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Three better habits lately

My stress and anxiety levels in recent months have been so much lower than last year's. I could yet stand to improve my overall happiness, but "equanimity" does now describe me far more often than it used to. As a result of being calmer, I sleep better, which means I have more energy and don't get sick as often, so my physical health's much improved too.

There are lots of changes I've made, large and small, that I would say have contributed to this improvement. But here are a nice tidy three:

1. Ditching Facebook (and not replacing it with some equally time-devouring online activity). I've discussed this in previous posts. But just in case you wanted an update, I still think this was a fabulous, wondrous move, on par with breaking up with a toxic friend. (In fact, it basically WAS breaking up with a toxic friend. Or at least, a conglomerate of mostly non-toxic people who, together, somehow added up to one gigantic toxic friend.) I miss it less and less with each passing month. I'm stronger in my solitude; I have wise thoughts and am happy to keep them to myself or tell them to someone I know in real life rather than feeling any need to rush online and share.

[Edited to clarify: I'm not calling any individuals "toxic friends." I'm fond of everyone I was friends with on FB, and am happy that I'm still in touch with many of them via the *several* other ways available to us these days. It's the Facebook environment as a whole that I'm calling toxic. Too many posts, too much snark, too much drama, too much getting messaged and tagged for unnecessary reasons, too much intrusion on my work and thoughts. It felt like being trapped at a loud party I wasn't allowed to leave. Not everyone has that experience on FB, clearly, but that's what mine was like. So I post this because if anyone else is suspecting FB is detrimental to their peace of mind, I want them to know it's quite possibly so. And I want them to feel healthier too, so I do recommend reconsidering one's relationship with the site. Not with the people, necessarily--that's not the same issue.]

2. Meditating every day, or almost every day.

(I have yet to achieve the Avatar state, however.)

Yeah, meditation's all trendy and stuff these days. In fact, I hesitate to even mention that I do it, because it's so ridiculously trendy, except I must recommend it because the results are marvelous. I really do feel calmer and more compassionate on average, even with just 5 or 10 minutes a day of sitting with my eyes closed and somewhat half-assedly telling my thoughts, "Shush, come back and focus on the breath, and stop replaying that hilarious YouTube video from earlier." The practice of noticing what my thoughts are doing in the first place is the valuable part, it would seem. And though noticeable progress did take months in my case, it was so worth it. I would sooner go back to Facebook than stop meditating now. (Yes, even that!)

3. Cool tip I heard somewhere that works: when feeling stressed in a rushing-around, not-enough-time kind of way, I intentionally slow down, to the degree of doing something fully three times slower than I have to. It wouldn't make sense to take your whole day that slow, of course, but doing one minor task that slow, as a token gesture, shows your brain that it's okay; taking 45 seconds instead of 15 seconds to put away the bread isn't going to make the world collapse. Also it buys you a little time to think, breathe, get your next move figured out. It works. I like it.

Calm down, world. Calm down.


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 11th, 2015 04:02 am (UTC)
Thank you for sharing these three things. I've contemplated closing my Facebook account for years, but haven't. I hold out hope I'll do it soon. Like yours, my anxiety levels would no doubt go down quite dramatically.
Nov. 11th, 2015 05:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, anxiety can be a beast (but luckily a treatable one!), and online drama seemed to be a big trigger for mine. Still, it took me years before I'd finally had enough and was ready to pull the plug on the account. The withdrawal-ish feelings afterward were uncomfortable at first, but they fade. I wish you courage and inner peace! :)
Nov. 11th, 2015 09:52 am (UTC)
Well done for identifying the things that made you anxious and taking steps to eliminate them from your life. Facebook eats too much of my time, I really should ditch it as well - it's useful for keeping in touch with people who live far away. But maybe I could do with unfriending the ones who keep cluttering my inbox with things that make me mad.
Nov. 11th, 2015 03:24 pm (UTC)
I do miss the updates of some of the people I kept in touch with that way. But luckily there are lots of other ways these days! The unnecessary updates that just tied up my time without really helping - yeah, those are what I don't miss.
Nov. 11th, 2015 01:30 pm (UTC)

It's cool that you're feeling better, it's not cool that you're publicly calling the people who tried to support you and your career toxic. One day you may want to reconnect with the good ones but you'll have burned the bridges you need to do that.
Nov. 11th, 2015 03:35 pm (UTC)
As I said in the post, the individual people really weren't toxic, and I'm not calling them that. The Facebook feed as a whole, though, became a never-ending to-do list for me: the comments, the tags, the likes, the arguments. My presence in most of those was really not required, and it was raising my stress level too much to be monitoring what people were doing, and to be worried about what they'd think of my own too-frequent posts. Not everyone has this experience on FB, but that's what it had become for me. What I kept finding, over and over, was that I was doing my best on FB to be kind and upbeat, and too many people were answering with snark and complaints. I don't think it's because these people *are* snarky or mean; I think it's because the culture of FB breeds comments like that, and I'm almost sure these friends would actually be a lot nicer to me in real life.

In any case, I still like all the FB friends I had, and wish them well, but I needed to take a step away and work on my own projects more instead.

I still do maintain my Facebook author page for those who actually do want to support my career, and I have a delightful time connecting with them there. With only the author page set up, I can't see individuals' pages, so I spend less time on Facebook and encounter less drama. I don't feel I've burned any bridges at all, as the people who truly care have found other ways to keep in touch and have understood my reasons and supported me.

In fact, as the career goes, I would almost certainly have finished Immortal's Spring six months earlier if it hadn't been for the amount of time eaten up by frivolous Facebook interactions.

I find people get strangely defensive and hostile when we point out a habit of theirs that's doing them more harm than good. This seems to be the case when I bring up ditching Facebook lately, and your (anonymous) comment is a good example. (Who are you, incidentally? If you'd like to reconnect our bridge, surely you can tell me who you are and we can have emails about this?)

Edited at 2015-11-12 05:49 pm (UTC)
Nov. 11th, 2015 02:20 pm (UTC)
Wow, Tip #3 is awesome! I'm sure I'll find some item to practice that on today. I can go months without looking at FB, so I don't have that habit. (Love the toxic friend analogy!) Mine is watching familiar videos over and over; we all seem to have some time-wasting vice.

About meditation, though. I'm really happy that it's "trendy". I'm laughing because when George Harrison brought awareness of Eastern music and meditation to the West, everyone thought he was a kook (well, obviously not _everyone_). Flash forward to the 80s: I was having a stressful time at work and my doctor _prescribed meditation_ for me instead of medication. So I enrolled in a class, and bingo. BP down 20 points first year, 10 the next. Normal. Wow.

I still practice, albeit irregularly, because it does just what it says. It soothes, reduces stress, and I find it deeply relaxing. There's a yoga camp fairly near me and I make it up there periodically to bask in the wonderful aura of a practicing community.

I'd say you're doing wonderfully. Thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. :)

Edited at 2015-11-11 02:22 pm (UTC)
Nov. 11th, 2015 03:42 pm (UTC)
Hee, true about Harrison making it trendy first! :D And that's fabulous that a doctor actually prescribed meditation for you, and that it worked! A yoga camp sounds like a blissful place. That's something I could look for, or at least proper classes. Right now I'm just using one of the many available meditation apps, at home with my earbuds, but even that makes a huge difference.

I actually first got acquainted with meditation in the '90s, via a college class. But I didn't practice regularly at all until lately. For too long it was the kind of thing about which I'd think, "Yeah, I know, I should do that. I'll try that again. Sometime."

I wouldn't worry too much about watching familiar videos over and over. Some time-wasting, sure, but it's far more soothing than the frenetic culture of likes-and-comments-in-real-time on FB.
Nov. 11th, 2015 07:19 pm (UTC)
Great ideas here, though since I've always avoided FB like the plague I've got #1 already covered :D I like tip #3 and want to try that out. We need all the de-stressing tips in our crazy lives we can find, I think! Thank you for sharing these :)
Nov. 12th, 2015 03:25 am (UTC)
Very wise of you to avoid FB in the first place - don't change that policy. :) Yes, I feel like the world is starting to notice that we're overreaching ourselves with our constantly-on devices, and maybe we're finally beginning to correct for it with calming techniques. So I hope!
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )