Mindfulness – writing before exams

I’ve mentioned mindfulness a bit in this blog. I don’t practice mindfulness every day in terms of meditation, breathing, body scans etc. But I do try and practice it as a lifestyle. I try and be aware of what I’m experiencing moment to moment, not be too futuristic nor live in the past and to be aware of what’s happening inside me – my thoughts and feelings.

I try and allow my feelings to be and my thoughts to come and go without fusing with them. I try and allow my thoughts and feelings to be the actors on stage while staying in the audience. I experience the drama, but try and refrain from jumping up on stage and being part of the drama. I suppose of verge more toward the ACT (acceptance and commitment therapy) strain of mindfulness than the Buddhist/yoga strain which emphasizes practice (thirty to sixty minutes a day of breathing, sitting etc.) I guess I would really like to do yoga and meditation, but I’m not disciplined enough (I wish I was because there’s no denying the evidence around the changes to the brain that takes place).

Some really interesting research recently came out of Chicago University around the affect of anxiety on performance. Researchers found that students who were prone to test anxiety improved their high–stakes test scores by nearly one grade point after they were given 10 minutes to write about what was causing them fear. Interestingly, researchers showed that it wasn’t just the act of writing that inoculated students against choking; rather, specifically writing about test–related thoughts and feelings had helped.

What they found was that anxiety and stress took up “working memory” – something like RAM in a computer or CPU firepower and decreased performance. Basically this was an exercise in mindfulness. It turns an experience of stress and anxiety, into one of observing the stress and anxiety. Of noticing it, and acknowledging it (by writing it down). How does this work? It re-engages the cognitive left cerebral hemisphere which has been deactivated as brain function has descended into the more primal limbic system where flight, freeze, fight mechanisms have taken over due to the fear, anxiety and stress.

Actions of mindfulness (such as writing) are powerful and practiced consistently can produce a more peaceful, lower stress, richer life experience and the body of evidence continues to grow.

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My wife is afraid of me

My wife and I were talking in bed, late last night. The conversation revolved around me being abrupt with her. I think she felt maybe I should be back on anti-depressants. I think I’m coping ok with my responsibilities which is a key indicator. I think she feels that if I am “abrupt” then I don’t respect her or care for her. I think maybe that I am a bit short and that my tolerance is fairly low, but it doesn’t mean I don’t care. I can understand how it can come across that way to her though.

I think it’s hard living with someone who finds it hard to accept your behaviour if you’re suffering from depression. It means you have to spend precious energy on masking, and moderating your behavior, and you can never really relax. Home is just another stage.

Today I received a text from her “I am afraid of u and ur aggression. In your depression I don’t know if u would harm me or the kids. I feel like a shel of a person in ur presence most of the time”. This isn’t a great situation obviously, and not conducive to recovery for either of us. I thought I’d just put it out there, in case it helps give you perspective.

On the solution side of things, I think it’s clear, that spouses of scrapheap pastors can really do with a lot of support. They also need to get their head around what depression means and how it affects their spouses, so they don’t take things personally.

Emo Vocab

I can’t speak authoritatively about women (I try to because I’m a smarty pants) but I reckon women have a better emotional vocabulary than men. The describe nuances of emotion better than men and that vocab gives them the ability to understand and express their emotions which is much healthier than us men.

Emotional authenticity is vital to emotional health. Men see the red oil light on the dashboard but not the red light on the emotional dashboard because we aren’t “in touch” with our emotions in general. If you ask a man what’s wrong he’ll probably say in an agitated voice “NOTHING’S WRONG!”, meaning something’s wrong but he just doesn’t know how he feels about it. When pressed he’ll say “I’M JUST ANGRY” and it’s the situation that’s making him angry. Try and talk about the anger e.g. where it comes from and he won’t know. He’s just angry. But the reality is he’s either afraid of something (he’ll never admit to that of course) or he’s hurt, threatened, disappointed, sad, worried or all of the above.

Somehow we need to help men develop their emo vocab. I’m starting with myself and my boys. Why do the gals have to have all the fun debriefing with their girlfriends leaving us to grunt at each other?