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I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. J. K. Rowling
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Discussion Forum > The temptation to live in a constant state of emergency

Characteristics of emergency:
- Borrowing from Mark in the DIT book: It *requires* immediate attention. And it requires *immediate* attention.
- Ordinary operations and commitments are put on hold for the duration of the emergency. This obviously has consequences, but it is understood that the consequences of the emergency are more severe.
- They consume all your attention and enormous amounts of time.
- Your spouse and colleagues and customers might be annoyed by (2) but are patient for the duration of the emergency and agree the emergency does take priority.

Characteristic of non-emergency:
- Work does not require immediate attention.
- "Immediate" and "someday maybe" is easy -- but most stuff falls into the category of "needs done but not right now", which is hard to manage. Emergencies don't have this problem.
- Non-emergencies are *defined by* ordinary operations and commitments.
- Your spouse and colleagues and customers expect you to deliver on your commitments.

For all their problems, it can be tempting to live in a constant state of emergency. Emergencies give a sense of reprieve from the mundane operations of ordinary life. They require (and reward) intense focus. And there is real risk involved. And thus they induce flow states, the (illusory?) sense of meaningful accomplishment, and new insights into what is really important.

Living in a constant state of emergency isn't sustainable. Not physically, not emotionally, and not operationally. It's horrible for family life. It throws ordinary operations into chaos. Backlogs pile up.

But when you are faced with a real emergency, all those considerations get placed on hold. Because IT'S AN EMERGENCY!!

March 5, 2017 at 1:50 | Registered CommenterSeraphim
There's also emergency vs normally busy.

A fire department or hospital emergency room deals routinely with things that we consider emergencies. They (hopefully) have enough time, resources and training to deal with them without burning out. Yes, they have to act immediately, but they still go home at their regular time most days, and have time for daily maintenance.

On of my kids (and me to some extent, sometimes) is still struggling with accepting that our normal weeks are actually very busy.

Not having time to practice violin for a week or two because they were unusually full is one thing. Not having time for two months is questionable. Four months means there really isn't time, and maybe we should stop renting it.

In my case, during light weeks, which I think are normal, I often start new projects (or re-open old ones). If I can't keep up with them in the following weeks, I think it's because those weeks were abnormally busy.

The truth is, those following weeks were average. It would be better to use those light weeks to refine systems and catch up on backlogs, not add more to the workload.

I've managed to redefine my normal. What I used to consider normal is now light, old heavy is now normal, and old overloaded is now heavy. I've also gotten better at recognizing when I should drop a project that shouldn't have been picked up in the first place. Actually using the time during light weeks for short useful projects or backlogs is more challenging. I usually end up at the library instead.
March 5, 2017 at 23:08 | Registered CommenterCricket
Living under permanent stress is even worse than you describe.

Our immune systems work slower, so the resources can be used for the emergency. That's why, when you finally get a break, or try getting more sleep, you end up feeling worse. Your body is finally dealing with the germs it used to ignore.

Stress increases inflammation. The old theories about stress and heart problems were correct in many ways. Aspririn and even Lipitor work by reducing inflammation as much as by reducing clotting and blood cholesterol. Cholesterol plaques form where there's inflammation, as a natural bandage.

Stress affects our gut. The walls becomes leaky in both directions. Nasty times two. It also affects conditions inside, which affect the microbiome. Many nutrients are actually created, or made more absorb-able, by those bugs. The right bugs make the gut produce a healthy mucous layer, which affects wall integrity. Too many of the wrong bugs create inflammation. (That magazine reading backlog I mentioned elsewhere? I just read Scientific American March 2015, with a special section on the human microbiome. Healthy bugs are more important than we realized, in many ways. They've found links with most gut problems, asthma, and several mood disorders. Much more research is needed, but it's very promising.) (And a spot in Hell for those that use preliminary results to create a treatment, and claim it's based on science.)

Meditators have definite brain changes, measured in MRI machines. Yes, there are experiments comparing new meditators with control groups, to rule out cause-and-effect. They are usually more content and adapt better. (One downside is less creative thinking, but that's only with pure samatha meditation. Most schools teach a mix of samatha and vipassana. Samatha = calming, focus. Vipassana = insight, mindfulness, awareness.)

Excellent book covering emotions, health, and the neuro-immune system.
The Balance Within: The Science Connecting Health and Emotions
by Esther M. Sternberg
March 5, 2017 at 23:45 | Registered CommenterCricket