Worry, Hardwiring, and Useful Anxiety Hacks

28 07 2017

Worry.  We all wrestle with this, some with success, others not.  The lyric “and every morning I wake up and worry What’s gonna happen today?” comes to mind.  But you don’t have to be an Eagle to understand this.

There’s a reason we worry.  And no, you’re not weird.  You’re wired—note the rearranging of three letters.  Yes, you and I are wired for anxiety.  It’s in our brains.  It’s a matter of anatomy and physiology.  Some worry and anxiety in our lives do not make us neurotics.

There is a small part of our brains called the amygdala.  Some thinkers, like Seth Godin, call the amygdala the “lizard brain.”  The amygdala is what keeps us alert to danger.  It generates the “fight or flight” impulse in the face of real or imagined threats.  That is the hardwiring.  We have an amygdala for a reason.

But what do we do?  Anxiety is not particularly pleasant.  How do we manage this in a world that is changing and unpredictable?

I’ve learned a few things.  Still learning others.  Here’s some things that I’ve found helpful.

  • Most of what we worry about simply never happens. One study puts the number of things that never happen at 85%.  Think about that.  If you have like twenty negative anxieties you’re brooding over, on average only three of them happen.
  • Human beings are made remarkably resilient. People survive job loss, friend rejection, illness, financial calamity, relationship adversity—including breakup and divorce, every day.
  • People generally think about themselves. They’re usually not thinking about you.  Therefore, it is fruitless to imagine all sorts of awful mental scenarios.
  • Worry and anxiety about what may happen is quite often worse than actually experiencing the thing you fear.

What helps you get the upper hand on worry?

 

Suggested Resources:

Why We Are Wired To Worry And How Neuroscience Will Help You Fix it: Stop Stressing, Reduce Anxiety, Feel Happy, Finally! (Sharie Spironhi)

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff . . . and It’s All Small Stuff: Simple Ways to Keep the Little Things from Taking Over Your Life (Richard Carlson)

 

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Start Stuff!

5 07 2017

Seth Godin is funny, bright and gets to the point.  I learned today that human beings have an attention span of about seven seconds.  And that puts us bipeds behind goldfish who can pay attention for eight seconds. (Kudos, Michael Levin, for that insight.)  So for this reason, among others, you should read Seth or watch his TED talks.

Back to Seth.  In his book, Poke the Box, Seth talks about initiative.  In answer to the workplace question “what do you do here?” Seth points out that “almost no one says ‘I start stuff.’”

How do you start stuff?

Seth says you “poke the box.”  You try something out.  Sit at a piano and start hitting keys and listen to what comes out.  Initiative is something we take; it isn’t handed to us.  Failing to take initiative will tend to make us reactive rather than proactive.

I’ve learned the hard way that if I wait around for  inspiration to drop by my apartment for a cup of coffee, I will never write anything.  Inspiration usually shows up after I just start.

Okay.  What kind of stuff can you start?  Remember feeling and inspiration aren’t the most important variables in actually getting something rolling.  A decision is.  Try these and add your own:

  • A regular exercise program—weights, walking, cardio. Start small.
  • A blog. Write enough to fill one screen’s worth of space, about 200-400 words.  Or like me, start writing again in the blog you already have.
  • A well-crafted, eye-catching résumé. Put it together and post it on LinkedIn and Indeed. Or update the one you’ve already posted.
  • A regular, undistracted reading program.  “Regular” = every day. Start small—maybe all you can manage is ten minutes.  Start there and build it up.  And unhook your connections to the outside world so you can focus.
  • Teach yourself to write code and try it out (Seth’s suggestion, this). The reward center in your brain will light up when it works.

Go!

Suggested Resources:

Poke the Box: When Was the Last Time You Did Something For the First Time? (Seth Godin)

17 Anti-Procrastination Hacks: How to Stop Being Lazy, Overcome Procrastination, and Finally Get Stuff Done (Dominic Mann)

 

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The Unescaped Life

8 12 2015

The Unescaped LifeThis is Seth Godin.

Yeah, he looks kind of quirky, yellow horn-rim glasses and all.  But he has a quote that eats at me every time I see it:

“Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.”

 

Ouch.

 

We escape life in many ways.  Fantasy.  Substances.  Stuff.  Sex.  Sleep.  Netflix bingeing.  Care to add some others?

 

With the heart and simplicity of a child, this fifty-something thinker challenges us to challenge ourselves.  And the status quo (whatever “quo” is for you).  And “prevailing wisdom.”

One of his books on my shelf is entitled Poke the BoxHow can you not like that?

 

What does an unescaped life look like for you?

A mid-life career change doing something for more passion and less money?

Running a 5K race when you’ve never run anything?

Saying “no” for once instead of being a doormat?

Actually writing something longhand instead of typing or texting with calloused thumbs?

Or better, putting your not-so-smartphone away and actually having eye-to-eye communication with another person…undistracted, all emotionally naked-like (gotta be brave for this one)?

 

I dare you.  I dare you to craft a life you don’t have to put out of your head at 5:00 PM on Friday.

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Poke the Box!

4 01 2014

poke-the-boxThis past year, I discovered Seth Godin.

You have to check out his writings (blog and books) and watch his videos.  I am currently reading Poke the BoxFirst introduced to his unique view of life, marketing, innovation, the labor force, creativity and status-quo-challenging thinking when a friend sent my wife Seth’s book Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?

Seth has the unique, almost Einsteinian approach to thinking, problem-solving, analysis—the wonder of a child coupled with razor sharp wit, graciousness and complete lack of pretension.

The essence of Poke the Box?  Try stuff.  Do something.  Push buttons.  Get your crayons out and create.  Pay no heed to the voices that say you can’t bring something meaningful and marketable to the marketplace and the human condition.  Again, Seth points out that there are lots of people who make plans and can follow orders, but not many willing to unilaterally start stuff.

Sooooo…..

Go start something and see what happens!

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Currently spinning:  The Best Yet (Switchfoot)





Why “New” Is Important For You

1 01 2014

The Importance of NewHave you ever longed for those kinds of experiences that, essentially, seem to make time stand still?  We remember events from our childhood with savor that had the quality of lasting forever…suspending the tick of the clock.  We wish we could stay there.  Forever.

Novelty is important in our lives.  Routine, predictable outcomes, familiar actions all give us a feeling of safety, of stability.  For a good deal of our daily living, this is a good thing.

But there are caveats….

Boredom, the ubiquitous condition that afflicts so much of us in the modern, affluent West is born of a good deal of such routine.  Predictable and “safe” behavior choices.  Following and reproducing the known and reliable.  There is a cost.

Neophobia is the fear of new things.  To try new things, new foods, new relationships, new projects, immediately places us outside our comfort zones.  This presents us with choices.

Do I want more of the same thing that I’ve experienced year in and out?  Am I excited about the prospect of twenty-five or fifty more years of “the same ‘ole same ‘ole?”

Here’s the challenge:  Spice things up.  Throw a monkey wrench into your daily routine.  Step outside into the chill of the unknown (you’ll find you’ll adapt to the temp and it ain’t so bad after all).

Wanting to embody the stuff to which I enjoin my readers, here’s a couple of my own:

  • I’m a musician.  There are a lot of well-known artists whose music I’m unaware of.  My loved ones (daughters, wife, son-in-law) have fantastic tastes.  Soooo….I have set up a listening program to daily expose myself to new and classic artists in popular music and jazz to widen my palette.  Fleet Foxes, Thelonious Monk, Ellis Marsalis, Gungor, and The Pogues are all on my radar this month. Even put the program in a spreadsheet to track my progress.  (Yep, I’m an IT nerd, but it works for me.)
  • Try new and healthy food and drink choices.  My wife and I have planned in detail, more than ever, to eat closer to the earth (fruits, vegetables, oil, nuts, fish, lean meats, red wines, etc.) to give our palettes new treats as well as health benefits.
  • Enter new communal circles to increase your relationships.  Theatre societies.  Book clubs (maybe I should form one?).  Local and regional political bodies.  Exercise accountabilities.  All are fraught with enormous possibilities for enriching your lives.

So, what are your plans to shake things up and make time stand still with the sheer pleasure and endorphin release of new experiences?

Currently spinning: The Birth of the Cool (Miles Davis)

Currently reading: Poke the Box (Seth Godin)

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2014. Here We Come!

31 12 2013

 

4:26 PM (Eastern Standard Time)

New Year, just south of seven hours from now.

Resolutions being formed.  Regrets (too much bad food and bad blood in 2013) being mulled and, hopefully, forgotten.  Goals being articulated, fleshed out—progress ahead.

“Your time is gonna come” (apologies to Led Zeppelin).  I believe that this is the year for your time to come as well as mine.  I really do.

So……..

  • Smile more, even if you don’t feel like it.
  • Laugh.  A lot.  Laugh at yourself.  And have fun doing so.  After all, you’re only human.
  • Choose friends, surroundings and stimuli with care.  This year, jazz and classic rock have saved my neck over and over when the mood swings come and I want to drown in despair, cynicism, and negativity.  Thank you Miles Davis and Led Zeppelin.
  • Read.  Watch.  Take notes.  Do your homework.  As Brian Tracy reminds us, “All skills are learnable” and “To do something you’ve never done before, you must become someone you’ve never been before.  That is exciting and filled with promise.
  • Love your family and friends enough to communicate with them eye-to-eye and voice-to-voice, not simply through Facebook, Twitter, and texts.  The sound of another human being is magical.  No, it’s eternal.
  • Be a thermostat.  Everywhere.  Set the bar high with your example.  Office, factory, stage, classroom, living room.
  • Read anything by Seth Godin.
  • Read anything by Brian Tracy.

Ah.  Night is falling.  Celebrations starting.  Be safe and responsible—get a driver or a cab if you need to.

Happy New Year!

Cheers

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