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Calendar Envy: Strategies for Living

14 Sep

It takes two weeks of repeating a behavior to form a habit.

Those new habits can, in some cases, change how you see yourself and how you interact with the world.

Think about this: After two weeks of repeating a behavior, perspective and approach can fundamentally change. Repeat that behavior long enough, and that new way of acting and reacting becomes part of who you are.

The facts of life about fundamental change came up for me in a recent planning sessions with my co-author, co-conspirator, and confidant Mary, as we got out our “calendars” to schedule one of our upcoming, live and in person, book events. Mary reached across her desk for her Franklin (old school, paper, bound calendar) and I pulled out my phone….

That book, holding a pen in her hand, and writing something in ink on a specific date at a designated time has great meaning for Mary. As I watched her (on my computer screen via Skype, across the miles) record the date, I remembered how significant the act of scheduling a meeting or an appointment or even recording someone’s birthday in my book used to feel.

In that moment, recording my daily tasks, my appointments, my meetings, and my events in the calendar on my phone felt so much less meaningful and powerful.

I started thinking about when and why I moved from my trusted pocket calendar that I carried with me (that once held all the emotional value I saw in Mary’s simple actions of saving a date for an event) to using my phone as a method to organize my life and my day.

I think you know where I am going with this….

During recovery from brain injury it is necessary to develop strategies that make life more manageable or at least not as chaotic. After a couple weeks, those strategies really do become habits and those habits, especially the ones that make life easier in the moment, become part of how we, as survivors, approach situations or cope or manage our moments.

In the midst of the fog of my brain injury, I lost pieces of paper whether they were in a book, a calendar, or hanging out on their own. I simply lost anything paper related. I rarely, however, misplaced my phone.

My cell phone was not just a way for me to communicate but it was also a tool I used to walk into rooms without having to engage with other people, a distraction during agitated moments, and a lifeline to someone who could bail me out of my own mind. I rarely misplaced my phone because it held so much emotional value and was so tied to my safety and well-being.

I don’t know how many appointments, meetings, and phone calls I missed before I realized I needed a better way to keep track of my schedule or even if it was my idea or someone else’s, but moving my calendar to my phone helped me get a grip on a huge piece of my life.

Creating the habit of keeping my important events on my phone gave me peace of mind and helped me calm the feeling of not know where I was “supposed” to be.

So, next time I look at someone else’s Franklin longingly and nostalgically, I will remind myself how good this habit – one that I established when I was pretty darned vulnerable – is for me and breathe just a bit more easily.

I guess the point is this: A compensatory strategy – a method employed to address a condition that is keeping you from functioning at your best – is not always a crutch that you will remove once the condition eases. Compensatory strategies can become habits that help you function better. Period. No need to lament.

What strategies have you employed in your life that remained long standing habits.

This piece originally appeared on

A Challenging Word Puzzle That Force You to “Be Complicated”

4 Nov

The best kind of brain exercise is one that employs more than process — one that is complicated and challenges you to use more of your brain.

Word Sequences are puzzles do just that.  In order to solve the puzzle you will have to think critically, tap into some spatial skills, and problem solve while pulling out words that fit all the clues and cues. That means using multiple processes all at once!

Playing word sequences is tough for a couple reasons.

First, you have to move the correct letters down to fill in pieces of the word below it — that means you must visually line up the letters and mechanically put the right letter in the appropriate spot. See the example below but the idea is move the letters into the blanks lines below them. That requires spatial orientation and discrimination (only move letters on to the blank lines and not into the circles and make sure you lining it all up correctly).

Next you must look at the clue and sort through a list of possible right answers in your memory. The clues in this puzzle are not always clear cut so sift and sort through the possible answers.

Finally, based on the letters you moved on to the blank lines and the number of remaining blank circles you must choose from that list and write in the answer. Based on all of that, fill in the circles with the appropriate letters.

Step and repeat until you reach the end!

Here is a sample.

Word sequences EXAMPLE


Try this one on your own. Take your time and focus on one task at a time.

Wednesday's Word Challenge word sequences word game

Was this a challenge? If so, what part was hardest for you?

Puzzles like these can help you find clues to processing challenges. Pay attention to what feels difficult and watch for patterns!


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