Schedules Are Important

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In the Covid World, many peoples are feeling lost, and their lives are kind of going off the wall.

I’ve worked most consistently since I was 16 and so having a good 6 months off has sent me a drift.

I realized lately that having some semblance of a schedule will help me.

So now, I’ve been trying to consistently get up at the same time even if I don’t go to bed at the same time. I’m trying to have a basic few routines that I am doing every day in order to add some normalcy.

This can be tough, especially if you struggle with self motivation.

Best bet in that case is to simply start small, and be gentle. This is a strange time, do what you can to make it work for you.

AFYM: Self-Care is not Self-ish

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You need to drink water. Go get a glass, I’ll wait. I’m going to go get one right now. Ok, now when was the last time you ate something with protein? Not sugar. Are you drinking like 5 Red-bulls a day? When did you shower last? How about exercise? Going outside?

These things might seem trivial, but they add up. The ego might disregard them but the animal brain that is most of you, the other 90% of you, takes this sort of stuff dead seriously.

All of these things, are self care, and they matter.

The brain is a complex animal with some basic needs, and if these needs are met, it’s going to be hard for you to function.

The culture seems to hold up in awe those people who work themselves to death, or are lacking in sleep. These states will lead you to a breaking point, and then you won’t be able to help anyone.

Or as a martial arts instructor put it to me years ago, if the machine is broken you can’t work, even if you want to.

Start small, just integrate a little self-care, and then slowly but surely integrate more. It might seem like a waste of time, until you realize that your mood is better, and your motivation keeps you going for longer.

Most of all, be kind to yourself when you fail to do this. You will, that’s ok, just learn, forgive and keep trying. You got this.

AFYM: Journaling Helps Free Up Space in Your Head

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The written word is a powerful thing. It allows us to put our thoughts outside our-self. Even now as you read this I am communicating to you, not in real time, but sometime from the past.

Our minds often become cluttered with various thoughts and worries, so a quick practice I like to do, as I did this morning, is to write all my thoughts down as they come. This sort of stream of consciousness writing seems simple but can take practice.

when you first begin it you might find yourself answering the voices, or challenge the thoughts, that’s normal. instead of doing this though try and instead just let the thoughts come. Let them all jumble onto the page, let them not make sense, and let them be counter intuitive. Just let them exist.

You will find the simple act of doing this will often relive stress, and then after you’ve let the thoughts sit on the page a bit, you can go back and offer advice to them.

What I often do in this case is a call and answer, where one color pen is the questioner of the thoughts and the other color is the emotionally charged thought. I don’t criticize the thoughts, but instead I ask them pointed questions.

In a way this allows me to explore the fallacies in my thinking without beating them over the head with judgement.

So next time you find yourself overwhelmed, try dumping that mess onto a page.

If you must suffer, Suffer Well

One of Monet’s works Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.”

― Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

It is curious that if ones looks hard enough threads of humanity link us together. At the core of nearly every philosophy there is a supposition, a rule, a dictate, or a truth.

One must suffer.

This is not exclusively an eastern philosophy, and it can be found in the works of Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankle, and in the works of many Existential philosophers of the western cannon. This consistent thread is one of the reasons I am currently convinced of it’s veracity.

Now many take this truth and turn it to Nihilism. They learn like the dog in the electrified cage that there is no escape from suffering and so fall into learned helplessness.

However, unlike the poor abused animal in that horrific experiment in the past, we are not bound by our physiology, instead if we allow ourselves to we can learn we are helpless to suffer, but able to choose the type of suffering.

“I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.”

― Hermann Hesse, Siddhartha

Why does this matter? Because not all suffering is made the same.

Suffering is not some meaningless thing thrust upon us, but our perception of change. The world changes. I often struggled with the idea that accepting everything as is without judgement would be impossible.

Would I not simply stagnate?

How could I accomplish such an insurmountable task?

To answer my own questions:

No, the world will not stop by accepting it, by accepting it you instead become able to respond better and more efficiently, change is not optional, though you can choose to grow.

To be frank, you cannot do it. I know sounds super Kooky right? Well it’s not. You can simply try and practice at it, each time moving away or from it, but moving none the less.

Suffering is the price of admission to life.

Though there are some that might scoff at it’s simplicity, it is my current belief that you could not know that something was pleasurable if you did not know what pain was.

I think this is why we have what we generally call first world problems. Suffering always measures itself in relation to the situation. If one is hungry they suffer, if one is fed they might complain about the quality of the food. If one has nothing but high quality food they might suffer the dread of boredom.

By being cogniscient that suffering will come along, we are no longer at its behest, and instead greet it as an old friend, knowing that our labors have been paid for and any boons or banes we earn are our own.

So if you must suffer, choose to suffer well, but if you can change something, then do so!

AFYM: If something evokes strong emotions, take a moment to question it

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As someone who suffers with OCD, the disorder has taught me a valuable skill, to question strong emotions.

Emotions aren’t wrong or bad, and I do not advise suppressing them, but when you read, watch or listen to something that raises your blood-pressure, it’s important to take a beat.

In the age of global social media warfare and government sponsored trolling, the internet is more than ever a huge minefield of misinformation, spread with the intent of creating divisions, and anger.

I have a sneaking suspicion that the Anti-science / Anti-mask movement in the US has its roots in either the Chinese or Russian Government’s efforts to undermine the western world.

But this goes beyond the pandemic, in life, people will tap into your primary emotions in order to manipulate your decisions, your wallet, or your ballot.

The key to not being blustered about via the emotional whims is to practice mindfulness. When you are confronted with an emotionally charged “fact” or headline, take a moment, and question, what is this person, passage or quote trying to get from me.

You won’t be able to do this immediately, and it takes practice but eventually, you might be able to avoid being so upset all the time.

Advice for young men (AFYM): Logic wont compel you to change, stories will

Jungian philosophy is complex and multifaceted, but one of the primary ideas behind it is the confrontation and channeling of the shadow.

“No tree, it is said, can grow to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell.”

― Carl Jung

The shadow of man dives down to hell, and yet so many people walk around as if they don’t have a choice to be good.

I read about this idea and decided to try and embrace the capacity in myself to do great evil, and focus on the choice not to do evil.

I logically understood the ideas, and yet part of me resisted truely embracing it.

Then on a chance, I watched Beastars. In the story the Main character struggles with this percise Jungian problem. Most of the show he acts as if he has no capacity to do evil, and as such is weak, and not truely a good man (wolf). However, when presented with his dark side, he confronts it, and eventually is able to channel his darkness to save those he loves.

Suddenly for me the philosophy clicked, some part of my brain was able to wholly embrace the ideas.

This is my long winded way of saying that even if you logically want to change, you will struggle to unless you have a story to attach to that logic.

Humans are Firstly Emotion Based

The old adage you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink, is rightfully translated, you can teach a man anything but you can’t make him belive it.

Because there is a part of our brain that attaches information to stories. The shaman, the lore master, the priest, all of them teach through stories. What is any religious text but a story that teaches lessons?

So, my advice is if you want to truly internalize things you have to find a story that teaches it, or you might struggle.

If worry is your default, moving away from it will be difficult, but not impossible

My default mode most days is to wake up, realize I am alive and then start looking actively for something to worry about.

I’ve spent enough time lately in states of non-stress, states that were completely sober, that I’ve come to realize that my stressed out state isn’t mandatory.

When you spend so much time angry, upset, and depressed, you start to think that’s the normal state, and that it’s inevitable. But with a lot of mindfulness, I’ve come to realize this isn’t my natural state.

As I observe my thoughts more and more, I realize my mind actively hunts out problems to worry about and if it cannot find anything I might even invent a problem. But this like all bad habits is just a run away feedback loop that can be interrupted.

I’m getting better at interrupting that loop, but a second more important lesson I’ve learned is that life isn’t going to stay consistent. There is no state where I don’t sometimes get stressed and make mistakes, and that’s okay.

Life is not about doing the right things, it’s about doing.

AFYM: Sometimes Things are Just Boring, and That’s Normal

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In my life there have been plenty of times where I was actively bored. At work during a lull, at school in a mandatory class, or maybe just on a summer day when it’s too hot to ride my bike.

However, there seems to be a second type of boredom that tends to come in during otherwise pleasant parts of life, emotional boredom.

I think media, of all sorts, paints life with bright colors, vivid greens that make our trees seem dead in comparison, beautiful tans that make our own bodies seem pale, and bright blues that shame the real sky. But more sinister, media, traditional and social, posits that reality is a constant melodrama.

In writing, we learn to ask a question when writing, “is this the most exciting part of the character’s life? If not, then write about that instead.” And all media mimics this formula. It’s why we never see characters go to the bathroom, brush their teeth, eat corn flakes, or go in for a routine physical where the results are all just OK.

This is fine, as what I just described sounds like a horrible form of entertainment. The problem becomes when we stop actively reminding ourselves that all media, from Instagram posts to blockbusters is the most exciting slices of a person’s life cultivated and designed to provoke an emotion. We begin to look at our own life subconsciously as lesser, and more sisterly begin to seek drama.

This emotional boredom becomes the basis of dissatisfaction. Comparison leads the person to stimulate their lives, and many and young man has fallen prey to this.

The man might seek out partners who are not healthy, but are exciting. He might reject all sensible jobs to do something risky, not because he actually believes in it, but because the idea of his life being ordinary, happy, contented or mostly ok bores him.

Be wary of creating or joining drama.

Not that you shouldn’t get involved with things your a geuninely passionate about, what I am saying is don’t invent or seek out problems that aren’t yours.

Sometimes we hang out with our friends and they vent to us, and suddenly we find ourselves as stressed out as the person actually experiencing the situation. We might day dream solutions, or even follow the situation with bated breath. But in the end, that’s not our business.

Being a human is boring sometimes. Learn to sit with that, be ok with it, and be wary. Sometimes things are worth fighting for, but more often than not you just might be bored.

(PS: If EVERYTHING is boring, go see someone if you can, that’s a symptom of depression)

A terribly oversimplified guide to OCD

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(Disclaimer: I have been diagnosed by an M.D. I am not a doctor, and I will probably get some of this wrong! Feel free to tell me what I missed!)

I apologize for the relative radio silence the past few days. I suffered from an acute spike in my OCD.

OCD is an often misunderstood and misrepresented mental illness. It is debilitating at times, and I have only a moderate case of it. Some people are literally boxed in by there disease stuck in their homes for fear of triggering their OCD.

OCD is in its simplest form is a runaway feedback loop.

The same way any other organ doesn’t stop working when we are not conciously aware of it, the brain doesn’t stop either.

In the neuro-typical (average functional) brain, there is a gatekeeper of sorts that screens this constant pool of thoughts. This gatekeeper tends to only allow thoughts that disagree with the core personality of the individual to pass into consciousness.

In someone with OCD this is the first stumbling block. That gaurds man is quite drowsy and lets a number of perfectly common but disturbing thoughts into consciousness.

Now this sometimes happens in most humans. The urge to jump off a high ledge will send a shudder down someone’s spine, or the idea that maybe we are dying of HIV might send someone into an hour or two of worry.

In OCD however, the this is the second downfall. In OCD the horrifying thought is picked up by and over sensitive brain and amplified. It is used as proof that by simply having this thought is an indication to action. Despite OCD thoughts nearly always being completely opposite of the true character of the individual, and against their wishes.

This causes considerable emotional distress, and to combat that OCD people preform compulsions, or behaviors to aliviate this stress.

The nature of these compulsions depends on the individual, and they are generally disruptive such as hand washing ect, and they are not always consistent. In movies an OCD person has to have every part of their room organized, in real life their room might be a mess, but the OCD Suffer’s hands might be bleeding from being washed too many times.

By participating in these compulsions, the brain incorrectly interprets the anxiety as valid. By running away from the boogy man he becomes real, even if he’s nothing more than a bundle of sticks in the wind.

And so it goes on and on and on, until the OCD sufferer if he or she is lucky learns about Therapies that work. The most effective being ERP or Exposure response prevention.

The therapy is deceptively simple yet exceptionally difficult. It involves avoiding the alleviation of anxiety. The OCD sufferer exposes themselves to things that trigger anxiety and chooses conciously to avoid making themselves feel better. Eventually, the brain learns that since no feedback is given to relive it that the fear they are feeling is disproportionate to the situation, and so the anxiety decrease. Thus Severing the Feedback loop!

Mind you this is not a cure, and it is difficult to do without the aid of Medication, and there are still sometimes the OCD sufferer will fail at this task.

I write this post t simply explain why I haven’t posted and more importantly to tell you all that struggling with a mental illness is perfectly normal, and I understand.

These are strange times, so take care of yourself, and if you do struggle try and get some help.

Hope you all stay well. Be back soon.

Advice For Young Men: It’s okay if you lose motivation sometimes, this is normal.

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So, today, and for the past week or so I’ve been drained. My OCD has been really acting up, and I’ve been having to deal with that.

I have been putting in the work but my heart isn’t it.

But that’s ok. You are allowed to, especially in stressful situations, lose motivation, and not want to do anything.

The key is to show up, and try your best, but don’t be to harsh. Focus on your responsibilities to others and yourself, but don’t worry if you lost all your motivation, it will recharge, it just needs time. You aren’t a machine.