I’ve been watching videos of Sonia Lupien, who is a researcher in human stress. The Brain Development and Learning Conference in 2008 had a good talk by her.
Two videos of her presentation are below. They are not very good quality, visually, but the information is interesting. I also found that the poor quality made me pay closer attention, which was helpful.
What this has to do with anything, is that my present life seems to be about acclimating myself to stress in a way that will let me get on with my life without getting hijacked by things that make you NUTS — and create/add to stress.
NUTS stands for a situation that is:
Threat (to the ego), and it creates
Sense of loss of control
For a situation to be stressful it must contain one or more of the following elements:
|NOVELTY||Something new you have not experienced before|
|UNPREDICTABILITY||Something you had no way of knowing it would occur.|
|THREAT TO THE EGO||Your competence as a person is called into question|
|SENSE OF CONTROL||You feel you have little or no control over the situation.|
These four factors create what she and her colleagues call a “recipe for stress”. Any or all of these factors may come into play, and it all depends on the individual, how much stress comes out of the experience. Check out the link and read a bit — you may find it quite interesting.
Now, what I’m doing with this — and have been lately, independent of having watched her videos and having read more of what she’s done — is introducing more novelty and uncontrolled circumstances into my life, under friendly conditions. My feeling is that, while I have introduced good routines into my day, deviating from those routines is far too disruptive, and I need to develop more flexibility in my approach to my daily life. This is especially true in my relationships with people.
I have gotten into the habit of following a certain steps, each morning, and if I don’t follow them exactly, I tend to get nervous. And that throws off my whole day. Does this make sense for me? I’m a full-grown adult, and I can’t get by without my checklists? Now, granted, I really needed help with remembering what I was supposed to do each day. I would literally forget that I was supposed to take my vitamins or eat my cereal. And I would literally forget to gather everything I needed for the day. I just wasn’t doing well at all. So, I used my checklists, and I have been doing a whole lot better, since.
But without my checklists — for even the most basic things, like getting up in the morning and doing my morning routine — I would get so stressed out, it would throw me off. I was getting far too brittle and far too dependent on my lists, using them more and more as crutches, rather than as necessary elements of my day.
So, I am changing things up. I have veered away from using my standard-issue checklist every single morning. And I have been making lists on scrap paper that I have on hand. I’m still organized about it, using the scrap paper on my clipboard, and marking off the things I need to do in an orderly fashion. But I’m being more fluid about it and I’m relying more on my in-depth involvement in my day, rather than a specific checklist that was made out for me earlier, to get myself going.
I also started changing up my workout in the mornings, improvising and introducing more full-body movement into my exercises, rather than exercises that isolated only one muscle or a small group of muscles. I started doubling up on my exercises, also, incorporating more movement into the lifting, so that my whole body was challenged, instead of just one set of muscles.
At first, the change of pace threw me a bit, and I was pretty anxious and concerned. But the change in exercise really bumped up my attention, and I found it to be a lot more invigorating and waking-up-ing than my past routines had been. At the start, doing my regular exercises exactly the same way every single day, really helped me establish a regular routine, that got me back into the swing of regular life. But now I’m back in the swing of things, and I’m in need of a new twist (literally and figuratively) to my morning routine.
Novelty. Yes. And unpredictability, too. Because now I never really know what I’m going to do for my workout each morning. I do know that I’m going to take care of my household pet, eat my breakfast, and lift and stretch and get my heart rate going. But I don’t necessarily know the specifics, or even the order of some things.
After changing things up a little bit, I have started to acclimate to it. When I start to get nervous about not knowing what exercise to do next, I just move my body a little bit and pay attention to what movements feel tight or stiff or weaker than I’d like. Then I focus on them. I try to move my entire body somewhat during each morning warm-up, and I keep in mind that I’ll be stretching later, so I need to warm myself up. I also am mindful of the need to get my heart rate up and to get my breathing going. I need to jump-start my body so my brain will kick in. And as I move through the motions of each morning workout, I start to feel better about it — and even if I tell myself I’ll only spend 10 minutes on the workout, when I’m pressed for time, I find that those 10 minutes are good quality … or I actually have more time than I thought I did.
Well, it’s all a process, and it’s been a very busy week. But I have to say, increasing the stress in my life under very controlled and limited (and friendly) circumstances is helping me a great deal. The better I can handle my morning “artificial stressors”, the better I feel I can handle the rest of the real-world stressors of the day.
Which makes me feel really great — about myself and my ability to deal with the world around me.