Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Self help books have never really been my thing, but here I am, having just finished two of them. The books are The Speed Trap and Slowing Down to the Speed of Life. I didn't go out and buy them myself -- they were a Christmas gift from my boss, which is actually a fine example of how supportive she can be. The books promise ways to help you simplify and slow down a fast-paced and stressful life. I actually found several things in them that I think will ultimately help me.
The books are based on a philosophy called Psychology of Mind, which sounds totally Tom Cruise crazy to me, so I'm going to gloss over that part and focus on their main messages, which are:
• To recognize negativity and stress as just thoughts
• To learn to think not just analytically, but also in "free flowing mode."
• To live in the moment
Let's look at these one by one. Everybody experiences stressful situations and feelings. But how stressful things are and how much they affect you can really depend on your point of view. I am making an effort now if, for example, I'm stuck in traffic, not to focus on how it sucks and I'm going to be late. I accept that there's nothing I can do about it, find some soothing music to listen to, and focus on enjoying that, rather than freaking out about the craziness around me. It really works, new age-y as it sounds. Similarly, I recently had a conflict with someone who was being really unreasonable. At one point in our argument, that person stormed off, refusing to talk to me, and saying, "Don't worry about it. Just whatever." I thought, "You know what? I won't worry about it." The thing that person was upset about had nothing to do with me. I don't want to let someone else's bad mood bring me down, so I decided really and truly to take her sarcastic comment to heart and not worry about it. It was a weight off my shoulders, to be honest. I'm now trying, when I start to experience stress (or what the books call "a low mood" to change the course of my thinking and help myself get out of it. I've been a lot less short-tempered since I started doing this.
"Free flowing mode" is something that I think will really help me at work. Ever notice how you can sit and stew over a problem, come up with nothing, only to have something pop into your head while you're in the shower? That's because when you put that problem on the back burner, your brain will work away at it, and you'll come up with a creative solution. Taking an analytical approach will be less successful. I've already started incorporating that philosophy into our brainstorming sessions at work, and it's really going well for us. On Friday, we spent a few minutes talking about a project we're going to do. We agreed on the analytical facts -- budget, timeline, audience, etc -- and then just let it go. Yesterday, we reconvened, and had not one, but two great and workable ideas to use. You have to trust in your own talents and creativity and be confident that you'll work things out. It seems that it actually works.
Finally, living in the moment really makes life more enjoyable. The night before last, Jack woke up at 10:00 absolutely freaking out. He was sobbing and would not go back to sleep, then conned us into letting him go downstairs, where he sat with me while I wrote my Apprentice recap, then scored a bonus episode of Elmo. We put him to bed again, and he kept crying and did not want to go to sleep.
I started to get really stressed out. Was Jack sick? Did he have an ear infection? Because if he did, he'd either not get antibiotics and have to tough it out, or he'd get them and have his horrible babboon butt diaper rash. And I'd have to stay home with him the next day, because Steve had a full schedule of meetings. That meant I'd be up with him all night, which meant I'd be home with a sick kid and cranky myself because of lack of sleep, and I was out a day and a half from work last week, and...
Then I realized those were all negative thoughts. Just thoughts, not reality. None of that stuff had happened, and if it did, I'd deal with it. Instead of focusing on all the crazy mind races, I decided to focus just on that moment. I pulled Jack onto my lap, helped him get comfortable, and rocked him. If I started to think about how long it would take him to fall asleep, and when I could quit rocking him, I made myself stoop and just enjoy cuddling with my sweet little guy. In that moment, if I didn't think about the next day or any possible consequences, snuggling with Jack and kissing his little head was wonderful. I didn't feel stressed out; I felt happy and peaceful. Jack relaxed too and fell fast asleep, and when I crawled into bed, I did the same thing. And you know what? He slept just fine the rest of the night and was in a great and healthy mood the next day. All of those things I'd been worried about were just thoughts.
This has turned into a long entry, but I have to say, I'm happy I read these two books. I intend to learn from them, and I think it'll be really good for me.