Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Uncategorized

Let Cindy Otis Teach You to Avoid Being Overwhelmed and Stay Focused

This OTYCD post originally appeared in July 2018. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.

 

Let Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and author, teach you how to avoid being overwhelmed and stay focused in a world where everything seems to be on fire.

 

Otis published an amazing thread on Twitter on June 28, 2018. Read it, save it, memorize it. We’ve reproduced it here, with the emojis removed. Scroll down for more info on Otis.

 

Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.

 

There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.  [We are replacing her emoji checks with numbers.] 1. Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal. 2. Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.

 

3. Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you. 4. Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.

 

There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.

 

So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:

 

[Numbers from here forward are from Otis.] 1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.

 

2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”

 

(Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)

 

3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next.

 

4. GET UP & MOVE. Put the phone away, turn off the TV, log out of Twitter. Go for a walk, sit outside, get some coffee, call a friend. CIA is full of ppl walking the building with a colleague/friend. There’s a reason. Our brains & bodies need breaks from stressful content.

 

5. SET RULES. Because of my work at CIA, I had a rule–I only read fiction at home. I had enough reality at work. In the civilian world, I set blocks of time each day where I turn everything off–no news or social media. Let yourself recharge so you can keep fighting later.

 

6. AVOID DARK HOLES. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about that.) It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of bad news. You watch a gruesome YouTube video and the next one is all queued up to play right after it. Focus on one issue at a time. Deal w/ it before moving on.

 

7. YOU NEED FUN. When there is suffering, war, despair, etc. around you, it’s easy to feel guilty when you have fun, feel happy, have a good meal with friends. You NEED these things. You will be better able to do good in the world if you let yourself have these things.

 

8. TALK TO SOMEONE. Often, we curl inward socially when overwhelmed w/ negative content. It’s a means of protection. One of the great things at CIA was that everyone else knew what you were going through. Whether it’s therapy or talking to your person, talking helps.

 

None of this is easy. I got burned out a lot in my career & many days recently, I’ve felt overloaded by the barrage. I’m sure you have too. But you and I can’t check out. We can’t give up & we need to stay engaged, but we can’t do that if we get overloaded. Keep going.

 

Shout out to who forces me to get out of the house when I start sounding especially doom and gloom!

 

 

Otis posted a follow-up thread on June 29, 2018:

 

Wow. I woke up this morning to find my thread went viral & my inbox was full of messages from ppl. My biggest takeaway from it is that we’re all struggling right now. So, I’ve got a few quick things you can do RIGHT NOW to help survive whatever news dump we’ll get today:

 

1. Read this article by that includes tips from me on how to read the news like an intelligence analyst. It gets at my tip from earlier on doing research before panicking and talks about how to actually do that research. Knowledge = POWER.

(Here is the link she referenced:) http://www.realclearlife.com/media/6-rules-thinking-like-cia-analyst-beat-fake-news/

 

2. Schedule the time you’re planning to unplug today. Write it down so it is more likely to happen. Will you take a walk? Call a friend to talk about anything but the news? Take a power nap? Bake some cookies? Watch your fave trash TV show? Whatever it is, DO IT.

 

3. Look at who you follow on social media. Do you only follow people who perpetuate the crisis mentality? If so, add in some practical folks who provide actionable ways forward and context you need to know. is a must for Americans worried about politics.

 

4. Tell yourself as many times as you need to hear it today — YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN DO THIS. WE NEED YOU WITH US. Take care, all.

 

 

Follow Cindy Otis on Twitter:

@CindyOtis_

 

 

Visit Otis’s website:

http://www.cindyotis.com

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare

Let Cindy Otis Teach You to Avoid Being Overwhelmed and Stay Focused

This OTYCD post originally appeared in July 2018. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.

 

Let Cindy Otis, a former CIA analyst and author, teach you how to avoid being overwhelmed and stay focused in a world where everything seems to be on fire.

 

Otis published an amazing thread on Twitter on June 28, 2018. Read it, save it, memorize it. We’ve reproduced it here, with the emojis removed. Scroll down for more info on Otis.

 

Today seems like the right time to do a thread I’ve been thinking about for a while on how to handle the seemingly never-ending deluge of depressing and disturbing news. My tips are based on my time as a CIA military analyst in which I dealt daily with disturbing content.

 

There are several risks to being overloaded with disturbing/negative content.  [We are replacing her emoji checks with numbers.] 1. Complacency – becoming so used to the deluge that it all starts to seem normal. 2. Paralysis – that is, being so overwhelmed, you can’t figure out what to do/how to move forward.

 

3. Crisis perspective – you get trapped in the Breaking News cycle where everything seems like a potentially world-ending crisis to you. 4. Depression/PTSD – you don’t have to be on the frontline of a war have either/both. Disturbing content is absolutely a trigger.

 

There are also serious physical consequences to living a negative content overloaded life. I had a colleague who didn’t know he had stage 4 brain cancer because the symptoms were the same as our very stressful careers–exhaustion, random fevers, stress, and dizziness.

 

So, what do you do? First, I strongly urge you not to ignore the news/current events. Ignorance is one reason we have this society. It won’t make the problems go away & contributes nothing to their solving. Now that that’s established, here’s how to make it easier to handle:

 

[Numbers from here forward are from Otis.] 1. TAKE ACTION. Volunteer for a food pantry, canvass for a political candidate, donate to a NGO, visit a sick friend. Seriously. Service of some kind in your community lets you be part of SOLUTIONS. You will see RESULTS when otherwise you’d feel helpless.

 

2. Conversely, for those who may take tip #1 to the extreme–know that you alone can’t save the world. Accept your limits. You aren’t a 7/11. You can’t always be open. At the end of every day when I reached my limit, I silently told myself, “I’ve done what I can today.”

 

(Note: Repeating that to myself did not stop me from feeling like I could have done more most days. But it was important to tell myself anyway because I am human. We are human. It’s good we *feel* things.)

 

3. RESEARCH BEFORE PANICKING. Easier said than done, but everything will seem like crisis/earth-ending if you don’t know what has/hasn’t happened before. If it has happened before, it’s can be hugely comforting to know how it was resolved and/or what might happen next.

 

4. GET UP & MOVE. Put the phone away, turn off the TV, log out of Twitter. Go for a walk, sit outside, get some coffee, call a friend. CIA is full of ppl walking the building with a colleague/friend. There’s a reason. Our brains & bodies need breaks from stressful content.

 

5. SET RULES. Because of my work at CIA, I had a rule–I only read fiction at home. I had enough reality at work. In the civilian world, I set blocks of time each day where I turn everything off–no news or social media. Let yourself recharge so you can keep fighting later.

 

6. AVOID DARK HOLES. (I’m sure there’s a joke to be made about that.) It’s easy to get sucked into the swirl of bad news. You watch a gruesome YouTube video and the next one is all queued up to play right after it. Focus on one issue at a time. Deal w/ it before moving on.

 

7. YOU NEED FUN. When there is suffering, war, despair, etc. around you, it’s easy to feel guilty when you have fun, feel happy, have a good meal with friends. You NEED these things. You will be better able to do good in the world if you let yourself have these things.

 

8. TALK TO SOMEONE. Often, we curl inward socially when overwhelmed w/ negative content. It’s a means of protection. One of the great things at CIA was that everyone else knew what you were going through. Whether it’s therapy or talking to your person, talking helps.

 

None of this is easy. I got burned out a lot in my career & many days recently, I’ve felt overloaded by the barrage. I’m sure you have too. But you and I can’t check out. We can’t give up & we need to stay engaged, but we can’t do that if we get overloaded. Keep going.

 

Shout out to who forces me to get out of the house when I start sounding especially doom and gloom!

 

 

Otis posted a follow-up thread on June 29, 2018:

 

Wow. I woke up this morning to find my thread went viral & my inbox was full of messages from ppl. My biggest takeaway from it is that we’re all struggling right now. So, I’ve got a few quick things you can do RIGHT NOW to help survive whatever news dump we’ll get today:

 

1. Read this article by that includes tips from me on how to read the news like an intelligence analyst. It gets at my tip from earlier on doing research before panicking and talks about how to actually do that research. Knowledge = POWER.

(Here is the link she referenced:) http://www.realclearlife.com/media/6-rules-thinking-like-cia-analyst-beat-fake-news/

 

2. Schedule the time you’re planning to unplug today. Write it down so it is more likely to happen. Will you take a walk? Call a friend to talk about anything but the news? Take a power nap? Bake some cookies? Watch your fave trash TV show? Whatever it is, DO IT.

 

3. Look at who you follow on social media. Do you only follow people who perpetuate the crisis mentality? If so, add in some practical folks who provide actionable ways forward and context you need to know. is a must for Americans worried about politics.

 

4. Tell yourself as many times as you need to hear it today — YOU ARE NOT ALONE. YOU CAN DO THIS. WE NEED YOU WITH US. Take care, all.

 

 

Follow Cindy Otis on Twitter:

@CindyOtis_

 

 

Visit Otis’s website:

http://www.cindyotis.com

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

Choose Your Core Four · Community Activism · Elections · Use Your Power, Recruit Friends

Believe It, You Matter, Part VIII: No Matter What the Polls Say, Act Like Your Candidates Are Ten Points Behind

ThisOTYCD post originally appeared in July 2018. In the lead-up to the midterms, we’re re-running important posts. Please click on the announcement from Sarah Jane to learn why you’re not seeing timely daily posts.

 

No matter what the polls say, always act like your candidates are ten points behind.

 

If you’ve been watching the polls on “generic Democratic Congressional candidates” vs the GOP, you know that they’ve been all over the place–sometimes giving the Dems a huge lead, sometimes showing the GOP closing the gap.

 

Ignore those polls.

 

Ok, let’s be more specific. No matter what’s happening with the polls, always act like the candidates you’re supporting are ten points behind. Even if they’re not.

 

2018 promises to be the most consequential midterm election in several decades, and possibly the most consequential since midterms began.

 

You need to focus and stay focused on your candidates. (You’re using the Core Four technique, yes?)

 

Keep talking to friends and family about them. Keep volunteering for them. Keep donating to them regularly (small sums given monthly are better than a big lump sum given once). Keep boosting them on social media.

 

Stick to your schedule of self-imposed breaks. Burnout is a thing. We need you. Yes, things are bad and this election is crucial, but still, don’t try to do everything all the time or you won’t be able to do anything.

 

And! Keep talking to friends and family about voting, and make sure everyone you know is registered to vote, knows where the polling place is, and knows how they’re getting there on the day.

 

Polls say many things. Don’t be lulled into complacency if your candidates are doing well.  Keep putting in the same amount of time, money, and effort that you’ve put in all along, and encourage everyone you know who’s game to do more than show up and vote to do whatever else they’re willing to do, whatever that is.

 

Stay strong. Stay steady. Stay focused.

Community Activism · Good News · Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare

Believe It, You Matter, Part IV: Just Keep Swimming

This OTYCD entry originally posted in December 2017.

 

Imagine an Olympic-size swimming pool, and imagine you’re the only person in it.

 

Swim to the pool’s edge. Start doing laps around the pool by following the edge. One lap is one complete rectangle. Ready? Go.

 

One lap.

Two laps.

Three laps.

Take as much time as you want. It’s not a race.

Five laps.

Seven laps.

Ten.

Ok, stop swimming.

 

See what’s happening?

 

Your limbs are still, but you’re moving forward on the momentum of the current that you created. Keep swimming, and the current will get stronger, and it will float you forward when you need to rest.

 

Now imagine that you invite more people to join you in the pool. They file in behind you, and they follow you in swimming laps around the edge.

 

What happens? The current grows stronger, faster.

 

This is what political action can be. If it’s just you swimming, it’ll take a while to get some momentum going, but once it’s going, you’re good, and you can even rest every now and again. If you can recruit people to swim with you, you can build momentum even faster, and you can rest reliably, safe in the knowledge that the flow won’t stop.

 

Ok, yes, let’s admit it–we’re sharing the pool with folks who are trying to swim in the opposite direction, and some of those folks have no interest in playing fair. But never forget–there are more of us than there are of them.

 

If we work together and we just keep swimming, our momentum will be unstoppable.

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the blue button on the upper right or checking the About & Subscribe page. And tell your friends about the blog!

Read, Educate Yourself, Prepare · Uncategorized

Refresh, Review, and Prepare for the 2018 Elections (GOP Tax Bill-Related Briefing, Postmortem Edition)

This OTYCD entry originally appeared in December 2017.

 

Refresh, review, and prep for the 2018 elections following the vote on the GOP tax bill.

 

The GOP tax bill passed both chambers between December 19 and December 20, after some glitches that forced a revote in the House of Representatives.

 

John McCain did not vote–he had to go home to Arizona to recuperate from complications from his brain cancer treatments. But the yes votes on the final bill included Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins.

 

Let’s review what we should do now.

 

First–Much has been asked of you lately. You have worked hard. If you need a break nowrightnow, take it. If you need to purge politics from your life for a few hours, a few days, a few weeks, do it. Tend to yourself. Do whatever you need to do so you can come back, refreshed and ready to fight. If you can hang on until Congress adjourns on December 22, do. If you feel yourself fraying, step away now, before you have a chance to unravel. Remember, you matter, and your voice matters. We need you to stay here and carry on the fight.

 

Next, call your MoCs again and either thank them for holding firm against the bill, or berate them for passing it.

 

Check this New York Times article to see how your House Rep voted (if you have a Republican senator, and that senator isn’t John McCain, your senator voted yes):

 

Celeste Pewter (@Celeste_Pewter–you’re following her, right?) tweeted the reason why you should make a final call on this topic on December 20:

 

Go call your reps right now, and be ANGRY. You know what happens when people don’t call after contentious votes? We shrug and think, “Ok, what’s next?” But if you call, it forces us to pause and wonder how to address it.

Call your MoCs on this issue last time if you haven’t already. Yes, we know you’re sick of calling about this, and you might be despondent over the passage of the bill. We get it! We’ve been beating the drum about the GOP tax bill since early November. But if the pressure disappears the instant the bill passes, your MoCs might downplay the protests. Force them to pause and wonder how to address it.

Also, it’s perfectly OK to be mad or sad over this, but don’t let your emotions derail you. Put them to use. Again, Celeste Pewter tweets wisdom:

Channel your frustrations into the tax bill into rage right now. Angry tweeting is cathartic, but will not solve anything in the long run. What are actionable steps you’ll take OFF line? Think about it, and do it.

Here also is a string of tweets from Andy Slavitt (@aslavitt):
My view on last night’s tax vote: don’t dwell too long. They think they are just be getting started. 1/
I believe last night’s vote was baked months ago, seen internally to GOPers as necessary for party survival. Collins, Rubio, Flake & Corker vote had more to do with fraternity than ideology. 2/
Negotiating for something for themselves or to show their power was all they ever intended. The fact is they were all crap negotiators but once AL flipped & McCain was hospitalized, demands dropped & everybody fell in line. 3/
The fact that the bill was unpopular was an irritant, that every economist & deficit hawk saw it as a clear disaster just had to be lived with. The prospect of passing no legislation in what felt like a closing window was unacceptable for a simple reason. 4/
It costs $20 million or more to run a Senate race or a competitive House race and those dollars generally don’t come locally and they don’t come without promises. The single fact that 6000 lobbyists worked on the bill is the one I will remember. 5/
The immediate agenda once the tax is signed is all that matters now . . . 6/
CHIP and DACA and the size of zmedicare cuts are immediately on the agenda with the CR coming on Friday. As are the reinsurance and CSR amendments Collins asked for. 7/ [Editor’s note: CHIP is the Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves more than nine million American children, and has gone unfunded since expiring on September 30; DACA stands for Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, a program that helped people who are Americans in every sense except the paperwork; CR stands for ‘continuing resolution,’ a maneuver that will furnish the funds that let the government pay its bills for a set period of time. The current CR expires Friday, December 22; many are urging Democrats to make the next CR contingent on reauthorizing CHIP, protecting the DACA folks, or both.]
GOP has focused so much on the tax bill and so much of that agenda they don’t like that much of it will get kicked to January. The dynamic is horrifying.8/
In the new party roles, anytime something is done for people, Republicans want something in return. Example: CHIP, DACA, Medicare all have price tags on them. Republicans insist on cutting the ACA, a border wall, and Defense spending.9/
And we are weeks for 2018…Republicans are ready to reach for much more. Graham & Cassidy have already begun the process of trying to recruit Collins or Murkowski to do ACA repeal next year. The White House and Paul Ryan promise to cut Medicaid and other poverty programs. 10/
Going into 2017: Most Americans didn’t know what CHIP was until the GOP decided not to pass it; weren’t focused on Medicaid until the GOP tried to slash it; and thought pre-existing condition protections were safe until the GOP tried to end them. It’s different now.

Other things to know:

Most people realize how bad this bill is, and most see how it’s Robin Hood in reverse–not just “liberals”.

See this December 20 tweet from Michael Linden (@michaelslinden), a tax expert:

Honored to be part of a tele-town hall with small business owners hosted by this evening. If this call is any indication, small business owners are super upset about the tax bill. It’s so complicated, and it benefits corporations over them, and they know it.

Also see these articles, which are just a few of many on how bad the bill is:

https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2017/12/18/16782484/gop-tax-bill-cuts-reform-republican

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2017/12/gop-tax-bill-inequalilty/548726/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/12/20/republicans-are-about-to-pass-a-tax-bill-democrats-think-theyre-signing-their-death-certificate/?utm_term=.9fba711406ca

The team behind the Trump Tax March and Not One Penny are ready with a call to Repeal the Trump Tax:

https://notonepenny.org

https://repealthetrumptax.org

We’ll devote posts to that as they develop, but for now–know that Paul Ryan and his minions plan to cut Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security next.

If they try to do that, they should be met with a loud and forceful response: Repeal the tax cuts you just passed, and apply the money to those programs.

Now, having said all that: It was clear before the bill staggered to the finish line, and it’s clearer now that it has passed:

 

All Republican senators have to go.

 

All. Of. Them. Without exception.

 

Maybe there are some decent ones in the House of Representatives, maybe, but the Senate? They all have to go. All of them.

 

You now have to start thinking seriously about what you will do to help get all those Republicans out of office.

 

We’ve wrangled a bunch of links to past posts to cover things you should consider doing, and things you can start doing.

 

 

First off–if you haven’t seen the page on The Most Important Thing You Can Do, go there and read those four posts. (Yes, there are four Most Important Things You Can Do. #SorryNotSorry.)

https://onethingyoucando.com/the-most-important-thing-you-can-do/

 

 

Only one-third of the Senate is up for re-election in 2018. Defending Democratic Senators helps the cause just as much as defeating Republican incumbents.

Start scouting for senators who you can donate time and money to in 2018:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/23/start-scouting-for-senators-who-you-can-donate-time-and-money-to-in-2018/

 

 

Also, think about which House of Representatives members to support or oppose in 2018. All of them are up for re-election, and some incumbents are retiring. Watch the Democratic primaries, see who you can get behind, and do it. Again, you need to commit time, money, word-of-mouth support, or some combination of all three.

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/20/think-about-which-house-reps-to-support-or-oppose-in-2018/

 

 

Trump and his minions are going to try everything they can to suppress the vote. Once you are sure you’re registered, and once you’ve started talking to friends who were eligible to vote in 2016 but chose not to do so, look into other ways you can support and defend the right to vote.

 

 

Subscribe to One Thing You Can Do by clicking the button on the upper right of the page. And tell your friends about the blog!

 

 

Support Spread the Vote, which helps citizens obtain IDs and other paperwork they need in order to vote in their home states:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/26/support-spread-the-vote-which-helps-citizens-obtain-ids/

 

 

Support the efforts of Let America Vote:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/25/support-the-efforts-of-let-america-vote/

 

 

Support H.R. 2840, the Automatic Voter Registration Act:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/27/support-h-r-2840-the-automatic-voter-registration-act/

 

 

Help Florida’s ex-felons regain the right to vote:

https://onethingyoucando.com/2017/11/25/help-floridas-ex-felons-regain-the-right-to-vote/

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Believe It: You Matter, Part II: You Matter to Other People

This OTYCD entry originally posted in May 2017.

Believe it. You matter to other people. 

One of the most pernicious lies that authoritarians and their ilk try to push is that you don’t matter. That’s bullshit. You matter. If you didn’t matter, Trump and those who do his bidding wouldn’t be so hot and bothered about suppressing the vote under the guise of routing out voter fraud.

No matter who you are, no matter where you are, you have people who care about you and your opinions. For serious.

You can push back against Trump by believing, wholeheartedly, that you matter, and that the people around you care about what you have to say.

Stand up. Be calm. Be respectful. Be heard. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Keep speaking out against Trump and his sick, destructive worldview.

And most of all, keep finding ways to invite people to join you in your resistance. You are powerful alone, but you are more powerful with friends.

Don’t be put off if they say no. Keep asking people who you like to join you until someone says yes. If you are kind and deferential and no-strings-attached about it, someone will, eventually.