Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Self-Management: Daily Tools for a Scattered Mind

This post includes my two favorite tools for daily self-management and self-organization.

I greatly benefit from the act of physical writing and actively thinking through my schedule, needs, goals, etc.. Most people benefit from these acts. Behavioral research supports that writing down plans not only helps us better outline and commit to goals, but it also greatly increases the probability of meeting those goals. Establishing implementation intentions (when, how, where, etc.) of our plans has a significant effect on whether we meet the goals we have, big or small (Gollwitzer, 1993; Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006; Scholz et al., 2007; Stizmann & Johnson, 2012; Rogers et al., 2015) . It helps us to prioritize and follow through!

My Shared Resources:

I've linked my two favorite, "general", original daily printouts for managing my scatterbrain-self. They're 100% free and available for anyone who would like to try them. They're not specific to any individual needs, just general categories. Please also feel free to share your own favorite tools, and/or critiques on those I've made. 

Because this topic is one of a rather critical and personal meaning, I'm also linking the article that addresses my background for how and why I spend time learning, testing, and customizing many routines, tools, and resources for myself. I wanted to be blunt and sincere in my assessments of how critical such tools are. And to do so, that required me to share a bit about myself. (see: Self-Management of a Scattered Mind).  

For those curious, I hope you find the linked post interesting and informative. For those less inclined, please still feel free to scroll down to the linked PDFs of my favorite "general" self-management tools. They are currently stored on my google drive, though I will be changing this soon to help assure readers that they are PDFs, not random looking google drive addresses. I have full page and half page versions, for regular (A4) and small (A5) binders. I really like a little planner I got cheap from amazon, and will link it here. But I'd also love for any readers to share their own favorites!

Full Size Print Outs:
  1. Daily To-Do 
  2. Daily Schedule
Half Size Print Outs:
  1. Daily To-Do (TBD)
  2. Daily Schedule (TBD)
Half Size Print Out (Same Page):
  1. Daily To-Do & Daily Schedule

I'm also including a guide of how I use these printouts, but my guidelines may not be your guidelines :). Please give it a read if you're curious about the categories/how I use them, and consider whether you might find them helpful.

The Daily Organizational Print Outs and Categories are:
  1. Today's To-Do's
    1. PrioritiesThe most critical items that, should you accomplish nothing else, need to be done. Helps to assess what is most important and what demands the most resources. Also helps to put the lesser things in perspective!
    2. Today's GoalsWhat you want out of the day. Do you want to aim to give more compliments? Be more positive? Drive more safely? Keep up with your scheduled time? Do something artistic? Take criticism gracefully? Do well on a presentation? What are the things you want out of the day.
    3. Task List: Write down all the tasks/items that you need to get done for the day. Sometimes you can check them all off, sometimes you might have to move some to the next day. But it helps to have a list of what you need done. Add check boxes to every item, so you can cross that sucker off when it's done!
    4. Good Things: Yes, I practice Cognitive Behavioral approaches (CBT) and will always preach that we need to practice acknowledging the good things about our days. We notice bad stuff because it is upsetting and alarming. It takes practice to notice the good things as easily. So, write what's good about your day, what good thoughts you've had, what good things you think you can make happen. Maybe at the end of the day, write down the best things that happened. Make a record.
    5. Exercise: writing down goals and recording actual execution of exercise is a valuable way to not only encourage more activity and healthy living, but it helps you to have a record to track progress. Focusing on improvements, not fixed achievements, helps to foster a healthy and positive attitude towards healthier living. Tracking makes it easier to focus on those changes and improvements, rather than a fixed, non-individual measure of 'fit'. Even if you only manage to walk a mile every other day, that is 150+ miles every year, that you might not have walked otherwise. Track it!
    6. Date/Word: The day date and a newly learned word. This can be a new native tongue word (expanding vocabulary!) or a word for a foreign language. I enjoy working on both!
  2. Daily Schedule
    1. ScheduleList the hour-by-hour plan for the day. I like to have each hour listed, except for early morning and late evening. Before 7 am usually involves a fixed pattern of morning rituals, which I can easily list in that line for 'Morning'. Same for 'Evening'. But for every other time, I like to list my plans for the day, preferable the day before. It helps me know what I should aim to do, helps me better understand how I am using my time, and helps me make more realistic estimates for how long something should take. Overall, an hourly schedule helps me use my day more effectively!
    2. Assignments: I like to avoid categories like 'work/school/home', because I often have assignments for all three! I also don't like feeling like one is more important than the other. I list these separately from tasks, because most of my assignments are broken down into daily increments of finishing. By writing current assignments, you can better assign time to complete those increments in your schedule, and can even list the parts of those assignments in the task list of the ToDo Printout. It helps to know what are general 'on the docket' requirements, so you can include them in your planning.
    3. Success?: Again, I like CBT. I think it's important to practice positive thinking, in a way that is realistic and acknowledges what we do well. My assignments, task lists, schedule, etc., are often very full. So I like to write down things that I did particularly well, achieved, or went above and beyond. I like to celebrate my successes, and appreciate where I excel. That's what this box is for.
    4. Notes: Every day, I have odd little add-ons of varying importance, that end up on scrapped papers/receipts/etc., which may do better in a neat little note box. Numbers, grocery items, reminders, etc., all go in here. That way, I can look through my week and have a ready-made collection of important tidbits all in one place!
    5. Date/TIL: the day's date, and something newly learned. Go to a random TIL website or just note something interesting you learned. Writing down a name for what you've learned will help it stick in your mind!

References:

  • Gollwitzer, P. M. (1993). Goal achievement: The role of intentions. European review of social psychology, 4(1), 141-185.
  • Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A metaanalysis of effects and processes. Advances in experimental social psychology, 38, 69-119.
  • Rogers, T., Milkman, K. L., John, L. K., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Beyond good intentions: Prompting people to make plans improves follow-through on important tasks. Behavioral Science & Policy, 1(2), 33-41.
  • Scholz, U., Sniehotta, F. F., Schüz, B., & Oeberst, A. (2007). Dynamics in SelfRegulation: Plan Execution SelfEfficacy and Mastery of Action Plans. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(11), 2706-2725.
  • Sitzmann, T., & Johnson, S. K. (2012). The best laid plans: Examining the conditions under which a planning intervention improves learning and reduces attrition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 967.

Self Management of a Scattered Mind

This article is about self-management and self-organization. I'velinked my two favorite, "general", original printouts for managing myscatterbrain-self HERE. They're 100% free and available for anyone who would like to try them. They're not specific to any individual needs, just general categories. Please also feel free to share your own favorite tools, and/or critiques on those I've made. 

The Value of Planning:

Implementing daily goals and plans helps us to better achieve our plans and goals, both big and small. Behavioral research supports that writing down plans helps us: (1) better outline and commit to goals and (2) greatly increases the probability of meeting those goals. Establishing implementation intentions (when, how, where, etc.) of our plans has a significant effect on whether we meet the goals we have, big or small (Gollwitzer, 1993; Gollwitzer & Sheeran, 2006; Scholz et al., 2007; Stizmann & Johnson, 2012; Rogers et al., 2015) . In summary? When we specify our plans, it helps us to prioritize and follow through!

What does this have to do with me?

I openly preach how much I benefit from the act of physical writing and actively thinking through my schedule, needs, goals, etc.. The act of writing my plans is integral to me being able to meet them. A less commonly known fact about me, is that I was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of 5, again at 14, and again at 18, 20, and 25. So, five times in total. Some of these assessments were for self-confirmation, but I also grew up at a time where many were still convinced ADHD was not real, or that it did not affect girls much, and/or that everyone 'grows out of it'. I can say this much--I did not grow out of it, and I am not alone in that (Kessler, et al., 2006). 

ADHD is really a cluster of different 'executive function disorders', which means it's a broad term for people with neurological issues that impede the structures/functions of attention, motivation, planning, and executing behavior. In layman's terms? The command center that controls conscious thought/planning works a bit different. Different researchers might disagree in the different sub classifications of ADHD, or what causes it, or why it resolves for some and not others. But I'm not going to talk about that. I'm going to talk about why my ADHD forced me to develop seriously structured self-organization and self-management skills. Because they are certainly not something my brain does on its own!

What I Have Learned, From ADHD:

I do not see my struggle with ADHD as an objectively good or bad thing. ADHD is a facet of myself and my personality. What makes it a 'disorder' is not that it's a problem alone, but that it makes functioning in a modern society geared toward the efficient 'average', a bit problematic. So I work hard to make it less problematic. I majored in neuropsychology and did my thesis on ADHD treatments, and I have a passion and fascination for the multi-modal approach (multiple disciplines for management). For my own self-care, I practice meditation, utilize numerous cognitive behavior treatments (CBT) and applied behavioral analysis, do yoga, use medication, and routine, routine, structure, and routine.

Dealing with illness and the demands thereof, ADHD could and does sometimes make self-management more frustrating and difficult. A lot of my differences were/are taken for granted; I lack some abilities that are seen as defaults for most adults. And, for most of my life, there was not much available for someone missing those defaults. I did not have resources to cope, and it made a difficult situation harder to manage. At the height of my sickness and the resultant complications, I was at a doctor's at least five times a week. I was in pain, tired, and filled with anxiety and depression. Remembering all the extra things I needed to do, learning new diets and daily routines, getting to all the appointments (especially on time), and regularly following through with all the therapies and medications, was hard. Hard for anyone, truly. But if I wanted to overcome the beast of unmanaged chronic illness and live, really live, I had to figure out a way to make it work. And I needed to learn how self-manage first (Lorig et al., 1999).

So I sat down, and I made plans. Plans and lists. And strategies. Coping methods to try. I looked at what I struggled with most and came up with countermeasures to make them more manageable. I studied. The amount of articles, books, and reviews I acquired could fill a trunk. Reading became a second job. I spent months and months trying and scrapping new approaches and methods.

Sometimes it felt like a waste of time. I already felt a cold reality of having zero energy and zero time, so I could not understand why I was pouring so much effort into organizing that mess. But I also understood that part of that zero time and energy was due to my inability to make use of the mental and physical resources I had. And I needed to change that. Really, it was part of who I am: I love brains, and I knew mine was not operating at its full potential. I knew I deserved better. 

All that study and my education helped me arrive a lot of conclusions. I need structure. Strict structure. A regular routine. I have to regularly condition my mind to work the way it works best. I cannot just expect my brain to work differently than it does. I have to honor the needs I have and work with them, not against them. I need to be willing to spend time managing myself, not criticizing myself. Slowly, I came up with the methods I use today to make myself the most functional me. And I can 100% say that they are some of the most critical changes I made for making the moderately healthy person I am today.

Why I am Sharing

For a site dedicated to educating and supporting those with illness, I am guessing this may seem like a rather self glorifying and self-focused post. Maybe it comes across as breaking away from the new mantra of this site--to focus less on myself and more on all sorts of people. However, I chose to write this with myself as an example, because I want to be blunt with how critical self-management has been in living a more efficacious and happy life (Wagner et al., 2001). I wanted to be honest with how hard I have struggled to incorporate these valuable changes into my life. Such changes and adjustments did not come easily, and they are still a daily effort. They cannot be an afterthought, or something to deal with once 'everything settles down'. Learning to self-manage is instrumental in establishing a gradual, if tenuous, settling. 

For myself, dealing with my ADHD, anxiety, etc., has been just as important for healing as directly treating physical illness. Self-management is critical for managing illness, and it also does not come easily for everyone. And I want to remind people that it's okay if it's a struggle, it's okay if they need tools and help, it's okay if it does not come easily or quickly, and it's okay if you're not sure where to start. I certainly did not. I felt weak and stupid for not knowing what to do. Through all my struggling, I realized I was wrong; I was anything but weak. That real strength is in pursuing a goal and working towards it, not starting out with everything in hand.

If sharing my journey in learning self-management helps others feel a teeny-bit less alone, I am okay with the possible downside of shining a spotlight on my less-than-perfect self. If it helps motivate just one person to give some resources and tools a shot, then I am happy, and hopefully they will be happy too :).

My Hopes for Sharing Self-Management Resources

I wrote about myself because I also to share some of my self-organizational tools, in hopes that they may be of help to others. Some may find them helpful, and I want to earnestly endorse trying different tools and resources for working out a method for better self-management. My printouts might perfect for one person's self-management toolkit, and absolutely mismatched for another's. People have different circumstances and benefit from various coping methods for dealing with the incessant demands of life!

Additionally, in recognition of the variations in circumstances and needs, I am starting by sharing some of my most general tools: my dailyto-do list and daily schedule printouts. 

I'm not a graphic designer, and these tools can take me a while to make in a general, useful format! So, I will start with sharing my general ones, and then work towards more circumstance-specific versions (e.g., sleep diaries, treatment records, etc.). They're free for any personal use. Try them out, print them, copy them, share them, do whatever you like! (Except trying to charge someone else for them--that's not nice). Also, feel free to share any resources and tools you already like!

I hope you can give daily planning and goal setting an earnest try. They have been an invaluable coping method for myself, and truly help my daily life. If an absolute scatterbrain like myself can eventually make use of some sort of routine and planning, I can't help but have faith in the potential for us all!


References:
  • Gollwitzer, P. M. (1993). Goal achievement: The role of intentions. European review of social psychology, 4(1), 141-185.
  • Gollwitzer, P. M., & Sheeran, P. (2006). Implementation intentions and goal achievement: A metaanalysis of effects and processes. Advances in experimental social psychology, 38, 69-119.
  • Kessler, R. C., Adler, L., Barkley, R., Biederman, J., Conners, C. K., Demler, O., ... & Spencer, T. (2006). The prevalence and correlates of adult ADHD in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. American Journal of psychiatry, 163(4), 716-723.
  • Lorig, K. R., Sobel, D. S., Stewart, A. L., Brown Jr, B. W., Bandura, A., Ritter, P., ... & Holman, H. R. (1999). Evidence suggesting that a chronic disease self-management program can improve health status while reducing hospitalization: a randomized trial. Medical care, 37(1), 5-14.
  • Rogers, T., Milkman, K. L., John, L. K., & Norton, M. I. (2015). Beyond good intentions: Prompting people to make plans improves follow-through on important tasks. Behavioral Science & Policy, 1(2), 33-41.
  • Scholz, U., Sniehotta, F. F., Schüz, B., & Oeberst, A. (2007). Dynamics in SelfRegulation: Plan Execution SelfEfficacy and Mastery of Action Plans. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 37(11), 2706-2725.
  • Sitzmann, T., & Johnson, S. K. (2012). The best laid plans: Examining the conditions under which a planning intervention improves learning and reduces attrition. Journal of Applied Psychology, 97(5), 967.
  • Wagner, E. H., Austin, B. T., Davis, C., Hindmarsh, M., Schaefer, J., & Bonomi, A. (2001). Improving chronic illness care: translating evidence into action. Health affairs, 20(6), 64-78.



Monday, April 10, 2017

Pain is a Warning Signal

This article is a recent addition to my Power of Belief series (an excerpt for Part III). It is a simplified explanation of what pain is and how pain signals 'work'. For those dealing with short term or chronic pain, or trying to learn more about pain in general, I hope you find it a useful overview.

What is Pain Sensation and Pain Perception?                          

Pain is a warning signal. Pain is an alert, which our body uses to warn us about danger and harm. Pain is a fast, unpleasant, intense message that grabs our attention and shouts, "Something is wrong!" These alerts are meant to be uncomfortable, even awful, because their purpose is so incredibly important. They are the quickest way for our body to tell us, 'you are being harmed'. And they are a powerful motivator to avoid potential danger.

Pain is a process. While pain feels instantaneous, it's actually just very fast. Our body alerts us to pain using multiple steps in a special alert system. This system aims to tell us about pain in a way that is (1) fast and (2) informative. To meet these goals, pain sends multiple alerts, which range from simple (immediate) to complex (less immediate). They also operate on different levels of consciousness, working consciously, subconsciously, and unconsciously (Young, 2005). Pain operates at these different levels and complexities for our benefit, in order to help our body and mind make better judgments for injuries and dangers (Flor et al., 1990).

Pain is a manifold message. Pain alerts work in tandem for most injuries. For example, our body often moves from a painful source, like fire, before we even feel it! Your body can process pain more quickly than your mind, so it uses that information to act fast. However, your mind will feel it soon. And that sharp pain of a fresh burn can help remind you to protect your new injury. Extended pain from a burn also helps to encourage keeping it clean and bandaged. For manageable and short-term injuries, pain signals can help you to take proper care and heal faster! Unfortunately, if the source of pain cannot be helped or healed, pain can become problematic and debilitating.

Pain can be helpful. While pain feels bad and is definitely something we wish to avoid, it ultimately functions to improve health, wellness, and lifespan. Pain is valuable, when it is functioning properly. Your body and mind both use pain to guide goals and actions. Pain gives immediate consequences for injury, to help prevent our bodies from getting hurt (or hurt worse), and it helps reduce loss of limb or bodily function (Chapman et al., 2008). As such a critical warning system, its alerts will be loud and the mind is attuned to sensing them. There is even research that supports that pain can intensify when we try to suppress it/resist it (Turner et al., 2002). Pain wants us to 'get' its signal.

Consider zombies in popular shows and fiction; zombies are often unconcerned with limbs getting injured or even falling off. Without pain, they can simply ignore these losses, and their mobility suffers for it. Without basic warnings, their bodies quickly fall apart.

While pain may seem a nuisance, its signals are extremely valuable for our well-being and survival (when properly functioning). How does the process work though, and why is it possible for it to 'go wrong'?

Pain has its uses: it warns us when something is harmful,
and it helps us take care of injuries while they heal

Springtime Announcement: Site Updates

Sunshine and Spring
Hello everybody, and happy spring! After a long, long winter, I have been loving seeing the sun again. I hope you have been able to enjoy and see the sun as well! It's a great motivator for me to get outside and exercise (even a little bit).

Hope and Sunshine (credit: unsplash.com)
Site Redesign Status
I appreciate everyone's patience with the website redevelopment and re-organization. From volunteers for contributions to sustained visits and readers, it has all been so encouraging to receive. I cannot wait to debut the new format, and I truly hope it is beneficial to everyone who visits.

There are still kinks to be worked out, and I am working diligently to smooth them down. Learning coding has been a real journey, and I know that some of the broken links have been more than frustrating. I am also still arranging different contributions from those who are interested. If anyone wishes to contribute, whether one time or repeatedly, or has ideas they wish to share, please let me know! I am working to make this site less me-centric, and ideas from others are key to this goal.

A lot of time and efforts have been refocused for this site's purpose, and it is exciting to work to turn it all back outwards. The ultimate goal is to provide resources and hope to others. Hopefully, the improvements to content and site design will make it all worth it! Thank you, for continuing to value and visit this work. Your support is everything!

Writing for the Meantime
Until I can finalize the behind the scenes, I will resume writing short and/or 'opinion' type posts. While these may be less informative than my more research-oriented than my more time consuming posts (such as those on pain, depression, optimism, etc.), I think they can provide some much needed content.

Little bit 'o writing (credit: unsplash.com)


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Oregon, United States
Contact me at bedhead@bedriddenhead.com

About The BedRiddenHead

I want to be happy. And this site is about that chance. How to strive to thrive in the body I've got and maybe turn my experiences into something worthwhile.

This site aims to help educate and reach out to people all over that struggle with pain or illness. To try and make something helpful. I work as a medical research writer, my background is in neuropsychology and biology, and I want to share what I learn in a way that is easy to understand. I am not a doctor. I'm definitely not your doctor. I am just some lady who wants to make someone's (anyone's) life a little bit better. Whether you have endometriosis, a chronic injury, a struggling friend, or just want to learn something new, I hope to make a place that has what you are looking for.

Thank you for stopping by, I wish you strength in your health and happiness.