As always, most of my posts are usually notes I like referencing from time to time and figure, if it helped me, it might help others and so here it is.
While browsing Chapters, I came across this interesting card deck:
Calm Prompt Cards | The School of Life (not an affiliate link, just ended up really loving it, and so I highly recommend it for anyone who need a little peace in their lives.)
It was the design of the box that drew me in and I opened it up to flip through a couple of cards, just to see. Each message I read hit me just right. I normally don’t buy stuff like this, but I’ve been inundated with “you have a lot of anxious energy around you” from every which way (and person) lately, so I was on the lookout for anything that might help. It was serendipity because when I got home, a number of the other cards did nothing for me. I believe in signs and saw it as a big one that while I was browsing I only got the cards that resonated with me. If I had gotten even one of the cards that I read later that did nothing for me, I would’ve stuffed all of them back in and placed the box back on the shelf. I usually see no point in wasting money on anything that’s less than exactly what I want. What’s more convincing was that the same cards that resonated with me then, continue to resonate with me now as I read and reflect. If they all of a sudden had lost their ‘magic’, I would’ve felt like it was just an impulse buy.
But they’re not. The testament to that is this entry that I drafted, edited, and published in one sitting, something I am usually not inclined to do. (I need time to piece things together, rearrange, edit, and polish until I am finally comfortable enough to hit the publish button.) The content of the cards and the feelings they elicited moved me to craft this article as soon as I could before the thoughts were lost. I wrote this entire piece in response to how these cards made me feel.
I hope it does for you what it did for me. And if you suffer from any worries, I hope this washes away some of them.
A couple of things before we start:
- I usually interchange my I’s and You’s, but each time I write “you”, I am usually talking to my future self. So apologies if you’re not able to relate to some of the points. Though I do hope you can relate to most of them. If any of them hit hard, please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.
- A lot of what made the cards fun was how the text was actually laid out in interesting ways. Sideways, blurred, all over the place, in a loop. Kind of fed to the whole ‘getting a new perspective’ thing by forcing you to look at the words in literally a different way. So it’s worthwhile to get the deck just for the fun of how it reads.
Without further adieu, the top 15 cards that resonated the most, with my accompanying commentary:
- “Eventually death will swallow everything you do. Your achievements will be forgotten, so will your failings. It won’t matter what you got wrong, how you messed up or why.”
So do the best you can and put things out there. If it’s not your greatest work, take comfort in the fact that it won’t be remembered. You have the freedom to fail, learn, keep improving and try as many times as you want until you get it right.
- “The only people we feel are sane are those we don’t yet know very well.”
Everyone has issues, everyone has a rough past. The ones who are the craziest are the ones who think they aren’t.
- “A single storm raged on Saturn from December 2010 to September 2011; at its peak the winds gusted for hundreds of thousands of kilometres, encircling the entire planet.”
Saturn survived a storm of that intensity just by continuing to exist. Sometimes that’s all you have to do. Grit your teeth and stand firm until the storm subsides. Don’t put more on your shoulders than you can handle. Don’t tell yourself you should be fighting back. Don’t put yourself down. All you have to do at times is just stand as strong as you can and exist. Survive until the storm has passed.
- “However bad it is, there’ll always be a hot bath.”
You can always find little pockets of peace around you if you look and take the time to create it.
- “Don’t worry that you can’t sleep. Insomnia is a revenge for all the thoughts you didn’t have in the day. It’s a chance to explore the ideas you’ve been meaning to get to for a long time.”
This gets you out of the thought pattern of “I should be sleeping. Why can’t I just sleep instead of thinking about all this?” Thinking about how you should be sleeping when you can’t sleep just adds one more thought to the anxiety hamster wheel. Instead, this gives you permission to focus on your concerns and work through them productively. Take them apart. Ask why it’s bothering you so much. Accept that how you acted or what you did is done and gone and it wouldn’t be prudent to bring it up again. The past can’t be undone, rectified or touched again. And actions speak louder than words anyway. So ask yourself what you’re going to be doing differently next time. And follow through on it.
- “Look carefully at an old tree. Try to trace the shape of every branch. Pay attention to every part: the texture of the bark, the structure of a leaf, observe the curve of a twig, imagine the roots, contemplate its very highest point. It has survived storms. It was already there before you were born. It will probably survive you.”
The universe around you is living, breathing, growing and going about its own existence while you ruminate. This can break you out of the hamster wheel of anxious thoughts that you have been running on endlessly.
- “Everyone we could get together with would be trouble in some very substantial way.”
Just a reminder that no relationship will ever be perfect. There will always be hardship and conflict. What’s important is the commitment of each person to make it work and how the relationship feels in its entirety for the majority of the time you’re together. If overall, you feel at peace with this person, at home, accepted and loved, it’s worthwhile to keep going. I am going to cheat a bit and add another card that relates to this message and drives it home a bit more: “No two people are 100% right for one another. In good relationships, people are about 25% compatible. But the relationship works overall because that quarter is important.”
- “The difference between hope and despair lies in a way of telling alternative stories from the same facts.”
It’s the idea of reframing. And the famous quote: “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” Or the stoic belief of seeing a tragedy or hardship as something that happened for you instead of to you. Or the scenario where Person A thought of the glass as half full and Person B described the glass as half empty, and they both got A+s on that 1-question exam because they both described the situation accurately. What all that comes down to is this: choose whatever outlook keeps you moving forward with lighter steps.
- “Don’t think of the best that could happen. Focus on the worst and stiffen yourself with the realization that you could survive it. Even prison for a while.”
Ha. S/he keeds. I think. Never the matter, I personally would advise against thinking about how to survive prison because hopefully you’re not contemplating anything that will land you there. This hope is strong, so please don’t disappoint. Instead, what I would recommend is thinking about both the best and worst case scenarios. Explore the best that could happen to get happy and excited for what’s to come. But then turn and face your worst case scenario. Don’t fear it. Don’t run from it. Steel yourself and analyze it. Explore your thoughts. Think of what you would do if the worst happened. How would you get yourself out of it? How would you cope? How would you change your circumstances and get yourself back to normal? Always have a plan of action for any situation. But don’t plan indefinitely, keeping yourself from acting. Plan and brainstorm action steps against worst case scenarios until you get to a point where you might not know everything that could happen, but you still feel confident in knowing that you can handle whatever comes up. You can pivot and maneuver around challenges you may not have even thought of just because you’ve mentally prepared for the ones you did. You got this. If you start feeling panicked about uncertainty again, conduct another exploratory session. Remember, if you shine the light on your fears, the shadows will slither away.
- “Enter deeply into the life of someone else. Find out what is on their mind and why. Take a short break from the exhausting business of thinking about yourself.”
I think this is a great exercise to complete once a day, or at least once a week. Just look at someone and consider what their life might be like. What issues could they be facing that we don’t see? What are their dreams? What are the secrets they keep? What do they worry about? What do they love most about themselves? Who do they love most? What would they change about their lives? The questions are limitless, as are the answers. Think of the possibilities.
- “The best cure for a crush: get to know them better.”
When you feel nervous and everything about them gets you excited, get out of your head and focus on getting to know them. They’re just as human as you are and sometimes, they might not like being placed on a pedestal.
- “On the highest throne in the world, we are seated still upon our arses.” – Montaigne
A humble reminder that no matter how big we get, whatever success we might see in our lives, we are still human. We are still made of matter, we all poop, we have health issues, we will all wrinkle and sag and we can be downright disgusting sometimes. We are all human, we are not one better than the other. And remember this most of all, when you reach the top and you’re looking down at the view: “to whom much is given, much is expected”.
- “Work starts when the fear of doing something badly is outstripped by the fear of doing nothing at all. Realize how much your perfectionism is turning you into a procras_”
It is more dangerous not do anything than to do something that is not perfect. When you do anything at any level, you gain experience. When you do it again the next time, it naturally gets better even if you didn’t put conscious effort into improving. If you do it for a third time and with conscious focus on improvement (i.e., deliberate practice), your quality of work improves further than your prior two attempts. Alternatively, if you chose to not try and instead waited until you knew more in order to act, even if one day you made yourself take a step forward, without the practice you would still be at session 1. No matter what, you can’t bypass practice (i.e., experience). It is the necessary ingredient for growth. The earlier you start, the better off you are. If you didn’t start before, then start now. Put in as much practice as you can in order to get closer to perfection. Mind you, you will never reach perfection. Which is why I recommend striving for improvement instead, but if perfection is what gets you going, know that you can’t get it instantly. You have to practice. Each completed practice session earns you a step toward it. So if you don’t do anything, if you don’t put in the reps, you’ll forever be waiting at the starting line.
- “There is no such thing as a work-life balance. Everything worth fighting for unbalances your life.”
Though you should be aware of your need to rest and recuperate and attend to those needs so as not to burn out and ensure sustainable growth, I do believe focus and dedication gets you higher returns. Science has proven that focus for an extended period of time helps you capitalize on that time. You don’t have to repeatedly recalibrate frequent task or goal changes, which allows you to go deeper and make connections more easily. However, diminishing returns is also a thing, and you should know when you’ve reached that point for yourself. In your day, your session or even in your year. Pay attention to your moods, activities and energy levels. Develop an awareness of the conditions that produce your optimal performance levels and design your life to create those circumstances more frequently. The rest is icing.
- “So normal to want a better life; so unusual and so much more interesting to set out to be a better person.”
Pro tip: becoming a better person will automatically and inevitably lead to a better life.
What thoughts get you through your anxiety? Are there any special grounding techniques you use? What are some journal prompts you rely on to interrupt your thoughts during periods of intense ruminations?
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