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John Cleese: Create a Tortoise Enclosure for Your Mind

"I want to be as well-informed as I can possibly be before I die" -John Cleese, in a speech on creativity, sleeping on problems, rewrites, and creating "tortoise enclosures" for your mind by creating boundaries of space and time. This is a brilliant little ten-minute talk for anyone who's interested in writing or any other creative pursuit. I wish it went on longer, as this man really does have a lot to say about his subject.

Here's a sample quote:

"When I suddenly discovered that I could sit down with a blank sheet of paper and two hours later I could have written something that then made people laugh -- this was an extraordinary moment for me, and I thought, 'My goodness, I am creative.' So, because I had been brought up as a scientist -- I got into Cambridge on Science -- I started observing what was going on when I was creating.

"... The first thing that I noticed was that when I was trying to write a sketch at night and I got stuck or I couldn't think of an ending, or I couldn't see how to continue the sketch, I would go to bed. And when I woke up in the morning and made myself a cup of coffee and went back to my desk and looked at the problem, not only was the solution to this problem immediately apparent to me, but I couldn't even remember what the problem had been the previous night. ... I began to believe that this business of 'sleeping on the problem' ... was absolutely extraordinary."

Another choice Cleese nugget after the jump.

"To know how good you are at something requires the same skills that it does to be good at that thing. Which means, if you're absolutely hopeless at something, you lack exactly the skills that you need to know that you're absolutely hopeless at it. And this is a profound discovery. That most people who have absolutely no idea what they're doing, have absolutely no idea that they have no idea what they're doing. It explains a great deal of life. It explains, particularly, Hollywood."

(Via Kung Fu Grippe, the awesome blog of Merlin Mann; he got it from Tape Noise Diary who got it from Broadcasting Brain, update: who got it from Ewan McIntosh, who got it from Tessy, who got it from Benjamin Ellis.)

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Health
8 Potential Signs of a Panic Attack
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It's not just fear or worry. In fact, many panic attacks don’t look like panic at all. Panic attacks come on rapidly, and often at times that don't seem to make sense. The symptoms of panic disorder vary from person to person and even from attack to attack for the same person. The problems listed below are not unique to panic attacks, but if you're experiencing more than one, it's a good idea to talk to your doctor either way.

1. YOU'RE DIZZY.

Doctors sometimes call the autonomic nervous system (ANS) the "automatic nervous system" because it regulates many vital bodily functions like pumping blood all on its own, without our having to think about it. Panic attacks often manifest through the ANS, leading to increased heart rate or decreased blood pressure, which can in turn lead to feeling lightheaded or faint.

2. YOU'RE LOSING YOURSELF.

Feeling detached from yourself is called depersonalization. Feeling detached from the world, or like it's fake or somehow unreal, is called derealization. Both forms of dissociation are unsettling but common signs that a panic attack has begun.

3. YOU'RE QUEASY.

Our digestive system is often the first body part to realize that something is wrong. Panic sends stress hormones and tension to the gut and disrupts digestion, causing nausea, upset stomach, or heartburn.

4. YOU FEEL NUMB OR TINGLY.

Panic attacks can manifest in truly surprising ways, including pins and needles or numbness in a person's hands or face.

5. YOU'RE SWEATY OR SHIVERING.

The symptoms of a panic attack can look a lot like the flu. But if you don't have a fever and no one else has chattering teeth, it might be your ANS in distress.

6. YOU KNOW THE WORST IS COMING.

While it may sound prophetic or at least bizarre, a sense of impending doom is a very common symptom of panic attacks (and several other conditions). 

7. BREATHING IS DIFFICULT.

The ANS strikes again. In addition to the well-known problems of hyperventilation or shortness of breath, panic attacks can also cause dyspnea, in which a person feels like they can't fill their lungs, and feelings of choking or being smothered.

8. YOU'RE AFRAID OF HAVING A PANIC ATTACK. 

Oddly enough, anxiety about anxiety is itself a symptom of anxiety and panic attacks. Fear of losing control or getting upset can cause people to avoid situations that could be triggering, which can in turn limit their lives. 

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Big Questions
What’s the Difference Between Feeling Anxious and Having Anxiety?
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Whether it’s giving a toast at a friend’s wedding or waiting for the results of medical tests, we all get worried, nervous, or stressed out sometimes. But what’s the difference between feeling anxious and having anxiety?

To find out, we talked with Dr. Karen Cassiday, president of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. She says the essential feeling is the same—it’s the intensity that matters, and the effect the feeling has on a person’s life.

“Anxiety is a general human experience,” Dr. Cassiday tells Mental Floss. “It’s feeling some mild apprehension and the physical sensations that go with it, but being able to handle it. In an anxiety disorder, that danger signal gets out of control, and you feel like you have to take preventative action in order to protect yourself.”

A doctor may diagnose an anxiety disorder if someone has been feeling anxious and worried for months, and if their symptoms are making it hard to sleep, study, work, or otherwise live full lives.

“Some people, for example, might not take a raise at work because it means they might have to speak to people,” Cassiday says, “or travel, if they’re afraid of flying.”

Anxiety disorders take three forms: generalized anxiety, in which the stress tends to attach itself to anything and everything; social anxiety, which can make it very hard for a person to interact with others; and panic disorder, which manifests in scary panic attacks.

“People with anxiety disorders avoid normal life activities and experiences in order to avoid triggering their anxiety,” Cassiday says. “They aren’t able to choose to do things that people normally enjoy or that make their lives rich. They lose opportunities to connect with relationships or in the community, opportunities to be productive, to volunteer, and to make money or finish school.”

These conditions are strikingly common, affecting as many as 25 percent of the population.

If you’re experiencing these symptoms—well, we’re not going to tell you not to worry, but take some comfort in the fact that these conditions are treatable. Many people find relief with talk therapy and medication.

For folks who aren’t ready to take that step, Cassiday recommends a free app called Self Anxiety Management, and getting into meditation, yoga, and exercise.

“It doesn’t matter which type,” she says. “The best one is the one you’re willing to do.”

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