June 2021 Status Update: A Tinkerer’s Guide

It’s June! As we move into the warmer months, I’ll be talking about Sustainability in July and in August I will be taking a month off to relax. This month will be relatively tame with most likely a poem and will be used to plan out my articles for next month.

Mental Health Awareness Month

This year was a pivot away from some of the darker topics. Instead, I’ve opted for the articles to be more story driven in nature and focused on concepts, reminiscent of my older articles when I discussed business terminology in the context of my life. I’ve written some great articles on my personal life and personal strife but it’s time for a change. I scrapped a couple drafts this month in favor of talking about social media, meditation, and anxiety. Anxiety I enjoyed writing about and I’d like to keep it that way. I’m comfortable talking about my fathers alcoholism but that had a time and place. I was able to make sense of his world and any more on the subject would be to dwell; a road I don’t feel inclined to walk down. I had a draft for an article talking about the passing of my father but ultimately left it unpublished and unfinished. I thought writing about his death might reveal some hidden knowledge much as writing about his alcoholism helped me come to terms with my reality, but it didn’t. The fact of the matter is death is death and I was with him in the end. In the end, I chose love over bitterness. If I do bring it up, it’ll be here or there but I have a strange sense of peace with the whole situation, a peace I didn’t have a year ago. The toughest aspect has been an underlying exhaustion which could be symptomatic of mild depression; understandable given the trauma I’ve endured. I wrote a poem at the end of April and that felt more a fitting send off then the cold calculus of an article.

Special Series and other Joys

I’ll be making a slight adjustment to my series; instead of a post a week, I’ll be doing three for a given month. Four a month was an arbitrary number, based solely on the fact that I thought it’d be cool to write every week of a month. Three a month is more manageable and gives me more time to work should I have to re-edit an entire article (which happens more often then you’d think). I might make other changes as I continue to write special series but for now I’m happy with making this small adjustment. I’ve started initial work on creating a podcast and while nothing may come of it, I’m in the process of drafting the script for my first episode. I have no idea what I’m doing but I want a hobby where I can actively practice public speaking, much as I’ve done with writing.

Goodbye Social Media

As you may have noticed, the Twitter feed is gone from the blog! I’ve had a lot of time to think about the internet during the Pandemic and I have deemed social media unworthy of my time. Since writing my mental health article, I reinstalled and uninstalled various social media apps; I now have none on my phone. If people need to get in touch, texting is the way to go. I want the blog to reflect this choice and not create stress through a constant feed. The blog is healthy as it is with organic traffic and while I might still use social media sites from to time, I long for the day where I can be free, or at least, for social media to be better. I’ll most likely write about social media more as the years progress, however, I’m looking to make improvements from my mental health article. Mostly, I’ll emphasize the positive benefits of quitting rather than focus on the dystopian nightmare social media is.

Outside of the blog

A career is weighing heavily on my mind. I’ve worked a job but not a career. I’m frustrated that when I invest in an action, there is no payoff. What I mean by this is, for example, my brother is an artist. He can go out and take photos because he thinks something is of interest. He can then take those photos and use those as reference for his work. His hobbies lead to his craft and he gets that satisfying burst of fulfillment. I do not have that luxury at the moment. Writing I enjoy but that’s where the buck ends. In the intangible sense, it’s great, I can craft narratives and work on my communication. Conveying voice in writing is not easy and yet, my writing becomes more distinct the more I write. It’s a fun bit of trivia, a quirk to mention in passing. Yet, with Management as my field of study, it can be a difficult sell. I’m not writing articles as a Manager, Sales Rep, or any numerous fields attributed to Management. And thus, a lack of fulfillment ensues. A framework I’m adopting is I have not quite found a job where I can directly apply what I enjoy doing in my free time. Learning to code feels far from home and while the dots might connect to business, they do not connect easily. Hence, a lack of fulfillment and a wave of misery that follows. The dream is to learn web development as a starting point but often it can feel as though I’m throwing effort into the void. Or it could be simply a dark shadow cast by depression, a lack of meaning brought about by tragedy. Who knows!

But…

The blog is healthy and I’m building it around the future work I’ll eventually do. That means a month off in August, three articles instead of four when writing special series, and a steady stream of status updates that are essentially my newsletter. This is my little piece of the internet and I’m going to hold onto it. No update next month but get ready for articles on sustainability! August off should be nice! That’s all I have and feel free to comment below; I am always open to feedback!


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Meditation Evolved, a Musing into new methods and techniques: Mental Health Awareness Month 2021

As I’ve drafted this article, I’ve thought about what I want to cover and how I want to cover it. I’ve written about meditation in the past, an article covering 9 months of meditation and my thoughts on making it a regular practice.

With the Pandemic this last year, I set a goal to meditate consecutively for an entire year, a goal that I will have reached as of publishing this article. This year I wanted to dive deeper into my practice and go beyond simply taking time out of each day to inhale and exhale.

In college, I meditated sporadically whenever I was feeling stressed as a way to cope beyond journaling and exercise. It felt like a missing piece to a puzzle that I couldn’t quite solve. 5 minutes a day was not a long time and time I gladly spared to slow life down and breathe.

Since 2019, I’ve suffered from terrible anxiety. Panic attacks that led to me freezing and the cause as of yet, I do not know. And then, the Pandemic hit. My stress was through the roof, so I decided to try meditation again and this time see what could be with daily practice. 5 minutes became 10 minutes and 10 minutes became 20 with seemingly no fuss dedicating the extra time to just be with myself. I’ve tried 30 minutes based off of studies but 20 minutes is adequate for most of my needs.

I feel better and my anxiety, to my knowledge, is lessened. There are breathing techniques to calm to help with sleep and there are others that help manage anxiety and ultimately dispel it altogether. Whenever I’m stressed, I tell myself to breathe.

At the moment, I’m currently exploring the lessons on Headspace, craving knowledge of what meditation can be. Headspace recently released a Netflix special and it helped quantify and refine my methods.

For the first time in my life this last year, I’ve started having conversations about meditation with my friends, having previously thought I was relatively unique in the interest. While my friends are new to meditation, I’m happy to see that mental health is becoming a topic at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

A couple weeks ago, I finally reached the 365 day milestone, solidifying meditation as the longest continuous habit I have ever done. A year of my life spent, breathing and learning, it honestly feels great.

My life at the moment is extremely chaotic. My mood shifts from hope to despair from day to day and my anxiety prevents a lot of the complex goals I’ve set for myself from being completed. I’ve started running again but meditation has proven the strongest for calming myself. This May, take time for yourself and remember to breathe. The world is in chaos, so it’s imperative that we slow it down for ourselves. Look inward and start with 5 minutes. Listen to the sounds around you and simply note thoughts that arise. This is the year for looking inward.

A tale in wellness: ASMR

Story Time!

Let me set the scene. The year was 2017 and I had recently graduated College. To Celebrate I took a break and during this break I rekindled my love for watching streamers on Twitch. If you want to watch a great streamer, I recommend DizzyKitten. Regardless, the unexpected happened. She decided one day to do “ASMR”. Years ago my friend had mentioned how “ASMR” had helped him with his anxiety when I asked him if he knew of ways to cope with stress. I said “interesting” and thought nothing more of it. So when Dizzy started, I said, “Why not”? And my God, I’m glad I stayed.

What is it?

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) coined in 2010, is the term used to describe a sensation of tingles triggered throughout the brain when listening to certain sounds. Done in a whisper, it can be very off-putting at first. Everyone experiences tingles a little differently and some, not at all. For me, it’s as if I can feel the neurons firing in different spots of my brain and it creates a sensation that feels as if my brain is being wrapped in a blanket. That sensation slowly trickles down my spine and creates an intense sense of calm. It’s cozy and intimate.

Types of ASMR

ASMR is both an audio and visual experience. ASMR cannot exist without sound. However, visuals can be used to enhance the overall experience. As such, many ASMR artists choose to do role-plays to create a certain atmosphere. This can be anywhere from getting your ears cleaned to getting a haircut. On the surface, it seems beyond bizarre. However, when you watch the videos, you realize it’s no different than if you were to go to the barber yourself. Most ASMR, however, is simply experimentation with different sounds. Some artists choose to create a spectacle while others do not. Another form is to have a stage and have an audience in real life. These experiences are similar to a play. The performances start with sound and visuals, then dive in for what cannot be experienced through video; touch. While not as common and definitely not for everyone, I still thought they were worth mentioning.

How does ASMR compare?

There are many ways to cope with anxiety and stress. Journaling, writing, meditation, exercise, and tension relief (i.e. Stressballs) just to name a few. The closest ASMR comes to these techniques is meditation. Meditation alters the mind by creating a sense of calm through deep breathing and tension management. Meditation is a way to hit the reset button and can overwhelm at times (managing thoughts can be tricky). ASMR is different in the sense that someone else is in the driver’s seat. The mindfulness ever so present from meditation dissipates and you are left to feel. There’s no work involved and you just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Why does ASMR work?

There are differing thoughts as to why ASMR creates the sensations it does. One explanation is that the whispering stimulates an innate response similar to that of a parent nurturing a child. The whispering and eye contact fulfill the role of the caretaker, creating the intense feelings one experiences through ASMR.

Another Theory is that ASMR fulfills the innate need to connect with one another. ASMR plays with our senses in a way that leaves us vulnerable. This could explain why some are so uncomfortable with ASMR at first.  The whispering creates intimacy and because it is often a stranger, the brain might be sending signals to approach with caution.

Personally, I think we are simply hardwired to enjoy sound. Human beings are empathetic and caring creatures. If sound didn’t matter to us, there would be no use in creating music let alone knowing how. I think ASMR triggers receptors in our brain that are linked to joy (dopamine) and reaffirm our natural rhythm.

Benefits of ASMR

At the time of writing this article, the benefits of ASMR are anecdotal. ASMR has only just recently started gaining traction as a legitimate form of mental health management. It has come a long way since 2008, going from being classified as a “pseudoscience” to something that might warrant further research. As such, all I can speak to is the benefits I have perceived.

I use ASMR primarily at night. Sometimes I watch and other times I simply listen. It’s been about 4 or 5 months of listening almost every night. And I’ve noticed myself falling asleep faster and feeling better rested. While I am under a lot of stress at the moment, ASMR has seemingly an instantaneous effect to quell my anxiety, which is fascinating as I use every other technique at my disposal.  Only recently have I started listening to ASMR during the day and it appears to have the same effect. If you want a quick fix to anxiety that requires no effort on your part, ASMR works like a miracle.

An unintended benefit of ASMR is it has made me more aware of every day sounds. The trickle of water seems more intense, birds singing, the wind blowing, etc. It’s absolutely wonderful.

Another benefit I’m experimenting with is that of listening in a foreign language. As such, I mostly listen to ASMR in Spanish. I’m curious as to if the accents and foreign language will make me more accepting overtime. I’m already as progressive as they come, so it’d be interesting to see the effect on individuals a tad more closed minded than myself (trying not to say that in a condescending way).

Getting Started With ASMR

If this article has peaked your interest, feel free to click on the links I’ve selected below. The first two links are my favorite ASMR videos and the third is the artist I listen to on a regular basis. A quick note before you dive in: ASMR is best experienced with headphones and I wouldn’t recommend listening without them. That is all, enjoy!

#Triggered – First Link

Sound God – Second Link

Tu hablas Español? – Third Link

Research

Information on ASMR is scarce and therefore most of my research was done through experience. However, the podcast “Twenty Thousand Hertz” had a great segment on ASMR and a NYtimes article referenced the “WhisperLodge” which is where I found the information on the Live ASMR performances.


This was an extremely fun topic to research. It also took quite a while to get right. If you enjoyed this article, consider buying me a cup of coffee! Your donation will help me keep afloat and ensure that I can keep producing great content on a consistent basis. For just $3 a post you can help save a Mike Cole in need and ensure he lives a happy and fulfilling life.

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