5 Stories of Perspective & the Art of Overthinking

1. Self Governed Campsite Evacuation

During my transition year from university to what I call ‘real life’, I spent 7 months working and travelling in New Zealand. This was a massive deal to me as until then I was very much a ‘home bird’, the walls of opportunity and reality were firmly fixed where the UK met the Sea and all I wanted was to be rich and happy. Not that I knew what either of those things really meant at the time, nor do I have any reason to believe I have grasped it yet.

Not shortly after arrival and settling into my ‘converted container campsite home’, which would be my base until I sorted a room rent near work, I had quite an experience one early morning. Awaking, unsure of the time in a mist of jet lag brain fog, I reached for my phone to find a message from my Mum. After dazing in and out of sleep with a couple of messages forwards and backwards it turned out that there had been an earthquake of 7.8 magnitude (Mw) (that I had somehow slept through) with the epicenter less than an hour north of me.

Due to the unique way that news is released in the UK, combined with both mine and my Mothers questionable Geography skills, It was decided I was in the path of a Tsunami and needed to self evacuate to higher land. Needless to say at roughly 4 am I chucked the suitcase in the back of my 15 year old V6 Commodore and span out of the campsite on route to the Methven mountains. The campsite seemed quiet… A lesson in perspective here: is the campsite quiet because everyone has fled to safety, or is it just because it’s 4 in the morning?

Ten minutes later and with no signs of impending doom I deemed it safe to pause my refuge mission and pulled over to assess the situation online. As it turned out the earthquake in Christchurch was undoubtedly awful and terrifying for those there, but it was 4 hours ago and I wasn’t there. I was, in fact 118m above sea level, 20 km from the coast line and 1 hour south of the epicenter. The closest shoreline had swells up to around 5 meters from memory.

The biggest disaster that I could have faced that night would have been being awoken to my container shaking from side to side and a crate of fizzed up VB bottles stood in the corner.

 

2. Diagnosis of Mortal Septicaemia

After spending the season carting potatoes in the wet months prior to winter 2016, my foot had developed some sort if infection. Presumably spending day in, day out with hot/sweaty or cold/wet socks on, stuffed into leather work boots isn’t the best conditions for your feet to be kept in. This would have been fine, but I just happened to be away from home seeing family before leaving for New Zealand in a few days time: stress overload commenced.

By the time I had finished googling my symptoms (slightly red toe, slightly darker blue veins near toe)… I had more or less decided I might die from Mortal Septicaemia, either on the aeroplane there or later that week in NZ. Due to the lack of time left and availability of doctors on weekends, my Dad had to be persuaded to take me to the doctors that night to get the antibiotics as we only had his car with us.

My next racing thought was that these drugs would not be allowed with me through customs. So if you’re following, I am now extremely stressed having ‘realised’ that I will either fall gravely ill on the plane (or in NZ) and on top of this I might have my only saving grace, the antibiotics, confiscated before I even get that far.

For a perspective shift I should have been thinking “What if i’m not dying, the customs department couldn’t care less about my ibuprofen and antibiotics, the infection will be cured within 10 days as prescribed and everything, as usual, is fine.”
‘Cause that’s exactly what happened.

 

3. Plethora of Food Intolerances

This example doesn’t come from one particular case but over the years I have self diagnosed most of the food intolerances going. Symptoms varied from fatigue and mild insomnia to stomach ache and irritability. Over the years I discovered that the only true markers for when any symptoms occurred, were times of stress or while I was not looking after my body correctly. Diet has only ever proved an issue when I go to extremes.

For example: I am not lactose intolerant, but if i drink a couple of pints of milk and have a large margarita pizza my stomach will undoubtedly feel a little strange.
I don’t have diabetes, but if I restrain from eating for 16 hours and train in a fasted state it will feel different to when I train after eating.

This all sounds like common sense but its easy to get carried away when your body feels different, unsurprising really as its the only one we’ve got.

 

4. Company Creation, Marketing, Theoretical Disaster and Closure in 7 days

Business ideas come and go in my head almost constantly, rarely do I decide to act on them, but this particular time I did. The plan was to produce a natural wax lotion made from UK produce: beeswax, rape seed oil, lanolin and lavender oil. Named ‘Stock & Hide’, the wax lotion would be used to treat both leather products and wooden gun stocks, furniture etc. Products existed for each but not both together and very few were natural with UK sourced materials.

Before much further research was done I had designed my own logo, paid a freelancer to mock up some other designs, then persuaded a talented friend to finalize it. Once the Logo was sorted I set about buying the domains required and setup social media accounts to ensure the desired username would still be there when I got round to marketing my finished product. After buying all the raw materials and testing batches: the recipe, packaging and stickers were ready.

Not much longer than one day later, a combination of speaking to friends and online research had put doubt in my mind, liability law based on potential damage to customers products or allergic reactions from skin contact meant I would need to do an awful lot more testing and spending money to legally prove the product was safe.
Another spanner in the works was the realization that there was a reason this product didn’t exist already.

Finished wood and leather require different products with different chemical properties for cleaning and maintenance. Natural products like oils are great for fast absorption and moisturizing properties but over time they go rancid. Beeswax on its own is great but requires a thinner or oil addition to make it applicable without heat. Mineral oil works well ass a thinner but is highly refined so was out of the question for me, also long term this oil can damage sealed wood and leather.

It turned out the best thing for each was very different. Lanolin (sheep wool wax/oil) was best for leather. Linseed/Walnut oil was best for untreated/unfinished stocks. Beeswax or similar was best for keeping a finished stock sealed.

On top of this the idea of being sued for an allergic reaction or destroying the finish on a delicate vintage gun stock had got the better of me. I had fallen out of love with the idea as a whole. The business had to be stopped before it had started.

 

5. Drowned Succulents

Plants have always been an interest of mine, it must stem from my agricultural background. Ficus Ginseng trees and Cacti are my favourite to grow indoors due to their interesting varieties, hardy nature and limited needs. A bit of light and water occasionally is about as demanding a they get.

One trip to the garden center on a Sunday led me to somehow end up the surrogate father of ten succulent plants (not Cacti). I was aware they needed ‘slightly’ more water than the Cacti I had already, so in my determination to keep them alive a regime was created. Paranoid that they would dry out, morning and night I watered the new plants a measured amount and rotated the bowl daily to ensure even light coverage.

The new plants looked fine, it was only a month later while inspecting one of them that I discovered it was extremely weak at the base, it was in fact rotten. Each of the pants were the same, they no longer had any real connection to the root, just a slimy mess at the base hidden by the plant. It was obvious I had been over watering but it was now too late, lesson learned: Succulents don’t like wet feet. It wasn’t an issue as they were not expensive or cherished but it was just another example of how easily over thinking can cause issues in life. Had I not worried so much and treated them the same as the Cacti they would probably be fine.

 

How to overcome the manic chimp brain…

Firstly, read the Chimp Paradox by Prof Steve Peters. I try to persuade everyone read this book as it changed the way I think, gave me an understanding of how my mind works and the techniques to manage it. I still overthink, but am more reserved to act on it or let it affect me.

Check that you are treating your body well using the basics outlined in this post.
Practice perspective shifts – realize everything is good and bad, the unity of opposites, yin and yang. Doing this helps to see things more clearly for what they really are rather than being swept up in the moment and acting irrationally. For example if you suffer with a similarly overly active brain then you are probably naturally adept at problem solving, imagination and lateral thinking. There is always a positive and negative, you just have to look.

Reflect as I have above on times you were wrong to overthink, the very fact that you’re reading this says that regardless of the uncountable trials and situations that have played out before you, not one was fatal: emotionally or physically. You are now smarter and more experienced because of it. Remember your own experiences and trust that you have felt this way or seen similar issues before and as always, everything turned out just fine.

“We are more often frightened than hurt; and we suffer more from imagination than from reality.” – Lucius Annaeus Seneca.

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