On Mental Health

Minding Your Mountain

So, I’ve been trying a new morning routine lately that I found on TikTok. It’s the S-A-V-E-R-S method and it stands for: Silence, Affirmations, Visualizations, Exercise, Reading, Scribing.

And I’ll tell you what: Spending the first hour or more of my morning doing something other than looking at my phone is 100% going to be my routine from now on. Staying in my own brain without the influence of social media or news alerts or TikTok is really and truly a gift of clarity and I’ll not be going back.

But here’s the thing this routine does not allow for: drainage patterns.

On the mountain behind my house there are trails that were built to get the hiker from point A to point B. Maybe point A was a cool spot and point B was another cool spot. Or maybe point B was another trail. Either way, the trail was simply cleared through the woods and on the mountain as a way to help the hiker traverse the property.

The problem is, some of these trails were put in many moons ago without current knowledge of trail building which takes into consideration the drainage patterns of a mountain. So, when it rains, huge pools of water settle right on the trail, which then causes people to hike around the water which makes the depression that holds the water even worse. Or sometimes the trail just starts to erode away because it’s right along the path of water flow down the mountain. Over the last few years, people who have learned better and understand trail building better have been trying to make improvements on the trails in terms of planting vegation and rerouting paths. You can’t just say: THIS PATH SHOULD GO IN THIS DIRECTION without minding the mountain and the land under it.

So, this S-A-V-E-R-S technique? Looks good on paper. It’s a path that make logical sense in getting my brain to visit certain points. You know what it doesn’t take into consideration? My attention deficit problems or my anxiety. My brain has thought patterns of it’s own and while sometimes I do like to try to reign them in to focus on a certain task, my morning time? Is not the time to do that. My morning brain is creative and enthusiastic and I need to allow it the freedom to flow where it wants to flow.

For example…this morning I was focused on the “S” which means “Silence” and I have really enjoyed this first step of my morning. I get my cup off coffee and I wrap up in a blanket and sit in my swing and just spend that first cup of coffee with my brain. The first few days I tried to “meditate” or to practice focusing on breathing, but I figured out that just letting my brain wander a bit while I drank my coffee felt very good and natural and…most importantly…nurturing. Sometimes trying to force my focus on breathing doesn’t feel comfortable, but just letting my brain wander feels…cathartic in some way. Like I’m creating a safe space for my brain.

ANYWAY. So, I was just drinking my coffee and letting my brain wander and I started by thinking about what I wanted to keep from the S-A-V-E-R-S method and what I wanted to trash. And then at some point in time my brain drifted to my scheduled phone call with my nephew on Friday to talk about Harry Potter. And then I started thinking that maybe I should mail him the copy of the first book that everyone in my family had read. It’s beat up and loved with torn and stained pages. But then I remembered it also has some mold issues so I thought: I bet I could look up how to get rid of mold on books. And that was a very GOOD thought that I’ve never had before…so I came in after my coffee and looked it up and now I have a plan to get rid of the mold on that book that has bothered me since the last time I read it.

Also, during this time, I came up with the metaphor about the trails in the woods and the drainage patterns to describe the futility of trying to plan paths in my brain.

I think it’s important to mind our own mental mountains. Sometimes we see these ideas about how to time block or force focus or GET SHIT DONE and on paper…it all looks perfect. And it is perfect for a lot of people. The problem is, every trail is built on a different mountain. There’s different drainage patters and different vegetation. You don’t want to chop down a tree to build a shorter trail and then cause the dirt around the trail to start eroding away now that there’s no roots to hold it into place.

Some trails are simple paths through flat land with minimal vegetation and so going from point A to point B is the only concern. But if you have soft substrate or you’re lacking undergrowth or you have a pocked of air in the limestone where a sinkhole will probably form (we’ve had those on our mountain too), then going straight from point A to point B will just create more work for your in the future when soil erodes or sinkholes form.


Maybe Inbox Zero work for your brain because you like to categorize your to-dos with your emails and tackling that inbox helps you tackle your To Dos and so constantly striving for Inbox Zero actually helps you accomplish tasks or organize your day. I actually really like keep my inbox cleared out and only leaving the things that require my attention.

But some people have 5,000 emails in their inbox and it doesn’t really bother then and so forcing them to take the time to clear out their inbox just so they can reach some sort of magical “INBOX ZERO” goal is not necessary. Not for their brain.

I just think sometimes we see these productivity tricks and methods and ways to clear our minds or focus our creativity and we try them and then feel disappointment when they don’t change our lives like they did everyone else’s.

But I think the trick is really being mindful of your mountain and trying to find what works for you. For me? Definitely staying away from social media or TikTok or news alerts for at least an hour in the morning is definitely helping my brain start the day with a clearer focus. But following some rigid: “Affirmations and THEN Visualization” type of routine is not the way to do it.

I’m going to keep several things from the routine. I’m definitely going to start my morning in silent reflections. Maybe with a notebook with me though so I don’t lose things as they pop into my head. (Like I could have lost the, “Look up how to kill mold on books,” if I hadn’t gone straight inside to Google it.)

I’m not saying that sometimes that sometimes forcing our brain into different patterns is not beneficial. I mean, building a trail to avoid one drainage pattern when that drainage pattern is actually bad for the entire mountain, is not important. First you have to figure out if you should divert the drainage in a way that’s better for the mountain as a whole. BUT…I think the problem is that we see these methods as a “One Size Fits All” technique for organizing our brain and fostering productivity when sometimes? That’s not what we actually want from our brain. And when you have a creative brain that needs release in the form of writing or art or building, then sometimes letting it wander is a good thing. That’s how you eventually end up at blog topic ideas.

So I’m keeping the “Silence” start to my morning FOR SURE. And I’m going to keep affirmations in my day, but not in my morning. I’ve been using this time to fine tune my affirmations (another blog post for another day) and I think I need to tape them to my desk where I do my makeup or on my mirror. I think my affirmations need to come at the points in my day when I’m feeling bad about myself. I don’t think they’re ass effective in the morning.

And “visualizations” – y’all? I’m just not on the visualization train yet. I know it’s a popular one but my brain just bounces around too much to even know what I want to visualize. And the “exercise” thing – I definitely need to get more activity into my schedule but cramming it into some weird morning routine, even if it’s just 10 minutes of movement, feels contrary to how my brain flows in the beginning of my day. Maybe going for a walk after my morning routine? Sure. But trying to cram movement in before I’ve had my reflection time or my creativity time? Does not follow my drainage patterns.

So I’m finding what works and building my own morning routine. And it’s not going to be rigid. I came inside to write as soon as I was done “reflecting in silence” because the idea was here and it needed releasing.

(Well, I googled about mold in books first, but you know what I mean.)

And I think that’s the key for me. Spending the first hour or more of my day letting my brain kind sort out it’s creative and anxious thoughts in whatever flow feels natural first thing in the morning. And then, maybe, reign some of it in later in the day. But my morning time? My brain is the most creative and so I think trying to force it to follow a certain path is not beneficial.

Not on my mountain.

1 thought on “Minding Your Mountain”

  1. Yes! I think it’s SO important to recognize that there is no one path that works for everyone. Figuring out what works _for you_ is crucial. (As is not pushing what works for you as a universal solution for everyone–I have that one friend who pretty obviously thinks that yoga is The One and Only True Answer…) Good for you.

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