Everyone needs a functioning RESET process

reset buttonThe RESET process is key to psychological stability

The concept is incredibly simple: when everything goes to hell, you have to get back to some basics that you can trust, so you can get back to the place from which you look out at the world and can handle your life:

Your writing.

Your parenting.

Whatever threw you for a loop this week. Today. Right now.

When do you press RESET?

To start a RESET process, the crisis must be over; or, the crisis must have gone from acute to chronic, and have, finally, a tiny bit of slack. RESET cannot be pressed in acute mid-crisis; there you have to rely on whatever coping mechanisms get you through crises.

It doesn’t have to be much of a break in the crisis mode, and your basic reset process has to be simple enough to take hold quickly so that you can take advantage of the tiny lull to get back to solid ground.

The instinct to USE that space to RESET is the key to getting control of whatever I need to control.

These past two weeks have thrown all manner of things at me:

  • There have been six doctor appointments, five of them mine.
  • There was a crisis in the handling of my father’s estate, a place where making the time and effort would keep the process of claiming a life insurance policy from having its file closed.
  • There is the continuing saga of launching the last child, functional enough to take charge of her own life, and with a clear understanding of the necessary pieces; seemingly on track to be resolved, it has taken a hit.
  • Writing wasn’t happening at all because my good time had to be used for the crises, and I hate being at that point, because writing seems to be the only thing which keeps me sane as an individual, and not the member of some societal group which has a larger claim on my time.

I got to where I was going in tinier and tinier loops involving tiny bad decisions which were actually making everything worse because I forgot the simple principle of going back to the bunker, going back to Kindergarten (as animal trainers call it), finding the space to get reoriented and reset.

Bad patterns are very hard to break

There is a pattern, a very clear pattern now that I have not been able to interrupt yet: the day AFTER I overdo it (which is extremely easy if you have CFS and brain fog and exhaustion), the first session of the day will be total crap. I can’t get around it – it ALWAYS happens. I tell myself it is coming. I tell myself I should prepare for it. I tell myself I should take First Nap SOONER than the 2:20 which is my session length – and yet I always end up taking far longer than 2:20 before I can force myself into stopping all those tiny distractions, and getting myself into bed for the mental dialysis that is the POINT of my naps.

And I ALWAYS get to that First Nap in an agitated mental state that goes around and around in circles without solving anything.

What do you do in the state where you can’t hit reset?

So, back to the RESET button: because it isn’t going to fix itself until I take charge, and I’m incapable of taking charge in that state. Catch-22.

The RESET button/process is whatever works for you to break the cycle and get back to basics.

For a computer, it is RESTART. The computer is stuck, cycling, or not working well. So STOP. Reload the software/dump the buffers/clear the caches. For each process that was active BEFORE the RESTART, figure out whether it should be started up again – this is critical.

RESET button on this human

For me, it means to STOP the mental cycling that is driving me crazy so I can look at what is important and what isn’t, and pick up threads only to the most critical problems.

And the way I have which works for me is the slow counted yoga breathing I have taught myself to do, and which is attached to the most BASIC PRINCIPLE: everything in the world can wait for THREE calm breaths.

At the end of those three breaths, there is a tiny decision: am I ready to proceed with figuring out what to do?

The answer ‘NO’ simply means I need three more breaths, and the Universe can wait that long.

Eventually, the answer is ‘YES,’ because I’ve given my brain the space to stop cycling and RESET. It never takes more than 30-40 slow counted breaths: slow in and fill the lungs completely; relax and hold while counting eight heartbeats; let the air out as slowly as possible.

The EIGHT HEARTBEATS are what works for me. When I finally start the process of breathing, the heart is racing, and the eight counts are too fast. My brain is totally fogged. But the very counting of the hold phase, my own heart’s eight beats, slows it down. I often have to remind myself of the BASIC PRINCIPLE during this period – after all, I’m in a loop, and a mess, and a crisis, and frantic, and usually there are all kinds of things hammering at my consciousness.

But I also know, from years of practice, that in addition to the heart slowing, a second feature is going on at the same time: the cleaning out of the debris of thinking from my mind. It can’t happen while I’m allowing more input of any kind.

Is RESET possible, and is it reliable?

The combination – slowing heartbeat + brain dialysis – ALWAYS works.

The more I do it, the more it works.

The first three breaths are hard. But I’m also out of any other options when I get to this point, and I know it.

I don’t WANT to nap, to block out the world. I want to fix the problems and WORK my way back to sanity.

Too bad. I don’t care what I want. I know what I have to do: I have to close down the computer and block the internet and turn off the phone ringer, and I have to take three slow counted breaths while the Universe of Hurt waits for me impatiently, often requiring one last pass through the circling garbage in my mind before I can start breathing.

And as many more sets of three breaths as it takes.

It is a process which takes time, usually that 35-minute period between lying down, putting in the earplugs if necessary, and putting the eye mask on to block the light.

Rarely, I do it in less time – because that’s all I have.

Occasionally, it takes a second 35-minute period.

But it always starts to work as soon as I start that preemptive rest period, start the first in-breath, hold the first eight counts.

What happens AFTER you click RESET?

The difference, which I just went though, is amazing. Instead of all those clamoring thoughts climbing right back into the saddle and demanding attention, I am at a calm place that can ask them: okay, which of you has to go first?

And the answer is often: none. Because what I need is to stop, put them all on paper, start the meta process of thinking about thinking, and ONLY then picking up one to think about.

I take my time.

A blank sheet of scratch paper serves for a quick listing of the screaming meemies, and the writing starts the thinking of what options are available on each problem, and the listing gets quietly into doing the more obvious logical steps, and we’re off.

Back in a sane land. Back to where things can wait their turn, and wait until there is energy to actually do them, and in some kind of clarity of priorities and timelines.

I can handle them again.

That’s my RESET button. What’s yours?

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17 thoughts on “Everyone needs a functioning RESET process

  1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

    RESET just hit. Again. It’s been crazy – the day before yesterday I had to be coherent for over an hour in a meeting with the H/AC people – a sudden crisis because of an uh-oh! noise coming from the compressor/condensor/whatever they call the external unit, noticed by hubby when mowing the lawn.

    Needless to say, I don’t do well without AC – my brain is as fragile as the chinchilla’s, and as useless when overheated.

    And yesterday was the expected day from hell: with a whole bunch of incentives, all vanishing as the summer progresses, we bit the bullet and ordered the new system to be installed – immediately. Which meant they were here before 8AM on one of the hottest days of the year.

    They left by 2:30 – pretty amazing. It all works. We had a cool house by 3PM. Also amazing. Gizzy and daughter each had their room AC to keep them cool while they slept, sort of, as the gentlemen from A.J. Perri SLAMMED the door each time, about a thousand, they came in and out of the house. The whole house vibrates when you do that, and the sound is like having a two-ton piano dropped on the sidewalk behind you. I imagine, never having actually been present when they did it.

    Note: when daughter or I leave the house, you can’t tell the door was closed, because we just close it.

    ANYWAY.

    Yesterday, all day after they left, I was completely fried and frazzled. Got almost nothing done except feeding myself. I couldn’t even get to sleep until 5AM. Naps and counted breaths and all my stretching yoga tricks – nope. Resisting carbs – nope. It is quite comical as I watch myself completely out of control – once I can watch myself.

    So I just read my own post – this is why I write these things – and will continue the reset process with 1) starting to wake up daughter with sleep disorder, and 2) nap. Again. Until the process works, I’m back where I need to be, and I can function again. Which, if this comment is reasonably coherent, shows I’m starting to get to.

    Toodle-oo! (moving this to post of its own)

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Sometimes it works. Other days, like today, I may have to wait and try again tomorrow.

      The important part is to keep trying. When the crises give us a break, we have to be there, ready to write, those of us who call ourselves writers. That’s how books get written.

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        1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

          Not having choices is helpful. Remember, this is the ONLY thing I can do which might be remunerative in the long run. Quite literally. If that is wisdom, so be it. I’m certainly old enough to have learned something in the world.

          Besides, I have this story stuck in my brain. Oddly enough, once I’d finished writing the first volume, I knew that part of the story was now as good as I could make it, and it has not come back to haunt me. I hope to do that to the rest of the story: pin it to the page so I don’t have to keep thinking about it.

          That’s what I was hoping for when I started writing it – books by my bedside, and nothing in my brain. All out.

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    1. Alicia Butcher Ehrhardt Post author

      Thanks. I think what’s made it worse is that I/we had started to hope – and it feels like that hope has been pulled out from under my feet. Husband says it isn’t that bad; I’m trusting him. After an hour+ talking to the new sleep doctor, I was starting to lose focus (because it is all so important, I’m really pushing my limited abilities); the visit ended up being 2.5 hours!

      And Husband is still patiently working on the understanding, data, and analysis – what we would have done without him, I don’t know.

      But we can’t proceed without the sleep doctor – he is in the loop to some extent, and the first guy is a PhD, not MD, and can’t prescribe, and any further alteration will probably need pharmacological support…

      I’m fine – but not coping – if that makes sense. We’ll get there – and I need to enforce my coping mechanisms more stringently when I can, because when I relax those efforts, I get crashed. Which means, first, acknowledging there is a problem (I hate getting old), and then being able to understand the available strategies – all with some degree of risk, and all with no instant results.

      We’re not letting go, even if it means going to Japan to meet with some of the scientists who have actual Non-24 patients! Hope some of them speak English. The papers we’ve seen are in English, and most scientists are competent in English, worldwide, but between that and interacting comfortably over longer periods, my Japanese is useless. But they are taking this area of study – circadian rhythm disorders, daytime sleepiness, etc., very seriously.

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  2. J.M. Ney-Grimm

    Your reset process sounds cool. I’m sorry that you have needed it. Your last couple of weeks sound crazy stressful. But having that reset is awesome.

    When I first saw the title of your post, I envisioned it as referring to a restart, but I suspect that restarting often requires resetting first. I have restarting on my mind, because illness/injury put so much of my life on hold for the last 2 years. I’m in the process of reclaiming some of what was lost, and it feels very much like restarting from a dead stop.

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  3. juliabarrett

    Yeah, life is like this. Always glitches. As my gramma always said, no rest for the living. Hang in there. Every crisis has its own version of reset.

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