The year of post-it-notes and mindfulness
January 12, 2015
For a nethead and digerati like myself, 2014 was a year of ironies.
For one, if I was to name the go-to-tool that played the most pivotal role for me at work last year, it has to be post-it-notes - and then there was that whole mindfulness business.
I guess it’s a occupational injury of sorts that I often (mostly for fun) sum up my personal year in a headline akin to how I used to sum up media or technology years when that was my professional beat.
But most of the time I think I refrained from publising those more personal headlines, though they often corresponded with the work I was doing. E.g. I think I dubbed my 2011 the year of iPad and anti-social sharing because the device became so key to my work and life that year and yet I found my social media use to have become rather anti-social compared to what it had been before because I did most of the sharing via apps like Flipboard and Hootsuite – which created very a different, much less social, communication mode for me in a busy worklife.
And last year, I sort of re-discovered and came to lean heavily on post-it-notes - of all things.
I spent (and spend) a substantial amount of my working hours structuring and re-thinking the sub pages of a university web site, including all its research, by way of mapping the content and content desires of the various departments. And post-it-notes happened to be the perfect tool for doing it. Especially for workshops where the attendees are working in groups, but also when I was/am working on my own.
I did check out a few online tools that could be used for the job, but especially when working in groups I found post-it-notes to be an easy, flexible and useful option.
Besides, over the last few years I’ve found more and more that for certain uses I prefer pen and paper to digital tools because the former give me a very visceral feeling of thinking with my fingers.
So much so that I think my first "work related" purchase this year might be a flip-over for my home (which obviously will come out of my own pocket).
I’ll readily admit that this sense of sometimes "thinking better" when working with pen and paper is an intuitive feeling, but this experience is actually supported by science: Scientist have found that writing by hand does strengthen the learning process, among other things.
But it’s definently not, at least for me, all kind of learning and thinking that is best done by hand – very far from.
I strongly prefer writing blog posts, articles and most other such things, in fact doing most of my writing, on a computer connected to the internet. But I find that when structuring large amounts of information, like when working on the architecture of a big web site or writing a book, pen and paper can come in really, really handy in certain stages of the project.
Until I find less intrusive solutions than FitBit and Moves, I shall also do most of my lifelogging in a good old fashioned notebook (I do of course fancy a smart watch, but rationally I know it will drive around the bend unless I can find one that runs on what Amber Case calls calm technology) .
Talking about life logging, I’ve also worked hard to turn my life around / change my lifestyle in 2014. That’s were that mindfulness business comes in. Now a lot of people will tell you how delightful and calming and all kinds of wonderful taking up meditation or another form of mindfulness practice is, but I must admit I’ve rarely felt more anxiety and pain than for the first year or so of getting into this stuff.
Though the emphasis is on "felt". Turns out I’ve been what therapists call "frozen" (probably since the accident I was in 20 years ago) and not really in touch with all my feelings etc. That’s part of what has enabled me to come through so much adversity and work such crazy hours for much of my life.
And getting in touch with all that stuff again, becoming more mindful if you like, was hardly frictionless: I honestly had no idea I had so much anxiety or so many (mostly minor) physical pains.
I did and do benefit from mindfulness training and meditation, I’ve found some very useful tools in it, but I also think it perfectly sensible of whichever part of me who acted to want to be "unmindful" for long periods of my life (I’ve written more on stuff related to this process in Norwegian here).
So: Onwards. For me, the year of post-it-notes and mindfulness has definently meant progress. That may sound counterintuitive, but essentially the year has made me a more balanced person - or a better version of myself.
What were you like before the accident? Where were you "frozen" at? Because most people say they feel like teenagers inside. I don't. But I'm so much "thicker" (*emotionally* :P) than the "me" that first emerged around fourteen (provided I pay attention to my feelings rather than letting my thoughts rush away with themselves) and I'm continuing to grow. That said, the environment I grew up in wasn't conducive to emotional development and I've been rejecting part of my identity so I'm probably a late developer. But if you're a late developer, what's your excuse? (Seventeen is older than most people report themselves feeling.) Or does your experience demonstrate people misremember the amount of development they do? Or do some people grow and others not?
Anyway, nobody's going to bet against you doing whatever you want :P, the world needs more emotionally developed human beings and techniques similar to mindfulness, as I understand it, have helped me, inasmuch as I've been helped. (So does drafting, but never posting, 2000 words blogs describing how I feel. In fact, you've making me wonder whether my predilection for emotional reveries is what makes me so timid and anxious. But, if you look into the abyss and aren't scared at what looks back, then you probably haven't looked into the abyss... ;)
You might find joining a choral group helps. Apart from the positive hormones, it forces lots of different areas of the brain to work together.
Oh, and Apple have seen you coming, http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/30/apple_in_2007_who_wants_a_stylus_apple_in_2010_we_want_a_stylus/ But I still like the post-it notes. I hope the book's going well, if not finished.
Posted by: a_spod | March 28, 2015 at 09:27 PM
Thanks for the comment, sorry I only got around to publish it today (only saw it today as I've been "semi-offline" for a few days, in other words only using my mobile to check on news & SoMe otherwise offline).
I was not "frozen" in the way you describe here, an easy misunderstanding as I didn't explain the context much and we rightfully talk about people experiencing trauma becoming frozen in certain areas at the age they were when the trauma occurred. I probably should go back and explain better the context in which I use frozen in the post above. I've been so lucky to able to work with a psychomotor physiaterapist (best translation I could find, might be a more apt name for it, but it's a physiotherapist who also has studied psychology). It was she who introduced the term "frozen" to me as as a way of describing a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system. I found this explanation for it (via a quick google search):
"Humans have evolved highly effective conscious and unconscious response patterns to manage stressful or threatening situations. The brain and body make up a complex interdependent system. Every sensory experience triggers a chain of electrochemical reactions throughout the body: thoughts and impulses in the brain release molecules (neurotransmitters) that transmit information to organs, muscles, and nerves, and then back to the brain in a continuous cycle, stimulating reflexes and reactions, voluntary movements, and thoughts. Most of the affected body systems, known collectively as the "autonomic nervous system," are automatic and operate beyond conscious control.
"The autonomic nervous system has two complimentary divisions: the sympathetic nervous system, which activates our nerves, organs, and muscles into a heightened state of arousal and regulates the "fight or flight" mechanism, and the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the body's calming mechanisms (as well as the "freeze" response) and is designed to shut down body systems or return the body to baseline arousal levels. These two systems regulate our emotional and physiological states: they become activated and prepare us to respond when we are confronted by a threat, and calm us after the danger has passed.
"However, under the pressure of trauma or chronic stress, both of these systems can malfunction, becoming hyperactive and over-functioning (experienced as anxiety, panic, or dissociation from negative sensations) or frozen and unresponsive (resulting in constant activation). The parts of the brain associated with emotions (particularly the "fear" centers, such as the hypothalamus and amygdala) and the parts that stimulate our conscious responses to danger (such as the limbic system and the reticular activating system) cease to function properly. When this happens, the brain cannot differentiate between threats that are real and threats that are simply perceived.
"These malfunctions produce a chronic, underlying state of "dysregulation" or imbalance in the body, which may result in over-arousal and hypervigilence (in which a person seems to overreact to every situation) or sluggishness and dissociation (in which a person seems numb and disconnected in stressful or dangerous situations). This dysregulation of the brain and body systems perpetuates mental, emotional, and physical distress."
So I use "frozen" more in this sense, as having been in a constant state of flight or being "on alert" all the time - the solution to every crisis being constantly achieving, going beyond every limit until I became somewhat disconnected with my body and its signals (of fatigue, pain etc). A less flattering way to descibe this is that I became a stress junkie, which isn't a very healthy or sustainable thing to be in the long run but at least it worked wonders for my career ;-) But I'm using too many words to try to answer this, which is a sure sign I'm too tired. So I'll return with some more poignant answers tomorrow.
Posted by: Kristine | March 31, 2015 at 11:02 PM
Btw: Drafting but not posting 2000 words blog posts, is that why your blog’s not been updated for a while? I tend to call this «mental blogging», which I do a lot, though on all sorts of topics – from very personal to political or media related stuff.
As for «frozen» I tried to clear up what I used this term to describe in my comment of yesterday. As for feeling like a teenager inside I can’t relate to that much either: I used to be 19-going-on-90, and probably 16-going-on-60-before that, regardless of the accident. Not to say I didn’t do stupid or immature things when I was young (done my share), but I feel like I’ve grown younger as I’ve grown older (if that makes sense).
I don’t think I’ll ever join a choral group, singing is not one of my talents :-) , but I’ve benefited a lot from mindfulness, walking, exercise, writing and reading. I’ve always had what I consider a wonderful gift for loosing myself in good books, which in hindsight probably has been a blessing in so many ways – not at least because I’ve never been very good at relaxing in the sense of not doing anything.
As for mindfulness, it’s perhaps worth a post of its own as I find it in many ways to be over-hyped and painted in a much too rosy light. Personally, I’ve rarely felt more pain and more anxiety than after I seriously started practicing mindfulness meditation (it goes back to what I tried to explain in my comment of yesterday, of how being on alert or in a constant state of emergency all the time made me disregard and become disconnected with my body and its signs of distress, such as pain or anxiety, for a long time. When I started being mindful / listening to my body again I was kinda shocked by the pain and anxiety I never thought I felt when I successfully blocked it out, the intensity of it was rather overwhelming) – but it works.
Pens: I’ll stick to my newly re-found joy of old-style pens for now, but a colleague of mine has stylus pen that is pretty cool. Book: I’m afraid life (mostly work) got in the way – far from finished, working on it this Easter but certainly won’t be finished by the end of Easter = ongoing project.
Posted by: Kristine | April 01, 2015 at 09:29 PM