The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit Part 4: Fabricate/ Track

Here is the link to part 1, the Stress Test

After 1,2 & 3 your stress level is so under control you might not need to read this last post on The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit. 

4. FABRICATE! YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE

HOW IN THE WORLD DOES CREATIVE EXPRESSION HELP STRESS?

During creative states of intense concentration your brain wave pattern changes, much like hypnosis. It can be any creative activity -writing a poem, dancing, playing the piano, knitting, sewing, singing . . .

When engaged in creative expression your brain filters out extraneous information and mind-chatter diminishes, lowering the stress response. When the stress response goes down a change in your physiology takes place: cortisol levels lower, heart rate slows, immune responses elevate. It’s not just your muscles that relax!

Here are two exercises to create those calm cues by making up situations and images YOU control. Now that’s incredible!

CALM DOWN COLLAGE

Calm collage by Lucy, age 8

Magazine cut-out collage using just 3 pictures

Here is an incredibly fun, easy, visual way to signal your brain it’s time to cool down and not continue keeping your neurochemistry on a fight or flight course. And don’t forget that CONCENTRATED awareness while you are creating your collage!

ALL YOU NEED: magazines, a scissors, glue and a sheet of paper, file card, a journal page or even cardboard (you choose the size).

WHAT YOU DO:

  • Cut or tear out serene peaceful, calming pictures.
  • Cut or tear out pieces of color that represent calm to you. For example, if there is a sky-blue dress, just tear out the color from the dress so that the dress isn’t recognizable—just a piece of the color.
  • Arrange the pictures and pieces of color on you paper in a way that pleases you.
  • Paste all the pieces down.
  • Put your collage up in a place where you will frequently see it to give your brain a calm cue.

You will feel pleasantly calm, just like the collage you have created.

If an 8 year old can learn how to do this YOU CAN TOO!

When you lead a stressful life it is often necessary to creatively give your brain cues it needs to:

  • Interpret peace, calm and serenity
  • Know that you’ve dealt with a difficult situation or person
  • Hear that you are safe and not in danger

Stacked Writing

Stacked writing by Lucy Arndt, age 8

Generally we don’t advocate thinking about, ruminating on pain, discomfort, or negativity as it only strengthens the stress response. Stacked Writing, however, is a way of “releasing” negative thoughts and feelings and decreasing stress levels.

What you need: A piece of paper and a SMOOTH writing pen. If you have a journal use that. When you are done no one can decipher what you wrote so anything goes!

• Write non-stop for 15–20 minutes (set a timer so you aren’t constantly watching the clock).

• Write on top of what you’ve written. Keep turning the paper as you write. Fill the page with sentences, phrases all on top of each other so that what you wrote is indecipherable.

Lack of sleep looks the same as severe anxiety in the brain

“If you’ve ever found that a poor night’s sleep has left you feeling not only a bit groggy, but also on edge, you aren’t alone. People with insomnia have double the risk of developing an anxiety disorder, and 70 to 80 percent of people with clinical anxiety have trouble either falling or staying asleep. However, until now, how this relationship works in the brain was unknown.”

“Sleep loss triggers the same brain mechanisms that make us sensitive to anxiety to begin with—regions that support emotional processing and also regions that support emotion regulation,” says Eti Ben-Simon, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of neuroscience at the University of California, Berkeley. “If we are chronically sleep deprived, if we keep losing sleep, it could sensitize us to greater anxiety levels and help develop an anxiety disorder.”

(Nap poster available on Zazzle click here)

“In the study, the researchers had 18 healthy people come into their sleep lab for two nights: one of total sleep deprivation, followed by a normal restful night. The scientists measured the sleepers’ anxiety levels in the evening and in the morning after each session. When the participants were sleep deprived, their anxiety levels increased by 30 percent the next day, with half the participants reaching the threshold for a clinical anxiety disorder.”

“The researchers also probed what was happening in the brain after a night of sleep loss. They put the participants in an fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) scanner the next morning and showed them distressing video clips, like of child or elderly abuse, to evoke an emotional reaction. Following the night of no sleep, there was significantly more activity in emotion-generating regions of the brain, such as the amygdala and the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex. Both of these areas process negative emotions like fear, and they are hyperactive in patients with anxiety disorders.”

“When in a sleep-deprived state, the participants also had less activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain that is directly connected to the amygdala and helps control negative emotions. For example, this area turns on when we try to calm ourselves down, and less activity there is associated with greater anxiety. The participants who had the most decline in activity in the region also had the biggest increase in anxiety, suggesting that emotional control is especially important in the link between sleep loss and anxiety.”

“When we are well rested, regions that help us regulate emotions are the ones that help keep us less anxious and keep us calm, and those regions are very sensitive to sleep loss,” says Ben-Simon, who led the research. “Once we are losing a certain amount of sleep or a whole night of sleep, these regions are basically going offline and we’re not able to trigger those processes of emotion regulation.”

“The good news is that after the participants got a full night of sleep, their anxiety levels went back to normal. But it wasn’t only the quantity of sleep that mattered, it was also the quality.”

“There are two main stages of sleep: REM (rapid eye movement) when we’re dreaming and nonREM, which is typically a deeper and more restful sleep. An EEG (electroencephalography) helps scientists figure out which sleep stage people are in. After the recovery night of restful sleep, participants who spent more time in deep nonREM sleep were less anxious the next morning and showed more activity in the medial prefrontal cortex.”

“We think that during deep sleep, some of these emotion regulation mechanisms that are so susceptible to sleep loss are actually being restored, and that allows us to start our day with lower anxiety in the morning,” explains Ben-Simon.”

“The overlap between anxiety and insomnia is not new. However, the discovery of how one causes the other and the connection between the two conditions in the brain is. “What [this] work does is to show that this is a two-way interaction. The sleep loss makes the anxiety worse, which in turn makes it harder to sleep,” Clifford Saper, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Harvard Medical School, “For many people this is clearly a vicious cycle.”’

“Deep sleep is particularly impaired in anxiety disorders, leading the researchers to conclude that enhancing this sleep stage could help treat anxiety. In fact, one way anti-anxiety medications may work is by improving nonREM sleep. However, some sleep medications, such as benzodiazepines, don’t actually increase the time spent in this stage. Saper says that because of this, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which attempts to break the sleep–anxiety cycle, has emerged as the best treatment option available.”

Why some people are punctually-challenged

Research indicates that personality differences could dictate how we experience the passing of time.

Jeff Conte, a psychology professor at San Diego State University ran a study in which he separated participants into Type A people (ambitious, competitive) and Type B (creative, reflective, explorative). He asked them to judge, without clocks, how long it took for one minute to elapse.

  • Type A people felt a minute had gone by when roughly 58 seconds had passed.

  • Type B participants felt a minute had gone by after 77 seconds.

(Credit: Getty Images)Being consistently late might not be your fault. It could also be your type. The punctually-challenged often share personality characteristics such as:

  • optimism
  • low levels of self-control
  • anxiety
  • a penchant for thrill-seeking
  • People with anxiety diagnoses often avoid certain situations
  • Individuals with low self-esteem may take more time to check their work.
  • Depression often comes with low energy, making mustering the motivation to get a move on all the harder.
  •  Some persistent lateness comes from “an obsessive thinking problem.”*
  • Some can “crave” the neurochemical thrill of being rushed.

If you are chronically late, here are some tips for getting a handle on your timing from Gretchen Ruben.

  1. You sleep too late. If this is the case, try to slowly get to bed earlier (a few minutes earlier each day). Many people do not get enough sleep and this is not good for your health, your mood or being on time.
  2. You try to do “one more thing” before you leave. Gretchen recommends that you outsmart yourself by taking a task with you, that you can do after you reach your destination. Then leave early. If you do have time on the other end, you will accomplish that “one last thing”.
  3. You underestimate how much time getting something done will take. If it is routine, like a commute or taking a shower, time it so you know how long it takes. And be sure to time the whole thing. I (Peggy) once lived with someone who said it took 10 minutes for a shower—not counting how long it took to get into the shower or to dress afterwards, which took at lease another 10 minutes. If you know, you can plan accurately.
  4. You can’t find what you need in order to leave: keys, sunglasses, something you need to take with you. Set up a place for things you need-purse, keys, and where you can put what you need to leave with for a particular trip as well. Use that spot every time (and if your keys are there, you will need to go there). Gretchen uses a backpack, which can hold several things and is big enough to find easily.

Gretchen Rubin in Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-happiness-project/201602/always-late-9-tips-overcoming-chronic-lateness

Reference: Diana DeLonzor, author of Never Be Late Again.

*Dr Linda Sapadin, a psychologist and author of How to Beat Procrastination in the Digital Age

***Tim Urban, self-proclaimed late person and 2015 TED speaker.

“What? Me Worry?”

If you worry you have a evolved brain.

Powerful emotions, like anger, fear, anxiety, are products of our neurology and created largely for survival.  It’s just that our brains no longer know we are not living in caves and threatened by being eaten alive.

Alfred E. Neuman was  an iconic figure in the comic book MAD in the 1950’s*.  MAD’s first editor, Harvey Kurtzman identified him: “It was a kid that didn’t have a care in the world, except mischief.”  Few of us don’t have a care in the world and most of us worry.

If you are someone who tends to worry or be anxious (probably most of us), listen to what Professor B.L. Chakoo has to say:

Worry

” Worrying is primarily the result of poor communication between the thinking prefrontal cortex (which is the whole surface of your brain) and the anterior cingulate which notices all your mistakes and contributes to ‘the tendency to dwell on everything that is going wrong’.”

Anxiety

Anxiety, by comparison, is mediated by some circuits within the limbic system which is the emotional part of the brain and is responsible for things like fear, anxiety and memory.  So, there is no reason to get upset with yourself for feeling anxious or worrying too much.  It is just a by-product of your brain’s evolution.”

“Yes, it would be a marvelous world if we never felt worried or anxious, but that is not the way our brains are ‘structured or wired’. We as human beings worry about the future, ‘regret the past, and blame ourselves for the present’. We get upset, feel angry, frustrated when we cannot have what we want, and sad, irritable or disappointed when what we desire ‘ends’.”

He also says that our brains make things up, and so you can worry about something that has not happened yet, as well as regret what did happen.

The Good News

If the brain is the cause of suffering, it can also be its “cure.”  Understanding  why you worry or are anxious will help your brain will develop the ability to right itself. Decades of neuroscience inquiries have shown us how to modify our brains and change the levels of different neurochemicals.*

We can also grow new neurons and improve the way our brains work to reduce stress: 

  • Movement – walking, jogging, gardening or even walking up and down stairs – increases ‘the firing rate of serotonin neurons’, which causes them to release more serotonin.
  • Exercise with moderate intensity increases norepinephrine which helps with concentration and deep thinking.
  • Activity outside is best since sunlight improves serotonin production . . . as does . . .
  • . . . Interactions with others.

All these activities increase serotonin production in the anterior cingulate cortex, which help keep you from thinking about negative experiences.

And that means having an easier time saying “What? Me worry?”

*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_E._Neuman

*To read the entire article by Professor B L Chakoo

Click here: http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/depression-and-neuro-science/

Can a good imagination make you anxious?

Anxiety triggers the stress response.  Anxious feelings are rarely about what is actually happening in the present but about the IMAGINED POSSIBILITY of what might happen in the future.  People with the best imaginations can create the worst possibilities.  

Anxiety and fear are “just” feelings in your body, they are not facts.  Your brain creates feelings to help you know how to respond to situations. Unfortunately, your brain doesn’t know the difference between imagination and actual circumstance.  Fear and anxiety are there to help you cope, but they are made to cope with imminent danger.  However, your brain doesn’t do a good job of distinguishing among the past, present or future

When you are flooded with anxious feelings ask yourself, “Am I about to die or suffer severe bodily harm in the next 10 minutes?”

Take some deep breaths.  Getting oxygen to your brain will help you feel calmer.  

If the answer is no, take some time to look more objectively at the situation. (If the answer is yes however, run for your life.)   Separate your feelings from what is actually going on.  Examining the worst case, best case and most likely outcome will help you do this:

Worst Case

Surprisingly, looking at what the worst-case senario can help you feel better. This is because we usually don’t ask ourselves specifics of what horrible thing might happen and when we do, sometimes the most horrible outcome is not life threatening.

Best Case

Next look at the best-case scenario. What could go right? How could the situation turn out well? Doing this helps you imagine good possibilities signaling your brain that everything is ok.

Most Likely Outcome

What ultimately plays out is usually somewhere in-between the best and worst case.  Often, what happens is something you haven’t even planned much less imagined.  Based on past & present circumstances (not future imagination) what would be a neutral or ok outcome?

In Your Control

Make SPECIFIC action plans
Plan “A” is what you could do if the worst case you are imagining really happens. What is in your control? What is NOT in your control? Who might help you? What resources would you need? Do you know anyone who has been through something similar?

Plan “B” is about what action you can take right away. What is in your power, your control, to do now to impact the outcome?  Ask others for ideas or looking at what other’s in similar situations have done that worked is helpful.

Here’s the outline to use your imagination to create less stress.  

Write your answers down – it helps empty your brain:

1.  What is the worst case?
2.  What is the best case?
3.  What is most likely to happen?
4.  If the worst occurs, what is your plan/how can you cope?

How often have you felt anxious at best and terrified at worst from your own imagined possibilities?  

More importantly, how often has what you imagined actually happened?

 

 

 

 

 

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The Power of Touch

I’m a hugger.  I admit it.  It’s almost a reflex when I see someone I like or admire.

In the 1970’s I taught 3rd grade.  It was common for some students to run up, throw their arms around my waist and give me a big hug.  We teachers would always hug back.  When a student got hurt or was in distress a hug was automatic.  Our cultural climate has changed and teachers are no longer suppose to touch, much less hug, students.  Our cultural climate is continuing to change and unwanted, unwarranted “hugs” are rightly being brought out into the open and condemned.

So I share this information from the work of Alex Korb, UCLA neuroscientist author of The Upward Spiral: Using Neuroscience to Reverse the Course of Depression, One Small Change at a Time  with the acknowledgement that we should only be touching others who want to be touched.

Got someone to hug? Go for it. Alex Korb,  says ‘A hug, especially a long one, releases a neurotransmitter and hormone oxytocin, which reduces the reactivity of the amygdala.”

“Hand holding, pats on the back, and handshakes work, too. Korb cites a study in which subjects whose hands were held by their partners experienced a reduced level of anxiety while waiting for an expected electrical shock from researchers. “The brain showed reduced activation in both the anterior cingulate cortex and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex — that is, less activity in the pain and worrying circuits.”’

And if you have no one handy to touch, guess what? Massage has also been shown to be an effective way to get your oxytocin flowing, and it reduces stress hormones and increases your dopamine levels. Win win.

Mousey Masseuse by Peggy

The value of touching shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re down. According to Korb:

“In fact, as demonstrated in an fMRI [functional magnetic imaging] experiment, social exclusion activates the same circuitry as physical pain . . .”

The next time you see me HUG AWAY!

(jw)

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Get your FREE Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

“Stress-related disorders and diseases have been on the rise in the whole population for decades, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including those leading to . . . deaths of despair, but also to heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.”

“National surveys by the American Psychological Association that also capture how stressed, anxious and overwhelmed we feel show a similar increasing pattern. And it shows up in our bodies, even before we get sick or start down the many roads to self-harm.”

a judy collage

I personally have experienced just that.  My fibromyalgia flared for the first time during a particularly stressful time in my life.  The truth is I didn’t realize how stressed I was at the time.  Years later, it dawned on me that I had been in the center of  “the perfect” storm of stressful circumstances: My aging parents and in-laws were dying; my work focused on anger, anxiety, depression – any and all forms of psychological tension or stress; and my own hormonal changes.

I’ve seen similar circumstances with many clients and colleagues who, like me, coped with and habituated to the level of stress they were under and often didn’t know the magnitude of impact until much later when they became ill.  

All of us experience stress from work, money worries, traffic, political news, deadline pressure, relationship difficulties etc. and an even more basic cause which lies hidden at the intersection of psychology and biology:

Biology

“A central biological pathway is from excess cortisol — the fight-or-flight hormone — that characterizes being over-stressed for long periods of time. This “stress dysregulation” leads to risky health decisions, like addiction or overeating, and directly to many health problems linked to excess cortisol.”

Psychology

  • How we THINK triggers the stress response.  We don’t have to actually be in a stressful situation – it’s our perception of it that alone can trigger a neuro-biological stress response.
  • Slow-moving and cumulative social forces “get under the skin” early in life and can show up decades later in morbidity and mortality.
  • Losing a sense of control that you believed you had, whether real or not, justified or not, creates stressful dislocations.

There are many things that can be done to “de-stress”.  Most require time, money, effort or all three.  Basically, we like what is quick and easy.  To that end we’ve accumulated information and exercises over the 30 decades each of us was in practice and have now compiled some of it into a 19 page FREE PDF.  

Click here for your free copy:

The Incredibly Creative Stress Kit

You can always access the PDF by the “Free or Cheep Page” which is located in the masthead above the CATNIP banner on every page.

Please let us know what worked for you or how you modified any of the activities. 

Recent References:
Daniel Keating is a professor of psychology at the University of Michigan and author of “Born Anxious: The Lifelong Impact of Early Life Adversity — and How to Break the Cycle,”

The Hamilton Project looked at the “physiological stress load” in the US using biological markers tied to cardiovascular, kidney and liver function to create a stress load index. This physical stress load, a precursor to many diseases, has increased in striking fashion since the late 1970s, and it is getting worse as each new age group enters adulthood.

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Here’s the Best Way to Cope with Family Tensions

The rosy pictures of family harmony is ever-present in the media during holiday season.  

As therapists we were privy to the fact that holidays are stressful and often bring out the worst in family and interpersonal relationships.  

Clients who had no family fantasized about what they were missing and clients with families fantasized about how to miss family gatherings.

Family Dynamics by Peggy

It’s gratifying to know we were on track with how we approached client holiday stress & strain.  The research bears this out:

  • It is not helpful to ruminate on what was, what could be, ruminate over and over about the hurt, anger, injustice of it all.  Rumination leads to depression and/or anxiety.  
  • It’s best to tell the “tale” once, focus on what hasn’t worked and find new ways to cope.

Here’s a synopsis of the research and article:

Family Arguments Over The Holidays? Replaying Them in Detail May Be the Best Way to Cope

“Repeated studies have found that people prone to depression can get worse if they excessively dwell or ruminate on a stressful incident such as a quarrel or a loss. But experiments by Exeter University psychologists have found that when individuals practised running emotional incidents through their head, focusing on sensory details and recalling exactly what happened, how it happened, and even where it happened, it helped them respond constructively and stopped them becoming so upset about a future or past stressful experience.”

“Psychologists at the University of Exeter have found that recalling the detail of shouting matches and disagreements, including exactly who said what to whom and how, may not be destructive and prolong the tension, but could help people keep incidents in perspective and stop the triggering of self-doubt and even depression.”

“After training to recall the details of an upsetting incident including the tone of a voice, the words used and how the event happened, people became more resilient and put the upsetting incident into context, stopping a downward spiral into low mood.”

“The same exercise of focusing on the sensory details of sad experiences and asking “How did it happen?” “How can I do something about it?” was also found to speed up recovery from doing badly on a test in undergraduates, and to improve interpersonal problem solving, such as finding a way to make up with your partner after an argument, in people who were currently or formerly depressed.”

“For people experiencing depression learning to focus on stressful incidents and to re-imagine them in full technicolour asking themselves ‘What is unique about this situation?’ ‘ How did it happen?’ – instead of ‘Why did it happen to me? had an a ‘significant’ impact on helping to alleviate mental ill health.”

Then again, one way to avoid all the holiday tension is to eat out or . . . leave town.

Read the full article:

http://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-replay-arguments-5819/

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Feeling down? Take a hike!

A new study finds quantifiable evidence that walking in nature could lead to a lower risk of depression.

“Specifically, the study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, found that people who walked for 90 minutes in a natural area, as opposed to participants who walked in a high-traffic urban setting, showed decreased activity in a region of the brain associated with a key factor in depression.”

“These results suggest that accessible natural areas may be vital for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world,” said co-author Gretchen Daily, the Bing Professor in Environmental Science and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “Our findings can help inform the growing movement worldwide to make cities more livable, and to make nature more accessible to all who live in them.”

More than half of the world’s population lives in urban settings, and that is forecast to rise to 70 percent within a few decades. Just as urbanization and disconnection from nature have grown dramatically, so have mental disorders such as depression.

“City dwellers have a 20 percent higher risk of anxiety disorders and a 40 percent higher risk of mood disorders as compared to people in rural areas. People born and raised in cities are twice as likely to develop schizophrenia.”

Is exposure to nature linked to mental health? If so, the researchers asked, what are nature’s impacts on emotion and mood? Can exposure to nature help “buffer” against depression?

Natural vs. urban settings

“In the study, two groups of participants walked for 90 minutes, one in a grassland area scattered with oak trees and shrubs, the other along a traffic-heavy four-lane roadway. Before and after, the researchers measured heart and respiration rates, performed brain scans and had participants fill out questionnaires.”

“The researchers found little difference in physiological conditions, but marked changes in the brain. Neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, a brain region active during rumination – repetitive thought focused on negative emotions – decreased among participants who walked in nature versus those who walked in an urban environment.”

“This finding is exciting because it demonstrates the impact of nature experience on an aspect of emotion regulation – something that may help explain how nature makes us feel better,” said lead author Gregory Bratman, a graduate student in Stanford’s Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources, the Stanford Psychophysiology Lab and the Center for Conservation Biology.”

“In a previous study, also led by Bratman, time in nature was found to have a positive effect on mood and aspects of cognitive function, including working memory, as well as a dampening effect on anxiety.”

“The studies are part of a growing body of research exploring the connection between nature and human well-being. The Natural Capital Project, led by Daily, has been at the forefront of this work. The project focuses on quantifying the value of natural resources to the public and predicting benefits from investments in nature. It is a joint venture of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, The Nature Conservancy, the World Wildlife Fund and the University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment.”

Coauthors of “Nature Experience Reduces Rumination and Subgenual Prefrontal Cortex Activation” include J. Paul Hamilton of the Laureate Institute for Brain Research and Kevin Hahn, a psychology research assistant at Stanford.

Take a look at these!

5 Things you can do to cheer up quickly according to Neuroscience

Falling Waters and rising Spirits

 

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Worry your life away – literally

As  psychotherapists we saw more people who were walking worriers (to coin a phrase) than most people meet in their lifetime.  Our “treatment” evolved over time based on our interest in neurochemistry and brain research.

Thirty plus years ago, when we were in school, excessive worry was labeled as an Anxiety Disorder. What we weren’t taught was there was a positive biological adaptation for the brain to “worry”.  Simply put the “brains” that knew best how to scan for danger were the “brains” that stayed alive long enough to produce progeny.

stock-vector-scared-cartoon-caveman-vector-clip-art-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-416053591

In our jungle days it was prudent and life saving for acute “worry”. The clients we saw who were anxious actually had very smart brains that were trying to keep them alive.  Unfortunately, our 21st century brains don’t realize we no longer live in the jungle and chronic worry is a problem.

We also live considerably longer than in caveman times and recently research has discovered that in addition to creating biochemical changes, dysfunctional worry profoundly affects our genetics.

“Obsessive worries — negative responses to stress — actually can shorten the component of DNA that governs a person’s life expectancy. Under excess stress, this DNA component becomes shorter.”

So our DNA structure is literally changed by dysfunctional worry that does not lead to resolution but that instead leads to destructive biological changes in the body.

Take a look at The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety for a simple and highly effective way to better control, if not curb, chronic worry.

The Single Most Effective Antidote for Anxiety.

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Catattude – Can being messy calm you down?

Declutter! Focus! Do one-thing-at-a-time! Plan! Schedule!

There are thousands of books and articles teaching us how to be organized.   I’ve read them.  I understand them.  I don’t follow them.

I rarely keep a things-to-do list except when I’m overwhelmed or feel lethargic.  I’m a fly-by-the-seat of my pants kinda person.  My  process is divergent, I am a piler not a filer, not logical and I used to think there was something wrong with me.

AND NOW I’m vindicated!  Read this excerpt* (emphasis is mine):

“Sometimes, we place too much faith in the idea that if something looks well-organized, then we’ve got our lives under control.”
“It’s all too easy to fall into this trap. Many of us feel embarrassed about our cluttered desks, for example, assuming that they are an externalization of our internal chaos. Yet emptying your desk may, ironically, clutter your mind more than ever. All those tasks—read that book, reply to that letter, pay that bill—still exist. But lacking physical reminders that you trust, you may be forced to rely on your subconscious to remind you of all these incomplete tasks. Your subconscious will do a pretty good job of that: it will remind you every few minutes. An empty desk can mean an anxious mind.

Piler Cat by Peggy

“Nor are empty-deskers necessarily better organized in their work lives. In 2001, Steve Whittaker and Julia Hirschberg, then researchers at AT&T Labs, studied the behavior (pdf) of “filers”, who scrupulously file away their paperwork, and “pilers” who let it accumulate on their desk and any other convenient horizontal surface.”
“. . .  the researchers discovered that the “filers” accumulated bloated archives full of useless chaff. Whittaker has a term for this: “premature filing.” That’s what happens when we take a new document and promptly file it in a fit of tidy-mindedness before we really understand what it means, how it fits into our ongoing commitments, and whether we need to keep it at all. The result: duplicate folders, folders within folders, folders holding just a single document, and filing cabinets that serve as highly-structured trash cans.”

“Meanwhile, the “pilers” flourished. They were much more likely to throw paperwork away—after all, it was in plain sight on their desks—and when they did file something, they were more likely to understand it. Paradoxically, the messy workers had lean, practical and well-used archives. Their organizational system was messy, but it worked.”
“It’s possible to over-structure your life in other ways, too. As the psychologist Marc Wittman told Quartz in August, a partly or wholly unplanned holiday tends to feel longer and fuller than a holiday in which every decision has been made in advance. Critical decisions have to be made in the moment, which means you pay more attention to what’s happening and have richer memories after the fact. But to carry out Wittman’s advice, of course, means letting go and taking a risk. Switching off autopilot always carries an element of danger. That’s why it works.”

“One fascinating study conducted in the early 1980s examined the well-worn question of how structured one should make a calendar. Some people think that if you want to get something done, you should block out a time to do it on the calendar. Others think that the calendar should be reserved only for fixed appointments, and that everything else should be a movable feast”
“The study, run by the psychologists, Daniel Kirschenbaum, Laura Humphrey and Sheldon Malett explored this question, asked undergraduates to participate in a study-skills course. Some were advised to set out monthly goals and study activities; others were told to plan activities and goals in much more detail, day by day.”
 “The researchers, assuming daily plans would work better than months were wrong: “The daily plans were catastrophically demotivating, while the monthly plans worked very nicely. The effect was still in evidence a year later. The likely explanation is that the daily plans simply became derailed by unexpected events. A rigid structure is inherently fragile. Better for both your peace of mind and your productivity to improvise a little more often.”

I believe our brains are hard-wired to be logical or creatively divergent.  What works for one person, one situation, will not work for another.   If I could learn to stop berating myself when piles and projects surround me you can stop berating yourself for being overly organized.

(jw)

*Source:  Messy: The Power of Disorder to Transform Our Lives (Riverbed) by Tim Harford, Financial Times columnist.

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The Chemistry of Joy . . . (and other emotions) from your kitchen

One of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless) “hates” me because I weigh about the same I did when we went to high school together.  (“Hate” may be a bit too strong but she’s been known to say that to my face.)

I can’t help it that I’m just not a glutton like one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).

I can’t help it that I eat healthy in moderation unlike one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).

When I found this research I thought I might share it with you and one of my long time friends (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless).

The Chemistry of Joy

Our mood, our outlook and our energy levels are determined to a huge extent by the chemicals serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine and their relationship to one another.

We feel good when they are in balance. Beta endorphins also create a feeling of well-being, connectedness to others, and emotional stability. They even help us tolerate pain.

  • If levels of norepinephrine and dopamine are low, people will slow down, sleep a lot, have trouble concentrating and find it hard to motivate themselves. They can have a “sluggish” depression.
  • On the other hand, people with high levels of norepinephrine and dopamine, and possibly low levels of serotonin often feel angry, resentful and despairing. They can be critical and demanding. This would be an “agitated ” depression.
  • A third kind of depression can occur with low levels of serotonin, which results in people feeling fearful , worried and inadequate. This is an “anxious” depression.

Here is where he kitchen comes in:

In the Kitchen by Peggy

  • Sluggish Depression – Eating to INCREASE norepinephrine and dopamine: 
    Eat high quality proteins throughout the day, lean beef, low-fat meats and fish.
  • Agitated Depression – Eating to DECREASE norepinephrine and dopamine:
    eat the same as to increase serotonin but eat very small amounts of protein. A vegetarian diet would be good.
  • Anxious Depression – Eating to INCREASE serotonin:
    Increase carbs, eat tryptophan, which is in nuts, dairy, and meats. Eat regularly throughout the day. Get some protein, but not a large amount.

SUGAR (also alcohol) elevates beta endorphins, which may be why people have sugar cravings. This elevation only lasts a short time, because the body metabolizes it quickly. This results in a “low” that follows the sugar “high”, and you want more sugar! My long time friend (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless) can avoid this by eating complex carbs and protein.

Cholesterol helps the brain make the chemicals we need. So if you are depressed, eat some fat: Halibut, salmon, grains and nuts that have omega 3 and animal fat with omega 6 are both needed in balance.

     *     *     *     *     * 

And so my long time friend (who shall remain nameless but who I closely work with on a blog – which also shall remain nameless)

THIS is a brain healthy diet:
Fats 30%
Sugar 10% or less
Caffeine drinks a day, 2 or fewer ( a cup of coffee is 6 oz)
Complex carbs, whole grains, lean protein, fresh fruit and dark green, leafy vegetables – A lot!