Debra Swersky
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Journal

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Review Your Notes

Oftentimes I hear something that I know is important, write it down, understand it, but don’t really hug-it-out with the information until it becomes useful to me. This happened to me a lot when I was taking classes at Babson College and was part of the reason that I a) liked Babson’s curriculum and b) got so much value out of the Evening MBA program. 

When I was accepted to Binghamton University for my undergrad my grandmother was very excited for me and left me with three words of advice: “review your notes.” At the time, I thought it was super odd advice (because she hadn’t ever really given me advice before), but I accepted the suggestion as the gold standard (because she’s my grandmother) and to this day always take and review notes. 

On the topic, in my daily meditation practice with Headspace I often hear the same concepts presented in different ways. As a listener, this is helpful to further clarify the finer points of meditation. It helps that I’ve also subscribed to ZenHabits for the past couple of years where Leo reiterates a lot of the concepts in his writing. As we all know, I’ve struggled quite a bit with meditation and am still “hugging it out” with Headspace. During my struggle, however, my mentor, provided her wisdom and clarity to me when she shared Deepak Chopra’s quote that I wrote down, but didn’t really understand at the time (it just sounded interesting):

An emotion is a thought with a feeling attached to it. 

This past week Andy (from Headspace), Leo, Deepak, and I hugged-it-out. I’m talking about stress - life, family, holiday, general craziness. You name it, I’m feelin’ it, everyone’s talkin’ about it, and we’re all trying not to be. But, I learned this week that trying not to be stressed is a fast way to becoming more stressed…! It didn’t make sense to me when I heard it the first time, but it’s like trying not to think of a big pink elephant when you hear the words “big pink elephant.” It’s all you can think about and it’s all you will think about, if you’re thinking about it. 

Stress is two-fold. One, the thought. And two, the feeling. The thought is your identification of a feeling: stressed, frustrated, upset, angry, etc. The feeling is your physical response to the thought and becoming a part of it: stiff shoulders, sore back, whatever. 

There are three ways that I’m learning about to handle stress:

  • Identify the feeling as a thought that you’re having and not becoming a part of it. (Kind of hard to do… takes a lot practice… #headspace) 
  • Recognize that the thought that you’re having (“this is frustrating”) comes from a desire that you have for something to be unlike what it actually is: your expectation vs. reality. (Can someone do a [insert code gesture here] when they find me in this situation? Please!)
  • Focus on the feeling (i.e. stiff shoulders or sore back) and not the thought… because your mind can only focus on one thing at a time… and thinking about the thought won’t get you to calm down. (Deepak, you’re a genius.)

I guess my grandmother was onto something. Good thing I’ve been in the habit of reviewing my notes.

Debra Swersky