Healthy Coping Skills During Times of Stress and Anxiety

To brush over this trying time is to do a disservice to all who are negatively impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. I am not only speaking of those who are impacted physically, which on its own seems to be the global focus of this pandemic and rightfully so considering the number of deaths that we have seen thus far, but I am also referring to those who have suffered financially, mentally, and emotionally.

Many a small business owner is seeing their life’s hard work dwindling before their eyes with hardly a hope of surviving this stay-at-home movement. Many blue collar workers are forced out of a job, having been laid off about a week ago “for the wellness of the community” but at their expense. Many a woman has seen their education and work opportunity wane as they are forced to stay at home to school children who are now being expected to virtually learn. Many children will struggle to find an equal footing in the current educational system, as the ability to have access to the internet or a computer will greatly determine which children learn and which do not. With all of this impact and more, it is safe to say that these are difficult times which may leave people feeling a bit less-than their normal self. 

In an effort to be of help (somehow), I wanted to take the time to share the following words from my sister-in-law and registered therapist, Alexandra, for those who are currently struggling to maintain their mental health or are experiencing more-than-normal levels of stress and anxiety.

Some great tools to aid with anxiety, stress, and loneliness during this time are:

  1. Being active – going for a walk, run, yoga, at-home workout, and getting some sun, if possible.
  2. Create routine – whether that be a work-from-home routine or a morning routine, creating some sort of consistency for your body and mind are important.
  3. Spend time with someone you care about – Don’t isolate. Even if it’s virtual time together, text someone or call someone, at least one person a day.
  4. Take breaks from the media – Take breaks from your phone, the TV, and the news. This helps us not ruminate or over-think, and reduces stress, anxiety, and worry.
  5. Do something for you! – Mindful activities such as baking, cooking, coloring and art, working out, reading a book, taking an online course, or learning something new can really help carry you through tough times. Schedule at least fifteen minutes a day for this.

Off course, you don’t have to do all of these, especially if you are working from home or are out working and helping others. But these are some healthy coping skills that can reduce depression, anxiety, and feelings of loneliness.

Alexandra Tillapaugh is a Registered Associate Marriage Family Therapist specialized in counseling adults and children with a variety of challenges, including but not limited to, anxiety, behavioral issues, depression, self-esteem, and relationship problems. She is also my wonderful sister-in-law.

During this time, she is offering lower cost online counseling sessions to people in need in our community – especially those who are displaced, anxious, and stressed.

“I know many people are anxious right now and stressed. They may need someone to talk to or need help with learning a few coping skills.” 

She is offering a free consultation on the phone so that people of the community may seek help without the pressure of money. It’s a great way to find out if her services work for your particular situation or lifestyle.

“I want to get an understanding of why they want to talk to a counselor prior to any sessions. It’s the best practice.”

To learn more about her services, schedule an introductory call, or simply chat with someone over any hardships you may be experiencing, you can view her website here. To offer helpful tips for those who are suffering, feel free to comment below.

When The World Stands Still

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been saidsung, preached from rooftops and social platforms. Everyone’s vying for their voice to be heard amidst all this noise, it seems, but if you’ve got the space (or mental capacity) for just a few more words, here are mine.

It may feel like we don’t have much choice right now – on who gets sick, on who is allowed to work and make money, on what we can cook for dinner – but still there are choices that we can make.

We can choose to:

spread panic or hope
spread fear or support
close our doors or open them
create isolation or community
choose to do what’s personally advantageous or morally right.

I know that times are hard. During times like these, it’s difficult to think clearly, to predict the best course of action, let alone to keep it together. Actionable tips are more useful now than ever.

After much reflection, this is all I’ve got.

First, let go of the anxieties which aren’t serving you. Stop watching videos of hoarding and stop posting pictures of empty shelves, which doesn’t serve anyone either. All this causes is panic. There is enough anxieties to go around and we don’t need it. There is enough food to go around, if we share. This isn’t to say I don’t have anxieties of my own. This isn’t ill-advice coming from the privileged. This is general advice coming from a person whose job is considered at highest risk for exposure during this epidemic, who works with limited medical supplies caused by a global hoarding of masks that won’t prevent disease acquisition, whose office just closed in order to protect others (staff and patients alike), and who doesn’t get paid time off but whose staff thankfully does. Despite going into half a million dollars in student debt in order to help heal the world, despite risking my health in order to take care of people in pain, despite having only one mask a day because of a shortage of medical supplies, and despite stopping work to protect those around me, I still call myself one of the lucky ones. The power of positivity has to be prioritized here. Which brings me to my second point…

Approach everything from a place of gratitude. I know it’s hard to do, especially for those who are just trying to get by, but trust me, the gratitude will be the thing that helps get you by. If you are working from home, at least you still get paid. If you aren’t getting paid, at least you still have your health. If you don’t have your health, at least you still have family to support you. If you don’t have family to support you, you have a world of people who wants to help. When you feel alone, just reach out a hand, and someone will grab it.

This is the time to reawaken relationships. If you are at home, lamenting your joblessness, pull out your phone and CALL someone. Don’t text, but CALL. Talk to them in ways that you couldn’t when life had you running in circles. This time is a gift, and it is temporary. Ask how people are. Talk about what’s going on in their life rather than what’s going on in your grocery store. And once you’ve finally rekindled connection with others…

Take the time to BE WITH YOURSELF. As uncomfortable as that is, sit in introspection. It may be painful if you think of what you have and don’t have at the moment.

“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience” – The Book of Joy

Rather, think about yourself in terms of your role in society. Instead of fretting about what is uncontrollable outside those walls, heed attention to what is within. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. All that is neglected in the home and in yourself, organize and take care of them. Putting things in order indoors will be reflected in bigger things. Once you’ve got yourself in order, you are finally ready to create community amidst this isolation.

If you’ve got a skill that you can share, if you’ve got extra toilet paper that a family needs, if you can cook meals for those living paycheck to paycheck, if you can provide emotional support, financial guidance, mental health advice, a foster home for pets that are being euthanized, if you can support small businesses who can’t stay afloat, if you can volunteer time … go ahead and do it. This is it. The time when the world stops and stands still. This is the time for us to stop with it, lest we all continue spinning out of control.

If you need help putting everything into perspective, a few of my favorite reads:

  • The Book of Joy – Dali Lama and Desmond Tutu
  • Slow Living in a Frantic World – Brooke McAlary
  • Big Magic – Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Measure of a Man – Sydney Poitier
  • Simple Matters – Erin Boyle
  • Chasing Slow – Erin Loechner

 

A Period of Essentialism

Doesn’t it seem sometimes that finding yourself requires rejecting everything that defines you? Like a snake shedding skin. Or a butterfly coming out of its cocoon. The less we have, the more we are whole. I’ve found that after rejecting associations, all that is left behind is the rawness of “me, myself, and I”, and the beauty of what that has to offer.

This entire journey started with getting rid of external associations, such as physical clutter. Then it continued with societal expectations, financial burden, and more recently, digital stimuli. Now, a more difficult task. What I’ve struggled with the most in the past year is ridding myself of aspirational clutter, but I am refocusing to address that struggle.

My aspirations, titles, roles, and expectations dictate my day-to-day actions. This much I know to be true. Most of these things are self-imposed. I choose to identify with these things, and therefore, I can choose to un-identify, as well. I’ve come to this awakening that a lot of my stresses result from these impositions on the self. These are also the sources of the majority of my time-suck. And since my ultimate dream is to achieve waking up each day and doing whatever calls to me, without being tied to money, possession, job, title or expectation, I must face the fact that none of these self-impositions get me closer to that point. In fact, I am being drowned by their current.

In order to get to ultimate freedom, I have to free everything else.

Awakenings are the hardest part,
But also the BEST.


I’ve been thinking a lot lately and I’ve decided to close the bakery. Cancel the course. Stop Rover. Write for myself again.

What brought this on was the husband’s current situation.

This is a really special time for my husband and I. He recently stopped working, having quit a job that he had grown impassionate about, and is going through a growing phase that entails a bit of self-discovery. I’ve found that with all of my titles and roles, I have not had the time to be there for this period of rebirth. The last few weeks, I’ve been telling him to stay out of my way because I have “things to do”. I didn’t want to talk to him because I had to “focus” on creating content for the blog. I couldn’t spend much time with him because I had to bake bread. I hated that the first thing I cut from my life whenever I needed space or time was my relationship, which is arguably most important. And it’s safe to say that over time, perhaps I myself have grown to become impassionate about my own work, too. There is always that line between hobby and work and when we cross it, other things shift with it, too.

So we are re-structuring,

My husband and I haven’t had this freedom since… college? We have an opportunity to come home and be idle. To have nothing due. This is the first time in our lives where we are both at a place where we can create the opportunity to just be. To reject most obligations. To do as little as possible. Or rather, to do only that which is essential.

I decided to commit to only one professional title (dentistry) as I fulfill more important roles of being a wife and friend. Where I was prompting him to find himself, I figure I should listen to my own advice and do much the same.

If I am being completely honest, perhaps taking on these jobs was my way of filling a void, rather than understanding why I felt partial instead of whole … arguably deeper work. I took on the title “baker” with Rye Goods one year ago, and I remember saying to Sara that I was looking for something more. The bakery was my saving grace from a dissatisfaction with where my life was at.

It was also my distraction.

Now it’s time to face fears, and start a new age.

A period of essentialism.


They say it takes courage to hold on when everything around you is falling apart,

When you are falling apart.

But usually we hold on for the sole reason that we are too afraid to let go.

Therefore, it takes equal courage to move on.

Either way,

You are brave,

Whatever you choose to do.

Task Switching Meditation

I started working withStarting from Within to keep my health in check as I transitioned into a work-a-holic at the turn of the decade. I wanted to add-on jobs and projects that fulfilled my life without detracting from my overall health, a task whose plausibility I am beginning to question. If we add, we must always detract elsewhere, no?

But add to my work I did, and Starting from Within has helped me tremendously with maintaining balance across many aspects of my life. The program entails a bi-weekly phone conversation that keeps mindfulness and intentionality at the forefront of our minds. Through the sessions, I gained a number of resources that got me re-thinking what it means to be healthy, a few practices that have me re-evaluating the habits that work in my life, and a few exercises help keep me sane.

One exercise in particular that I am enamored with is the 3 minute meditation that precedes every session with SFW. A 3 minute guided body scan helps me to really focus on the present moment and what is about to come. I find this exercise extremely helpful when task switching. The 3 minute meditation closes the door on the previous task, and paves the way for the next one, while giving my brain time to slow down and reset.

Multi-tasking has been proven to be humanly impossible. What partakes during perceived multi-tasking is a task switching that requires energy from the brain to do. We are task switching all day long, and the lack of focus is preventing us from doing any deep work. But by adding meditation in between tasks, I have found that the work I switch to becomes easier, more focused, and more productive.

I highly suggest finding the space to occasionally meditate in between your tasks.

Perhaps sit in your car for your few minutes after wrangling through traffic in order to get home. Close your eyes and breathe, palms up.

If you just finished making dinner, set the food down, close your eyes and bow. Or better yet, take stock between each bite.

When I close a book, I always stare out a window or into space. It’s a processing technique that I have, but never use with other things. Eventually, I’d slide the book off my lap and get up from the couch. I can’t move on from reading something without it, lest I brush off what I would otherwise gain from the page.

The most common excuse these days is this: “I don’t have the time.” I would know, because I use it more frequently than I would like. But I promise you that by taking three minutes to meditate, you will focus your energy in a way that expands time, and you reap the time spent plus more.

I urge you to try it, and let me know what you think.

More importantly, how you feel.

Gratitude In Things You Don’t

This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.

I was sitting in yoga class after a strenuous hour of being berated by a room full of heat, which I was convinced was too high for the particular class that I took, side-swaddling my right arm underneath my cheek bone, facing my husband as he reaps his benefits off of his mat and practice, when our instructor’s calm voice soothingly asks of us one thing before lifting ourselves off of the mat to end class:

Find gratitude in all the things you have in your life…

And gratitude in the things that you don’t.

As the rest of class pushed themselves gently up from their preferred side to continue on with their day, I stayed lying still a heartbeat longer to process what I just heard. I think I was in momentary shock.

If I am being quite honest, I have been lacking, the past few months, a sense of satisfaction with the way life has turned out to be. With the advent of taking on 6 days of dentistry for the first time in my life at the turn of the decade, while trying to manage a bakery, dog sit a few days a month, and partake in an international project to Sustain the Maldives with Bogobrush, my world has been in a state of overwhelm that has been hard to combat. My only saving graces are my husband, Starting From Within’s guidance, a few books, and yoga class.

At times like these, the standard advice of listing all the things you are grateful for in order to keep chins high appear to be good advice … at first glance.

However, the practice of acknowledging all the things one can be grateful for can feel a bit anti-climactic for minimalists, whose lists tend to end soon after it’s begun. Let’s face it, the list of things for minimalists are generally not very long. Which leaves one feeling like there isn’t much to be grateful for.

But what if we take a step back and look at the big picture. The world remains balanced, whether we recognize it or not. In order to have complete understanding, we need to extend our gratefulness to encompass both sides of the coin. After all, a list in gratitude of only the things we own can rob us of our enoughness. In order to grow our appreciation for the life of our choosing, we must compliment this list with all the things we don’t have, in gratitude. Such as…

  • Disease
  • War
  • Poverty
  • Famine
  • Hate
  • Clutter
  • Toxic relationships
  • Insecurity
  • Jealousy
  • Death
  • Isolation
  • Fear
  • Social constructs and norms
  • Peer pressure
  • Societal expectations
  • Addictions
  • Imprisonment
  • And for all minimalists, a long list of things that would otherwise steal our time and attention.

So when you feel life’s gotten away from you a bit, and that nothing seems to be going to plan, re-center and list all the things to be grateful for – whether you have them or not. Your world of positivity will expand, and perhaps you’ll start to notice a change in perception.

I mean, at least you’re not underwhelmed.

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Photographed: A few propagating leaves and East Fork‘s cake plates in Soapstone. 

Plant Paper, A New Toilet Paper Alternative for Body and Eco-Conscious Individuals

This post is in partnership with Plant Paper, a toilet paper company focused on creating an everyday product that is both body and eco-conscious. All thoughts and opinions are my own. If you wish to check out Plant Paper in person, they can be found at OtherWild General – a bulk and zero waste store located in Los Angeles, CA. 

Environmental change isn’t going to happen overnight placed in a consumer’s hands. At least, not enough of it. Sufficient change required to turn the tide will involve support from large organizations and changes at the macro-level by government bodies. But as a person who believes in the strength of the smallest of action, I also think we, as consumers, have some power. That power is strengthened when our product choices are intentional, especially when buying products required for daily activities whose redundancy magnifies the effect of our actions.

So here we are again, talking about toilet paper.

Toilet paper is a privilege, which I spoke about in my original post featuring Who Gives a Crap.  But for most people in the United States, toilet paper is a “necessity”. And when certain household products are viewed as such, it becomes more urgent to source these products mindfully. If we can curb the way we use, purchase, and choose toilet paper, then we can really make an impact.

So after a year of advocating WGAC, which is based in Australia, I was ever so excited to come across a California company also shedding light on creating eco-freindly toilet paper alternatives.

Introducing … PLANT PAPER!

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Plant Paper is a company imagined by Lee Reitelman and Joshua Solomon, two individuals who recognized that the ways in which we produce toilet paper does not align with neither our bodies nor our environment. The two then partnered with Scott Barry, creative director of LA’s all day breakfast joint, Sqirl, and on a December morning in 2019, I was able to hop onto a call with Rachel Eubanks, business and life partner of Scott.

The calling to create new toilet paper came after Reitelman and Solomon recognized the amount of energy, formaldehyde and chlorine it takes to convert wood to soft paper. We have a tree-based system of toilet paper-making that was not in effect until the Scott Brothers and Dupont Chemical got into the business. Prior to their invention of the toilet paper that we now see in our minds, toilet paper was made from hemp and sugarcane, both materials that take less chemicals and water to dissolve. The first person to ever invent toilet paper was actually Dr. Gayetty and his T.P. was of hemp!

Interestingly enough, when Gayetty first introduced toilet paper to the public, it did not take. Most consumers at the time could not fathom why one would pay for paper that you throw away. It wasn’t until after the 1880’s that toilet paper began to be seen as a product that signifies upper middle class status – and when you have a product that sells a lifestyle, well, it sells itself.

One thing’s for sure. With the growing attention on climate change, intentional living, and ethical consumer consumption, Reitelman and Solomon are right. “Tree paper should be, and will be, a thing of the past.”

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Great for the Environment, Swell for the Bum

The focus of Plant Paper is to create a toilet paper that is good for the body and the environment. The amount of chemicals used in the production of paper used to wipe butts is a long list – the most toxic ingredient included is chlorine which is used as chlorine bleach.

When you think of toilet paper, what color comes to mind? Usually, white. All white toilet paper require a bleaching process that turns the paper from a natural brown tree-color to a color that is deemed “sanitary”. Plant Paper wishes to change consumer perception of what toilet paper looks like. Plant Paper is BROWN, and avoids harsh chemicals such as bleaching agents and formaldehyde. If we can get people to embrace naturally colored toilet paper, then we can eliminate unnecessary chemicals that we are essentially wiping all over our bodies.

In fact, I would wager that not many Americans are aware of the fact that 37 gallons of water go into every roll of tree paper, plus a gallon of chemicals. Chemicals such as bleach and formaldehyde are known to cause UTI’s, hemorrhoids, and fissures in our bodies. But these are things we’ve grown accustomed to because we don’t stop to think that there is another way. 50 to 60% of women will get UTI’s in their lifetime and half of all people will get hemorrhoids by age 50. Something to think about.

Additionally, we must consider the environmental implications. Options on the market for eco-conscious toilet paper include recycled paper such as that of Seventh Generation, which is where most conversations stop. However, the resources required to recycle paper are often more than simply producing from new trees. In a world where resources in general are running scarce, we must consider more than the number of trees we save. We must consider the true cost. Recycled paper is no longer an option that is good enough.

Plant Paper looked at alternatives to both trees and recycled paper. They landed on the notion of using a type of grass to produce their toilet paper. Grasses grow incredibly faster than trees do. They first considered hemp as an option but eventually landed on bamboo, one of the fastest growing grasses in the world. Bamboo can grow up to 36 inches every 24 hours. Because of this choice, they had to turn make their production China-based, which means there is the logistic of still shipping their toilet paper half-way around the world.

When asked how they mitigate that choice, Rachel from Plant Paper explains that they try to reduce the impact by shipping in containers and sending in bulk. This reduces the shipping frequency, and all fulfillment of orders originate from centers in North Carolina. Currently, all orders may only be made via their online site, but the goal is to bring ethical toilet paper to locations near you.

Their dream is to eventually create a dispensary system where people are encouraged to bring their own bag and take as many rolls home as they need. Currently, they have their toilet paper stocked at OtherWild General in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles. You can find Plant Paper in the Zero Waste/Bulk Section of the general store. Hopefully, these babies will start popping up at more folk shops and zero waste stores.

Beyond Environment and Health

To say that the environmental and health benefits are secondary to the real reason behind the creation of Plant Paper is true. This goes beyond current consumer trends and green washing and embracing the new status symbols of upper middle class. The true reason to buy a product like Plant Paper is simply because it is the best product out there.

We are a society trained to be content with unsatisfactory products and to accept that “it is what it is”, so much so that we even have a saying for it. We can no longer settle for mediocrity. We got to the point where we created recycled toilet paper with Seventh Generation, ticked off the box that said we were eco-conscious consumers, and stopped further conversation. But that’s not where it ends.

Plant Paper pushes the envelope to do more. How can we replace trees with a more sustainable material? How can we deconstruct the expectation that toilet paper should be white and thereby get away from all the chemicals? How can we reduce the amount of toilet paper usage all together? Perhaps we raise awareness of the recentness of toilet paper, and tell the story of it’s initial rejection by society. Perhaps we shed light on the fact that it is a monopoly controlled by one company, and that is why change at the macro-level is so difficult to achieve. All of this was discussed in my one hour conversation with Rachel, and it has got me excited about this company.

As Reitelman and Solomon worded it in another interview, we’ve created a hybrid car but the end point is an all electric vehicle.

The Verdict:

So now, the question most of you wish to be answered: How is the quality of toilet paper?

Plant Paper is double-sided and 3-ply. One side is soft and silky, what the team jokingly say is for dabbing, whereas the opposite side is textured, you know… for grabbing. With a smile on my face and a giggle in the air, I can see that it is this kind of whimsical thinking and creativity that has the power to change the world.

The branding for Plant Paper is simple, at best. Unlike Who Gives A Crap’s enthusiastic and colorful branding, Plant Paper may appeal more to minimalists who wish not to inundate their bathroom with colorfully wrapped rolls. If I am being honest, I myself prefer a more calm loo environment that reminds me of a zen spa and am relieved to know that such an eco-conscious option exists. Additionally, I prefer the buy-as-you-need approach of Plant Paper over the bulk orders of Who Gives A Crap. I think that what separates Plant Paper from Who Gives A Crap is their vision to be a wellness product in addition to being an environmentally friendly product, but what sells it to me is their hope to change a social norm by getting consumers to question, “Why?”

If you wish to try Plant Paper for yourself, I highly do recommend. I do not receive a commission from Plant Paper for your purchase.

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Prepping for a Mindful Holiday Season

It’s mid-November and I’m left wondering where the first half of the month went, let alone the majority of the year. It seems that as we age, our perception of time quickens,  as if a reminder that the time we have left dwindles. Perhaps this is why mindfulness becomes more relevant as we get older. Perhaps it’s why senility exists, as a pungent way to signal the world that we are focusing on the things that don’t really matter. I wonder if this blog brings that same sort of light, without the heartbreaking undertones of senescence. Hopefully, it has brought you something.

Today, I want to take the time, before holiday rush, to instill mindfulness in the home before good cheer takes away all thought in our fervent search for comfort and joy. Let us welcome the holiday season in all the right ways. We will be wishing and receiving all season long, which isn’t wrong per say, but I think it would behoove us to approach it with some serious thought so as to avoid the need to de-clutter and figure ourselves out all over again amidst the noise in 2020.

A few suggestions, nothing unheard of especially in this space, if I may.

  • Take stock. Make a mental note of everything you already own. Figure out ways in which they can do double duty in function. Find what is enough in your life, with an intention to add less.
  • Declutter. Always declutter. It seems my advice runs redundant but it signifies the habitual act of. Get rid of the noise distracting from the important parts of the holiday season. Hone in on what brings you true joy. Strengthen the ability to know what holds value and what does not. This will also help with the selection of which social obligations you commit to, lest you run amok trying to please everybody and not enjoying the season at all.
  • Write your wish list early. And then publish it late. In the meanwhile, edit, edit, edit. Treat your wish list like a draft. It’s similar to pausing prior to purchasing things. Sometimes, it’s even more important to do because of the ease with which we can ask for things. Sleep on it. Search the house for dopplegangers of stuff (are you asking for things you already own?). Prioritize, putting needs at the top and considering making do without the wants. Perhaps you’d like to request consumable giftsFor ideas, a simple holiday gift guide.
  • Focus on the non-material. Not just in gift-giving and wish-making, but also in the doing. Forego the stresses of perfect Thanksgiving dinners and Christmas mornings. Rather, revel in the gathering. Spend less time thinking about what to wear in to the holiday party and more time focusing on the conversations you wish to have. Et cetera. If you need a reminder, create an advent calendar for a slow holiday season. If you’d like to take it a step further, write a no-gifting letter or say no to Secret Santa.
  • Simplify. Instead of asking for ten things from one person, ask for one or two thereby lightening their need to make even more decisions. Instead of decking halls this year, maybe go bare to save you from entering 2020 with a large amount of un-decorating to do. Instead of ordering holiday cards, email a digital picture. There are many ways to simplify, some of which I’ve written about here and here.

I am always of the mind that we need to prepare for the holidays in different ways. In doing less and thinking more. It’s worth a try, in hopes that we all enter the new decade with truer joy, and a lot more peace.

 

Intentional Living: Speaking Less

I’ve been thinking lately about speaking less. The irony of using a post to share this does not escape me. But how many times a day do we fill our lives with useless words? Trivial commentary that gets us nowhere, rhetorical questions that waste one’s breath, small talk?

I think about questions specifically. We ask each other questions not because we are looking for knowledge but rather, permission. As kind as it is to seek permission, what it actually does is inflate the number of choices that need to be made.

For example, I noticed that I ask the following questions of my husband on the daily.

  • Is this enough food? (when piling on a plate)
  • Do you want to sit here? (when deciding where to perch at a restaurant, coffee shop or even at home)
  • What do you want to do today? (or tonight, this week, or weekend)
  • What do you want to eat for dinner? (or breakfast or lunch)
  • Do you want coffee this morning? (or tea in the evening)
  • Shall we watch something tonight? (when deciding what else to clutter our minds with)

All of these questions are not rhetorical and require a response.

All of them give him additional decisions to make.

All of them are quite unnecessary.

I think about how many more I ask at work. I think about how this asking affects our lives. As if we didn’t have enough decisions to make. It’s no wonder we live in overwhelm. By asking permission, we are creating more decisions to make. In our empathy, we are wasting brain power on making choices in a society already suffering from the paradox of choice.

It’s no wonder that children these days have no direction. There are too many choices to choose from and they are so busy choosing from an early age that they never learn how to focus on one. I hear parents ask children what they want to eat for dinner. I remember growing up and never being asked that question. We simply ate whatever was on the table. More brain-power for play time outdoors. I see parents asking kids what color backpack they want for the first day of school. My parents just went and purchased my supplies for us without even taking us to the store with them. More brain-power for focusing on getting ready for the Fall semester. I see parents proudly say that their kids chose what to wear today. I wore a uniform until middle school. Think of the brain power it takes to have a kid decide what to wear, then compare them self socially with what their desk mate wore, then go home and look to their closet and see what they can wear the next day to be at least equal with their desk mate.  With Christmas around the corner, I bet kids will be writing down their lists. I didn’t write a list for my family until I was thirteen years old. My parents just bought us what they think we would want, or better yet, what we needed.

It’s no wonder college students have no idea what they want to do in life. A majority of them go to undergrad undeclared. When I was in undergrad ten years ago, half of my friends had switched majors before graduating. My own brother switched direction AFTER undergrad. Many younger people get multiple masters in different fields. Some of my closest high school friends didn’t figure out what they wanted to do until they were 25. In dental school, a quarter of the dental students had switched careers. We had engineers, doctors, lawyers, with the oldest student in his 50’s. There is simply too many choices to make.

We have created this fallacy that we live in a world where we are free to choose. But we are constantly making choices, and we have lost the freedom to accomplish much of anything else.

It’s no wonder we get home at the end of a work-day exhausted. Then to have to answer if the food on the plate is enough?! Why do we waste such energy?

I am trying to be better. I am trying to simply put food on the plate, and accept that if he wants more, he will go back for seconds. I am going to just pick a spot to sit. If he wishes to sit elsewhere, I will trust that he will say so. I am simply going to make a batch of coffee and pour half into my cup. If he ends drinking the other half, I can make a second batch if needed. Instead of asking what he wants to do this weekend, I will tell him what I would like to do and see what he responds with.

We don’t need to speak so much.

If we truly want to practice empathy, let us empathize with the excess that we all already deal with.

Let us reduce the overwhelm so that we can reserve our brain waves for the decision-making that is more important.