thinking for which I had no name; no concept to attach: The horizontal thinking. The hopping from project to project — and I use “project” in the most broad sense of ANY thing involving a goal (“remodel house”, “send holiday cards”), any size (“seven years of projet management and contractors”, “buy stamps, buy cards, stuff, mail” ), and any number of steps. My mind hopped uncontrollably from thing to thing, around and around, across all the open loops, as the same things came up over and over and over.

These days, having a solid capture and review system enables me to close those mental loops. I can often read for a half an hour without my mind once interrupting me with some random, “I need to do this,” or “I need to remember that,” thought. (And if it does interupt me, I simple capture that thought once. Done. Freedom.) In the beginning I used paper notecards, then notebooks, software, and on and on. The exact system does not matter. It only matters that you trust your system. Only when you truly trust your system will your subconscious close all those open loops.

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The distress of the privileged

http://weeklysift.com/2012/09/10/the-distress-of-the-privileged/

If you are one of the newly-visible others, this all sounds whiny compared to the problems you face every day. It’s tempting to blast through such privileged resistance with anger and insult.

Tempting, but also, I think, a mistake. The privileged are still privileged enough to foment a counter-revolution, if their frustrated sense of entitlement hardens.

So I think it’s worthwhile to spend a minute or two looking at the world from George Parker’s point of view: He’s a good 1950s TV father. He never set out to be the bad guy. He never meant to stifle his wife’s humanity or enforce a dull conformity on his kids. Nobody ever asked him whether the world should be black-and-white; it just was.

~ Doug Muder

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Surface area of concern

Our “surface area of concern”—the number of events we pay attention to on a regular basis—has expanded alongside technology. This is not an inherently negative thing, but becomes one when it adds chronic stress, leads us to burnout, and affects our mental health.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://alifeofproductivity.com/your-surface-area-of-concern/

This is a precise and powerful way to describe something which lies at the root of many other phrases: Information overload, multi-tasking (as a way to fail), and spreading our attention too thin (as another way to fail), are just three examples. I’ve long since decided that I do not need to have an opinion on most things, and that frees me from feeling I need to notice as many things as possible.

For many years—but explicitly I have 3 years of journal entries where this is glaring—I’ve lamented wanting to spend more time on some specific things. And yet my days slip past doing other things. I’m not talking about things which get planned—a day at the beach, dinner at someone’s house, or weekend work in the yard. No, I’m talking about that, “where the hell did today go?” stuff. If you like visuals: The glass jar that I filled slowly all day with the sand of small things, only to realize at day’s end that there’s no way to put these larger rocks in. Ever. Because every tomorrow is like today. Dammit.

About a week ago I decided—memento mori, ya’ know—it’s time to flip that shit over. For several years now, I’ve been starting with pretty consistent morning routine. After that, I have four things that I want to do, and I’ve been doing those next. Sometimes that means I don’t touch anything else—not my phone, not my email, not other people, not bills, not even voicemail from roofers—until 4 in the afternoon. It sounds crazy, I know. Guess what? Every day I look at those four things and go: Shazam! Progress! …and it turns out that I then go on to pour in a ton of sand too—return that call [from yesterday], mow the lawn, run an errand, interact with people, etc..

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Thhhhpbt

Burnout research shows that cynicism is an easy way out when we don’t have the mental resources to cope. It’s no surprise that cynicism is a core attribute of the burnout equation: during a time of ongoing stress it’s much easier to be pessimistic than it is to mobilize and make a difference.

~ Chris Bailey from, https://alifeofproductivity.com/remember-burnout-and-cynicism-go-hand-in-hand/

That short blog post is about news-from-the-Internet and the pandemic, but it’s perfectly applicable to any source of chronic stress. For me, the chronic stress is entirely self-inflicted and the cautions remain the same.

I’ve gotten relief from myself over the years through journaling and blogging. Journalling gives me some perspective. (But it is difficult to do it well, since it can degenerate into subjectivity, navel gazing, or whining.) Blogging gives me the chance to regularly work with the garage door up; showing my work by exposing my thinking. Even if mostly no one calls me on anything, knowing that people are looking calls me to a higher quality of thinking.

Yesterday and today I’ve been thinking about taking another look at cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). A couple years ago I made a pass at understanding it—specifically wondering if one could “do it” to oneself. (Yes.) I’ve dusted off a small volume for a re-read to see what I can tune in my existing self-care routines, and hopefully find some new ones to settle into for a while.

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Inconsistent yet persistent

Tuline Kinaci is an all-around mover, a dancer, rock climber, traceusse and earned her degree in athletic training. In addition to her movement practices, Tuline is a certified authentic Tantra instructor, teaching holistic healing of body, mind, spirit and sex. Tuline considers herself a sex activist and is the founder of LoveCraft, a sexual coaching and empowerment collective.

Tantra was the obvious place to begin since we were surely going to end up talking about tantric sex. My fear was that most people’s—myself included—knowledge of Tantra would be something to do with the artist, Sting. We immediately agreed that leaving the world only knowing about “men in linen pants” would be a disservice. “Tantra means, literally, to weave light and sound with form, the light being visualizations of your chakras in your body, sound being chants that you’re making, and then the form being your body, your physical body. That’s it, in a nutshell. The way that often looks is meditating. The way a lot of people do that is they’ll meditate and then have sex; they’ll meditate during sex; they’ll meditate on their own without any sex. Yeah, that’s kind of that, which means nothing, right? It’s like a, ‘Cool, and then what?’ which is what got me into having a coach.” — ~ Tuline Kinaci from, ~4’40”

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Dashes

I find that working in dashes is a spectacular way to make incremental progress on something. My favorite these days is a ~40-minute dash using a large sand timer. My dashes always run a few minutes over, and then accounting for time after the dash—to deal with whatever has come up—these dashes effectively consume an hour of my time. Reading, listening to podcasts I’ve curated for myself, writing, or working on outreach to invite people onto a podcast show, are all things which will never be finished. They’re perfect never-ending projects to be tackled in dashes.

I’ve been using health tracking grids, which I keep directly in my personal journals, and a tasks and project management program called OmniFocus, for over a decade. I have a long running drive to track small steps that lead to big changes or big goals. For a specific type of step, or task if you prefer, this has consistently failed miserably.

The problem is that progress on such projects doesn’t have to be do-it-every-day perfect. I simply need to do it often enough. If I have a row in my health grid, it stresses me out if I go days without ticking it off. The same happens in my tasks and projects software; A recurring to-do item for “reading” just sits there with an aging “was due on” date, adding stress. When January rolled around this year, I removed all my forever-projects from both my health tracking grid, and my tasks and projects software. Perfection, in those two systems, is now something that I can actually achieve.

Now, what to do with the never-ending projects? I spent some time whipping up a spreadsheet of “don’t break the chain” style tracking. (This is not a new idea, I’m aware.) Here are three sheets, for three different groupings of never-ending projects: “Writing” for three different publication places; “Community Building” efforts in three different contexts; and “Reading/Listening” in three different mediums. (On one, I was drawing empty squares, but decided simple dots were fine for “didn’t do.”) I like the filled in panache of which ones are done… they are really done.

Most days, I set myself a rough list of tasks with any things at specific times marked as well, in a small notebook. The tiny size of the notebook helps remind me to not plan too much for each day. It’s an eternal struggle of course. I do not look at these sheets when I’m planning a day. I know what needs to be done—all 9 of these dashes are never-ending projects which I want to see move forward.

“I need to write some blog posts today…” goes on my day’s plan, and that’s going to be one dash, and blog writing is often much longer than 40-minutes. “I’m in an accountability session that’s part of Movers Mindset, and I’m being held accountable to write every day for that…” goes on my day’s plan as a dash. And some other things get added to my day’s plan. Then as my day goes on, I might spontaneously do some reading, or go for a walk and listen to some podcasts. At the end of the day, (or the next morning,) I pick up these sheets from where they site out of my sight and I fill the day in.

Several lessons are being taught me. 9 freakin’ dashes in a day is literally not possible; the most I’ve done is 5 so far. 2+ is the average, and 3 feels like it could really work. It’s interesting that 3 is the number, right? How often do we hear to pick no more than 3 “big rocks” to put into each day? It’s also really clear where my commitment actually falls; That “plan/outline” dash is not just a dash. I start by planning within an enormous outline document which contains all my plans for two entirely different and very large projects. And then I often spend an hour or three working on things from that plan. I should be able to get through that entire plan, and then retire that “project” from the dashes tracking.

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Positive impact

In stressful moments, I try to take distance from the situation, take time to reflect. Whatever the problem, I typically ask myself, “Am I able to make a difference right now?” If I don’t see a clear way to make a positive impact, I reflect further. I think that patience in problem-solving can often be underrrated.

~ Eric Ripert

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Refuge

Keep this refuge in mind: The back roads of you self. Above all, no strain and no stress. Be straightforward. Look at things like a man, like a human being, like a citizen, like a mortal. And among the things you turn to, these two: Disturbance comes only from within—from our own perceptions. That everything you see will soon alter and cease to exist.

~ Marcus Aurelius

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Vitamin D

This might be the range most of us should expect to be in at an intake of 10,000 IU/d. This is the equivalent to the body’s own natural production through sun exposure.

There are other factors that may affect levels. For example, being overweight tends to reduce them. Excess cortisol production, from stress, may also reduce them.

~ Ned Kock from, http://healthcorrelator.blogspot.com/2010/12/what-is-reasonable-vitamin-d-level.html

…and some days this turns into a bit of a medical blog.

This is mostly a blog post for me, so the next time I search for Vitamin D I can find this article. When Vitamin D supplementation comes up, and I mention that I take 10,000 IU daily… people ask why? …and I cannot remember why. This article from 2010 is why; 10,000 IU is about how much vitamin D my body would make if I lived somewhere sunny and I was a life guard.

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