Monday Required Reading

1. What Happens When No One Invites You to Their Pandemic Pod?

“We have lost the everyday distractions — the small talk at the school drop-off and pickup line, the banter at the office, the often tedious networking events. ‘We were able to avoid the fact that we were lonely before this because we could stay busy with a whole bunch of people.'”

2. Trends in anxiety among adults in the United States, 2008-2018: Rapid increases among young adults.

“The results from this study suggest poorer mental health in the US in terms of increasing anxiety overall and among most sociodemographic subgroups over the past 11 years. These findings should be considered in conjunction with other data that show increasing mental health problems of other types (e.g., depression), as well as the role of anxiety as a precursor to or indicator of severity of co-occurring mental health problems. Focusing resources on reducing anxiety, especially among young adults, is a cost-effective clinical and public health approach to stemming the tide of this problem; this would set the foundation for a healthier society in the future, as young adults age and adolescents reach adulthood.”

What resources mores specifically? 

3. Sea swimming is ‘amazing’ for mental health and menopause. Thanks to the Good Wife’s example, in the spirit of that video, I floated on my back in the Salish Sea near dusk last night despite less than ideal conditions. I can attest to the mental health assertion at least. And shouldn’t it be womenopause?

4. 8 Strategies to Improve Participation in Your Virtual Classroom. Teaching on-line makes me anxious! One week to go, wish me well.

 

Tuesday Required Reading

1. What if Some Kids Are Better Off at Home? Some will criticize this as an out-of-touch example of privilege, but that would be a mistake. Every educator should reflect on the “silent misery” of which Schroeder writes. More broadly, there’s a “less is more” outline for meaningful educational reform in her stories.

2. Watch Olympian Katie Ledecky swim with full glass of milk on her head. Hard to find a more dominant athlete in any sport. If I tried it there’d be broken glass on the bottom of the pool.

3. I’m Traveling, Even Though I’m Stuck at Home. What happens when Rick Steves is grounded?

“Travel teaches us that there’s more to life than increasing its speed.”

4. Money, Morality and What Religion Has to Do With It.*

“Some of the most interesting variations emerged when divinity and morality were juxtaposed with wealth. As the chart below illustrates, those living in advanced economies were less likely to link morality with divinity than those in emerging or developing economies. For instance, in Kenya — which had a gross domestic product per capita of $4,509 in 2019 — 95% said that belief in God was integral to being moral; in Sweden, where the GDP figure was $55,815, only 9% felt the same.”

I dig Kenya, but I’m siding with Sweden on this one.

5. Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny Explain QAnon. I cycled with Ben and Brandy Sunday evening. I dare anyone to listen to them and then argue the (dis)United States is not in decline. Are we even trying anymore?

6. Extra credit vid on epistemic trust. For the educators among us. And parents. And anyone that seeks to help others. I use “perspective taking” for “mentalizing”.

Thanks to DB and LG for #4 and #6.

Thursday Required Reading

1. Owners and Election Day: A Chance to do the Right Thing. Two sociologists call for Congress to declare the first Tuesday in November, Election Day, a national holiday. Along the way, they destroy the “athletes should just shut up and dribble” argument.

“About a dozen states have declared Election Day a state holiday, including, in the last few months, both Virginia and Illinois, and many states give their workers time off to vote. A majority of Democrats (71%) and Republicans (59%) support having Election Day become a national holiday, but many Republicans clearly want fewer, not more, people to vote.”

2. Topless Beach Drone Scandal! Do the Golden Valley Police Department and the Minneapolis Park Police get any points for good intentions? Prob not.

“The Golden Valley Police Department’s well-intended but very wrong assumption about drone as deescalation tool is a familiar one among regular drone users. Because its people were comfortable with drones, they grossly overestimated how comfortable the average person actually is with the prospect of being looked at by a flying camera drone, much less one that’s zeroing in on their private bits.”

[Editor’s note—Major props to Ron for leading with the sociologists and not the second, click-bait reading. Role model.]

3. How Police Unions Fight Reform.

I believe The New Yorker pays its writers by the word. You would never know that by how fast Finnegan starts. Paragraphs 3-5.

“In many cities, including New York, the unions are a political force, their endorsements and campaign donations coveted by both Republicans and Democrats. The legislation they support tends to get passed, their candidates elected. They insist on public displays of respect and may humiliate mayors who displease them. They defy reformers, including police chiefs, who struggle to fire even the worst-performing officers. In an era when other labor unions are steadily declining in membership and influence, police unions have kept their numbers up, their coffers full. In Wisconsin, the Republican governor, Scott Walker, led a successful campaign to eliminate union rights for most of the state’s public employees. The exceptions were firefighters and police.

Police unions enjoy a political paradox. Conservatives traditionally abhor labor unions but support the police. The left is critical of aggressive policing, yet has often muted its criticism of police unions—which are, after all, public-sector unions, an endangered and mostly progressive species.

In their interstitial safe zone, police unions can offer their members extraordinary protections. Officers accused of misconduct may be given legal representation paid for by the city, and ample time to review evidence before speaking to investigators. In many cases, suspended officers have their pay guaranteed, and disciplinary recommendations of oversight boards are ignored. Complaints submitted too late are disqualified. Records of misconduct may be kept secret, and permanently destroyed after as little as sixty days.”

4. Discovery in Mexican Cave May Drastically Change the Known Timeline of Humans’ Arrival to the Americas. Archeologists can’t agree on when humans arrived in the Americas. It may have been twice as long ago.

5. How to Handle Anxiety Over Back-to-School Decisions.

“It’s helpful to remember that in times of chaos, the dogged search for certainty can itself lead to distress. . . . the goal is not to guarantee that your child will never be exposed to a virus particle. That is impossible. The goal is to make a realistic plan that will holistically keep teachers, families and children as safe as possible.”

One excellent insight after another.

“When your mind starts moving into the slippery slope of unproductive worries, try naming them: ‘There goes my mind again.’ This highlights the difference between ‘having a thought’ and ‘burying a thought.’ When unproductive worries strike, you don’t have to go down that rabbit hole of trying to disprove them or reassure yourself, you can just let them be. It’s not bad feelings or thoughts that are the problem. It’s what we do with them that causes more suffering.”

The author, Dr. Pooja Lakshmin, M.D.  is working on a book about the tyranny of self-care. I predict that is going to be a very good read.

Saturday Assorted Links

1A. That additional time you spend monitoring the pandemic and other crises, it has a name, ‘doomscrolling’. And it’s bad for your mental health. Or ‘doomsurfing’ if you prefer.

“Doomscrolling will never actually stop the doom itself. Feeling informed can be a salve, but being overwhelmed by tragedy serves no purpose. The current year is nothing if not a marathon; trying to sprint to the end of one’s feed will only cause burnout and a decline in mental health among the people whose level-headedness is needed most.”

1B. More Americans are being harassed online because of their race, religion, or sexuality.

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2. Marquette University unveils cost-cutting plan to address budget short-fall. A template for nearly every institution of higher education. Just plug in the name of your favorite college.

3. Want to tear down insidious monuments to racism and segregation? Bulldoze L.A. freeways. Required reading for anyone that questions whether “systemic racism” is a “thing”.

“Poor communities of color continue to suffer most from the legacy of segregation and racially motivated freeway construction through their neighborhoods. The health outcomes in these areas are bleak. Pollution kills. Children directly exposed to freeway pollution have higher rates of asthma and unnatural cognitive decline. Segregation endures. Los Angeles is not unique in this regard. Cities across the country made similar choices. And yet nowhere have the consequences been felt more profoundly.”

4.  An inmate’s love for math leads to new discoveries.

“‘To whom it may concern, I’m interested in finding more information on a subscription to Annals of Mathematics for personal use. I’m currently serving 25 years in the Washington Department of Correction and I’ve decided to use this time for self-betterment. I’m studying calculus and number theory, as numbers have become my mission. Can you please send me any information on your mathematical journal? Christopher Havens, #349034′”

Friday Assorted Links

1. The Best Way to Lampoon Trump: His Own Words.

2. Where Nellie Bowles moved after coronavirus.

“I invite readers to join me on this insane quarantine hobby.”

Too funny.

3. Where does Obama live?

4. Katie Lou Samuelson on mental health journey: ‘I realized I needed to ask for help.’ Lots of athletes, including Michael Phelps and Kevin Love, are saying ,”It’s okay to not be okay.”

Being Twenty Something Right Now

Empathy for our young adult friends and children is in order. Imagine being them and trying to:

  • cultivate a sense of purpose
  • find a job that contributes to the common good, pays a livable wage, and comes with medical benefits
  • find an affordable place of your own to live
  • afford a car or other forms of reliable transportation
  • get out of debt
  • save some money each month
  • develop the self discipline and knowledge to smartly invest for future expenses
  • find a caring, loving, compatible partner with whom to be intimate
  • decide whether to marry and have children
  • decide whether to commit to a faith community, if so, finding a compelling one
  • contend with friends and acquaintances inauthentic, curated selves on-line
  • create a close circle of friends who aren’t so overwhelmed with all above that they have the energy and desire to spend time together
  • worry about growing social inequities and the fate of the natural world
  • cultivate the discipline to eat well, exercise, and maintain decent physical health
  • manage your anxieties about all of the above and maintain good mental health

In the context of a global pandemic about which so much is unknown. How bad will it get? When will it end? How should we “reopen”? What exactly will the “new normal” be?

This pandemic presents unique challenges to many twenty somethings, whom for whatever reasons, already struggle with anxiety, depression, and related mental health challenges.

Extra patience and kindness with our young adult friends and children are in order.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Coronavirus Double Whammy

1. It’s a reminder that we’re not in control. Normally, we convince ourselves that we mostly are.

2. It’s a reminder that some day we’re going to die. Normally, we are very good at not thinking about that.

These are not normal times. What can you do? Be especially patient and kind to those who may feel a loss of control and fear dying. Even if you do not feel or fear either one.

On New Year’s Resolutions

New Year’s resolutions are a weird example of social contagion because the refreshing of the calendar is an odd catalyst for self-improvement. If anyone’s serious about self-improvement, why wait until such an arbitrary starting point? You shoulda got started yesterday.

Despite that cynicism, I’m all-in on alternative types of resolutions—ones grounded in greater self-acceptance. Maybe people should resolve the following types of things:

  • To accept that I will not eat as healthily as I probably should.
  • To be okay with the fact that I will not exercise as much as I probably should.
  • To not beat myself up for not saving as much money as I probably should.

The Slate staff has taken this one step further by advising that you mark the New Year by embracing vices instead of resolutions—whether sleeping in on weekends, driving when you can walk, or having a cigarette.

Count me in on Slate’s contrarian, probably tongue-in-check thinking, as another viable alternative to most people’s constant striving for some sort of idealized perfection.

Wouldn’t our mental health be better if this year we dedicated ourselves to trying to accept our limits, our insecurities, our imperfections?

I’ll lead the way with this overarching resolution—I resolve to expect less from myself this year. “Friends” will wonder how that’s possible, but they no doubt mean well.

If you think I’ve finally totally lost it, knock yourself out trying this.

Postscript: Via email, a PressingPause loyalist replied thusly:

“I agree the goal of embracing ones imperfections is one of the most valuable, but how does having a goal in general mean someone is striving for idealized perfection?  Also, I like having society wide markers like holidays. I think it makes us feel more like a community.  And some people may stress over breaking their resolutions, but not everyone.  I just think it’s just the idea of new beginnings. Like baptism or new growth in Spring.”

 

 

“I Could Probably Go On”

The first year writing seminar is just past mid-semester. And somehow, despite the professor they were assigned, my first year writers have GOT IT. In place of the typical first year writer’s repeated use of the word “things” and other vague words and phrases, their third papers were peppered with specific details. That switch is almost universally positive. The exception? When they’re detailing their inner lives, like this student of mine, who gave me permission to share this with you.

“I can give a list of the things that are currently making me anxious in this moment: the anatomy test that I should be studying for (I got a 60% on it), if I’m going to pass my classes this semester, what classes I’m going to take next semester, if my friends really like me or just put up with me, the weight that I’m going to gain from the binge that I just had, if this essay is going to be any good, if I even want to go into nursing, what am I going to do with my life once I get out of college. I could probably go on but that was a long sentence as it is.”

My students seem fine on the surface, but as they get honest with themselves and me, I’m learning many are suffering in silence. Their willingness to share their stories with me is humbling.

All that I know to do is to assure them their feelings matter, a lot of their peers feel similarly, and I’m glad they’re in my seminar. Also, I encourage them to take advantage of the counseling available to them.

I don’t know if that’s enough.