Stress, Haste and Fatigue UP, Accuracy DOWN

stress15n-1-webRay is a small business owner who does most of his bookkeeping after hours from home.  In the last quarter of the year, he’s getting some phone orders. He knows he shouldn’t be posting hand-recorded charge slip amounts to the credit card company late at night when he’s exhausted, but he desperately wants to feel caught up for the week and post the payments. In fact, he’s busy arguing with his wife about the hours he’s been keeping as he taps the figures into the remote virtual terminal: “I just want to finish this up!”  However, the charge won’t go through; his screen keeps telling him that payment is “DENIED.” It’s not the first time Ray has lost money on a credit card transaction, and he is furious to be left holding the bag again. He can’t reach customer service until business hours, so he shuts down his system, grumbling all the while, and goes to bed. He wakes up angry but decides to try posting one more time before calling and giving someone a piece of his mind. In the fresh light of a new day, he discovers that he tried to collect $9500 instead of $95—no wonder the system performed an override!

productivity-working-at-homeHere are some suggestions to avoid making mistakes when working on tasks requiring accuracy:

  1. Schedule tasks requiring high accuracy when you are alert; not late, when you are tired.
  2. Schedule brief work periods for tasks that are detailed or boring.
  3. Take the extra time to check your accuracy prior to clicking send, especially if you are tired or irritated.
  4. Take frequent breaks when you are doing important legal, medical, or financial tasks.
  5. Stop multitasking when you need to complete tasks with speed and accuracy.

During the last quarter of the year, take special care to complete your business chores when you are not fatigued, distracted or highly stressed. You’ll be amazed by the amount you can accomplish in 20-minute work sessions when you are alert and focused. Ray learned his lesson:  fatigue and distraction can result in clumsy fingers and wandering eyes.  When the stakes are high, you need to bring your A-game to the process of inputting important information.  You can’t rest easy on the (information) Cloud unless you’ve made sure that the data you store there is correct.

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To Err about the Divine is Human

In 2013, popular hip hop musician Kanye West released a new album which he titled, “Yeezus.” He seemed to enjoy the ensuing media debate about whether the deliberately-chosen moniker was a religious reference, a twist on his nickname—or none of the above. The Vatican, however, had no intention of causing controversy when it recently commissioned 6000 bronze, silver and gold commemorative coins honoring Pope Francis. Imagine the embarrassment of officials there when the newly minted medals contained the name “Lesus” instead of “Jesus” imprinted in a Latin phrase on each one!

Jesus misspelled

According to the The New York Times, neither the Church nor the Italian mint managed to flag the error during the design, mold-making, production or delivery stages; it wasn’t until the medals hit retail outlets that the misspelling was discovered. Vatican officials were forced to recall most of the coins, although the few lucky collectors who snagged one will undoubtedly find a silver (or gold or bronze) lining in this clouded situation. Could it be that even in a place as exalted as Vatican City, modern life has gotten too stressful for everyone? Pope Francis is, after all, the first Pope on both Twitter and Instagram. The British newspaper The Independent agrees that Demons of Distraction may dare to tread on holy ground when they quipped that the mistake must have occurred because, “It seems the devil is indeed in the details.”

Pope Francis

Pope Francis

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Don’t be Distracted by Disappointment and Frustration

“I didn’t get accepted into the show.”

“I didn’t make the cut for the team.”

“I wasn’t picked for the promotion this year.”

You’re disappointed. You expect a “Yes” and, instead, receive a “No”. Sometimes you think you’re a shoo in, other times you raise the bar and take a risk. In either case, you fall short.

What does this all mean? Now what? You might get distracted by feelings of disappointment, frustration, or in some cases, humiliation. However, after you suffer the shock and sadness (or anger) and the sting wears off, it’s important to move past the paralysis of your negativity. You need to reframe, refresh and refocus on your goal. Decide to view the experience in a larger perspective.

Philosophically, to grow, you must take risks, stumble, learn from experience and move to a higher level. How many times do youngsters fall before they walk? A child’s physical growth and development doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does an adult’s learning curve. Regardless of the field, you need to find challenges, take appropriate risks and use the feedback to decide how, when, why and with whom to further develop.

Failure doesn’t prove that you’re not good enough. A failure is one experience, not an evaluation of your worth as a person or professional.  The learning from mistakes, blunders, failures and frustration comes as you review your past actions and attitudes in light of the current situation.

Here are some questions to address after a frustration or failure:

  • Did I know the requirements?
  • Did I have most of the prerequisite skills or experiences?
  • Did I have a friend, coach or mentor to help me prepare?
  • Did I react and respond in constructive ways?
  • What lessons can be learned from this experience?

Here are some actions to take:

  1. Give yourself a break or time to calm down and relax. Reaching a state of lowered stress and emotionality will allow you to use your logic and view the larger picture. You ask, “Is this an experience that requires a total shutdown? How will I view it in 5 months or years?”
  2. 2.      Recognize and respect the courage and effort you demonstrated to take the risk and throw your hat into the ring.
  3. Ask yourself, “How consistent is this experience with my most important goals? Should I continue to pursue?”
  4. Evaluate whether you need more knowledge, skill or experience.
  5. Construct a plan that includes the actions and timetable that are needed.

There are scores of famous people who dealt with frustration and failure.  A commonly used example is the story of Thomas Edison, who conducted more than 9,000 experiments before he was successful with the light bulb. He said, “If I find 10 thousand ways something won’t work, I haven’t failed. I am not discouraged, because every wrong attempt discarded is just one more step forward.”

Edison was a scientist. He set goals, kept records and learned from failures and mistakes. You can do the same on a less intense basis. The key is to look at disappointments as a source of feedback on your performance. Ask, “What aspects of my performance need to be maintained or modified?” 

However, a word of advice: unless you’re a scientist, don’t make 9,000 attempts.

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Did Not Disturb: Express your gratitude to those who minimize interruptions and distractions

My friend, Happy F., sent me this image and it made me smile. The lovely message reminded me of the importance of letting others know that you appreciate the positive things they do—especially when they help you fight interruptions and distractions.

For example, here is a great interaction between co-workers:

Colleague: “I waited until tonight to call because I know you’re busy finishing your project.”

Project Manager: “Wow, that’s terrific. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate that. It’s so hard for me to ignore a ringing phone. I feel the pull even when the phone is set on vibrate and I’m in the library.”

In a busy office, interruptions may occur every few minutes. At the end of the day, you wonder what has really been accomplished. One report states, “The average office worker is interrupted seventy-three times every day. And the average manager is interrupted every eight minutes.  Once there is an interruption, some statistics tell us that it takes up to 20 minutes to get back to the level of concentration that we were at prior to the disruption.” (http://interruptions.net/literature/CubeSmart-productivity-wp1.pdf )

The Others Demon is insidious and triggers distractions all day, and sometimes, all night. People want to “just ask one question,” “just tell one quick joke” or “just touch base.” Your job is to let others know when you are and aren’t available. Their job is to not interrupt or distract you. When others are sensitive and considerate of your time and attention, you need to express your gratitude. Too often, you may get so exasperated and irritable that you forget to accentuate the positive. You might replay the negative situations and forget about the few—but important—instances where those around you were helpful. However, if you don’t take the time to recognize those who promote your productivity, they might not feel encouraged to continue doing so.

You’ve probably noticed that almost every book published has a clearly defined section for “acknowledgements.”  In everyday situations, you can create opportunities to acknowledge the help of others. Some channels are formal, such as a letter of praise in a personnel file or a “thank you” included in the agenda of a staff meeting. But there are also informal and spontaneous ways to show your appreciation for the considerate behavior of others. Whether you send a photo, a personal note, or provide a simple compliment, let others know how much you appreciate their help when you are attempting to concentrate and need peace and quiet.

Here are a few ways you can tell others, “You’re awesome because you help me focus and be productive.”

  • Written messages: send an email, thank-you note, greeting card, cartoon or photo.
  • Verbal messages: Provide a thank you with a face-to-face, phone or Skype conversation:

“Thanks so much, I really needed to concentrate so I could finish the…”

“It’s probably surprising that calling during the evening rather than the work day means so much to me.”

  • Special recognition: Salute a professional colleague in a newsletter or other correspondence.
  • Give a small, but meaningful or humorous token of appreciation. For example, The EASY button from Staples, a Solar Dancing Flower, a light activated flower that swings and sways when in a window (www.shopwiki.com/l/Solar-Dancing-Flower), or a candy bar wrapped in a ribbon.

When recognizing thoughtfulness, it’s the thought that counts!

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Old Movies: A Wonderful Distraction

One of my positive distractions is watching vintage films, so I’m a fan of Turner Classic Movies (TCM). Recently, I flipped to that channel and found the film noir classic, “Night and the City”—which was based on a novel by my cousin, Gerald Kersh! The 1950 movie version was directed by Jules Dassin and starred Richard Widmark and Jean Tierney, all very well-known during that era.  Thankfully, it is still shown in black and white (and all shades of grey), which reinforces the use of light and shadows to support the sinister aspects of the film. The music helps to build the suspense and menace.

As I watched it, I remembered many dinners with Cousin Gerald in New York City. He was a nephew of my grandmother, Cissie Kersh. When he was in town, he and his wife joined us (Cissie, my parents, Anne and Charlie, my Aunt Roz and Uncle Irv, and me) at an Italian restaurant, La Strata, a few doors from my father’s musical instrument store. Gerald was quite dashing: ramrod straight, mustache and beard, cape and cane. There was always a cigarette smoldering between his fingers.  He was very entertaining, telling stories about his adventures and encounters during the war and in peacetime Europe.

As a teenager, I thought he was fun, but I wasn’t really aware of all his accomplishments. An internet search today yields a pretty impressive biography (http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/54469.Gerald_Kersh):

Gerald Kersh was born in Teddington-on-Thames, near London, and, like so many writers, quit school to take on a series of jobs — salesman, baker, fish-and-chips cook, nightclub bouncer, freelance newspaper reporter and at the same time was writing his first two novels.

In 1937, his third published novel, Night and the City, hurled him into the front ranks of young British writers. Twenty novels later Kersh created his personal masterpiece, “Fowler’s End,” regarded by many as one of the outstanding novels of the century. He also, throughout his long career, wrote more than 400 short stories and over 1,000 articles.

Once a professional wrestler, Kersh also fought with the Coldstream Guards in World War II. His account of infantry training, “They Die with Their Boots Clean,” (1941) became an instant best-seller during that war.

After traveling over much of the world, he became an American citizen, living quietly in Cragsmoor, in a remote section of the Shawangunk Mountains in New York State. He died in Kingston, NY, in 1968.”

I had forgotten about all the other books he wrote—but realized that they were stored in my basement library. Now I’m eager to pull them out and engage in another of my positive distractions, reading.  How about you? Are you a film buff? What is your favorite genre? Share your favorites in the Comments box!

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Workplace Bullying

Bullying is an ugly aspect of childhood, but at least we get to leave that behind when we grow up, right? Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Workplace bullying isn’t talked about as much, but it happens all too frequently. Others in our lives can become Demons of Distraction who interfere with our productivity and success. If you’ve ever had a bullying supervisor or co-worker, you are all too aware of the ways in which this type of Difficult Person can sabotage all of your workplace interactions.  In my upcoming book, Actions Against Distraction, I discuss those who engage in persistent, offensive, intimidating or insulting behavior. This may include teasing, gossiping, work interference, humiliation, threats and verbal abuse.

What is particularly shocking is that, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute (WBI) [http://www.workplacebullying.org/ ], no U.S. state has yet enacted any law that protects workers from this type of bullying. Current “harassment” laws only address discrimination based specifically on civil rights status such as race, gender or recognized physical disability. This means that a person who is randomly singled out for abuse often has a difficult time seeking legal redress.

I have seen this happen to some of my clients, especially those with a “hidden” disability. They may never have been formally diagnosed with attention or learning conditions—or they may choose not to disclose that sort of disability because they fear negative repercussions. However, they need to use certain coping strategies to succeed. Julian, for example, is a college student who landed an internship at a renowned law firm. He is extremely intelligent but has auditory processing problems. He was assigned to a high-powered, smooth-talking attorney who couldn’t spare a moment for Julian until he was speeding down the hallway toward his next court date. Then he would force Julian to tag along at his heels while he barked a rapid-fire list of orders at him as he retreated. Naturally, Julian would only get about half the message. Later, the attorney would become irritated and berate Julian in front of the other lawyers in the firm, who snickered when he cracked, “For a supposedly smart kid, you sure are slow on the uptake.”

If an employee requires some extra time to learn a new skill, or needs to ask and repeat more questions than the average worker in order to master it, this can be seen as deficit or vulnerability by colleagues who are particularly judgmental or aggressive (or who have their own vulnerabilities). A bullying boss may “know better” than to harass someone in a wheelchair, but feel perfectly free to label a person who processes numbers more slowly or makes spelling errors due to dyslexia as “stupid.” There are also plenty of employees who have no chronic disabilities but who also become more vulnerable when the economy is bad, when technological change happens too quickly or when there are personal problems at home. Workplace bullies will take advantage of any kind of power imbalance.

How you deal with a workplace bully depends in part on the type and severity of the abuse. WBI recommends first recognizing that the situation is not your fault: “The source of the problem is external. The bully decides how to target and how, when, and where to harm people. You did not invite, nor want, the systematic campaign of psychological assaults and interference with your work.”

If you feel that you can safely confront the person who is causing you problems, here is a procedure that you can follow, from Actions Against Distractions:

  • Use your logic and problem solving skills to prepare a script that includes the following:
  1. Visualize and describe the situation.
  2. Write out the feelings and thoughts you want to express.
  3. Specify what you want.
  4. Talk about positive and/or negative consequences and specify a goal.
  • Rehearse your script. “Practice makes perfect” works for social skills, too. Plan, write notes, and schedule times to practice. Consider working with a colleague or friend, or using an audio or video recording as a practice aid.

Julian was able to do this. He asked to speak with the attorney privately. He told him, “Yes, I am smart and capable, but I’m completely new to this work and I am sometimes slow to take in everything that you’ve said. I need to take my time to write down and clarify your instructions. I want to do a good job for you, and I would think that you’d want this, also, since it would benefit you more in the long run.” By focusing on the potential of getting a better “product” or outcome, Julian succeeded in winning some changes in his supervisor’s behavior. It wasn’t a perfect, happy ending, but at least the attorney never again chastised him in front of others at the office.

This “Daily Muse” contribution to Forbes Magazine provides some helpful tips for dealing with electronic bullying: http://www.forbes.com/sites/dailymuse/2012/02/27/3-workplace-bullies-and-how-to-stand-up-to-them/ . If workplace bullying becomes so severe that your health and well-being are threatened, you may need further assistance, such as the services provided by http://www.workplacebullying.org/. Ultimately, as WBI says, “Employers control the work environment. When you are injured as a result of exposure to that environment, make the employer own the responsibility to fix it.”

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Distracted Driving

Hearing about successes from clients who have succeeded despite their challenges is immensely uplifting—but I also end up hearing horror stories that are chilling. Recently, a college student reported to me that he’d been in a car accident: he was fiddling with radio buttons for just an instant and accidentally drifted into the wrong lane. He panicked, overcorrected and ended up careening down an embankment, crashing into a large tree. Because it was a side impact, the car airbags didn’t even deploy to protect him. If the vehicle hadn’t been slowed a bit by some small shrubs and saplings prior to hitting the mature tree, he might not have made it. “I wasn’t even on the phone!” he exclaimed, which led me to wonder how much worse it might have been if he was.

As if to answer that question, the media picked up on a story in mid-March about a Canadian man who lost his girlfriend to a texting-and-driving accident. The two were in the midst of exchanging tender messages of love when she plowed into the back of a truck on the highway and lost her life. Heartbroken and filled with regret, the boyfriend started a Facebook page to save others from this tragic fate [http://thechronicleherald.ca/canada/73340-boyfriend-girl-killed-crash-warns-against-texting-while-driving].

We all know intellectually that distracted driving is bad: the U.S. government reports that it is now a leading cause of auto accidents and death [http://www.distraction.gov/], with 3000 people killed in 2010 alone. Many states either have or are in the process of enacting legislation that bans using handheld devices and/or texting while driving a vehicle. Still others want to crack down even further on actions like eating, drinking, shaving or putting on makeup in the driver’s seat. We are quick to curse other drivers when their inattention causes us inconvenience or danger. And yet…many of us still continue to rationalize those times when we “just need to check that one message” or “just need to let someone know I’m on the way” or whatever excuse we use.

Even I have found it difficult to apply logic to a situation I find myself in every day. In my many life roles as educator, consultant, spouse/parent/grandparent and friend, my default setting is to be available and in contact with people at all times—but I spend a lot of time in the car.  When someone is trying to reach me or I think of something that needs to be accomplished or communicated, my reflex is to grab that cellphone and get it done right away. And let’s face it: answering a call or receiving a text message provides instant, short-term gratification, whereas it’s difficult to feel a tangible sense of reward from the thought that, “I stopped a negative behavior and therefore may have prevented an accident.”

It’s taken determination and vigilance to put certain conscious changes into practice over time, but I do it because I know how my family would feel if I got hurt, and how I would feel if I caused harm to others due to distracted driving. Below are some of the rules I’ve made for myself.

  • I tell others that I’m going to be driving and therefore not answering the phone until I stop.
  • I leave my phone in my purse, in the back seat.
  • I set the radio stations or load the CD player/iPod prior to moving.
  • If I absolutely need to be reachable, I pull over in a safe spot to answer or make a call.
  • To replace the pleasurable aspects of talking on the phone, I listen to preset music, interesting podcasts or recorded books.
  •  I use the attention I would have spent on my cellphone to appreciate nature and the scenery more as I drive around. It sounds corny, but it really helps!

What about you? Leave me a comment about distracted driving and how you are trying to minimize its occurrence.

Although we take the skill of driving for granted, we have to actively fight the many Demons of Distraction that can attack us on the road. Try to minimize fatigue, stress, and rushing before you get behind the wheel; then give this task your full attention so everyone makes it to their destination safely. As the Canadian man above would attest, real hugs and kisses are much better than text message XXXs and OOOOs.

 

 

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Been under the weather—or the knife? Stay focused on your recovery.

Sometimes it seems like everyone you know is experiencing some kind of medical procedure or challenge. One friend/colleague is recovering from a double mastectomy and another is doing well after a knee replacement. Both of these women normally lead busy lives full of family, community and professional endeavors. How can such patients regain strength after an operation? What can they and their families do to ensure a recovery that contributes to their long-term good health?

First and foremost, they must commit (and in some cases, submit) to the gradual nature of the healing process.  When people who are otherwise healthy, strong and competent go through surgery, they may lack the insight and awareness of the negative impact that a medical incident has, both physically and mentally. Typical overachievers who try to deny medical realities are their own worst enemies. Too often, they are distracted by the urge to get right back to business as usual.

For example, hospital stays have been shortened from what they used to be, so patients go home earlier in the recuperation cycle. The Illness/Medication Demon fools them into thinking that this means they can return to normal routines immediately. They may reason, “Well, I don’t have to move around to use my smart phone or laptop, so I might as well get back to work on emails and such…” For most, however, the overwhelming level of fatigue following illness or surgery comes as a shock. When I went through it, I called this short shelf life: no sooner had I taken a shower and dressed then my body decided that it was time to take a nap! Like a lovely ice cream dessert, my energy had melted away within a few short minutes.

If post-surgical or –illness patients don’t allow sufficient time for a full recovery, they put themselves at risk for complications or relapse. The Illness/Medication Demon can erode performance even in one’s most highly skilled areas of expertise, leaving someone vulnerable to accidents and mistakes.

If you’ve had a recent illness and you or those around you notice decreased levels of energy, alertness or strength, follow these suggestions:

  • Consider postponing challenges until you have fully recovered and know you can muster your attention for the time required to successfully complete the task.
  • Assess your readiness to resume normal activities and discuss your situation with your physician or other healthcare provider.
  • Listen to family or friends when they ask (plead) with you to take it slower.
  • List the demands on your attention, describing when, where, what, and how well things need to be completed.
  • Identify the resources and support needed to complete the task.
  • Consider worst-case scenarios given the nature of your illness and the demands of the task. Then think of ways to head off those scenarios.

In this era of medical technology, it’s quite likely that at some point, everyone will experience joint replacement or some other type of surgery or medical event. You can be your own best friend—rather than worst enemy—by faithfully following the rehab regime prescribed by your physician, allowing for a lengthy period of fatigue and praising rather than castigating yourself for healing activities like naps and downtime.

(Portions of this blog were taken from Defeating the 8 Demons of Distraction: Proven Strategies to Increase Productivity and Decrease Stress.  In upcoming blogs, look for excerpts from Geri’s newest book, Actions Against Distractions: Managing Your Scattered, Disorganized and Forgetful Mind.)

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Stop the “I’ll do it later” Habit

Geri Markel, Demons Distraction, Study, Strategy, Success, Essay, Paper, Tasks, ProductivityI know that most IRS and insurance tasks must be completed on time. However, there are some seemingly less important forms of taxation that I put off and say, “I’ll do it later!”

This occurred recently when faced with Form L-4175, a personal property statement from the city assessor’s office that requires a list of all furniture and equipment in an office. What a drag. Just glancing at the form with its boxes and spaces triggered an avoidance reaction. I wasn’t quite sure of how to fill it out and it stayed on the desk for weeks. Finally, at the last minute, I got some advice, completed it, and mailed it.

Most people at one time or other say, “I’ll do it later.” The reasons for procrastination vary: you’re interrupted, lack the energy or hate the task. Is it a big deal? The questions to ask are,

  • “How often do I put off important tasks?”
  • “Do they ever get done?”
  • “What are the consequences when they’re done late or not at all?”

It’s one thing to neglect mundane tasks like washing the car or cleaning your house, but it’s quite another to ignore your taxes, insurance payments or medical visits.

Occasional procrastination helps you avoid tedious, boring or distasteful tasks and perhaps lowers stress—in the short term. Excessive procrastination, however, wastes time, money and energy. In the end, avoidance of important tasks usually increases stress and may lead to the loss of opportunities.

One strategy to stem procrastination is to schedule time for tedious tasks. For some tasks, planning a regular, monthly or quarterly time works best. For example, during such times, you may fill out travel vouchers, organize tax receipts and schedule appointments. For other tasks, it is best to plan times on a weekly or daily basis. Whatever the rotation, it needs to be a routine or habit. Plan to accomplish the task, do it, and enjoy a sense of accomplishment.

Currently, the use of smart phones helps many procrastinators to stop the “I’ll do it later” pattern. They carve out a time for the odious tasks, set an alarm, and bless their digital gadgets when the alarm reminds them to start.

Here are some action steps to help you curb procrastination tendencies:

  1. Identify the most common times during which you say, “I’ll do it later.”
  2. What feelings, tasks or interactions are you actually trying to avoid by procrastinating? What are the costs of your procrastination?
  3. Consider whether you need additional help or resources. For example, are there important tasks that you hate and could delegate to others?
  4. Write on a calendar when, where, and for how long you will begin to work on one task that you tend to put off.
  5. Plan a way to recognize and reward your effort.

If you drag your feet when it comes to IRS taxes, you’re not alone. The IRS estimates that 10.3 million individuals will apply for a six-month extension this year.  Some people need extensions because of illness or business situations. Others seek extensions because they procrastinate and even then, they wait until the last minute.

In the late 19th Century, William James, the psychologist and philosopher, said, “Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task.”   A contemporary take on getting lost in a maze of procrastination is provided by Ellen DeGeneres:

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Don’t Be Distracted from Planning for Your Later Years

Guest Post by Jane Heineken

geraldine markel, demons, distraction, stress, discomfort, anxiety, focus, lack, overwhelm

My husband probably notices it more than anyone else these days: the newest frown line fossilizing into my forehead, the unusually long lapses into silence on the car rides, the hesitation when friends casually ask what’s new. The distraction of worrying about elderly family members underlies daily life like a constant ground fog.

My parents’ life situation—as well as our relationship—reads like a Facebook status: it’s complicated. My sister and I wish nothing more than for them to be in a safe, comfortable environment where their many needs are met and they are able to enjoy the things and people that still give them pleasure. Unfortunately, they are not, due to a mixture of bad breaks, bad decisions and decades of denial and resistance. As we approach the half century mark ourselves, she and I ponder how we might choose a different road for our own future. I think it requires taking on the Unruly Mind Demon: the distractor that has you focusing on the wrong things.

We live in a culture that emphasizes the negative aspects of aging, and of course, there are plenty: physical limitations and medical crises, emotional losses and financial challenges. Worrying about these things may cause feelings of sadness and fear, which can make it difficult to think and act in productive ways. We’ve all seen Hollywood stars pursue a youthful outward appearance at the expense of their overall health. Fear can drive people to focus on material objects instead of relationships or to procrastinate rather than tackling tasks while they still have the strength and energy to complete them. Worst of all, fear can prevent family members from discussing important topics such as end-of-life care, creating bad feelings right at the time when loved ones need each other most. However, neither obsession nor avoidance can prevent the march of time. Change is always scary, but if we wish for a life of both long length and good quality, we need to push through the fears that hijack our thoughts and distract us from becoming informed, making choices and taking action while we still have the ability to do so.

Geraldine markel, demons distraction, aging, focus, overwhelm

Going through these experiences with my parents has inspired me to look for positives to counterbalance the negatives. Broadening my friend circle to include older adults outside my family gives me other perspectives and models to follow. [See also: http://demonsofdistraction.com/blog/2011/11/21/don%e2%80%99t-let-your-age-distract-you-from-your-dreams/ ] Becoming involved in community service, such as Christmas caroling in area nursing homes and visiting with the residents, has also been an uplifting activity. Dialoging with others of my generation about elder-care and our own coming senior years has brought an unexpected measure of understanding and support. Should my husband and I be granted the privilege of an old age, I know it won’t be easy for us or for my daughter. But I hope that we will have taken care of many of the situational and procedural matters in a timely manner so that we can focus on enjoying each other and the rest of our family.

Jane Heineken has been a Managing Your Mind staffer since 2006. She is a graduate of Eastern Michigan University and Washtenaw Community College. Her special interests include child development, family communication, and cross-cultural communication.

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