Though I’ve struggled with their recent conversion to the block editor, I intend to keep using WordPress for blogging. On YouTube I found a decent tutorial for the block editor, and I followed some of the tips while writing a recent post. (Including how to move the hovering toolbar up and out of the way – shown at around 3 minutes and 45 seconds into the video.)
I thought I’d share it here in case you’re looking for a tutorial that’s easy to follow:
If there are specific features you’d like to learn more about, I recommend opening the video in a new tab in YouTube and checking the description box. You’ll find a breakdown of the video with timestamps.
Considering the health-related and economic effects of the pandemic, and the fact that we’re in the final weeks leading up to the U.S. presidential election, it isn’t surprising to come across doom-and-gloom pronouncements virtually everywhere.
If you have a tendency to catastrophize – to dwell on the worst possible outcomes for every scenario – the constant state of red alert may be strengthening your tendency to brood over all the terrible things that could happen, whether tomorrow or next year.
Generally, catastrophizing isn’t helpful. It’s one thing to make plans and provisions, as best you can, for when something may go wrong. It’s quite another thing to get swept away in darker and darker thoughts about the future, and to obsessively visualize the most terrible things happening. Your mind is in turmoil over things that may never happen.
In a strange way, catastrophizing can make you feel powerful and helpless at the same time. Powerful, because you feel as if you know the future, every detail of it. About 7 minutes and 20 seconds into the video I’ve shared at the top of the post, there’s a part I want to highlight: the idea that catastrophizing may serve a protective function, because you feel as if you’re using it to fight against uncertainty and save yourself from future disappointment.
Basically, you feel like nothing bad can shock or overwhelm you because you already expect it. But how much power does brooding over catastrophes actually give you?
Catastrophizing may protect you from taking all kinds of risks. However, some of these risks may be worth taking, such as learning a new skill, or approaching someone to ask them out on a date or hopefully become their friend. Thanks to catastrophizing, you imagine nightmare outcomes even for situations that are mildly or moderately risky. Maybe you fear rejection, for instance, so you imagine harsh and humiliating outcomes to keep yourself from approaching someone and potentially exposing yourself to their indifference or dislike.
What if something terrible does happen? Even if you’re overestimating the possibility of horrific outcomes, there’s still a chance of catastrophe. What then?
For one thing, you can’t know exactly how everything will play out. Even if you imagine a horrible scenario, it won’t unfold exactly the same way in real life. There are factors you aren’t thinking about and twists and turns you can’t anticipate.
And I don’t mean that in a bad way. For example, you may be underestimating your capacity to deal with a terrible situation. Maybe you’ll be able to act in ways you can’t currently imagine or haven’t even considered. Maybe there are avenues of help you don’t know about, other people who will assist you or resources that will become available to you. Even if what you fear is a recurrence of something, maybe this time around you’ll have a greater capacity to deal with it, in part because of the knowledge and wisdom you’ve gained.
When you’re catastrophizing, you may confuse the intensity of your thoughts with the certainty of your knowledge. Turmoil doesn’t mean truth. For better and worse, you can’t predict everything. But it’s easy to overestimate the likelihood of the worst thing happening and underestimate our own ability to respond to it better than we can imagine.
I wrote this post in part as a reminder to myself, and also because it may be helpful to other people in this crazy year and beyond. One of my friends told me that in the midst of catastrophizing she tries to at least get something out of it – like thinking of a solution to a future problem or thinking of something she can change in her life now. The challenge is to not let the thoughts become obsessive and paralyzing.
Two classically trained violinists have been running a YouTube channel full of goofy, geeky humor, music games, and silly reviews, plus genuinely educational content about technique, styles of different composers and performers, etc.
The following are samples of the many videos on their channel (I’ve watched just a small fraction):
If you’re currently working or studying from home and aren’t used to it, it may be difficult to adjust and to keep your days from collapsing into an undifferentiated mass of goo.
Someone forwarded me this video from It’s a Southern Thing (a lighthearted YouTube channel on living in the American South), and I’m offering it as the first source of “work from home inspiration”:
At roughly 1:15, you’ll find The Planner, who sets up his desk and writes a schedule on a whiteboard. When that part comes up, pause the video and check out how he’s organized his day. It’s a decent template for a day’s schedule, though obviously you’ll need to adapt it to your own set of obligations.
He sets aside a specific block of time to work on a presentation. Maybe that’s his top work priority of the day, because it needs to get done soon. Usually, on any given day, you’ll have at least one thing that really needs attention more than others.
For other work, he’s set up a general work/catch-up category that may also wind up getting carved up into a few main tasks or maybe just serve as a flexible time to attend to whatever comes up. He also makes room for things like meals and exercise.
Consider how you’ll also take breaks within the times allotted for work tasks. For example, an hour of work can look like 25 minutes of work, a 10-minute break, then 25 more minutes. Even if you don’t get everything done within a certain time slot, at least you’ll have completed some of the work (as opposed to leaving it untouched and forgetting about it until the absolute last minute).
(Yes, this is supposed to just be a funny video, but I’m saying, you can get inspiration from anywhere. Also, I had a quick look through the channel, and found this other funny video portraying a southern fashion show that made me smile.)
The second source of scheduling inspiration I’m sharing with you comes from Khan Academy. Among their parental resources for kids learning at home, there are some schedule templates covering preK to 12th grade. These templates offer ideas for different activities throughout the day with time for play and rest too. You can adapt them for your kids or use them for ideas about how to structure your own day if you’re working and studying. (“Ideally run around and play outside. Have a snack” is potentially good advice for an adult, and may be useful if you have a yard or access to an uncrowded outdoor space.)
To follow up on this list of educational websites, I’m going to recommend another one: Socratica, a YouTube channel that focuses primarily on math and science topics but also has some humanities videos and videos giving advice on study tips.
On the study tips playlist is one video I watched recently about the Cornell Method of taking notes:
A good thing about this video is that she gives an example of the note-taking method during a short chemistry lesson. This method encourages more than just re-reading notes. You’re expected to engage with them even more actively (by fixing errors and creating the cues and summary sections).
If you have symptoms and are wondering whether or not to go to the doctor or E.R., watch this video.
Basically – for most people – staying at home and calling your doctor for extra confirmation about what to do is the best way to protect yourself and others.
Heading to a clinic, doctor’s office, or hospital with relatively mild symptoms can a) expose you to other illnesses b) increase the chances that you’ll infect others and c) contribute to the overburdening of a healthcare system which needs to make room for people who are most in need of medical attention. If your symptoms are relatively mild, and they aren’t deteriorating into alarm signs (which he describes in the video), your best bet is to rest at home, call your doctor for additional advice if necessary, and take other precautions (like washing hands, disinfecting surfaces, coughing into your elbow, avoiding crowded and confined spaces, and avoiding close contact with others).
I recently discovered Koboko Fitness, and while I haven’t tried every workout video, I like the ones I’ve used so far.
– There are a variety of exercises and routines.
– The routines vary in length. Some may be 5-10 minutes, while others are half an hour. I like that, because sometimes if I have a free 10 minutes or just want to take a break from work, I can fit a shorter routine into my schedule.
– For some of the exercises, you may want to have dumbbells, but they aren’t strictly required. A yoga mat or towel can be helpful for floor exercises, but you don’t need to go out and buy any equipment to participate.
– You sometimes get presented with low-impact and high-impact versions of the same exercise. Depending on your fitness level or how you’re feeling on a given day, you may want to go with one or the other. You can also introduce your own intensity level – for example, instead of doing a wall push-up, do a regular push-up on the floor if you can. Or if you don’t want to jump your feet out during a burpee, maybe walk them out and then back in.
– The instructor and creator of the channel is a positive, encouraging person who is dedicated without being a fanatic.
– Although the channel is geared towards women, there are many exercises (maybe even all of them?) that men could benefit from. So if you’re a guy who wants to try out some of the routines, go right ahead (during a workout, you might get called a “beautiful goddess,” but maybe you can cope with that).
Here’s one routine I did today:
Here’s another good one:
And if you’re wondering, no, I’m not affiliated with Koboko Fitness, and I haven’t been paid anything for this post.
This video from Psych2Go starts out discussing the terrible effects too much negative thinking may have on your health. After that onslaught of negative thoughts, it lays out several coping strategies (starting around two and half minutes in).
One important point that comes up during the suggestion to use distractions: these strategies aren’t meant for avoidance. Even when you distract yourself with a book or a movie, the goal isn’t to keep trying to escape from a problem in your life. The goal is to help yourself become less stressed so that you’re able to deal with the problem more effectively after you’ve become more calm.
Good luck! (I can tell you that the tip about paying attention to body language caught me off guard. Jaw unclenched, for the time being…)
YouTube recommendations sometimes are wonderful. I go on YouTube mostly for music, and this song by Mozella (an artist I was unfamiliar with), hit me with its lyrics, which have some good insights about change and development.
“You only know what you know ‘til you know.”
People, myself included, sometimes wish so badly that they could know everything they need to know at the outset of some great venture or new stage in life – to have the knowledge, complete and whole, at their command, to keep them from missteps, embarrassing mistakes, and painfully wrongheaded decisions.
But there’s no such complete knowledge. At any given point, you know what you know, that’s it. Even if you’re lucky enough to have a mentor or another trusted person to guide you, you still have to live out the process of learning for yourself, and one way or another, you won’t always get things right. The key is to keep learning, to grow in wisdom.
“So many things mattered to you that really meant nothing but you needed them to find the truth.”
Yes, some of the things that once interested you may seem unimportant now, but they’re still a part of you. They helped you become who you are now. You’ve still learned something from them.
“You can’t sleep it off or drink it away, trick it with frivolities, fortune, or fame.”
There’s a temptation to ignore pain, which is a symptom of an underlying difficulty, something in you that needs to be addressed. The strategies for avoidance and denial are varied and often involve an addiction or compulsion of some kind; maybe you drink frequently or spend hours on mindless Internet browsing. But the problems don’t go away. The call for change and growth persists, even when it goes unanswered. How long can you avoid change or pretend that everything can stay the way it is?
The researchers aim to decode the mental processes of dogs by recording which areas of their brains are activated by various stimuli. Ultimately, they hope to get at questions like: Do dogs have empathy? Do they know when their owners are happy or sad? How much language do they really understand?
An fMRI scan doesn’t give us mind-reading abilities; it shows blood-flow to different areas of the brain (oxygen-rich as compared to deoxygenated blood), and researchers infer brain activity from that. When the dogs were given a signal for “treat,” for instance, there appeared to be increased activity in a part of the brain that in people is associated with rewards. But can we get a real understanding of what the dog is experiencing? If you look at questions of empathy, what is empathy to a dog? Maybe we’d see increased activity in certain parts of the brain that in humans is associated with empathy, which could be interesting, but what does that tell us more deeply about the dog’s mind and subjective experiences? If they know when their owners are happy or sad, what kind of knowledge is this: a reading of facial and behavioral cues, or something deeper than that? This is a limitation of fMRI when it’s used on people as well, though with people we can try to supplement the fMRI scan findings with other measures – various cognitive tasks, including those that ask for verbal input (“woof, woof”).