Category Archives: Bullet Journal

Gratitude and Anxiety

Over the past year, I’ve worked with several ideas and tools to manage my issues of anxiety, depression and distraction brought on by my mTBIs.  I’ve written about my bullet journal, my daily practice and the book that worked like a “key in a lock” for all of it.  One of the most recent tools, and perhaps one of the more practical, was a simple sentence I heard from my wife.

We were discussing the ideas of mindfulness, staying in the present and battling anxiety.  She brought up information she had been given in a leadership workshop and said, “Did you know there have been studies done which show the brain cannot contain thoughts of anxiety and gratitude at the same time?”

Sunset

I immediately began chewing on this and coupling it with my current practice.  I decided to put that statement to the test as soon as possible.

One of my biggest issues had been that shortly after settling into my breathing, my environment and the simple truth of the present moment, my heart would take off and wave upon wave of anxiety would hit me.  Little panic attacks would shock through my system and I’d get hit with a flood of adrenaline.  I’ve written about this previously and how it refused to stop.  Though recently I had been able to work with the anxiety, it still arose occasionally.

I also had found that I could be in a quiet, relaxed state of mind and anxious thoughts would still skitter across my awareness, like mice scurrying in the corner of your eye.  Occasionally, I would unwittingly latch on to one of those thoughts and found myself taken for a ride.

However, now I had been given a new tool!  If anxiety and gratefulness basically had some sort of oil and water combination in the brain, I could use that to my advantage.  Basically, the same as offering a chew toy to a dog that is chewing on your shoe.  “No, no, bad brain.  If you’re going to chew on something chew on this.”

Tsynapsehe moment I began to become aware of my anxiety or a thought based more on depression, I would immediately find one or two things I was grateful for in that moment.  If I could not find something immediate, I could easily find something from my life or my family.  I would then focus on the grateful thought instead of the anxious one.
I coupled this with the information I read a few days later.  You can retrain your brain based on how you respond to a situation.  You have two choices, Love or Fear.  Your brain will wire itself accordingly.  If you have been wiring your brain with Fear based responses (which a good chunk of the population has been doing for decades) then it will continue along those neural pathways you have built.

Douves_jardins_AngersHowever, thanks to recent research, the brain retains a plasticity and, if like me, you realize your mistakes you can begin to rewire things.   Like your own personal brain garden you can begin retraining neural tendrils and vines that have grown closer together due to anxiety.  You can redirect them to move apart and reconnect through gratitude, Love and optimism.  Just like a garden, it won’t happen quickly.  You will have rainy days, tangled roots and pests but it will happen.

And so I began applying all of this, joining it with my mindfulness practice, my meditations.  Whenever I found myself thinking an anxious thought or letting myself rush to quickly towards the future, I’d drop back.  I’d think about one thing I was grateful.  If that didn’t replace the anxiety, I’d find something else.  It didn’t have to be complicated.  It could be as simple as feeling the wind on my face, being able to climb stairs, being able to read, having a comfortable work chair.  Anything.  I focused on my blessings.

gratitudeIn my bullet journal I created a gratitude journal where I listed the top two things every day that I was thankful for having.  Some days I’ve written, “A warm bed,””Amazing sunset,” or “Time with family over a board game.”  Other times it was, “Grateful for a safely built dishwasher that didn’t catch fire.”

Currently, my strategies are working.  It’s been like the anxiety has had the rug pulled out from underneath it.  It has no traction and slides away.  It’s not perfect, of course.  It still comes back.  When it does I simply meet it with more gratitude.  It slides away again.  At work, I noticed my days moving faster.  I’ve noticed things going smoothly, or, at least my reaction to them has changed.

I was retraining my brain.

I still have reactions that are the old way of thinking.  Just yesterday, at work, I fell down the yucky rabbit hole of frustration, anxiety and anger.  However, instead of sitting in it I did something else.  I left my desk.  I took a brief walk outside.  I got back to the present.  I didn’t scold myself for getting angry but instead started focusing on what I was the most grateful for in my life.  I realized I was allowing myself to get too invested in my work.  I sat and watched nature around me, watched the wind in the trees and repeated how grateful I was.  Things calmed down quickly.

The difference between that and what might have been a year ago?  Before, I would have allowed it to tank my day.  I would have gone home exhausted and distraught.  Now?  The whole thing took 20 minutes and I was able to get back into my day, get things done and go home in a good mindset.

And the first thing when I got back to my desk?  I sat down and took a moment to be grateful for having a job that allowed me to go for a brief walk.  I have had more than a few where that could not have been an option.

And today?  Today I simply start all over again.

Just me and my brain garden.

 

Here are some other links that have helpful information:

How Gratitude Can Calm Your Nerves and Make You Feel More Effective

From Harvard Medical School – In Praise of Gratitude

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Bullet Journals, Life and Me

What follows is a lengthy response to the question, “Why do I bullet journal?”  When I started this post I was assuming it would be about 200 words; nice and neat. As it sometimes happens when you journal it turned into something a bit more.  It became about my journey and about where I am now.

If you really don’t want to hear about the details, I’ll give you the quick version and you can keep moving.  Ready?

I bullet journal to keep my damaged brain working the way I want it to work.

There ya go.  Nothing more to read here!  Move along..

If you’d like to hear more then the path lies directly ahead.  😀

Read the rest of this entry

Oak Gall Ink Update

A Quick Oak Gall Ink update

We are coming up on the end of the two week period of the oak galls soaking in their mixture.  Unfortunately, on day 14, I will be gone all day performing on the Firefhouse Follies Radio Show which I’m going to link here because you KNOW you want to give it a listen!  (Sunday, 3/5, 4 PM EST, Live on the air and the internet!)  The plan is to take an evening after work to finally get the ink together and to see how it all goes.

My newest addition to the experiment has been deciding to extract my own iron mixture.  The plan is to use a little of it for part of the mixture and then ferrous sulfate for the other half.  This way, I can see if the homemade iron mixture works at all while still (hopefully) getting some working ink from the basic recipe.

Again, this is all experimentation on my part, my idea of having fun.  I really don’t know what I’m doing.  As long as I don’t explode something in my kitchen I should be ok and can continue to live with the ever-patient Otter Wife!  If nothing else, the folks out there reading this that do know what you are doing can get a chuckle.  I’m not proud.  For some light chemistry reading, check out this link.

I created the iron mixture this way.  On my latest walk to my nearby creek, I kept my eyes open for rusty bits of metal.  I found a nail and some other unidentifiable bits and deemed my quest a success! (The glob of “stuff” on the left is a chunk of pine tar I foraged to add to my fire pouch.)

rusty

initialrust

 

After some pounding and bending, I placed these in a baby food jar with a solution of white vinegar and water.  I used one tblspn vinegar to about 4 tblspn of water.  Then, I let it sit.  the vinegar goes to work on the metal and wah-lah you have, uh, something that should work!  A similar thing works with vinegar and steel wool to create a wood stain.

 

 

rusty2The jars have been sitting now for several days in a window that gets sunlight every day for about 6 – 8 hours.  Things are starting to look… funky.

My current prediction is that the ink that is created with the ferrous sulfate will probably turn out much better.  The ink created by my goofy homebrew will be a bit more gray and possibly just crap.  Both inky potions will still not be able to hold a candle to something I could go to the store to buy.  See?  Science!!!

inkypotions

Also, as a late addition, I stumbled upon this incredible link entitled Making Ink.  It makes for some great information.

Bullet Journal – Monthly Setup

Remember that post a few weeks ago where I said my subjects were going to be a bit random? You do? Oh, good!

I’ve been working with organizational systems for almost ten years now.   I’ve been through a ton of them!  It’s been a quest of mine to find one flexible enough to work for all the different things I need, both with varied projects I work with and some of the struggles I have with my TBIs (traumatic brain injuries.)  I’ve found something which is working quite well and it’s called a Bullet Journal.

I’m writing up a longer post that goes into more detail as to the TBIs, other issues and why I Bullet Journal. However, that post has managed to be quite revealing, personal as well as cathartic and, of course, taking a bit more time than I thought it would. As part of it, I wanted to include my monthly bullet journal organization for March and talk a bit more about my current process. Time has once again slid by, it’s the first of March, and, instead of waiting, I’ve decided to just make two posts.

For now, here is my March monthly spread and some of the other pages that make up what I do each month.  I’ve picked all of these up from looking over Instagram, Facebook, blogs and websites.  I’ll put a few at the bottom of the post and a larger list on the other post coming out soon.

monthly
For each month, a regular bullet journal will have simply the page on the left for the calendar items, dates indexed down the left hand side. What I found, however, is that I needed to widen things out and create a separate spread for my work dates. After some playing around I opted to go this route to see how it works out. This way, when planning, I have my personal dates as well as my work dates all in one glance.

You could easily switch out something else for “Work” to adapt the system if you needed a secondary calendar of any sort. In addition, on the far right, I put a section for “future stuff” that might come up for April or May as well as general goals I might have for the month itself. The Future Items may be too small but we’ll see how it goes.

gratitudeNext up is something I began last month as a test and it has become a major player for daily improvement.  To be honest, I wasn’t quite ready for the subtle impact it would have on me.  The Gratitude Journal has two lines for each day which are filled out, hopefully, at the end of the day.  Gratitude journals sometimes have three, others have five.  Two seemed to be a perfect number for me and so I adopted it here.

Sitting down to focus on two things in gratitude from the day has helped me to shift a mindset that’s been stuck for several decades.  Some days I forget but when I go to do my daily review in the morning, I always go back and fill in the gap.  This takes no more than five minutes and the mental/emotional rewards are worth every second.

memoriesFinally, another investment I started near the end of February; a memories page.  Again, this was something I did as a test and within a week realized I loved it.  At the end of February I was quite pleased with my little page that summed up all the fun, memorable things which occurred during the month.  It also gives me a chance to make doodles, sketches and to flex my creative muscles a bit.

So, I’ve added it as well for March.

The rest of the journal is either old or new collections (pages marked specifically for different subjects or projects) or my daily pages which list what was needed to be done, what got done and other things about the day I might want to remember.

More to come and the larger bullet journal post is right around the corner!

Resources:

There are a TON of resources, articles, images, Pins on Pinterest, etc if you want to spend numerous hours digesting all the ways you can modify the bullet journal.  Below is a handful, in my opinion, of the best!