Perhaps you had a chance to catch a podcast or read a Lessons Learned last week during the 2020 Election ‘End Game’. I advised everyone I knew to chill and allow the electoral process to work, even if it took a few days. Apparently, it’s still going on as I write this LL entry, however, now the work is being conducted in legal circles and all talk is in hushed whispers.
I don’t want to say I told you so even though I told you so. Of course, there could have been voter fraud. There has been in every election held in American including the one for Best in Show. No, there was no conspiracy. We are and will be a nation divide along party lines for some time to come. I also told you that life would continue once the election was behind us.
Life goes on.
No matter what did or could have happened with the election, life persists and continues unabated. If you believe in God as I do, you knew not to worry. John 16:33 says; “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world”. The elections didn’t change the weather or alter the spin of the earth or change the physical laws of gravity.
Listen, I’m not mocking fear or anxiety, I’m controlling it. Half of the United States is in mourning. That’s 75 million some people. Many of those are walking around with a chip on their shoulders and others are convinced that the end of the world as we know it will occur in the next four years because of those election results (rigged or not – it didn’t matter and it doesn’t matter). Our series of checks and balances will handle the extremes and the extremists.
The stock market is an example of a ‘long game’, and no matter how low it gets, afterward, we’ll hit a record high.
Pride before the fall.
Marren and I were teaching an LE and First Responders “in-person” course in Indiana last week. In fact, our second day of training fell on the election day, and Brian and I spent the days teaching and our precious little sleep time watching the returns Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night, and at the airport awaiting our flights home.
It’s not that we had a vested interest more than our personal preferences, rather there was nothing else on the motel television. The lack of sleep and the constant fatigue borne of sustained cognitive output had us dragging some series ass at Indianapolis Airport at zero-dark-thirty the next morning. We had just left the parking garage dropping off our rental sled. As we approached the pedestrian crosswalk I too-late noted that one of the orange balustrades had been removed and in its place was a nearly invisible hole.
Fate, like God, has a wonderful sense of humor.
I tripped when my right foot got caught in the hole. Brian Marren and I were moving pretty fast and both of us were laden with luggage. Marren is in ‘top’ shape and I am in ‘round’ shape, but I was doing a pretty good job keeping up with him – until this. My caught foot created a trebuchet with the remainder of my body and I slammed to the ground like someone slamming closed an enormous flesh door. I remember now that I thought I had blacked out – but upon reflection, I see it was only my COVID-19 mask sliding up and over my eyes when my head (and every other part of me it seems) crashed to the cement and tarmac with an audible SCHWACK – right in front of witnesses, cabbies and some assorted LE personnel who were handling an in-progress scene in front of IIA baggage claim.
Thank God Brian Marren was there to help me. If he wasn’t, I might have had to roll over and ‘turtle’ it for a while, rocking back and forth long and hard enough to get to a sitting position in order to then climb my luggage mountain until I could stand up and limp out of the thru traffic lane.
I kicked my own ass.
I had gone internal. This is important only because as I was falling when I hit, and while I was managing the pain and considering heading to my gate or the hospital emergency room – all I could think of was me. I didn’t think of The Donald or his inflammatory rants. I didn’t think of Old Angry Joe making up words when his dementia took over. I could only think of myself and work on mustering enough of my resilience to get up, dust off, and move on. When I got home, I had the worst non-COVID sinus headache which turned into a 3-day malaise complicated by aching joints and skinned hands and knees.
The weather in Gunnison had turned nasty. Shelly and I found ourselves managing the snow and single-digit temps while thinking unpleasant thoughts of Brian Marren and his family “stuck” in San Diego where the temps and spirits were higher than Snoop Dogg. In addition to the normal work (professional and personal) that comes from living close to “off the grid”, Shel and I found ourselves doing house sitting for the Lany, our nearest neighbor.
Lany and his wife Denise were driving through a Colorado blizzard headed for Grand Junction, Colorado (about three and a half hours from Rogue Manor West under ideal conditions). Their goal was to be with their oldest boy and his wife as they anxiously awaited the birth of their first child.
The snow didn’t stop the Lany. COVID nor the elections stopped the arrival of little Knox who was born just after 2300 hours on 08 November 2020.
Red Egg and Ginger.
I’ve got an older brother whose extended family is replete with various cultures yet all bound by a central religion. I learn from each of these cultures, their belief in things that transcend the boundaries of science, religion, and culture (read folk tales and holistic medicine) is sometimes shocking but always educational. In days of old, infant mortality rates were high. Families in China tended to await naming their new arrivals and celebrating the births until after a full month had gone by.
My niece and nephew-in-law have a strong Chinese background and told me about the Red Egg and Ginger Party, where traditional Chinese families would celebrate the birth of a baby on that baby’s one-month birthday. The quarantine process would benefit the baby and waiting to see if the baby would live and thrive was essential to the parents and the community. Once survival seemed certain, the proud parents would use the party to introduce their new baby to family and friends.
Physical health, mental health and well-being.
We can thank biology for our understanding of physical energy and the requirements necessary to ensure homeostasis. Scientists, however, are still struggling with an answer for failing mental health.
During this same goofy week of which I write, my Mom’s mental and physical health is failing. Her dementia is creating a situation where she isn’t sleeping or eating right and both can prove to be the ‘kiss of death’ for the elderly, making them more susceptible to apathy, illness, and disease. Our mental health and physical health are not unlike the yin and yang or our health and vitality, the most fundamental, abundant, and, sadly, fragile relationships within us.
Something as simple as our meal composition and frequency can either fulfill our nutritional needs, rebuilding cells and restoring the essential properties of our brain, or leave us feeling lethargic and energy-starved. Lethargy leads to a lack of interest in routines, for example getting up and out of bed, and also leaves restful sleep out of our grasp.
Simple meal science helps fulfill the nutrition needs of your body, cell structure, and your brain. Meal science is well within the reach of every continent, if not every person on the planet. We know what we should eat, the suggested quantities, and the frequency, yet it seems in the richest and most educated countries we are still drawn to fads touting immediate benefits.
My mother is under no such misconception, she’s just lost the will and energy to eat and now her circadian rhythm is struggling to allow her a restful sleep.
I’ll leave the intricacies of sleep science to the experts like my dear friend Doctor Erik Korem (look him up, research his podcasts, you’ll be better for it!) Sleep is essential to rebuild muscle and to recalibrate and enhance your immune system. Sleep regenerates cells and increases our vigor and supports resilience.
Sadly, the older we get the less deep, ‘slow-wave’ sleep we get. That’s the important sleep allowing our physical and mental selves to reboot for the coming day. That’s the sleep my Mom is missing out on. Something as simple as waking up or going to sleep at the same relative time each day is essential to a strong circadian rhythm and healthy sleep patterns.
I struggle with sleep and my struggle is even worse during the Daylight Savings Time fiasco each spring and fall. It takes me weeks to get used to the new schedule brought on by only one hour. I’ll talk about time in another Lessons Learned, but like the fact that you can’t save time – you can’t make up sleep by sleeping more one day than another. It doesn’t average out. If you’ve lost sleep (like time) you will never get it back.
The benefits of exercise.
I may be a shaved ape, but I endeavor to work out for at least an hour every day. I rarely miss a day and when I do (do to travel or another issue) I add the cardio and weights to an upcoming workout so I don’t miss the health benefits or feel guilty.
The great thing about starting to work out even a little bit, your brain’s chemistry assisted by hormones makes you crave working out more. Strength training builds muscle. Cardio builds mitochondria which help our bodies convert nutrients into energy. It’s no “one size fits all”, so you have to gear your workout to your height, weight, and metabolism. Moreover, your choice of workout has to be fun – or you likely won’t stick to it (not unlike those pesky New Year’s resolutions that you won’t stick to again this year!)
Even after my near-death experience (taking a tumble at Indianapolis International Airport), I ran and lifted the next morning. It hurt and I was sore – but even sticking to the routine of showing up at the gym with your sneakers on helps your mental health by releasing dopamine, the happiness drug.
Exercising your brain.
Remember, your brain is a big muscle that burns oxygen and glucose. Working out your brain is just like working out your muscles – in fact, your brain requires more energy than any other organ by far. I try and explain this each time we teach, warning the students that their exhaustion during a rigorous in-person class session is due to a lack of hydration coupled with burning more cognitive resources than on a normal day.
For example, an fMRI will demonstrate that you burn more energy solving complex equations than you will simple equations. That’s beneficial when you are doing repeat tasks especially those you know well. Like the groove in a record, the brain senses that you are working on material you know well and gets quickly into a rhythm just like a fine-tuned engine, burning less energy allowing you to sustain the pace longer. When the task (knowledge, skills, attitudes, aptitudes or abilities) is new, your brain struggles and burns more mental energy or cognitive reserves working to determine whether this new information is relevant, and if so, where it should be stored.
This is another arena where resilience is essential. Humans must have a clear sense of what they are doing, why they are doing it and what benefit is associated with the task in order for their brains to release the appropriate chemical cocktail to allow learning AND retention to occur. Things like conflicting emotions also burn more mental energy and quickly deplete your cognitive reserves.
Emotions play a key role.
Think of it. Your physical energy, mental energy and emotional energy can diminish or increase based on what I am thinking while I am completing a task. For all of my multitasking friends, please know that multitasking doesn’t make you more efficient at a number of tasks, it merely burns your cognitive reserves and energy faster so that you do more tasks but with decreased perfection.
For all of my mindfulness friends, happy thoughts and surrounding yourself with or doing things that make you happy releases dopamine. That’s a good thing. Worrying about your day or an obligation makes your brain release cortisol, the drug largely responsible for “Fight or Flight”, and that’s a bad thing. Certainly, I’m simplifying the process, but close enough – you don’t have to be a doctor to make yourself better simply by increasing your happiness.
Clear skin, no dark circles.
Something as simple as your outsides rely on your insides. Your skin is like a canvas, revealing your emotional state. Being tired, worried or stressed out has an immediate and long-lasting toll on your skin’s health. Dark circles under the eyes, stress acne, redness, blotchy skin – all of these conditions are complicated or exacerbated by worry or exhaustion.
When Brian, Shelly, and I are conducting in-person training we purposely and purposefully avoid falling into the cycle of taking a break each hour. Depending on the course and the instructor, most training falls into 50 minutes of lecture (transmit only, not seminar-style or semi-Socratic, just the firehose) followed by 10 minutes of break in order to make it a full hour per session. We understand that with the right hegemony, pedagogy and delivery, humans can remain engaged in the classroom for up to 90-minutes. But then it’s time for a true ‘cognitive break’. We promote more than a hallway or bathroom break.
Merely stepping out of class and catching up on your texts or emails, or worse, standing around in the hallway and talking about the last 90-minute information exchange does your brain no good. Your brain needs (craves) the ability to step away in order for the chemicals to re-adjust and be ready for the next intense 90-minute block.
We work with the hosting agency to ensure that food, liquid refreshments and other distractions are available for the students during their breaks. We also highly encourage the course attendees to get up and get out of the classroom. No matter the weather, stepping outside and stretching, getting some fresh air, will allow you to learn and retain more than those ‘hallway breakers’.
Take a moment and pray for our nation. Pray that cool heads and clear minds create a path to unification and healing. If you don’t pray, at least take a few moments to reflect on recent events and think deeply about a way ahead that has a happy outcome.
We have to stop separating mental health from physical health. Our emotional well-being is linked inextricably to our health and vitality. Happy thoughts create happy humans. Watch what you eat and drink and improve your sleep. Create and generate good thoughts and insist on good feeling and happiness around you. Build a wall around stress, worry and bad thoughts. Accepting these bad emotions will challenge you physically, mentally and emotionally. Especially during the upcoming holiday season.
Training changes behavior.