Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
3 Jul

5 Things I Still Struggle With

Can Not Can't When it comes to living a healthy, Primal lifestyle, for the most part I’ve got things dialed in. There are very few things, if any, I’d change about my eating plan, my workouts, or my sleep schedule, for example, but there are some areas in which I know I can improve. Some major, some not so major. Like everyone does, I’d imagine. Nearly all of my struggles are related to finding a deeper sense of peace and contentment in this hectic modern world. In fact, I selfishly wrote a book, The Primal Connection, to give myself more tools and strategies to achieve the sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from within that we all seek. (The book, you may be happy to know, recently won the Eric Hoffer award for best self-published book of 2013.)

While I’ve made some strides in these areas in recent years, the journey is never over. There is no perfect lifestyle or perfect diet or perfect workout. We all have something, or some things, we’d like to get better at. We all have struggles. So, today, I thought I’d share with you guys some of my personal struggles, as well as some ways for addressing and even overcoming them.

Stress Management

For all the posts I’ve done on the subject, all the advice I’ve doled out, all the focus I’ve given it, stress remains my biggest struggle. And, from talking to lots of you guys, this is a common issue in the community. The reason why stress continues to vex us, even if we’ve come to terms with our diet, fitness, and sleep? Stressors exist everywhere and they are non-specific and often non-material. They can be anything – or anyone – and the stress that results is intangible. You can choose not to eat the cupcake, but you can’t choose not to drive to work in traffic, pay your bills, or hear the neighbors’ insanely loud music at 2 AM. I suppose you could avoid opening the envelope containing the overdue notice on your mortgage, but that’s not really managing stress. That’s actually compounding it. The problem’s not going anywhere, and it actually intensifies the longer you ignore it. The cupcake you declined? That’s it. It’s done. You’ve said “no” and it ceases to impact you. Stressors are different. They linger. There’s no easy way to deal with them or the stress they produce.

And so we must manage our stressors, we must prepare ourselves to deal with the inevitable. That can be really, really tough. Another problem with the intangibility of stress? It’s tough to know when you’re truly managing it successfully. There’s no instant feedback. Even a stress management technique as relatively concrete (in the sense of “I’m taking active steps to manage my stress”) as meditation doesn’t deliver instant results. Heck, it can take months or years of consistent practice to derive tangible benefit. So when I try to manage my stress, it’s hard to know if it’s working or not. I’m an instant feedback kind of guy. That’s how I operate best. When that feedback doesn’t materialize right away, I struggle.

How I deal: I’m still working on this one. I’ve done a bit of meditation (too formal for my tastes). I’ve tried avoidance (impossible and ultimately ineffective). What seems to work best is filling up on nature. I’ve come to realize that I can’t avoid stress. It’s there and if I want to keep doing what I’m doing, it’s unavoidable. But if I can get out into nature several times a week, preferably every day, I feel markedly better. “Nature” can mean a hike through Topanga Canyon, a few hours of standup paddleboarding, lounging on the beach, a weekend camping trip in the Sierras, or even – if I’m really desperate – a game of Ultimate Frisbee in the park. As long as I can get the grass (or sand, or dirt) between my toes and some greenery in my periphery, I can deal with the stress. It doesn’t last for long, though. I have to keep re-upping my nature intake.

Staying in the Moment

I’ll often notice my mind drifting away, mid-conversation, mid-reading-a-book, mid-watching-a-great-flick, mid-workout, mid-anything-that-deserves-full-attention. It’s not that I try to think of the post I’m writing, that meeting tomorrow, or what I’m eating for dinner that night when talking to another person. Those thoughts just drift in and seize hold of my attention. The problem is that however momentary the lapse in attention on the here and now, it’s disruptive and off-putting (especially if you’re in the midst of a conversation) and ultimately cheapens the experience of everyday life.

How I deal: I can’t avoid those thoughts, but I can stop myself from focusing on them. Lately, I’ve had success by changing how I perceive the exchange. My mind isn’t drifting to other thoughts; other thoughts are drifting into my mind, which stays in the same place. This reframing allows me to acknowledge, briefly analyze, and then ignore the incoming thoughts. They’re there, and I know it, but I don’t let them seize control of my attention. If they happen to be important thoughts with a legit claim to my attention, I can switch over. But it’s under my control, at least in theory. It seems to be working so far.

Staying Off the Phone and the Laptop When I Know I Should Be Chilling with Friends and Family

The Internet is an amazing resource offering untold delights. With a few taps on the keyboard, you’re privy to untold reams of knowledge vaster than any library, historical, fictional, or otherwise (except maybe the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – the electronic database depicted in the book of the same name, not the book itself). And it’s always growing, moving, living, responding – in real time. You don’t just read an article, you read the comment section that unfolds before you and often contains better stuff than the article itself. You don’t just read a single Wikipedia entry and then power off the computer. You start clicking links, bouncing from Roman mythology to astronomy to astrology to mythological dragons to cryptozoology to Bigfoot to famous hoaxes to the JFK assassination to Vietnam until you’ve fallen down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and emerged moderately more knowledgeable than you were before. It’s great, and that’s what makes it so irresistible and addicting.

It doesn’t help that much of my work takes place on the computer or phone, whether it’s responding to emails or taking meetings online or conducting research for blog posts. If I want to keep doing what I’m doing, I need to be connected, which makes it easy to come up with justifications for using it all the time. But I don’t need to be connected during dinner with the family. Or when out for drinks with some friends. My brain may “think” it needs to check that email or respond to that text, but I know better. Even though I “want” to grab the phone because it’s been twenty minutes since I last checked my email, I ultimately can refrain from doing so.

How I deal: This is a constant struggle, but actually physically powering the devices down when I know I shouldn’t be using them has really helped. So, if I go out to dinner, I’ll often turn my phone off. It’s there if I need it, but it’s not tempting me. If I’m at home with the family, I’ll shut my laptop down. It’s a simple and effective solution. Powering something back on is just difficult enough to dissuade you from constantly doing it on a whim.

Learning to Say “No”

I’m constantly in “go” mode, as I alluded to earlier. I’m always looking for a new experience, something bigger, something better. And the bigger MDA and the Primal community has gotten, the more opportunities I’ve had to get involved in extremely cool projects. It’s hard to say no to them, and I rarely do. There’s an innate desire, in everyone, I think, to devour new and “awesomer” experiences. It’s that very Primal part of me that just wants as much as he can get. Thousands of years ago, when the world was very small, when traveling thirty miles took an entire day (not twenty minutes) and relaying messages required physical transportation of that message (not a click of a button), we could go for every opportunity and stay grounded because, well, there weren’t that many opportunities. The number and scale of opportunities in the ancestral environment were inherently limited.

Now? Now I can get an invitation from a guy in South Africa to speed off for a safari. Now I can get fifty emails a day requesting my participation in some project or another, and most of them sound great. And because everyone’s so interconnected, and data is so widely available, and cool ideas are mating with cooler ideas, people are coming up with fascinating opportunities. It’s really, really hard to say no. But say no I must, because our bodies are still meat machines limited by physical realities.

How I deal: With the help of an assistant, I break down what I have to do, what I’ve already planned to do, and what I’d like to do, then set a “venture limit” each month based on my schedule. It isn’t perfect, but it does help keep me accountable to someone that’s not me.

Turning My Brain Off

Our brains are “us.” Quite literally, our hopes, our dreams, our personalities, our consciousness, our sense of self – they call come from the brain. With that in mind, the idea of turning off the brain is scary. I mean, won’t that kill me? Or, at the very least, reduce me to a mindless automaton? No. By “turning my brain off,” I mean “getting out of my head.” It’s important to be able to get out of our own heads from time to time and get into the instinctual “flow” state, where you are completely absorbed by your endeavors without engaging in fluffy, counterproductive metathought.

I’ve touched on the flow state before. The problem with getting to the flow state is that once you realize you’re there, it’s in danger of slipping away. It’s kind of the eternal, uniquely human struggle faced by big brained hominids: how do we reconcile the animal inside us with the intellectual? The passion and the rationality? There are nights where I keep myself up just thinking about… stuff. I’ll think about what I have to do the next day. I’ll think about what I didn’t do twenty years ago and now regret. I’ll think about all these struggles I’ve been relaying in this post. I’ll think about thinking. In short, I’ll be in my own head way too much, so much that it gets in the way of living, doing, and being.

How I deal: This is a tough one, especially since I have to use my brain to tell my brain to stay out of itself, or something. I can’t do this on cue, but I have the most success getting out of my head when I’m intensely focused on an important, interesting task. The key for me is to figure out how to do that when I’m just lying in bed.

Well, that’s what I struggle with, folks. What about you? What do you still struggle with? How do you cope, and how successful are your coping strategies? Let me know in the comments! Oh, and if you’ve got any suggestions for my struggles, I’m all ears!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Eating too much, failing to feel content with less food and just being happy with the body I have instead of striving for the body I really want. That constant feeling of failure and not measuring up to the standard. Can’t fast, can’t eat low carb, can’t drop fruit…. Feeling that I am made all wrong.

    leida wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  2. My best de-stressors are nature and music. One day at work, things were particularly stressful, both due to work and some things going on at home. Knowing about “green spaces” being good for reducing stress, and borrowing an idea from the comic strip “Rose is Rose” I final went out the back door of the office, with a cup of coffee (which relaxes me), and literally leaned up against a small tree. (Rose has a “let it be tree” that she leans on from time to time.) I literally had as much of me in contact with the tree as possible, with branches around my head and shoulders. After about 5 minutes, I was much, much calmer, and able to deal with the rest of my day. As I mentioned in an earlier post, pulling weeds in my garden is also good.

    As for music, I love hard rock. Some aggressive, pounding rhythms and vocals, and I’m a happy camper. It usually leaves me energized and in a good mood. (I like other types of music too, but my favorite genre is hard rock.) My teenage daughter on the other hand, while she enjoys hard rock as well, listening to too much of it makes her angry and depressed. The upbeat pop, especially Indie-pop that my daughter uses to get in a good mood, is often like nails on a chalkboard to me.

    b2curious wrote on July 3rd, 2013
    • Music. Yes! Pump it up in the car or dance to it in the house.

      Linda A. Lavid wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  3. I struggle with the stress thing too, I tried using different apps on my phone to help me with it but couldn’t quiet get the hang of it. Recently, in the last 2 weeks husband and I discovered a walking track near our apartment which is amazing! It’s so peaceful and different to the block of apartments we live in, so for the past week I’ve been going for a walk every morning for 30-40 minutes and incorporate my meditation into my walk, I stop and take deep breaths and enjoy the beautiful scenery. I also struggle with the ‘turning my brain off’ it feels like right as I’m about to hit the sack my mind is going a million miles an hour, I’m going to start some relaxation exercises in bed to see if that will help.

    p.s. It’s good to know you’re human too :)

    Naz wrote on July 3rd, 2013
    • The relaxation exercises should help, but they’ve got to be something that relaxes you, and you’ll need to give them time. I used to have a lot of trouble getting my brain to quiet down so that I could sleep, until I used some relaxation exercises. I found that they took several tries to even have any effect at all, but that it got better with practice. Now, I rarely use them and my husband is jealous of my ability to fall asleep in no time at all. If I lay down with my youngest, while she falls asleep, I often have to be woken up to go to my own bed, because I fell asleep before she did.

      b2curious wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  4. I try to do, eat, think, sleep, exercise, and pray, sometimes failing, and yet these shortcomings stay in perspective when I consider people who are being sold the Lie and are suffering terribly. You all have your own story. I was in a supermarket in a developing country and lining the shelves were large containers of vanaspati, touted as a healthier ghee replacement and used widely. Vanaspati is hydrogenated “vegetable oil,” ranging from 5 to 27% trans fats, depending on the manufacturer. Most people wholeheartedly believe this is saving them from heart disease and no longer use ghee. A seminar I gave provided the opportunity to add to the existing voices there in sharing the dangers of trans fats and to give an overview of healthier eating in general. Further opportunities to effect change in that country occupy my thinking in balance with everything else, which has added to greater contentment: it’s not just about “me” anymore.

    beth wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  5. Oh Mark! As a pastor and working fulltime as a tech writer and web content writer the one thing I have to change is allowing work to get in the way of workouts!

    I go through periods of slumps where I stay working thru lunches and skip my runs. I’ve tried running while working on the laptop but my keyboarding comes out looking like this:

    AOIVRvuby;av;oiy:G F:OA*W7q23834vb-

    Pastor Dave wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  6. Embrace ambiguity. Let go. Focus hard on the process to achieve the outcome…but not so much on the outcome. Be like water and flow around the rocks. Leave the mobile phone at home when you go out. Don’t use your ipod every moment on the way to work. Pay attention. Wash the dishes with the same focus as rock climbing or motorcycle riding.

    These are not hard things to describe. It takes practice. Forgive yourself for whatever you perceive to be your shortcomings and forgive others for what you perceive to be theirs. Be of good cheer. Be of good cheer. Be of good cheer.

    Tim wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  7. Mark,
    Thanks for sharing. I experience exactly the same things. My biggest notice is my inner dialogue. If I find myself composing a response (usually a speech) in my head, I know that I am not doing myself any good. Talking to someone needs to be a two way street. Any conversation I make up beforehand will not fit the situation.

    Mike Martel wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  8. Same kind of stuff for me. But the worst was the middle of the night thinking. BAD insomnia, which sets you up for failure. Great sleep being the foundation for everything. The two bits of advice that quite literally saved my life….

    Its ok to notice the “numbers” just REFUSE to do the “math”.
    (I personally do this by focusing on some benign sensation like the sound of my husband breathing- he doesn’t snore;) , I fall right to sleep.

    2. “life is so amazing and exciting and troublsome and there’s so much to think about and solve, but its important to realize that 2am is not the right time for this”. (it seems silly your say, but all you really need to do is tell yourself “STOP”. Its actually pretty easy)

    shani baker wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  9. Nature and mindfulness and knowing when to turn your brain off. You have named the 3 that help me to cope. (a) Get out in nature – take a run on a beach, or around a pond, or in the woods, or ride your bike. (b) Focus on breathing and being here now. Imagine a 30-minute guided tour of yourself from toes to head, breathing steadily through the whole thing, shutting out random thoughts. And (c) simply welcoming the chance to tell your mind to back off – it’s your mind, it’s what got you where you are now, but in this 24/7/365 news cycle world we inhabit, with constant access to technology and e-mail and i-everything, your mind doesn’t know that it, too, can take time off. Encourage it. Sweating through an hour of hard physical exercise while listening to good music, played loud, does that for me. Thanx!

    Billy C wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  10. Thank you for sharing the things you still struggle with, Mark. It’s refreshing when people can see that their health coach, nutrition expert, health guru, etc. is human – we struggle with things too. Experiencing and learning from our own personal struggles or weak spots helps us be better coaches for our clients. And I think it helps us go deeper within ourselves to figure out why we still have these struggles with things that we might like to move away from. The work is very enlightening! Wishing you comfort and ease on these things you still struggle with, Mark.

    Jocelyn Brown wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  11. Great post!

    I struggle with most of these. With the electronics, it isn’t wikipedia though… it is Stumbleupon. Such a timewaster!

    Salixisme wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  12. All these sleepless people. I was one too. My story for years sounded just like all of yours. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, computer games. Sometimes I would wake up at 2:30 and get back to sleep about 5:30 to 6:00 AM and sleep until 11:00 AM (I am retired and can do that if I want to)

    A couple of weeks ago a friend gave me a grounding/earthing 1/2 sheet. Since using it I go to sleep quickly, and stay asleep and if I do wake up I go right back to sleep quickly and now I am getting up earlier and feeling rested and great when I wake up and ready for the day. I also find my mind more clear and focused during the day. I recommend you getting informed about the sheet and/or other grounding/earthing devices and see if it might be in your best interest to invest in one of them.

    I put my sheet on the bed head to toe. Then the last few days I started sleeping on it almost in the nude and am getting faster and better results. I had some neck issues after getting an electrical shock almost 2 years ago and it had bothered me a lot and Magnesium gel helped the most, but since using this earthing sheet, my neck is a lot better and I am looking forward to when it is no longer causing me discomfort.

    I hope this does not sound like an advertisement, because it isn’t. I am just excited about how this simple tool has enhanced my life.

    Since finding Paleo and Mark’s Daily Apple 2 years ago I have lost 93 lbs and enhanced both my physical and mental health. And they say that the older you get the harder it is to loose weight. Another “Big FAT Lie”. My whole life has changed, thanks to Paleo and Mark.

    Linda D. wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  13. I always thought of meditation as “too formal” as well… and then I read Chade-Meng Tan’s “Search Inside Yourself” which turned it into a far more casual and realistic practice for me.

    Sounds like you have part of the key nailed down in that you cannot prevent thoughts from arising but rather need to accept that they are there, acknowledge them, and not feed them unless you consciously choose to do so. Same goes with the stress we create for ourselves 😉

    Marc wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  14. Thank you for a great article. I would like to mention that there is an orgie of scientific evidence documenting the effectiveness of the “TM” meditation (transcendental meditation) technique,
    -when it comes to dealing with stress. Over 600 studies, done in universities in over 60 countries, is gathered for your convenience in 6 large book volumes. Of these 600 studies, 160 are published peer-reviewed scientific journals.

    Its an effortless mental technique you practise for 15 min in the morning and evening its derived form the 7000 year old ancient vedic culture. You can learn the technique throug a 7 step process for a 1500 USD investment. Once you learn it, you can use this total badass ninja technique for dealing with stress, and other issues, for the rest of your life..I highly recommended it to anyone, this is the Rolls Royce of meditations, unlike mindfulness, and other practises, you do nothing..its without effort.. the technique calmly helps you deal with stress and other issues… You can learn TM through a standardised 7-step process, in any city throughout the civilized world.

    You write that it can take months or years to be effective when dealing with stress…in my experience with TM its more accurate to say that the effects are either imidiate, or happen within days. For severe pronged stress to be realesed it naturally takes longer.

    I think looking at TM, in the context of you story in very appropriate,. In fact the combination with TM and a primal exercise and nutritional philosophy – is nothing more than a extremely powerfull match.

    The primal philosophies make our animistic half, our bodies, work more smoothly…while TM manages the other half, the non material part…by dealing with the minds continuous mindless chatter. Its a little pricy, but its all worth it, in fact or me its worth much more:)

    Google “David Lynch + tm”, or
    “Howards Stern + tm + mother”
    for some great talks on the subject :-)

    BTW: There is one thing to read or talk about this, but it is something else to experience it, I would recommend anyone interested to make up their mind after having learnt the TM technique and experienced the meditation.


    Brede Ohnstad wrote on July 3rd, 2013
    • Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts! I agree with you all the way. For me meditation works immediate too. The best tool i have ever learned :) and it is with me anywhere :) Almost to good to be true! So simple and easy, and all these “struggles” just melts away :)

      Eline wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  15. Mark and others: my stress and anxiety has greatly diminished since I quit caffeine entirely.

    My experience is that people don’t want to admit that some stress and anxiety could be related to caffeine.

    It IS hard to give up. I quit for other reasons (money, wasteful packaging) but have been so relieved to sleep, to concentrate, and to not feel the urge to snack 24/7. Caffeine is a powerful drug. Even a little bit matters.

    Try two weeks with absolutely no caffeine (you must taper off if, so the whole test will be longer than two weeks). If you don’t see any difference, by all means, start back up. My experience is that life is a lot better without it.

    Cathy wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  16. This is going to see fairly petty, but here’s one: appetite control. I’ve found that as a 170ish-pound male with a bf% of about 10 percent, I look and feel best when I consume 2,000 calories a day or slightly fewer, even on workout days (yes, calories matter once you’ve reined everything else in). Yet sticking to that calorie prescription continues to pose a challenge. Hoping to become a little more disciplined in the years to come.

    Max wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  17. When it comes to stress, I find that there are three main categories that stress us out: people, circumstances, and uncertainty about the future.

    People can be really annoying, but there’s power in being able to forgive them and let things go. Unforgiveness is like a legal contract that you put on yourself as a promise to never ever forgive someone. We get the illusion that we’re holding that person to this contract too, but really, we’re the only one being harmed by this contract. When unforgiveness festers for years, to abolish the contract, it’s not enough to say, “I forgive you.” You have to close all the loopholes. You have to forgive the person for everything you’ve faulted them for in the situation (including how they made you feel and even unintentional harms), even if they don’t ask for forgiveness. Then you have to forgive yourself (for holding it against them, for falling for it, for annoying the person who annoyed you). I’m a Christian, so I believe the third step is to forgive God for the situation (for putting you through it, for not helping you in the way you expected, etc.). That’s the best way I’ve found to ease tensions in a lot of stressful relationships.

    Circumstances like having to pay the bills, having to write that final paper that’s due tomorrow, or a death in the family can be stressful too. Since I’m an awful procrastinator, projects stress me out a lot, but it helps me to remember that even though all kinds of circumstances HAPPEN in my life, I choose how I look at them. With projects, I can simply acknowledge that I’ve procrastinated a lot and now must do what I can to finish to the best of my ability. With deaths in the family, I can mourn for a while, but I have to choose to keep moving forward.

    As a college senior, my future is really uncertain, but everyone asks me the same question: “What are you doing after school?” The truth is, I don’t know. But I’m okay with that. So much can change from month to month, week to week, even day to day, that I can’t know what opportunities will arise between now and when I graduate. Honestly, my faith has also helped in this area because when I get stressed about my future, I can tell God about it and he hears it, keeps my concerns in mind, and reminds me that he’s got it all under control. Knowing there’s a God who listens to me and has got my back helps me to know that I don’t have to have everything perfectly set up for my future. Sometimes we have to just be okay with not knowing what our future holds. Worrying about it isn’t going to make us know any faster.

    Those are just my thoughts. I welcome any comments or questions!

    Emily wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  18. Way to put yourself out there Mark. it shows that even the most Primal/Paleo of us are simply human and are not perfect. As long as you are making strides to improve (which you clearly are) then give yourself a pat on the back for the effort. Good article!

    Chika wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  19. Great Post today. I struggle with the other side of sleeping. I fall asleep in about 30 seconds, but, once awake 2:30-4am most nights, my “monkey brain” kicks in and I can’t fall back to sleep. I get up and start my day. Oddly, I’m good until about 8:30p when I need to crash again. I think I actually need less sleep living the Primal Lifestyle. Any thoughts on this? Or advice for the early a.m. wake up?

    Denise wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  20. I, among a lot of others, also have the problem of thinking things through at bedtime. I noticed when I am active throughout the day I feel more ready for sleep and fall asleep faster!
    When I get stressed I immediately want to break down and eat ice cream and chips. It’s stupid but that’s how my family has always coped. I finally found out what helps relieve my stress that isn’t food: music, and strangely enough, shooting baskets. Learning new songs on my instruments or even just singing or humming out loud helps me to cope and it boosts my mood:) along with grabbing a basketball and dribbling and shooting it in the hoop, not to mention the fact you get to be outside in the sunshine!

    Kate H wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  21. Simple…just live everyday like it is going to be the best day you have ever had! Also, make it a point to not let anyone else ruin your great day!!!

    Mark Wolodkin wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  22. It’s comforting to know that even Mark struggles as well :) I’ve been struggling with stress and trying to keep the creative juices flowing lately, but I’ve had great success with scheduled day dreaming.

    I try to get in 30 min to an hour of book/computer/phone/text free day dreaming, prefferably in a park. This has done wonders for my anxiety and I’ve even had wonderful creative ideas pop into my head spontaneously during this time.

    Miss Grok wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  23. I Must Disagree – for which I apologize.

    What you call ‘flow’ thinking I’ve always called “going into”. It’s a natural way of thinking for me, and enjoyable because I loose all awareness of the outside world. So it can be dangerous – don’t do it while driving. Yes, it reduces or eliminates current (now) stimulus and thus prevents added outside stressors but the thought stimulus is still being added. It’s still a left-brain state and does not reduce previous or future stress. That is done only by the stopped mind in meditation. This can sometimes produce the right brain all-in-one immediacy (immanance) of everything.

    Of related interest is an older book on the 7 types of thinking (can’t find it now), saying that different people receive the majority of their stimulus through different senses; e.g sculptors through their fingers (sense of touch). And my own experiences of living in different states of consciousness (of which there are at least 7) and in which in each state a different set of stimuluses are received and overall perception is changed.

    Also “The Origin of Conscousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind” by Julian Jaynes. (First Edition preferred) and “The Life of the Mind” by Hannah Arendt.

    Sandra wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  24. Your post was great read for myself. I’m a believer in mind over matter. I was faced with a unexpected situation when I came home one day where I had to be my own hostage negotiator saving my own life. It’s amazing how much stress the human body and brain can handle or is it how we handle that stress and thought process that gets us through life? Your post came at the perfect time. One thing that has greatly helped me is deep breathing yoga. Just a few 1-2 minute moves shift my mind out of the rewind of events from that day and back onto a more relaxing positive avenue, and allows my shoulders, neck, and body to feel relief from the tension that is building up. My Motto: Stay positive and keep smiling! We are all in this together.

    Denise wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  25. I’ve never been able to sit still for formal meditation but I have always struggled with anxiety & find much help in meditative techniques, mainly breath-awareness. Breathing out very slowly, I imagine the obsessive thoughts, worries, pains or negative feelings leaving my body. Then, breathing in deeply, I focus on what I hope to gain at that moment (whether courage, peace, comfort, forgiveness, energy… whatever). It really helps!

    Also I have to put in another good word for hoop dance. Focusing on learning new tricks, moving my body every which way, all the while enjoying my favorite music– never fails to make me forget the yammering monkey mind for a while!

    Paleo-curious wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  26. Thank you for your blog. I find that Reiki is a wonderful stress reliever. If you become a Level One student you can do self-Reiki.

    I have also found “Intentional Meditation” easier during a busy day than typical meditation.

    Kim Comstock wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  27. This isn’t very profound, but a trick taught to me by a writer friend has helped me cut down my computer time quite dramatically. It happens to be very low tech. Turn off your computer. Get a paper and a pen. Put them next to your computer. Every time you think, “I’ll just Google that,” jot it down. Eventually when you allow yourself some computer time, Google away. Not only do you not need to look everything up instantly, it really isn’t good for your brain or your stress or your time management. It’s a step towards taking control, not letting technology control you.

    Siobhan wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  28. Pressure only found in three things….tyres,inflatable balloons and bottles of propane!!!!

    ashynolan wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  29. Thank you Mark. I love your work.

    I agree completely with your “forest bathing”, or indeed any connection with nature as a magnificent tool to cope with the ambient stress of modern life.

    A practical tool I was given is the cup full/cup empty approach.

    Simply draw a cup graphic on a page and place all those thing which fill your cup on the left and all those that drain it on the right.

    Allocate times to each of those activities (being real and practical) and see that your inputs must total 51% or better, or your cup will eventually become empty.

    There are always things you can’t change, but many you can immediately or in the near future.

    You can break this down into any timelines that suit (days, hours) and even using this as a plan or template for new direction is therapy within.

    Appreciate all you do and hope this little post adds value to those who read it.

    XXX Dave

    PS Working on my Primal life and have dropped 23kg this year….a few tiny bounces as life does, but the direction is solid and the journey glorious 😉

    Dave Groves wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  30. …my mind is like a steal trap…lol. I can also use my brain to “quiet” thoughts that tend to stress me. Makes me tired though. Then I sleep :)

    Jeannie_5 wrote on July 3rd, 2013
    • …meant steel trap…I think :)

      Jeannie_5 wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  31. Have you ever tested yourself for genetic mutations linked to chronic illness, like MTHFR? My whole family has a variety of autoimmune diseases, and my husband has many of the same symptoms, in addition to ADHD type symptoms. We found out recently we all have MTHFR genetic mutations, which affect the body’s methylation processes. This side effects of having this problem can be anything from ADHD/ADD to anxiety and depression, mental illnesses, allergies, autoimmune diseases, pulomary embolisms, stroke, heart attack. The effects can run the gamut. Since our whole family started on a methylfolate formula, I have personally noticed myself having less distraction, anxiety, depression, and my other family members have experienced the same. Why not run a simple genetic 23 and me test on yourself for $99 or less and see if there is an underlying cause to these struggles? Once you get your results, you can run it through a free methylation analysis on genetic genie and get an idea of what is going on with your biochemistry. By adding certain supplements or foods into your diet, you can provide what your body is not able to take in, and provide the missing cofactors or nutrients it needs to complete the biochemistry cycles that are not working very well (or in some people, not working at all.). 23 and me is helpful to see what risk factors you have for certain chronic diseases, and you can also trace your ancestry through them, which is really cool. (by the way, I am not affiliated with this company. We ran a 23 and me on my autistic child and it was the best money we ever paid, because I got to the root cause of all his health problems, and it led to the rest of us finding out we had methylation issues too.)
    My background is a mother of two children with autoimmune encephalitis and autism, and I have had autoimmune disease all my life. We suspect my husband may have also had autoimmune encephalitis as a child. I have also dealt with lyme disease in one of my children. I have never seen anything help us as much as addressing methylation and MTHFR deletion.

    RM wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  32. One strategy that has helped me slow down my brain in order to get to sleep is to mentally sound out each and every word that I’m thinking; so, instead of allowing the words to zip through my brain at lightening speed while I just get carried along from thought to thought, I force my brain to slow down by voicing, in my head, otherwise I’d disturb my spouse, the words carefully and distinctly. Oftentimes when I lose my concentration to forcibly slow my thoughts, they start zipping through again, but I just re-catch my thoughts and once again forcibly say the words slowly. Eventually it seems to force my brain to a much slower and relaxed pace and I fall asleep. It’s kind of like a “thinking in the moment” skill.

    Angela Moxham wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  33. Couldn’t agree more Mark. People need to get out into the wilderness, just as we evolved to eat a primal diet, we also evolved to live, play, hunt, gather, and everything else we humans do in the wilderness. If you truly want to get a release from modern life, go and learn some primitive life skills. Learn how to knapp flint into tools, learn how to erect a primitive shelter, learn how to make and use primitive tools and weapons. Learn how to hunt and gather for real, and then when the stresses of life become too great, just walk off into the wilderness and recharge your soul. Having this knowledge and skill also gives you a kind of freedom that is hard to describe, but it’s the knowledge that you are self reliant, that you dont need modern society and all of the bull crap that goes with it.

    John wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  34. The Power Of Now

    Dee wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  35. Thanks to Mark for another great thought-provoking post.

    A tip I find works well when I can’t shut my head off when I need to sleep:

    First make sure you’ve a way of writing down anything that’s on your mind so you can let go of it. I always keep a pen and pad right by the bed.

    Then just focus on relaxing your eyes – right deep inside your eyes and you’ll be asleep in no time. Works for me always…..

    Take care all,


    P.S. I meditate too but people are right in what they say – there is no right or wrong way but you do need to find the right way for you – all you are trying to do is relax your mind and watch your thoughts. Being aware of your thinking is all that’s required. The rest of the healing takes care of itself. I don’t believe anyone can really stop thinking, unless you’re someone with lots of servants to take care of every single stressor in life for you. And then maybe you’d worry about losing your servants……!

    Kate wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  36. Sleep, its always been a struggle for me. I’ve tried everything and still can’t stay asleep for more than a couple of hours. I do manage ok in a constant state of tiredness, but always wonder how great it must feel to have a solid nights sleep…

    Rebecca wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  37. Notice how Mark didn’t say he had troubles getting to sleep… Don’t drink caffeinated beverages, stay away from milk or chocolate at night, they can also keep you awake. Don’t eat meat or heavy stuff after 8 pm. Exercise hard during the day. Dim the lights two hours before bed. Don’t watch TV or computer/cell phone products two hours before bed. These will all help people get better sleep and get to sleep faster.

    David A. Williams wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  38. For those of you who were kind enough to give Mark some advice, feel free to now move to Roger Federer’s web site and give him some suggestions on how to improve his backhand. Next, I believe LeBron James needs help on his dunking technique :)

    George wrote on July 3rd, 2013
  39. “Our brains are us…” – this is something that may be up for debate! I recently read that scientists have not found anywhere in the brain that decision making takes place. So if our brains don’t make decisions, what part of us does? I’m thinking it’s our life force, and that this life force is what we are connecting with when we ‘turn off’ the brain as Mark describes in this article.

    Ellane wrote on July 3rd, 2013

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!