Self Improvement


What We Do When We Struggle Emotionally

We all have experienced strong emotional reactions in our lives when our mind is overwhelmed and in turmoil. We struggle to manage our feelings and usually don’t know what to do with them.

This results in the emotions getting stuck inside us, manifesting in mental or physical problems.



Self Improvement

When we try to manage and cope up with our emotions by redirecting, deflecting or changing our thoughts, we attempt to emotionally regulate ourselves, but if we are too overwhelmed, we cannot effectively regulate our emotions. We then experience emotional dysregulation, something that happens in moments of acute distress.

Emotional dysregulation happening too often results in depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harming, eating disorders and substance abuse.

Biosocial Theory states that some people have higher levels of emotional sensitivity, and react strongly to events and situations. They also remain in emotional pain for a longer time, having intense feelings like anger, sadness, shame or anxiety.

Often children are pervasively invalidated, routinely getting the information fed in their heads that they are somehow inferior and worthless.

Created by American psychologist Marsha Linehan, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) is used for treating personality disorders whose symptoms include chronic emotional dysregulation and suicidal thoughts.

DBT provides people with the four skill sets to manage their emotions:

  1. Core Mindfulness: Living in the present moment.
  2. Distress Tolerance: Handling crises effectively.
  3. Emotional Regulation: Managing emotions in a healthy way.
  4. Interpersonal Effectiveness: Managing relationships effectively.
  1. Do a forward bend posture trying to touch your toe and take a slow, deep breath for a minute.
  2. Focussed breathing, especially deep, paced exhaling activates our parasympathetic nervous system and makes us calmer and relaxed.
  3. Ensure your exhales are longer than your inhales.

We do not give our emotions any thought, and move through them mechanically, making them the masters of our behaviour. Anyone can push the wrong buttons and trigger us in a few seconds.

We need to be aware of our emotions and feelings by asking ourselves the following:

  1. What triggered the intense feelings?
  2. What were our initial thoughts?
  3. What bodily reaction happened automatically?
  4. What urges were coming from inside?
  5. What was the action taken?

Once these questions are asked, we can identify the exact emotion we are going through.

Emotions are not good or bad, they are just emotions. One can validate the emotions and accept them. A good way is to write down on a piece of paper what all you feel and then reflect on the same.

Whatever the urge is when we feel angry, depressed, or sad, try to do the opposite of that, doing the reverse of what the urge is telling us to do. One should not suppress their emotions but healthily channelize them.

There are three basic modes of thinking that we operate on:

  1. The reasonable mind is logical and factual.
  2. The emotional mind is unreasonable and is controlled by emotions and feelings.
  3. The wise mind is the combination of our reasoning and emotions.

Combining our mind and heart balances our perspective and helps us understand the value of our reasoning and our emotions, without neglecting any one of them.

For those of us struggling with intense emotions, we can try an exercise for practising non-judgemental behaviour:

Repeat a certain statement like ‘I am lazy’ or ‘I am sad’ and see how it feels emotionally. Notice that after constant repetition, a particular emotion arises in us and we experience a reaction. Now practice a similar repetition but be non-judgemental in the process, not adding fuel to the emotion.

After a few weeks, our awareness towards judging our emotions increases, helping us manage our emotions more effectively.

Why we don't improve despite our hard work

The most effective people and teams go through life deliberately alternating between two zones: the learning zone and the performance zone.

The performance zone maximizes our immediate performance, while the learning zone maximizes our growth and our future performance. The reason many of us don't improve much despite our hard work is that we tend to spend almost all of our time in the performance zone. This hinders our growth, and ironically, over the long term, also our performance.

The learning zone is when our goal is to improve. Then we do activities designed for improvement, concentrating on what we haven't mastered yet, which means we have to expect to make mistakes, knowing that we will learn from them.

That is very different from what we do when we're in our performance zone, which is when our goal is to do something as best as we can, to execute. Then we concentrate on what we have already mastered and we try to minimize mistakes.

The learning zone of Demosthenes

Demosthenes, the greatest orator in ancient Greece, did activities designed for improvement.

  • He studied a lot: law, philosophy, and great speeches and acting.
  • To get rid of the habit of involuntarily lifting his shoulder, he practiced his speeches in front of a mirror, with a sword suspended from the ceiling so that if he raised his shoulder, it would hurt.
  • To speak more clearly despite a lisp, he went through his speeches with stones in his mouth.
  • He built an underground room where he could practice without interruptions, but since courts at the time were very noisy, he also practiced by the ocean, projecting his voice above the roar of the waves.

This involves breaking down abilities into component skills, being clear about what subskill we're working to improve, giving full concentration to a high level of challenge outside our comfort zone, just beyond what we can currently do, using frequent feedback with repetition and adjustments, and ideally engaging the guidance of a skilled coach, because activities designed for improvement are domain-specific, and great teachers and coaches know what those activities are and can also give us expert feedback. 

How to spend more time in the learning zone
  • Nurture the growth mindset: Believe and understand that you can improve.
  • You must want to improve at that particular skill. There has to be a purpose you care about because it takes time and effort.
  • Know how to improve, what you can do to improve, through deliberate practice.
  • Be in a low-stakes situation, because if mistakes are to be expected, then the consequence of making them must not be catastrophic, or even very significant.

We spend so much time in the performance zone because most of the time our environments often are, unnecessarily, high stakes. But there are still things we can do about it:

  • We can create low-stakes islands in an otherwise high-stakes sea.
  • We can execute and perform as we're expected, but then reflect on what we could do better next time.
  • We can lead and lower the stakes for others by sharing what we want to get better at, by asking questions about what we don't know, by asking for feedback and by sharing our mistakes and what we've learned from them.
Eduardo Briceño
"Real confidence is about modeling ongoing learning."
Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for 175 million years

Dinosaurs first appeared between 247 and 240 million years ago. An extinction event wiped them out 65,5 million years ago, except for the avian dinosaurs.

Scientists think the extinction was likely because of an asteroid impact, chemicals from erupting volcanoes, climate change and other factors.

Fossils reveal that some of the more advanced dinosaurs had feathers or featherlike body covering.

  • Archaeopteryx was considered the first bird but probably couldn't fly far.
  • Pterosaurs - extinct flying reptiles - were not dinosaurs although they were close relatives of dinosaurs. They had hollow bones, relatively large brains and eyes, and skin flaps extended along their arms.

Well-known dinosaurs like the Tyrannosaurus rex, Deinonychus and Velociraptor fall into this order. Saurischians are divided into two groups.

  • Sauropods are four-legged herbivores. They had long heads, long necks and long tails. Leaf-eating Apatosaurus, Brachiosaurus and Diplodocus fall into this family.
  • Theropods are two-legged carnivores. There are some of the most fearsome dinosaurs, including Allosaurus and T. rex.

In 1842, palaeontologist Richard Owen coined the term dinosaur. The Greek deinos means "terrible," and sauros means "lizard" or "reptile."

Based on the structure of the hipbones, dinosaurs are classified into two orders:

  • Saurischians. These "reptile-hipped" dinosaurs have a pelvis that points forward. They are often long-necked, have large and sharp teeth, long second fingers, and a first finger that point away from the rest of the fingers.
  • Ornithischians are beaked herbivores and milder.

Ornithischians include horned and frilled Triceratops, spiked Stegosaurus and armoured Ankylosaurus.

They often lived in herds and were prey to the larger species of dinosaurs.

In 2017, a study suggested that this hip-oriented classification was incorrect.

Theropods are likely related to the ornithischian dinosaurs. The theropods and Ornithischia form a newly identified group known as Ornithoscelida. If this is correct, it may explain why both theropods and Ornithischia have feathers, while other dinosaurs don't.

"You can’t be that kid standing at the top of the waterslide, overthinking it. You have to go down the chute".
"You can only become truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money your goal. Instead, pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you".
"You are never too old to set a new goal or to dream a new dream".
"Decide whether or not the goal is worth the risks involved. If it is, stop worrying".
"Setting goals is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible".
"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes".
"It is not enough to take steps which may someday lead to a goal; each step must be itself a goal and a step likewise".
"Be practical as well as generous in your ideals. Keep your eyes on the stars, but remember to keep your feet on the ground".
"The greater danger for most of us isn’t that our aim is too high and miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it."
"You should set goals beyond your reach so you always have something to live for".
"Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success".
"A goal is a dream with a deadline".
"The only thing standing between you and your goal is the bull***t story you keep telling yourself as to why you can’t achieve it".
"A goal properly set is halfway reached."
"There are two things to aim at in life; first to get what you want, and after that to enjoy it. Only the wisest of mankind has achieved the second".
"Goals are the fuel in the furnace of achievement".
"To reach a port, we must sail — Sail, not tie at anchor– Sail, not drift."
"I love the challenge of starting at zero every day and seeing how much I can accomplish".
Minimalism Creates Space

Minimalism isn’t about frugality, but about creating space in our lives. It provides us with the tools to stop clutter from entering our lives and to get rid of useless stuff to make room for us.

The space around us isn’t just physical but includes the digital, mental, emotional and spiritual components that impact us in ways we don’t fully understand. Everything that we love: things like creativity, joy, laughter, needs space to exist.

We think we need things that we don’t really need, and by not buying such stuff we make room for things we truly need.

We need to tollgate our impulse to buy anything by asking ourselves if it sparks joy in our lives or not.

The more things we have, the more rooted, anchored or grounded we become to where we are.

When we are worried about our stuff lying somewhere we are unable to travel with ease and cannot be on the road spontaneously.

We are usually handcuffed to our busy schedule and have no time for the little joys of life, like having a stroll to the nearby coffee shop.

Creating space in our schedule, and stopping to smell the flowers or watch the sunset creates moments of serendipity in our lives that help us feel the magic of being alive.

  • A clean, decluttered closet and desktop helps us free our mind and think clearly.
  • Our mental space is cleared when we remove the excess stuff around us.
  • Apart from creating room in our minds, space also frees up our time and makes us easy to sit and listen to a friend, or to feed a dog on the street, as we are not burdened with the busyness and the looming deadlines.
  • A decluttered home also leads to less stress, and lifts a noticeable weight off our minds, letting us simplify our lives.

Our thoughts, especially the creative kind, are blocked by physical clutter.

Mental clutter, the stuff that is bouncing in our minds, needs to be placed somewhere else, like in a notebook. A decluttered mind helps us with connecting ideas in innovative ways.

Let go of toxic people from your lives, creating space for life-giving, and loving people to enter.

Some people are toxic but still take up lots of space in our lives. These people suck our joy, drain our energy, waste our time and resources, and leave us feeling worse than before.

2020 has shown us how important it is to upgrade our skills, which can be done in the comfort of our homes.

Creating space inside our minds is crucial if we want to learn and grab new opportunities and challenges.

Creating space provides us with room to enjoy and savour our breaks, our moments of joy, allowing us to live and breathe in the present, not worrying about the next deadline.

We don’t enjoy our cup of coffee anymore, due to the weight of life upon us all the time. We always need to rush and finish up our fun, getting back to the grind.

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