Saturday Blueprint on Stress Sick

A reflection a year on from having a breakdown and how I have changed in response to this.

Saturday Blueprint on Stress Sick
Photo by Tianhao Wang / Unsplash

Hi 👋. Here is this week's Saturday Blueprint.

🤔 Quote I’m thinking about

The responsibility of any creator is to do the work, not judge it. Your job is to fall in love with the process, not grade the outcome. — James Clear

It’s back to that systems thinking approach again - focus on the systems and the process (which you can control), and not on the goals or outcomes (which you can’t control). It is also a useful reminder, to me at least, that I should keeping creating (in my case writing) because it’s a process that helps me think, explore ideas, and challenge myself.

🤕 Stress Sick

A year ago I had a break down. I couldn’t face going in to work. I was burnt out. I broke under the strain. And I completely broke. It was like a branch snapping in two; one minute in one piece, the next just splinters and incompleteness. In fact I cried heaving cries as I filled in the online mental health questionnaire for my GP, completely losing it when I got to the question “do you ever feel like you are letting your family or children down”…. “Yes… all the time…”.

Things got worse before they got better. The guilt of being off from work. Letting my family down. Good for nothing. Can’t even hold himself together. All that negative self talk.

But I walked through the breakdown. “If you’re going through Hell, don’t stop, keep going”. I laid my soul bare on Dartmoor. Walking, walking, walking. I came to a river, and plunged in. And let the pain of the cold take my screams away. I lost myself completely. The cold taught me acceptance. Walking cleared the fog from my head.

So what has changed since then? At work, externally, nothing. It’s the same environment. The same external stressors.

But internally, with me, everything has changed. I realised I am not a victim, but the architect of my life. I regularly reflect now to make sure I am healthy, and I mean healthy in the broadest sense: physically, emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually.

I have taken many practical steps and continue to do so. It led to developing my own “life cartography” approach - mapping out my life and all its areas so that I have systems and habits and metrics that mean I can be the best I can be, and not get so lost again.

The choice of the word “cartography” is important. Cartography means:

Cartography: the practice of making and using maps

Life is a continual practice of making a remaking a map of your life; something to refer to for direction, to show the way, to visualise how the elements of your life are related.

Map: A map is a symbolic depiction emphasizing relationships between elements of some space, such as objects, regions, or themes.

For me, my life map is an alignment between life accounts (marital, physical, vocational etc), and my habits, metrics, goals, and areas of interest. Overarching all of this is my values and my purpose.

I deeply realised the importance of journalling - that time each day to reflect. I recognised that habits aligned to my values will move me slowly in the direction I want to go. I noticed that personal metrics allowed me to spot trends and intervene. I observed that physically health is inextricably linked to mental health.

Ultimately it was a bump in the road and I am on a journey, and still am. I could summarise the key difference with the word “awareness”. Now I am aware of the second order affects of overextending myself. I’m aware of the toll work might have on family life. Is everything perfect now? Of course not, but I’m a different person compared to this time last year. I’m grateful for the tribulation and the opportunity  it presented to learn about myself, and, hopefully, to grow.

Talking and sharing helped and continues to help me a great deal, so if anyone ever wants to talk about anything I’m an ear.

🐂 Eating Animals

In Saturday Blueprint 16 on Suffering I mentioned the survival TV show ‘Alone’ and how this is an excellent example of how understanding and meaning can come from suffering. That was the mental side of the show. There is also the physical or practical side of the show which is the mechanics of how they actually survive in the wilderness. What they eat predominately.

And it is abundantly obvious that we need to hunt and eat meat and fish to survive. Foraged plants make up a small proportion of their calorie intake. In other words, you can’t win Alone by being a vegan.

This is an extreme survival situation of course, but it’s also our history, our roots. It’s our story. Hunting, fishing, trapping, and ultimately eating animals (and fish) is written in the prequel to our current existence.

We are omnivores and my evolutionary take on it is that we need to eat animals for optimum health, because that it most aligned with our natural diet. And more than that, animals need to make up the bulk of our calories.

I found this keto/paleo/animal-based food pyramid which summarises how I eat based on evolution and optimal health.

Now, I have no issue with anyone eating however they choose to eat, but this is my view, my lens and my practice.

💍 Cool finds

A quick list of things I've read or found this week that I want to share.

It’s a pleasure writing to you. Have a great week. 😊

About the Saturday Blueprint

The Saturday Blueprint is a weekly newsletter every Saturday on health, vitality and philosophy by Nick Stevens.

Join the Facebook page to interact with the community.