Resources Round Up

Other, Resources, Self Care, Values based living

LBR. I’m a self improvement junkie.

There’s honestly a lot to be said for getting too invested in self-improvement; it can become a compulsion, something to strive for that feels good but at its heart is simply about thinking of yourself as deficient somehow. From when I was sixteen I was obsessed with productivity blogs and books such as Getting Things Done7 Habits, etc etc.

These days, I’m sure my desire to find the “perfect” productivity method was an attempt too control anxiety about my grades or whether I was good enough in my academic work (I’ve written about it more here).  It was never enough.

Regardless, in small, careful doses it can certainly be useful. I try not to engage in this as a compulsion, i.e. when I’m feeling sad or worthless, or as a distraction from some feeling or activity. I use them to help me live by my values, to strengthen my boundaries, and learn about how to care for myself better. Gratifyingly, this has become a lot easier as the content I consume is generally based in mindfulness and values based living.

Anyway, without further ado, here is a small handful of the resources and blogs I’ve found the most helpful over the past few years. I’ll be updating this as I go along, so do check back.

Taking Stock of Your Life – The Inventory Exercise

Resources, Values based living

 

The inventory exercise comes from a video by mental health fitness coach Mark Freeman.  He goes into more detail about it in his book but in short, it involves mapping out two things: 1) how you currently spend your time and 2) how you would ideally spend your time. The idea is to gain visibility on where you’re wasting time on compulsions/unhelpful actions, and what you actually value in life. And then take steps to align the two inventories.

I’ve done this at numerous periods during my life, and it’s been helpful to take stock of where my time is going, and also how quickly you can slide back into old habits if you’re not careful.

Here’s my inventory at the beginning of this year. Suffice to say, I was going through a rough time. But nonetheless, very aware of my compulsions and my time disappearing into them.

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Jan/Feb 2018

My inventory just after moving, before I started my job. I remember being extremely pleased with myself as my inventory was finally starting to look the way I wished it would.

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14th June 2018

And then here’s my most recent inventory, from this week – a few months into this job.

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21st August 2018

 

It’s certainly better than it would have been a month ago; however, I’ve fallen very quickly back into compulsions, rumination, and moved away from spending time where I value. It’s been harder working out where to spend time with work – I need to define my values more in that area. Nonetheless, every time I do this exercise I gain a clearer idea of what I actually value and how that translates into values.

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My ideal inventory – Aug 2018

 

Miniskills Monday: Urge Surfing

Levelling Up and Productivity, Resources

This is a series I’m starting, primarily for my own benefit – where I commit to researching, applying and exploring one mindfulness/mental health skill in depth that week. Or heck, maybe I’ll look into other skills in the future. How exciting.

Anyway, today’s entry is on a technique called Urge Surfing. This is a mindfulness skill pioneered by the psychologist Alan Marlatt, who worked extensively in addictions – however, I learned about it from the book The Happiness Trap. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve been lax at applying this one recently.

Why is Urge Surfing useful?

US is a great skill to answer the question of what you’re actually meant to do instead of compulsions, or when your Rat Brain goes a bit crazy trying to jump back on the wheel. Under Marlatt’s view, any urge, compulsion or addiction can be thought of primarily as physical sensations in the body. They are akin to a wave in the way they peak, crash and eventually, subside altogether.

Instead of trying to distract yourself, do something or argue with yourself to make a thought or feeling go away, you tune in to the urge. You embrace it.

The urge may not go away, and indeed will probably reappear quite a few times. But this way you aren’t giving in to the craving or the compulsion, and eventually the intensity will lessen over time.

How to Urge Surf:

  1. Bring to mind of an urge or compulsion you want to engage in right now. It doesn’t have to be a big or overwhelming one – perhaps simply an urge to eat a piece of chocolate right now. Just because.
  2. Tune in with your body, and notice where you actually experience the urge. Your stomach? Your back? Your jaw? Find the place where you notice it the most. The location might not be the most obvious.
  3. Focus on that physical sensation in particular; examine it. What does it feel like? A pressure? An itch? A restlessness? Can you pinpoint where it is? Does it have a colour, a smell, a defined shape? Could you draw an outline around it? Does it ebb or flow, or is it constant?
  4. Notice whatever comes up. Whatever thought, feeling emerges, take note of it (non-judgmentally).
  5. Use this focus on the physical sensations to help you ride the urge. Within time, the urge will probably start to weaken. However,
  6. If the urge starts to become overwhelming, then return your attention to your breath for a few moments. When you can, return to the sensations.

My mindful goal for this week:

My issue is always setting too many goals at once and setting myself up to fail. So for this week I’m just going to practise noticing a single urge: the urge to use my phone.

The interesting thing about this urge is that I will eventually need to engage in this action. For example, I don’t want to check my phone right now but I will need to read my messages or email at some point. That’s okay. But with this situation, I hope to engage in my values to help me.

I might have the urge, but right now I value the work I’m doing more. As such, I won’t check my phone until X time. Importantly, I need to stick to the time I decide on so that I’m not then just delaying an urge to engage in later, but making decisions based on what I want.