Rough week, in a first-world-problems sort of way. Upgraded my Macbook Pro to a 1T internal SSD. Restoring from my SuperDuper backup didn’t work, so I had to install macOs Sierra and migrate. That meant no more support for my old M-Audio Firewire 1814 audio interface. No problem, I’ll order a Focusrite 18i20, a great piece of gear with great reviews, and documented to fully support Sierra. Got it Fedexed, unboxed the beautiful thing, spent half a day unplugging and replugging my rack (and lots of dusting). Seemed to work, except no audio AT ALL from Cubase. Okay, maybe it’s time to make the leap to Cubase 8.5. Paid for it, downloaded the 9GB installer, installed Steinberg’s latest. Tried to activate. ELicenser crashed. Tried the 35 troubleshooting steps I found on the Cubase forum. No go. I’m out about a grand so far on this “upgrade”, and no audio.
And those are just a few of my 99 problems.
Anxiety is the modern scourge. Humans in 2016 have complex lives: more information, more complex decisions, more decisions. We have it good, better than ever, global poverty plummeting, most of us with access to enough food, basic healthcare, shelter. One’s chance of dying a violent death is lower than ever. But we’re plagued with anxiety because our minds are racing, decisions are hard, and everything feels like it needs doing at once.
I’m weathering the aforementioned tech stress pretty well, but sometimes my anxiety gets the better of me, spiraling tighter until I’m paralyzed into inaction, feeling like a prisoner in my own life. The kid comes home from school having sustained a minor injury. Doctor says I’m in great health but I get a twinge here and there, will it be the thing that eventually kills me? Clients need things yesterday. I’ve got money but is it enough? A track is missing from the artist’s release. I’m low on hard drive space. House is a mess, dishes in the sink. Family member in the hospital. Kia has her own stresses, and sometimes those get to me (as mine do to her). Same for my friends. The big picture for forty-somethings is pressure from many directions, many people who need things. Would I wish these obligations away? No way, they’re what bind me to others, giving me relevance and meaning, a place in this world. But yeah, 99 problems, right?
Other times I feel bulletproof. Nothing can touch me. Obstacles appear surmountable. I knock an item off my list and look forward to taking on the next one. I sit down to attempt to create something, and the ideas are there, the right words or sounds present themselves. I hear the demands of others for what they are (most of the time): polite requests. I take care of myself, and am better able to help others. The stressors are still there, but they whisper instead of shout.
My tools work when I work them. For what it’s worth, here they are:
Accept uncertainty, make plans based on probabilities
I don’t know when or if my studio will be fully up and running. But based on past experiences, it’s highly likely I will get things working again, and probably within a week or two. Realizing that helps me calm the F down.
Clean house, mentally and physically
Mental house cleaning, for me, is a simple meditation where I let each worry or concern come to the surface of my mind, and acknowledge it, and then visualize it in a bubble floating away. Or sometimes I make a list. Or something Kia and I ask each other if we can “list our worries” and then we just vent while the other person listens and keeps asking “What else are you worried about?” until the worries get really tiny like “We’re almost out of Tapatio sauce.”
Physical house cleaning. Do the dishes in the sink, even if I didn’t make them. Straighten up. Sweep. Knoll everyone’s shoes. For borderline OCD types like me, reducing the external chaos is essential for reducing the inner chaos.
Synchronize heartbeat and brain with slow deep breathing
This is not woo-woo. Read the study. Slow, deep breaths actually synchronize your mind-body system.
The subjective feeling, when I remember to do this (for at least a minute or two) is a release of physical and psychic tension, and mild euphoria.
The whole country is tense, and for good reason. Here’s hoping for a good week. Not everyone will be celebrating, but I’m hoping national stress levels go down across the board.
What do you do to stay sane and not freak out?