I’m a Quitter

It’s official. As of Saturday, I will officially be a non-smoker.

I’ve been smoking on and off since I was 16, and while I’ve quit before, it’s never lasted more than a few years. I think a big reason for that is because smoking becomes such a satisfying routine.

And goodness knows that I thrive on routines.

So I’ve been thinking about quitting for a while now, but I’ve been having trouble doing the actual, you know, quitting part. I’ve been slowly decreasing the number of cigarettes that I smoke a day, but I’ve hit a bit of a wall. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to quit, but I was having what I think of as motivation issues.

Until last Saturday, that is. Since then, I’ve had tons of motivation.

I’m having surgery in July, and since it involves grafts, the surgeon requires me to not smoke. Fun fact: smokers have a 20% more chance of graft rejection than nonsmokers, which is good enough motivation for me to push through the discomfort and just quit.

Back to the routines. I smoke at specific times of day, every day. The act of smoking is so closely tied with things like eating meals and leaving the house that I have trouble separating the two. These sorts of activities are transitional, and that’s an Executive Dysfunction thing that I really struggle with.

So, the struggle begins to find replacement activities! After much consulting and debating, I’ve got a plan that I think will work. I’m going to use both distraction and sensory replacement to keep myself honest. Enter my Gameboy and coffee flavored hard candy. Instead of smoking before meals, I’ll take 5-10 minutes and play a game (Mario-kart and Mario party, mostly) and suck on hard candies to fulfill the oral fixation.

I’m not sure how this is all going to go. It looks good on paper, but goodness knows that changing routines is far more difficult than it should be, at least for me.

Wish me luck, and please excuse any rant-y posts while I adjust to all the changes!

P.S. If you’ve ever quit smoking and you have any tips, please let me know!

Executive Dysfunction: Bullet Journal

Executive Dysfunction has plagued me for my entire school life. I was terrible at taking notes because I couldn’t discern what was important, so I spent all my time trying to write down everything, and I constantly missed deadlines because even though I had a planner, I got overwhelmed when I tried to organize it. In college, I relied heavily on my wife to help me make schedules, check my notes, proofread my assignments, and to be my tech guru, because I’m awful at navigating anything electronic. Even though I’ve finish school, I still struggle with Executive Dysfunction type things. We usually have three calendars running at any given time, and I need constant poking and prompting to get me to transition between activities. This bothers me. I want to be productive. I want to be independent. This year, I think I got lucky, in the most sideways of ways. I’ll give you a hint. Instagram.

One day a post came across my feed, a picture of something I’d never seen before, a planner that was anything but a planner. Thank god for tags. I found out that this thing I’d seen was called a Bullet Journal, and so began the week of inhaling any and all things Bullet Journal related. It turns out that the Bullet system had been set up a few years before as a productivity system, but, over time, people had started using the basic framework to create custom planners/trackers/calendars/art pages. I thought well, I like stationary, I like doodling, and I want so badly to be organized, why not give it a shot? It took some trial and error for me to come up with a system that worked. That wasn’t a surprise but was what a surprise was that I actually enjoyed the process of trying, as I’m usually hesitant to try something that I’m not sure will work.

I’d like to show you some of the things that work for me, and provide you with some resources for if you’d like try it for yourself. This post is going to be a bit picture heavy, but in this case, a picture is worth at least 100 words.

This is an example of my weekly spread. I use the same basic structure and decorate according to the Theme Week topic. Each day is divided into three, the bottom section is for appointments and such, the middle strip gets colored in according to my mood, and the top one, the most important one, is my priorities box. When I have a lot of things to do, I get very stressed, because I feel like I need to do them ALL, right now! And that’s not doable, no matter how much sleep I sacrifice. So, to combat this, every day, I get to prioritize 3 things. Those are the ones that I’m allowed to stress about. Once those are done, anything else I get done is a bonus. This system works surprisingly well for me, and has definitely lowered my stress levels!

My BINGO card is something that my Occupational Therapist and I came up with. In an effort to help me move between tasks, and to do more with my days, we decided to make things a little more fun. And also, with a bit of a monetary incentive. The activities are split between fun stuff, like reading and playing guitar, things that I enjoy, but sometimes need an incentive to do, and household chores. It works beautifully because when I’m lying on the couch playing with my phone, I don’t always want to move, but the idea of getting to mark things off on my BINGO cards can get me moving!

One of the cooler things I think I’ve done is my self-care Mind Map. I don’t know about you, but for me, self-care doesn’t come naturally, and if figuring out what to do takes any effort whatsoever, it’s probably not going to happen. So here, I have a number of different categories, with a few suggestions for each, in an effort to take any work out of the process. I know I’m happier and less stressed when I’m practicing self-care, so making a shortcut page was totally worth it!

Trackers are one of the coolest things about Bullet Journals! At least in my opinion. I really like getting to see data trends over time, and knowing that I won’t get to color in my tracker is a good incentive for doing things. Are you seeing a trend here? Getting me to do anything requires extensive bribery. Trackers are great because you can track anything you want, and they can be weekly, monthly, or even yearly!

I’ll leave you with some resources, in case any of this seems interesting. I’m always around to answer questions if you’ve got them, and I’d love to see anything you create!

My Bullet Journal Instagram

How To Bullet Journal

http://bulletjournal.com

Bullet Journal Supplies

Is Bullet Journaling Right For Me?

Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My Bullet Journal

Instagram Tags: bulletjournal, bujo, bulletjournaljunkies

Executive Dysfunction: Theme Weeks

Once upon a time, nine months ago, when my little blog was littler and newer, I put up a page called Theme Week Outlines. At the time, I was transitioning out of an Eating Disorder Intensive Outpatient Program, which kept me busy 3 hours a day, 4 days a week. I don’t do well with transitions in general, and especially ones that leave me with a sudden lack of structure. So my team and I started brainstorming ways that I could keep some semblance of structure while I moved to outpatient care. We discussed volunteering, which at that time wasn’t really doable, seeing that I wasn’t handling new situations very well at the time. We tried to plan out a very structured hour by hour schedule, sort of like what I was used to in Residential care, but it didn’t really work well with my home life. Finally, we hit on something that worked. The idea of giving each week a Theme.

And so Theme Weeks were born. After assigned the theme, I had the very enjoyable challenge of finding four activities that fit within it. An outing (which forced me to leave the house), a food (which challenged me to cook, and to try to things), a craft (which was just plain enjoyable, honestly) , and a sensory project (which can really hard, once you get past slimes and doughs and water beads. Also, most sensory tutorials out there are aimed at toddlers).

It was a little rough at the beginning. I over-planned. I overestimated my abilities. I picked recipes that were too hard or ones that were impossible to succeed at. Remind me to tell you about my Vampire Teeth cookie debacle some time. I did eventually get into a good flow.

Very cool Theme Weeks have included Inside Out Week, Weather Week, Lego Week, Batman Week, and Knitting Week. Batman and Weather Weeks produced some very cool art, during Inside out and Knitting week we had very cool Cake Ball based recipes, and during Lego Week I put together an awesome AT-AT that now lives on my desk.

What makes Theme Weeks work for me is kind of threefold. I’ve come to find the planning really enjoyable, even if it’s turned me into a Pinterest fiend. Interestingly my Theme Weeks board gets a lot of hits! It gives structure to my week, without forcing me to plan out every single thing that I do. So some structure, but not too much structure. It’s a delicate balance for me. Lastly, I get to spend time with my wife (because she likes these activities as much as I do) and I get to produce things that I’m proud of! Sometimes being unemployed can eat at your self-esteem, but when I successfully make art that can hang on our walls, food I can share with friends, and crafts that fulfill my sensory needs, it makes me feel really good.

I would highly suggest some version of theme weeks for Executive Dysfunction. Having a small pool of activities to choose from means that I’m a lot more likely to be able to pick one. Also, after a few successful weeks, getting myself to get started on an activity is a lot easier, because I know I’ll feel good after doing it. I’ve also found that after using the Theme Weeks as training wheels for planning, I’ve been able to expand my new skills to be more successful at trying non-theme week situations.

So give it a try! The Theme Week page is up at the top, with some descriptions, along with a PDF of the planning page I use. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, and if you end up with any interesting Themes or Activities, I’d leave to hear!

P.S. Is it just me, or does Theme Week not look like words anymore?

Executive Dysfunction

If you were to ask me to pick the most autistic thing about myself, it would probably be a tie between sensory issues and executive dysfunction. Unlike the sensory stuff, which I’ve always known I experienced differently than other people, I had never heard of executive dysfunction until about two years ago, when I was pursuing a formal diagnosis. I had always thought I was lazy and unorganized, and an A+ procrastinator until the psychologist interviewing me started asking me all of these questions about how I learned, and how I retained information, and how I motivated myself, and after about 20 more minutes worth of questions, she informed me that I exhibited signs of Executive Dysfunction. Which I promptly went home and googled, because those aren’t two words you hear together very often. After inhaling everything the Internet had to offer, I was immediately relieved. I wasn’t lazy. ‘Smart but lazy’ had basically been my go-to identity for most of my life, but I had no reservations setting it aside. After a week of basking in my new ‘not lazy’ personality, I realized that not being lazy was great, but now that I had a word for what was wrong with me, I should probably figure out what to do about it.

Oh, and do something I did. Many somethings, in fact. More than would be humane to tell you about in one post. So my plan is to break it down into a few posts. The first one, you may have seen on the blog already, it’s a page called Theme Week Outlines, and it was one of the first things we tried, and it’s still going strong! I also plan to include a post of Executive Dysfunction Hacks, a post showing how I use my Bullet Journal to keep myself calm and organized and post talking about how having 3 whiteboards for calendars, lists, and reminders is definitely not too many. I’m slowly learning how to do executive dysfunction things on my own, but I’ve got to give credit to my wife, Jess, for enduring years of questions about how she breaks things down into steps, and how she makes lists, and what do you mean she can decide she wants to do something and just do it?!

I’m hoping to spread these posts out over the next month or two, so as not to inundate you with all executive dysfunction all the time. If there is any interest, I may host an Ask An Executive Dysfunction Superstar type thing where Jess can answer all your weird and random questions. Because I swear, I have never met anyone (not even my occupational therapist!) who is more creative about this sort of problem-solving. So please, come pick her brain!