TIL 22: Stress Management 4b

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Following on from this post, I realised in my sleepy state I’d forgotten several things we’d covered!

First, the concept of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’, and how much we use these words to beat ourselves up. Try and catch yourself! Even the fun stuff in life is all too often turned into a ‘should’ – I should really go on holiday. I must catch up with the girls, it’s been ages. It might sound minor, silly even, but just the change from ‘should’ to ‘want to’ in talking/thinking about a task can make it easier or more enjoyable. Even chores – not “I have to do the ironing”, but “I want to look after my clothes and feel good about my appearance.” (for example)

We also did a really lovely visualisation exercise, based around that idea of change. We were to imagine ourselves somewhere calm and safe, with a view of a broad swathe of sky. Imagine the warmth of the sun against your skin, and a cool breeze. Now look out and see the shadows start to lengthen, and the birds singing the evening chorus. The air cools a little, and the sky starts to go from blue into the amazing reds, oranges and pinks of sunset, then darker still into indigos and the deep deep blue-black of night. The stars come out – what a view you have of the milky way! Ponder for a moment how far those pinpricks of light have travelled to reach you. Now watch the moon rise, throwing shadows around you, shifting as the orb tracks across the sky before setting. Feel the calm moment of utter stillness, before a hint of light starts to show in the east, gradually brightening through the golden pinks of dawn. A few chirrups start from the birds, building to the full dawn chorus as the sky continues to brighten. You can see the dew on the grass in front of you reflecting the new day’s sunlight.

As well as being relaxing in its own right, this visualisation reminds us that change is a constant. The sun dips below the horizon every night, and rises again every morning. The seasons rotate in the same manner. As a tree loses its leaves in autumn, it doesn’t fret for the loss but rather makes space for the new growth in the spring. Likewise, our own lives will change and cycle, and each time something falls out of our lives it makes room for something new.

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TIL 21: FYWV 4

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From the book, Finding Your Writer’s Voice, with the TIL entries on that starting here.

Chapter 10 – Public and Private Voices

Children take time to learn not to simply tell the stories in their heads out loud, and will wander around making up tales, talking to their toys, etc. Practice saying your inner thoughts aloud (alone is fine!) and see if that frees up your voice.

Chapter 11 – The Sound of Colloquial Voice

A relaxed, informal voice of everyday conversation – you’ll probably not even remember what you say, never mind how you say it! Colloquial voice has vitally, gets straight to the point, and puts the reader at ease. However, watch out for ‘common knowledge’ assumptions that often don’t translate well to the page.

Often, trying to avoid the colloquial voice to sound more literary leaves writing dry and hollow. What you’re aiming for is a blend of the two: a polished version of your speaking voice. This takes practice.

Listening to how people – yourself included – speak is a great tool in developing dialogue.

Chapter 12 – The Chorus of Voice

You might be surprised to find your inner voice is actually a whole host of voices. Some of these can be enticed to tell their stories, others will fizzle out. There is always the danger, too, that the voice is ‘borrowed’ from somewhere else.

Like opening Pandora’s box, you should let all of these characters free. Often those that seem most untrustworthy will have the biggest potential. Become their scribe, give them a notebook. Set them in impossible situations, adorned in outlandish costumes. Milk them for all they’re worth.

The exercises involve ‘discovering’ some of the voices that speak up inside, and imagining various circumstances: e.g., giving them a lot of money, sending it on a secret mission, giving it a job interview, or just letting it ramble on about a hobby.

Previous installments:

 

TIL 20: javascript 6

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Objects (continued):

  • Objects can be thought of as key/value storage, like a dictionary
  • Objects can be used to store data as lookup tables

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  • check if an object property exists with .hasOwnProperty(propertyName); which returns true or false
  • a javascript object is one way to handle flexible data, allowing for artbitrary combinations of different data types
  • complex data structures might be stored as objects inside an array
  • objects properties are key-value pairs, e.g. “artist”: “Beatles” is a property with key “artist” and value “Beatles”
  • objects can be nested e.g.

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  • access the sub-properties of nested objects by chaining the dot or bracket notation, as shown above
  • nested arrays are accessed in a similar manner, e.g. arr1[1].arr2[0];
  • JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) is a related data interchange format used to store data.

TIL 19: Cognitive Bandwidth

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Random Fridays, where I waffle about an article I’ve read during the week!

Following on from posts on (not) Doing All the Things and more generally Time Management, I stumbled across an article on Lifehacker about Cognitive Bandwidth. I’d say it’s worth reading the article behind it all, Why You Feel Busy All the Time – and given this is exactly how I was feeling last week, the read couldn’t have been more timely!

“There are always … more things to read, more ideas to follow up… The result, inevitably, is feeling overwhelmed: we’re each finite human beings, with finite energy and abilities, attempting to get through an infinite amount. We feel a social pressure to “do it all”, at work and at home, but that’s not just really difficult; it’s a mathematical impossibility.

For me, it wasn’t that I had an untenable list of things to get through last week, but even when I wasn’t doing I had an ongoing ‘whirr’ of “this next, then that tomorrow, don’t forget about…”. Cognitive bandwidth overload!

busyAnd that quote above – the modern to-do list is never empty. Well, mine never is! There’s always something that can be tidied, made, read, watched – my stack of unread books plus those I’d quite like to read might last out several decades by this point! Can we say overwhelm?!

The article doesn’t really offer solutions, but it does point out the contradiction that the busier we are (or feel), the worse our time management skills get.

My own solution? Rephrase a lot of the ‘I should’s into ‘I want’s (I’ve just spent a massive chunk of the weekend cooking – but it’s been fun!). Be realistic with your to do list – maybe write it and cut it in half. Take time to meditate. Plan downtime – and make it proper downtime! There are reasons why going to the cinema is more relaxing than watching a movie in the house (you’ve paid and made the effort to go there, you’re more likely to concentrate rather than have half a mind to jump up and finish the dishes), for example. Pick your task or leisure and focus on just that – this is what mindfulness is all about.

TIL 18: Stress Management 4

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Today’s main topic was change. Change is inevitable, but also stressful. Some of the changes we make voluntarily rank amongst life’s most stressful events: moving house, getting married, even going on holiday, etc, and yet we still do these things. Other changes are not voluntary: illness, death of those close to us, divorce, etc.

Events such as these might be thought of as gateways, or thresholds: points in life where we have the chance to see things differently, or opportunities to change our beliefs. These doorways are usually accompanied by fear, and may reoccur throughout life.

The first doorway is the fear of separation, or aloneness. This starts when we are babies and must separate our ‘self’ from that of our mother, and then throughout life as we develop our individuality and difference from the groups we are part of. The inability to communicate perfectly the thoughts that are unique to us can fuel this sense of isolation.

The second doorway is the fear of loss of meaning and/or purpose in life. We build a sense of who we are through our habits and routines – generally, the way we spend our lives. When these are disrupted, the sense of self can also be impacted. This can be through events as natural as moving on from school, or more disruptive such as being made redundant.

The third doorway is the fear of death. Western culture is not good at acknowledging this certainty: we will all die. Eventually we are faced with our own mortality, and this can affect people in different ways.

The fourth doorway is a fear of freedom. When things change, when we have an abundance of choice, that can be overwhelming and many people will run away from change and try to stay the same – even if that is not the best course of action. However, consciously choosing change can be empowering – the opportunity to recreate your self/life.

The change-related mindfulness exercise we tried involved a deep examination of your own hand. Looking at it, seeing what you notice. Thinking about how much it has changed over the years. Then letting go of the thoughts, and looking with curiosity – perhaps as a painter would view a subject, focusing on colour or shading. We’re very critical of our own bodies, but perhaps we can think less about how awful our nails look, and more about how amazing our hands, etc are – all the things they let us do!

TIL 17: FYWV 3

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First three chapters, and next three.

Chapter 7 – Distilling Voice

Following from the introduction of free writing in the previous chapter, this one challenges you to make use of it to develop your ear, your instinct for where your writing is ‘on’.

For a week, free-write for 10 minutes each day (new or continuing piece) as quickly as you can, no thinking, no judging. Then leave it in a drawer for a week, before reading it out loud and marking any words or passages that leap out and grab you. In the third week, repeat the daily 10 minute free-write, but this time start each session with one of your underlined phrase – this avoids ‘introduction’ and starts with something vital.

After another week off, repeat the reading aloud and marking provocative, interesting, and unusual bits. But this time, delete everything else. What’s left should really ‘sing’ – if not, repeat the process.

Chapter 8 – Inviting Accidents

Like drawing with ink blots, free-writing encourages ‘interesting accidents’. You;re looking to find something that sparks excitement. Most of what you free write will be completely disposable, but occasionally you will stumble across something that comes not from your brain but from your nervous system. Once you train yourself to spot this, you’ll find bits in your other writing – parts that should be kept and built on.

Chapter 9 – Listening to the Voice of Childhood

This isn’t about reliving childhood memories, but more about the way children tell stories. Everything is immediate. They grab inspiration between breaths, based on whatever they can see. Children haven’t cut themselves off from their passions: everything matters, from not being allowed to go to the circus to the jam tarts mum bakes to make up for the disappointment – think how powerful those stories, those memories, can be.

Along with some other suggested exercises, I liked this one: experiment with your senses. Listen to the sounds of a supermarket, observe the people at a music event.

TIL 16: javascript 5

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Start at the beginning, or see previous post.

JavaScript Objects:
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  • useful for storing data in a structured way
  • can represent real world objects
  • objects are similar to arrays, but instead of indexes, data in objects is accessed via properties

Accessing object properties:

  • there are two ways to access the properties of an object: bracket notation, or the dot operator
  • the dot operator is used when you know the name of the property you’re trying to access e.g. myObj.prop1
  • bracket notation can also be used – and must be, if the property name has a space in it e.g. myObj[“Space Name”] (note the quote marks, also)
  • bracket notation also allows accessing a property using a variable – this is useful for iterating through the properties, for example

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Updating object properties:

  • after the object has been created, the properties can be updated at any time like any other variable. Either the dot or bracket notation can be used. E.g. myObj.prop1 = “new”;

Add new properties:

  • adding new properties works in the same way as modifying existing ones e.g. myObj.newProp = “more new”;
  • again, either dot or bracket notation can be used

Deleting properties:

  • use the delete keyword e.g. delete myObj.newProp;