Hospitals in the Eyes of a Mother, and a Cancer Patient

This article contains a few Filipino words from the interviewees but their message can be understood nevertheless.

In this article, narratives of two women who had experiences in hospital environments were shared: one is a mother of a 3-year old, and the second was a patient herself. (1) Jessa Roque-Medina was an intern for Philippine General Hospital and mother of Saab, a three-year-old who was diagnosed with Billary Atresia. On the other hand, (2) Irish Jain, a 20-year-old who had been cancer-free for 3 years now. 

It is not surprising information that spaces inside a hospital, in general, feel cold. It is mainly due to the blank walls and eerie silence that fills most spaces. After spending some time inside hospitals due to chemotherapy and frequent checkups, Irish confessed that there was a time that she had been scared to go to a hospital. She feels like someone’s giving a death sentence somewhere whenever she goes inside, and that thought makes her uncomfortable. Even the seats that lined up on both sides of the corridor—where she had to sit for about 2 hours to see her doctor—add to her growing discomfort as those seats become chilly over time and they make your back ache.

Having gone to India for 18 months for a liver transplant for Saab, Mrs. Medina shared that whenever they are en-route to the hospital from the hotel, as soon as Saab sees the facade of the hospital, she starts to cry. She observed that her three-year-old daughter had developed “trauma sa mga taong naka-scrub suits.” Recently, she noticed that Saab’s reacting differently whenever she is enclosed with a few people in a room (i.e Mrs. Medina, Saab, and someone unfamiliar). Currently, in Manila, Saab starts to plead to her mom to go home whenever she sees the building of the National Kidney Transplant Institute (NKTI). Even as a three-year old, Saab had learned to associate pain to hospitals and people wearing white, but it’s still early to know if it had other impacts on her mental health too.

Private and Public

Although hospitals, in general, feel unwelcoming, unfortunately, as Mrs. Medina concluded, “It always goes and boils down to budget. How much are you willing to pay; that is the exact treatment you’ll get—not medical—pero that’s the exact thing you will get in a hospital.” As a former intern at PGH, she witnessed how beds, beddings, and air conditioners are always inadequate to the crowd of people wanting to get treated. But, she is aware that the environment isn’t exactly the main priority for public hospitals. 

Irish once had a check-up at Philippine Children’s Medical Center last 2017, and one of the reasons why she did not have her chemotherapy there was because of the environment. She described that the hospital is currently under renovation during that time, and the building looks so old. The walls were not blank white walls, but they do not have paint at all. The doctors in the hospital do not have their personal clinics; they were inside a huge room, and the only thing that separates them is curtains. The patients of other doctors were visible, and once it’s your turn, you had to check every curtain to look for your doctor. Although she liked her doctor at PCMC, the environment itself did not make her feel that she can get treated well. Hence, she chose Mary Mediatrix Medical Center, a private hospital near her home, to receive chemotherapy.

Both women mentioned that they feel that they are well-taken care of if they are in a private hospital, but they still feel uneasy inside a hospital.

Coping Up

No one wants to go to a hospital, or even spent a lot of time there, but that is neither an excuse nor a reason to not design an environment that eases psychological tension for patients and their family. 

Saab and her parents had come to the point where they spent six months straight in the hospital in India, and Mrs. Medina suggests that having rooms designed with a homey feeling would be helpful. She also mentioned that accent walls are great additions too. In the past,  Mrs. Medina had her check-ups at St. Luke’s Medical Center – Global City and she compared it to a 5-star hotel. Almost everything feels like a hotel, from the chandeliers to the consultation areas of the doctors. But underneath these un-hospital-like environments that make the spaces feel less traumatizing is the cost of treatment. “Siyempre they cannot give a first-class and world-class treatment kapag hindi enough ang pumapasok na income,” she stated.

Having spent time in a hospital when she was 17 years old, Irish highlights the importance of community to her well-being. She did her treatment at a private hospital owned by Catholics (which is good for her because she’s a Catholic as well), and because of the tight-knit religious community, she became close with the nurses. But she suggests having a common room wherein patients can interact and support one another in each other’s healing journeys. Also, the feeling of belongingness has a huge positive impact on a person’s overall well-being. 

Irish described how ecstatic she is whenever she is in UST hospital for her regular checkup, especially if it’s the holiday season. The lobby of the said hospital is adorned with fairy lights and other Christmas decors. She mentioned that the feeling itself inside the hospital changes when it’s nearing Christmas. When it’s not the holiday season, Irish is delighted by all the paintings that hung on every wall. “Dito kasi sa [hospital sa] Lipa, minsan mo lang makikita [‘yung mga painting] tapos sa pediatrics pa siya and luckily, 17 pa lang naman ako nung nagka-cancer, so dun ako sa pediatrics.” she shared.

The Lesser It Feels Like A Hospital, The Better

Watching how her three-year-old daughter developed a trauma after being in hospitals most of the time, Mrs. Medina stated, “The lesser it looks like a hospital, the lesser traumatizing it would be [and] the lesser fearful it would be.” Interestingly, even Irish reached the same conclusion, “[Basically] parang lahat na makakabawas na feeling na you’re in the hospital. Kasi may common na feeling kayo kapag nasa hospital. It is sullen. Parang feel mo lahat ng tao dun may problema. Pero kunwari [kapag] may library, may magandang cafe, parang hindi mo masyadong feel [na nasa hospital ka].” 

Saab is still very young to determine how her experiences in hospitals affected her mental health. On the other hand, Irish had been scared of going to a hospital for some time because it would remind her of her breakdowns— the moment when she learned that she has cancer. Fortunately, Irish began to heal, especially when the environment of the hospital became joyful due to the Christmas decorations. 

The environment has a huge impact on one’s well-being. It can make you feel that you are being sentenced to death, or it can uplift your spirit and can ease a bit of tension that you are feeling. It makes a huge difference being in an environment that makes you feel that you are welcomed, and it doesn’t add to the agony that you are feeling but still allows you to feel joy alongside the distress.

One of the Most Common Regrets: Time Spent Worrying

In an interview with Gretchen Rubin, Karl Pillemer, Ph.D., professor of Human Development at Cornell University, stated, “I was born the type that worries, but I have realized that many of the things I worried about never came to pass, and the problems that showed up weren’t the ones I had worried about. In my studies of the wisdom of older people, this is one thing they really taught me. Indeed, one of the most common regrets people have at the end of life is time wasted worrying.”

Whenever I was interviewing for an article for my college publication, I tend to ask the question, “What will you advice to your younger self?” and somehow, one way or another, their answers are related to worrying.

“You can do anything that you want to do. So stop worrying.”
“I’m was a mess. I spent a lot of time worrying in the past and if I can say something to my younger self, it would be, believe in yourself. Just do it.”

Even author and organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in an article, “When people reflect on their biggest regrets, they wish they could redo the inactions, not the actions. “In the long run, people of every age and in every walk of life seem to regret not having done things much more than they regret things they did,” psychologists Tom Gilovich and Vicky Medvec summarize, “which is why the most popular regrets include not going to college, not grasping profitable business opportunities, and not spending enough time with family and friends.”

Ultimately, what we regret is not failure, but the failure to act. 

Failure to act is related to worrying too because before we act on something, we think about it for some time and even spend time ruminating. Sometimes, worrying gets the best of us and all of a sudden, time has passed and we haven’t act on it yet because we worry a lot.

In my case, last year, before doing an academic work, I tend to worry about it instead of just starting. Then suddenly, 30 minutes had passed and I haven’t started yet, but if I had just started instead of worrying what bad things might happen, I would probably be halfway done by now.

That is why whenever I found myself worrying before doing something, I remind myself of this quote from author James Clear, “Stop worrying about how long it will take and get started. Time will pass either way.

Though, right now, whenever I will be doing something that I know that will take a long time for me to complete, I’ll take a deep breath and say, “This too shall pass.”

This reminder helps me to not dwell so much on certain things, to not worry so much on what will happen, and that its not the end of the world. I can overcome whatever obstacles I face because it will pass. Just like whenever I encountered obstacles last year that I thought were too hard for me, I thought I would not get through it but no, I did it. I overcame all of that and made it here in 2021.

Right now, I’m looking forward to just letting the situation to be what it is and spend less time worrying on controlling the outcome because whatever it is, it will pass. I hope and pray that I will have the courage to run to the roar.

What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

During this pandemic, I was curious on why a lot of people began to take such huge interests in plants and baking. And that’s a great thing. I’m just genuinely curious why.

My answer came months later from an article posted in Farnam Street,

Why might baking be useful in times of stress? In Overcoming Anxiety, Dennis Tirch explains “research has demonstrated that when people engage more fully in behaviors that give them a sense of pleasure and mastery, they can begin to overcome negative emotions.”

At home with their loved ones people can reconsider what they value one muffin at a time. Creating with the people we love instead of consuming on our own allows us to focus on what we value as the world changes around us. With more time, slow, seemingly unproductive pursuits have new appeal because they help us reorient to the qualities in life that matter most.

Giving yourself the space to tune in to your values doesn’t have to come through baking. What’s important is that you find an activity that lets you move past fear and panic, to reconnect with what gives your life meaning. When you engage with an activity that gives you pleasure and releases negative emotions, it allows you to rediscover what is important to you.”

When I read this article, I began to look at reading and writing—the very things that I did the most during this pandemic—in a whole new way.

When my plans crumbled down and I can’t see my friends for such a long time, I turned to reading and writing. And this is where I concluded that reading and writing are not just some hobby for me. They are something for me to do—to live.

And so, I thought that it would really be an interesting question to ask to people this: What are you mostly doing during this pandemic?

Their answers give you glimpse of who they are. Like what are you doing when the world seems to be crumbling down and things might not go back to normal anytime soon (or we may never go back to “normal”)?

Author and artist Austin Kleon wrote in his blog,

“There’s something about keeping your hands busy when your brain feels broken. I have friends with depression who build elaborate LEGO sets. I’ve read about veterans with PTSD who put together gigantic jigsaw puzzles.

We’re wired to want to turn chaos into order. Randomness into meaning.

It’s why hobbies are so important…”

It’s really interesting how we spend hours and hours doing academic work or literally, work but when negativity overwhelms us, we turn into planting, baking, writing, jigsaw puzzles, listening to music, reading, etc.

Why do we put lesser importance to the latter activities that I mentioned when they are the ones that makes us feel more alive and more human?

Even if I have a lot of things listed on my to-do list, I steal time for myself. To read, to write, and to just do nothing—because its through these things that I can rest and feel more alive than ever.

Ending with this line from the movie Dead Poets Society:

Image result for dead poets society quotes | Society quotes, Dead poets  society quotes, Dead poets society

They don’t care about you.

That is what a friend told me prior to me giving a short speech. He knows what an overthinker and anxious person I was and a few minutes before I was about to give a short speech he said that to me and I haven’t forgotten it ever since. (this was February 2020)

Overtime, I still am an anxious person. I still do overthink. I did not magically became fearless overnight. But I have definitely improved.

Anyhow, I tend to magnify how much a random person thinks about me. Its what psychologists call The Spotlight Effect. According to Psychology Today, it “refers to the tendency to think that more people notice something about you than they do.”

For example, when someone asks a question during class, whatever it was, I tend to not remember it at all the next day (not because I don’t remember but because it never just cross my mind). However, when I ask a question in class, I tend to overthink what I had done that until the next day, I’m still thinking about it. But, when I ask a classmate of what he/she thought of my question, I would then realize that they do not even think of what I’ve done at all because they are busy on their own worries.

Whenever I’m about to post something publicly, I’ll always remember this advice: They do not care about me. Rather than it being a source of sadness, it actually is more of a relief. Because then, as long as I do not do anything that inflicts harm on anyone, they would leave me be and I’ll just keep continuing doing my work that makes me happy.

Writer Louis Chew wrote on an article entitled The Spotlight Effect: Why No One Else Remembers What You Did, “But more importantly, there’s no need to be obsessed with what others think of us. The reality is that everyone has greater concerns — themselves. So speak your mind. Take some risks. Be the man in the arena.

Procrastination is more than just Laziness

I have a design project that I have to submit in a few weeks (although its still far away, I’m the type of person who prefers to do tasks right away) and after starting it, I realize that my progress is slow. I thought its because that the deadline is still so far away and that I do not feel the need to rush. But, I began thinking about it differently after I watched this video of @evolveandbloom. (Fun fact: I created a Tiktok acc because of her. In Facebook, I saw a video compiling her best Tiktok vids and I created my own acc just to watch her other videos.)

Based on my actions, I would honestly say that I am procrastinating and that is why I progressed really slow. But from her video, I began to understand and rethink my perspective about procrastinating.

I’ve been hearing this a lot from my professors and a few of my classmates that the reason why people procrastinate is because of laziness. But there is so much more to procrastinating than just laziness.

I am reminded of what social psychologist Devon Price wrote in an article entitled Laziness Does Not Exist, “People do not choose to fail or disappoint. No one wants to feel incapable, apathetic, or ineffective. If you look at a person’s action (or inaction) and see only laziness, you are missing key details. There is always an explanation. There are always barriers. Just because you can’t see them or don’t view them as legitimate, doesn’t mean they’re not there. Look harder.”

Going back to my design project, the reason why I procrastinate or progress slowly (than what I hoped for) is because I don’t know what to do. The project that we have is a new topic and we haven’t even been able to discuss it. I’m just so lost that I do not know where to start. In other words, I’m avoiding negative emotions.

When I’m in the act of doing my project, the negative emotions are too much and they impede my progress.

Wharton organizational psychologist Adam Grant wrote in an article, Procrastinate Much? Manage Your Emotions, Not Your Time, “The psychologists Timothy Pychyl and Fuschia Sirois have discovered that procrastination isn’t about avoiding work; it’s about avoiding negative emotions. We procrastinate when a task stirs up feelings like anxiety, confusion or boredom. And although it makes us feel better today, we end up feeling worse — and falling behind — tomorrow.”

And how do we deal with it? The answer is not better time-management.

“This means that if you want to procrastinate less, you don’t have to increase your work ethic or improve your time management.” Mr. Grant wrote. “You can instead focus on changing your habits around emotion management.

One thing that I practice (that I essentially works for me) is writing down what you want to make progress today. I cannot possibly complete the project in a day but I can complete small tasks of that project. Before I start working, I write down things that I want to accomplish for the day relating to the project and sticking to it. It helps me to reduce thinking about the project as a whole or the more daunting tasks far ahead.

My negative emotions are holding me back and they gradually stop once my head is on a task that is not too hard but not too easy. Another tips are to gamify the task and give yourself a deadline (I use this a lot and it really works).

Basically, Parkinson’s Law. I give myself like an hour (I have a timer beside me) to finish a task and sometimes, I went overboard for a couple of minutes but the vital thing about it is it gets you to work and to progress at it quickly because you have a deadline to meet.

Will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?

In the first issue of his weekly newsletter, Sunday Snippets, youtuber and doctor Ali Abdaal wrote how he and his friend have the hedonic adaption in their minds as a reminder while they are picking out houses to live in Cambridge.

According to Science Direct,

“Hedonic adaptation refers to the notion that after positive (or negative) events (i.e., something good or bad happening to someone), and a subsequent increase in positive (or negative) feelings, people return to a relatively stable, baseline level of affect (Diener, Lucas, & Scollon, 2006).

From: Advances in Motivation Science, 2018

He and his friend have the concept of hedonic adaptation in their heads so that even though there are houses that are looks great but costs a lot for their budget, they would not be tempted to choose it because in the long run, it will not affect their happiness.

After pondering about this matter, I remember what writer Oliver Burkeman shared, an advice he received for making major life decisions,

When stumped by a life choice, choose “enlargement” over happiness. I’m indebted to the Jungian therapist James Hollis for the insight that major personal decisions should be made not by asking “Will this make me happy?”, but will this choice enlarge me or diminish me?” We’re terrible at predicting what will make us happy: the question swiftly gets bogged down in our narrow preferences for security and control. But the enlargement question elicits a deeper, intuitive response. You tend to just know whether, say, leaving or remaining in a relationship or a job, though it might bring short-term comfort, would mean cheating yourself of growth.

To bridge over this two concepts, I remembered how, a year ago, my father asked for my thoughts about living on a bigger house with a swimming pool and wherein me and my siblings will have our own rooms. I answered how I think that our current house is fine. It’s small but it’s perfect for our family.

Back then, if I was asked the question, will a bigger house make us happy? I would have answered yes.

But knowing about hedonic adaptation and reflecting on my past actions, such things would make us high at first but it will not affect on our long-term happiness.

But if I was asked, will a bigger house enlarge us?, I would answer no. And with that, we could focus on bringing our money to other much more important matters.

And today, whenever I get anxious about a project or an assignment, I will remember that whatever may be the outcome of it, I will always return to my natural state which is happiness.

Pursue Joy

“Joy is a form of resilience.” I will repeat, “Joy is a form of resilience.

How so?

Many consider joy as this frivolous emotion. One can even say that it is unimportant and should not be given a time of the day. But is it really?

Joy Vs Happiness

As a culture, we have been obsessed in pursuing happiness. (Happiness comes from the inside but that is another matter to talk about)

But actually, what we should do is pursue joy.

Happiness is an emotion pertaining to that you feel over a long period of time. So, for example, let’s say, I’m a student and when I say, “I’m happy right now.” What that means is that I feel happy about yesterday and the days before that. It doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t awful moments but over time, I feel good overall about what happened.

On the other hand, joy pertains to right now. It’s the feeling when you want to jump up and down or giggle or laugh because of a joke. And this is why pursuing joy is much more important that pursuing happiness. Because joy is what’s happening around us every time. Writing this blog makes me feel joy. And in retrospect, when all of these joyful moment add up, I can say that I am happy with how I live. So maybe, we are only happy in retrospect. Hence, it is why pursuing joy is more important that pursuing happiness

Why is Joy Important?

Going back to my first sentence, “Joy is a form of resilience.” is from designer and author Ingrid Fetell Lee.

And she explained why in a blog post. First off, she wrote that we tend off to put off joy. For example, “Oh! I will work full head-on for 9 hours and then I’ll watch a movie.” We see joy as a reward for our hardwork.

But actually, Lee suggests that we should incorporate joy into our daily lives. Basically, joy is a tool that we can use to cope up with stress.

She explained further, “Small moments of joy help the cardiovascular system recover from stress. When we feel stressed, our bodies floor with chemicals like cortisol and epinephrine which raise our heart rate and blood pressure, keep us alert and focused, and help us respond to the challenges at hand. This is an adaptive response to stress, and it works well when it’s temporary. If stress becomes chronic, on the other hand, this places strain on the body and can lead to exhaustion and illness. But when we experience joy, such as watching something funny, taking a little while to become absorbed in play, or spending time in nature, it gives our bodies a break from this stress response, enabling us to recover.

Thus, joy is not frivolous. It’s actually important for our body, especially our mental health.

Small Moments of Joy

Knowing this information, I had to apply it. Assignments and academic readings are piling up but I’m ‘stealing ‘ some time just to be.

I acknowledge that I am more than my academics. And the life that I want to live is not something that is in the direction of academics, hence, I go my own path.

One thing that I do and probably my most favorite apart from writing is soaking energy from the sun.

Around 3 pm- 4pm, I get up, after being huddled for hours on my desk, and go in our porch.

Without having to go outside, the sun direction is right there at the gate and that is where I can get energy from the sun.

Honestly, one of the highlights of my day. And I am reminded of what Andy Grammer wrote in his song Keep Your Head Up:

The glow that the sun gets
Right around sunset
Helps me realize
That this is just a journey
Drop your worries
You are gonna turn out fine.
Oh, you turn out fine.
Fine, oh, you turn out fine.

Whether I failed during the day or experienced something terrible, the sun’s gonna be there. Always. And its gonna be there until I die. Whatever I am worrying about it is gonna be fine. It will pass. Other things that I do during the day to feel joy is listening to my favorite music, showering after a long day, watching korean variety shows, and reading a great book that will keep me immersed for hours. And not to mention, there are tons of other things that unexpectedly show up during my day that brought me joy. Like a few days ago, I discovered a website that has a very interesting UI on its homepage, and just the other day, I finally owned a copy of a book that I’ve been waiting for MONTHSS!!!

Basically, pursuing joy is me telling myself that I will not succumb to being a machine and taking care of myself. In addition, joyful things that unexpectedly came my way are a reminder that life is full of miracles and casual magics. I also believe that what I put out in the world, that is what I get back. And these miracles are what I get back.

Make Time To Do Something Unproductive | In other words, take a break from school/work

Neil Gaiman (author of Coraline) advises to anyone who wants to be become a writer to “get bored.

[Ideas] come from day dreaming from drifting, that moment when you’re just sitting there… The trouble with these days is that its really hard to get bored. I have 2.4 million people on Twitter who will entertain me at any moment… it’s really hard to get bored. I’m much better at putting my phone away, going for boring walks, actually trying to find the space to get bored in. That’s what I’ve started saying to people who say ‘I want to be a writer’ I say, ‘great. get bored.’ “

And although Neil Gaiman advises this to anyone who wanted to be a writer, research suggests that doing something unproductive (in other words, taking a break or something “boring”) is important for your physical and mental well-being. When we work more than what we can and we needed, we ended up exhausting ourselves. This is the reason why even though we have worked for long hours or get ahead, we ended up being more stressed even we accomplished a few things.

We try to ‘catch up’ and ‘get ahead’, but that only piles on more stress and less control. The stress of pop-up problems, like an infertility diagnosis, can make you feel like you don’t have time to just play and relax,” wrote Georgia Witkin, Ph.D. in Psychology Today, “when your sense of control goes down, your emergency response system increases your adrenaline, your body’s natural stimulant. Now, you’ll find yourself still having to deal with the stresses and the side effects of adrenaline. Adrenaline, which sometimes manifests as panic attacks, is putting your brain and body on alert so you’ll be ready for the next crisis.”

Also, while your body and brain is on alert for the next crisis, it uses up other hormones like serotonin, which means your using up resources that you needed to be calm and joyful.

On the other hand, she wrote relaxing and playing, “…prevent the high adrenaline output and increase those mood-elevating hormones. Not only is relaxation nice, the clinical benefits are shown to increase overall health!”

At the end of her article, she shared that practicing mindfulness for only 20 minutes each day can improve your day and reduce your stress levels. Breathing exercises are a good way to go!

My own way of relaxing is to listen to music every morning. I play songs that motivate me and dance to it. At the same time, I watch the sun rise from our bedroom window. These moments are the best because as I watch the sun rise and get a feel of it every morning, it reminds me that I’m human- that I’m not in some race of sort, that I can slow down and walk at my own pace, and that I’m not a machine.

Why we need to relax

Jonah Lehrer explains it in his book Imagine: How Creativity Works:

“Why is a relaxed state of mind so important for creative insights? When our minds are at ease— when those alpha waves are rippling through the brain— we’re more likely to direct the spotlight of attention inward, toward that stream of remote associations emanating from the right hemisphere. In contrast, when we are diligently focused, our attention tends to be directed outward, toward the details of the problems we’re trying to solve. While this pattern of attention is necessary when solving problems analytically, it actually prevents us from detecting the connections that lead to insights. “That’s why so many insights happen during warm showers,” Bhattacharya says. “For many people, it’s the most relaxing part of the day.” “

“Relaxing or taking a break makes me feel guilty”

I experienced this many times last year. And since classes has started a few days ago, I’ve seen more and more posts like this one. Our constant working and belief that life is all about hustling made us feel and think that way. It’s the toxic hustle culture that made us believe we should be working all the time, forgoing time for family, friends, and even, me time.

In her book, Do Nothing, journalist and public radio show host Celeste Headlee confessed, “It was the hard-work culture that made me believe I was lazy if I stopped working for even short periods of time.”

Once, she learned that working for long hours doesn’t equal productivity, she started applying it into her life as well as to her employees. “I wrote a handbook for my producers that including the following advice: Don’t work a long day, go home, and turtle on your couch with a frozen dinner. Solid research shows forcing yourself to get out and go to the bar with friends, have dinner, see a movie, meet people and socialize, reduces your stress and makes you more efficient. Have a hobby.” Also, research shows that employees who completely disengage themselves from work during leisure (or non-work hours) live healthier lives emotionally and physically. They are less overwhelmed and they sleep better.

In my case, I start the day slow. Like I mentioned previously, I start my day mostly listening to music and watching the sun rise. It is to remind myself that it’s okay to slow down and I am not late for anything. I am just on time. Second thing I do is I keep a logbook.

Keeping a logbook

A logbook is where I keep everything that I did for the day, which includes making my bed, doing the laundry, what have I wrote about, what articles I read, etc. Every time the sun comes down, I will look at my logbook and I will feel relieved that I have accomplish things for the day and then, I’ll proceed to relaxing (aka total disengagement from org responsibilities and school), I watch my favorite show, write here in my blog, read a novel, etc.

Having an awareness of how you spend your days is helpful in terms of knowing that you are in control of your life and that you do not lack time.

Having no clear understanding of how you spend your time can leave you feeling more overwhelmed than necessary, which can cause you to make decisions that lead to more stress and anxiety, which feeds the sense that you’re pressed for time, and you end up feeling more overwhelmed than necessary.” wrote Celestee Headlee in her book, Do Nothing.

She mentioned about “time perception” which is an understanding of how we spend our time. People who have little time perception spend more time scrolling on social media sites and they feel more overwhelmed. Contrastingly, people with high time perception feel more in control because they have an exact idea of how they spend their time. They knew how much time they spend working, hence, they can make time for family, friends, leisure, and contemplation.

Celestee Headlee noted, “You may believe you can relax if you put in a few more hours and get ahead of your workload, but actually you’re more likely to reduce your stress level by taking a break.

Logbook is extremely helpful when I am relaxing at night because it shows me that I deserve to rest after hustling for hours and I can focus on other matters other than school and orgs. It leaves me feeling accomplished and that I did the best that I can for today.

Stop comparing

Lastly, avoid or stop comparing to how you spend your time to others. Hustling for more than what’s necessary is like a badge to other people which is overall unhealthy. Remember, this is your life and that is their life. The point is not to be as busy as your friends or be more busy, but its saying, “I am living my best life at this moment! I am grateful and I am in control.”

How I spend my time is more or less different from yours and that’s great! All we just need to remember is to be human. Be present. Focus on what you are doing right now instead of worrying about the work that you have to do tomorrow.

Celestee Headlee: Stop trying to prove something to others. Reclaim your time and reclaim your humanity.

Additional reading:
Work Is Play
Do More of What Brings You Joy
Why Do We Need To Play Even As Adults
“You cannot be really first-rate at your work if your work is all you are.”

How The Master Artist Taught Us On How to Focus Only On What We Control

The Master Artist is a story about Monsieur Signy l’ Abbaye and Guiliano Bartoli. After decades of working for the guild, in 1392, Monsieur Signy l’ Abbaye decided to retire. Guiliano Bartoli, an Italian patron, asked the Monsieur to paint a portrait of him on a 20ft wall. Monsieur did not want to but Guiliano insisted that he will pay him big money. Monsieur agreed, not for the money, instead, he wants to paint in any style that he wanted.

Working for the Guild for decades only painting in Byzantine or Proto-Renaissance styles, the Monsieur wanted to paint in a style that he wanted. Guiliano agreed. After a few months, the Monsieur had finally finished painting a portrait of the rich Italian patron of what looks like a cubism style of portrait.

When Guiliano saw the portrait, he was disappointed by how it looks, whereas, Monsieur’s reaction is the opposite. The Monsieur has never been more proud of what he had painted that even though, Guiliano did not like it. No one can even change his mind that it was his greatest masterpiece. 500 years later, Pablo Picasso became famous and loved by the world for cubist art.

James Clear wrote,

If what you write on your paper doesn’t meet someone else’s expectations … it is no concern of yours. The way someone else perceives what you do is a result of their own experiences (which you can’t control), their own tastes and preferences (which you can’t predict), and their own expectations (which you don’t set). If your choices don’t match their expectations that is their concern, not yours.

The point isn’t to be loved by the public or only do something that society tells us to do. But our job is to do our work because that is one of the only areas that we can control. We can only control how we act, what we say, and sometimes, how we feel. hence that is what we should focus on.

15-Minute Writing Exercise to Be More Optimistic and Persistent in Reaching your Goals— Backed by Research

I finished reading the book Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy D. Wilson. The book is filled with intervention programs and the reasons why they work or do not work— all backed up by comprehensive research studies.

One of the effective intervention exercises that worked and significantly improved the behavior of the participants is the Best Possible Selves writing exercise.

Compared to students who only wrote about a neutral topic, college students who did the Best Possible Selves writing exercise scored higher on the Life Orientation Test (a test used to measure optimism | see below). Also, 21 days later, participants had greater satisfaction and outlook in their lives.

Click to access LOTR_Scale.pdf

As written by Timothy D. Wilson, Best Possible Selves writing exercise worked this way:

“The Best Possible Selves Exercise: If you would rather not dredge up upsetting events from the past, and prefer to focus on the positive, try this writing exercise. Again, find a quiet, private place and follow these instructions on four consecutive nights: “Think about your life in the future. Imagine that everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realization of all of your life dreams. Now, write about what you imagined.

Don’t just think about what you have achieved (e.g., getting your dream job), but be sure to write about how you got there (e.g., doing an internship, going to graduate school). By so doing you might become more optimistic about your future and cope better with any obstacles you encounter.”

Speaking from experience, doing this writing exercise for four consecutive nights helped me develop a sense of clarity and purpose. The first night of exercise, I had an unclear way of imagining my best self– it was all over the place. By the succeeding nights, I discovered that finishing a degree wasn’t part of the process that I imagined to get to my ‘best possible self’. Basically, I am not relying on schooling to get an education. Degrees aren’t all that important to me but what I learned. Also, I discovered areas where I gravitated. By understanding myself on what I imagine is my best possible self and devising ways on how I could get there, even to the simplest tasks, I focused on the process rather than the outcome. And that is the goal of this writing exercise– to focus on the how; to focus on the verb and not the noun.

Artist and author Austin Kleon wrote it better in his book Keep Going,

Let go of the thing that you are trying to be (the noun) and focus on the actual work you need to be doing (the verb). Doing the verb will take you someplace further and far more interesting.

 

References:

Harrist, S., Carloozi, B., McGovern, A., & Harrist, A. (2007, August). Benefits of expressive writing and expressive talking about life goals. Journal of Research in Personality, 41(4), 923-930. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jrp.2006.09.002

King, Laura A.. “The Health Benefits of Writing about Life Goals.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 27 (2001): 798 – 807.

Wilson, T. (2011). Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change. Penguin Group.