The symptoms and conditions we suffer from are not usually constant, or at least they vary in intensity. When is my worry diminished? When is my pain more intense, or of a different quality? It’s hard to study these things because when I suffer, I am less motivated and less focussed. On the other hand, figuring out these variations may be the toehold or wedge to making changes. Here are a few ideas and suggestions to get more of a grip (and perhaps more self control.)
Seasons of Change
There are recurrent cycles which don’t grab our attention unless we look for them. Seasonal variations in up or down moods are common. During winter, just opening the curtains or shades first thing in the morning may dispel sad moods and apathy. Hormonal changes in the several days before menses can cause irritability not only in the person but in significant others. Weekend use of alcohol or caffeine can prevent restorative sleep (inefficient synapses) and interfere with feeling good the next day.
Keeping a diary or brief daily checklist or chart can show patterns as you review it once a week. Being aware of holiday patterns, travel stresses, family visits, or anniversaries of a period of suffering can all help to predict increased risk. Just being aware of the risk is a self control measure.
Bringing It into Focus
The ability to focus and pay attention (along with positive or negative feelings) will change depending on
- Who you are with
- The task before you
- The time of day
- Your biological drives (hunger, sex, fatigue, security).
And all the other things ahead of you that your brain is busy anticipating on its own. Yes, your brain is always 100% busy doing the best it can to get you into the future successfully. My intended audience for these posts are my patients and anyone potentially interested in improving self control.
Just showing up is said to be a key to doing well. Regular psychiatric checkups to identify brain risks is usually helpful, like annual physical exams or periodic blood pressures. If you are seeing a psychiatrist or therapist, and if you trust him or her, some periodic check, even once a year, is likely to help you spot things like cycles and variations which will assist you in controlling your future.