In a previous post, I wrote about the STP (Stop Think Plan) tool I was introduced to that gets me to actively think through something that isn’t working. I have personalized this tool to WWWB (Dub-Dub-Dub-B), a play on WWJD and also what I feel to be a more lighthearted and positive version of this tool. I almost feel that it could be “Hmm…WWWB” actually, but I suppose that depends on the particular context. (I am picturing myself in a rare moment of extreme frustration and saying WTFWWB?!?😉) My brain doesn’t like anything jarring, which is why the stop sign didn’t work, so this is more subtle and can be seamlessly integrated into my thought processes with either an external or internal trigger. It also slyly bypasses the thought of “I can’t” and goes right to a more constructive problem solving path. I’m sure many self-help books have some version of this already and it’s nothing new; however, my using this tool to analyze how the tool works for me and renaming it has both helped me to plant the seed deeper into my brain for future use and also is an real world example of using WWWB successfully. My neuropsychologist will be proud to hear her tool is working! I’ve also been feeding her usability nuggets and we had a brief discussion on Speaking the User’s Language. She’ll appreciate this is an example of me making the tool more user-friendly for my brain. 👏👏👏
This morning I believe I had my first successful application of my STP tool and I am stoked. I have been in a bit of a slump with my brain not doing a whole lot and being extremely fatigued overall. I haven’t been able to watch anything that requires too much attention, so that means lots of SVU and things like Botched or Survivor. I also haven’t been able to read much of anything for almost 2 years. I don’t know if this is because of my vision, my information processing, long term radiation effects, seizure effects or some combination of these. Regardless, it has bummed me out that my pile of books hasn’t been touched for quite a long time. Yesterday I actually picked up that last book that I had been reading and attempted to take a look at the things I had underlined or marked already to get myself up to speed to start reading again. It was pretty clear almost immediately that nothing was entering my brain. I was reading the words and saying them internally, but there was nothing being retained. I was extremely disheartened by this.
I have learned by experience that I need to do something 3 times to be sure I understand the experience. If the first 2 times are the same, the third will confirm the experience. If the first 2 times are different, the 3rd will tell me whether to trust the first or second OR to be aware that each time may be a different experience altogether. That prepares me for moving forward. So this morning was attempt number 2.
I decided to prioritize it in the morning when my brain is most with it. I once again tried to read some of the notes that I had marked from the previous reading. Then I remembered something I learned years ago! Prior to my brain tumor, I had read a book on the relationship between exercise and the brain. The book was Spark by John Ratey. One of the main takeaways from the book was the impact of cardio on the brain’s ability to learn and perform. I remember one study that assessed gym class at the beginning of the day and found that students had improvements, especially after cardio specifically. This book was a huge influence on me after my brain surgery and my focus on doing all that I can to help my brain. I have focused on cardio and yoga for the last 5 years for my brain health.
After reading a few pages this morning, seeing some things that were familiar from yesterday, and remembering Spark, I hopped onto my mini-trampoline rebounder and bounced around for 10 minutes before I sat down to read a little bit. Initially, it felt like I was able to do more than yesterday, so I’m optimistic. My plan moving forward is to bounce a little bit before I want to read. I’m wondering if reading aloud might also be a useful strategy, as that gets more of my overall brain working and may in turn make it take in the information just al little bit easier…And even if it doesn’t work, I’ve tried something, I’m getting in more cardio, and I feel like I’m DOING something.
In my first neuropsychology therapy session on handling neuro-fatigue, I learned a tool to Stop-Think-Plan and as my therapist was explaining it to me, my brain was totally fixated on STP being Stone Temple Pilots. I was a 90s kid, that is what STP means to me…unless I see it on a vanity license plate I suppose, then I would think STOP.
The concept makes perfect sense. In order to be proactive about my neuro-fatigue, more conscious self-monitoring can help me figure out when I’m doing things inefficiently and I can learn to auto-correct. My problem is that my human factors brain wants things to be simple and user-friendly from the get go and if I don’t perceive them to be, I go into redesign mode immediately and have a hard time paying attention to the content of the discussion. I have the feeling that I might be an unintentional pain in the ass patient as we move forward. First, it drove me a little crazy that the STP handout was in almost all italics so they weren’t used for emphasis. Second, I found the stop sign concept to be too jarring for my brain for a mental tool that I want to become an automatic helpful tool. I’ve been thinking of another picture that could be the visual representation of this tool. Perhaps the STP sticker or maybe I’ll just put pictures of Scott Weiland around my apartment as my reminder. It’s not like he’s hard to look at anyway. From now on when I see a picture of Scott Weiland, it will be my mental trigger to take a break and ask myself:
-What am I doing?
-What was my original goal?
-Could something else work better?
I just realized I can have auditory representations of the tool as well. I will add some STP songs to my playlists so that they can also be mental triggers. Dual coding my STP triggers into multiple sensory systems. Go brain!