Reductio ad Absurdum: A Stress Relief Tool

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Two weeks left, a brief respite, then my internship begins. I’m looking forward to it. Unfortunately, it is not a paid internship, so I have to also find a part time job. I’d like to find one in my industry, but I’m not sure that’s a viable alternative at this point. I’ll have to do some searching…in between classes, labs, studying, car issues, etc. First, though, I need to find my way through four tests and three practicals. Here’s the rundown:

Physiology: Test on kidneys (including acid/base homeostasis), digestion, endocrine, and reproductive. Cumulative lab exam on everything from membrane physiology through reproductive systems.

Performance Enhancement for Athletics: This is the NSCA class. We only have 1 test, and it’s cumulative. The lab exam is also cumulative, though not comprehensive. First is video and picture analysis. Then we randomly draw exercises, have about a minute to set them up before the test subject comes in. We then explain, demonstrate, cue, and correct the subject.

Program Theory and Instructional Design: This is the ACSM class. We have one more non-cumulative test. The lab practical involves doing a series of assessments on a friend we bring in.

Dance: Yes. Apparently dance has a final exam. Technically there’s also a practical, but it’s more of a review. Given this is only a 1 hour credit course, I’m not worrying about it too much.

Oh, and we have final assessments for our faculty clients this week.

Why did I list all this out? It’s one of my “get a grip” tools. By listing what I have to do, I make it easier to figure out how to go about doing it. It’s more than defining hoops to jump through. Not only do I have the hoops defined, I also have clues as to the best approach for each hoop. For instance, the physiology test is probably the most involved; however, the lowest grade I’ve made in that class thus far is in the mid-90s. I have a very significant buffer. The NSCA class, however, has had no tests thus far. Thus this one exam carries more weight than any exam in any other class. That’s my priority. I’ll review and talk with my physiology lab- and classmates, but I’ll spend most of my time getting ready for the NSCA class.

The ACSM class, though in my area of study, has had a couple of tests and several quizzes. Based on my previous history, I’ll spend a little extra time preparing for the assessments in lab, but the test probably won’t be that much trouble. Certainly the dance class won’t get much of my attention. The majority of the grade comes from participation. The test goes over time signatures, cadences, styles, terminology, etc. Given my attendance and participation, even if I make a 0 on the test, I’ll still pass the class with a 75. I’ll do a skim-through but not really worry about it after that.

I’m not saying that none of these tests will be challenging. On the contrary, I know that at least two of them will be VERY challenging. All I’m saying is that with this list and this approach outlined, I now have a reasonable hope of putting my study time in the areas that are of most use to me. Explicitly stated, the order of my efforts are: NSCA, physiology, ACSM, dance. Having determined this, my stress levels are now well within manageable limits. In fact, if I help some of my classmates, I’ll not only be making sure I’ve learned the material, but I’ll be sure I can explain it in multiple ways. When I can explain something in multiple ways, I cease to have doubts about whether I actually know the material.

Happy Stress Day!

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Wow. It’s been a couple of very busy weeks. The “achievement” score so far stands thus: 1 car totaled, 1 used car bought, 2 tests taken (without being studied for), 1 minor project completed, 1 major project started, 4 training sessions altered to account for client improvements beyond expectations and new client injuries, 2 new students. Gotta love life.

The ability to devote all your attention on the task in front of you is one of the greatest abilities we have. In this digital age, we constantly hear about “multitask” this and “multithread” that. That’s great for computers, but the human mind only fools itself into thinking it can do that. The closest we can come is to break down multiple larger tasks into chunks, then address each chunk in turn. By devoting all attention to each chunk one at a time, the tasks get done much more quickly, whether or not consecutive chunks are part of the same task. This is the basis of just about every time-management lecture/book/workshop/etc. I’ve ever seen.

These past few weeks have put my ability to do this to the test. I’ve really had to discipline my mind in ways I haven’t had to do in a long time. Creating multiple contingency plans for transportation is a great idea…just not during a test. Likewise, when with my client, I have to keep my focus on her, and not let my mind drift to the test I have to take the following day which I have not yet studied for.

I hadn’t intended to write about time management, or even the illusion of attention (as mentioned in The Invisible Gorilla). To be fair, I didn’t have a specific topic in mind, today, but giving clues as to a low point in my life was not my intention. On the other hand, maybe the catharsis of stream of consciousness writing will help me focus on some of my tasks today.

Speaking of writing, I find it’s easiest to write when my stress levels are within certain tolerances, call them X for the low end and Y for the top end. Writing this entry has been an interesting exercise in both the focus mentioned above and writing while pushing the Y boundary. When my stress levels are far beyond the Y limit, I just don’t care. The challenge is when my stress levels are just above my normal Y limit.

I wonder if there’s a correlation between the type of writing I find easiest at any one time and where within the X-Y tolerance my stress is. If this post is any indication, it looks as though the closer to Y (or past it), the easier it is for stream of consciousness writing. I know I have to have a fairly low level of stress in order to write fantasy (whether traditional or urban). This is not unexpected, since in writing fiction, I tend to try to imagine myself in the specific physical and emotional situations of the characters. My stress buffer has to be fairly clear in order to constructively cope with deliberately putting myself in…unfortunate…situations.

If my stress level gets too low, I just don’t have anything to tap into to write about. This is probably the best time for me to write my academic papers. Without a minimum level of stress, I can’t creatively express the conflicts necessary for amusement writing (notice I did not say “good writing”). Without that minimum level of stress, being able to focus on facts, understand them, interpret them, and apply them become much easier for me. Below that point, logic, deductive reasoning, and inductive reasoning become very easy for me.

I guess if I had multiple writing projects I had to take care of, I would have to break them into chunks, then address the chunks separately, deciding which chunk to take care of at any one time based on my current level of stress.