Keep Your Sanity with the Personal Craziness Index
To stay sane in an insane world, we need more than new tools and techniques. To maintain sanity, we also have to keep doing the things that got us there.
The final piece of the resilience puzzle is to build Balancer-enhancing attitudes and practices into our daily lives, so they are as much a part of our routines as breathing. Then we keep watch to make sure we’re staying on track.
When Balancer incorporates the new tools ReBalancer uses, it gets stronger. Mini self-care then becomes something we do every day, not just when stress is high. The Experiment becomes an experimental attitude we carry with us 24/7. Meditation becomes a daily activity. Self-compassion and acceptance become the new norm. And so on.
But changing habits takes time. If we don’t stay on top of our game, we run the risk of drifting back to our old, less resilient ways. UnBalancer loves when that happens! So we need a method for regularly checking in with ourselves to make sure we’re using all the shiny new tools and techniques we worked so hard to acquire.
To help stay on track, I recommend using a monitoring tool called the Personal Craziness Index (PCI). The PCI was first presented by author Patrick J. Carnes in his groundbreaking book on addiction recovery, A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps. But it turns out that the PCI has uses beyond maintaining sobriety, and one of them is to monitor resilience.
The PCI is a universal tracking tool that can be used by anyone to monitor and maintain balance. It relies on the fact that in both subtle and obvious ways we respond to aspects of our lives differently when we’re in balance and when we’re not.
The PCI is a build-it-yourself tool. In each of 10 major life areas, the PCI lists three indicators of how we act when we are in balance. Then we track the most significant ones – the ones that most clearly indicate whether we are in or out of balance – every day.
If we notice we’re slipping back into unbalanced behaviors, chances are good we are headed for a major tilt in the near future. What’s nice about the PCI is that corrective actions are built into it. All we have to do to restore balance is resume any balancing activities we’re no longer doing, and stop doing the unbalancing activities that sneaked back in.
For instance, suppose that in the “Health” category we wrote that when we’re feeling balanced, we go to the gym three times a week, cook our own meals, and sleep at least seven hours per night. Although each of these actions alone may seem unimportant, as indicators that Balancer is humming along smoothly they are invaluable.
When we notice we’re skipping the gym, picking up junk food, or skimping on sleep, we become aware that we’re also becoming more vulnerable to imbalance. At this stage, because we’ve given up only a little ground, out-maneuvering UnBalancer is easy: we will ourselves to return to the gym, cook our meals, and get more sleep, and thus reverse the downward slide.
Detecting mild imbalance before UnBalancer gathers enough strength to pull us under is much easier than restoring balance once we’ve been toppled.
In 12-step recovery programs, the phrase “fake it till you make it” expresses the idea of using our will to assume new, more self-actualizing behaviors and attitudes. The PCI helps us “fake it till we make it” when the amount of willpower that’s required to keep personal craziness at bay is still small. Then we can go forward, Balancer unhindered, UnBalancer thwarted once again.
What to do:
- Create Your Own Personal Craziness Index. Listed below are 10 suggested categories for the Personal Craziness Index. If some of these categories don’t fit your situation, you can substitute others that do. Under each category, write 3 indicators that you are in a good place – list either things you do that keep you in positive territory, or things you don’t do that also show you are functioning well. For example, under Health/Hygiene you might list “exercise 3x per week” as something you do to stay fit, or “don’t eat junk food” as a reminder to avoid unhealthy eating.
- Track 7 indicators. Choose the 7 indicators, from any of these 10 categories, that most clearly show that you’re maintaining your defenses against personal craziness. At the end of each day, tally up how you did. Give yourself a score from 1 to 7, where “7” is “I’m doing all the positive things / not doing any of the negative things” and “0” is “I’m not doing any of the positive things / doing all of the negative things.” Keep a daily log. NOTE: You get a “0” for days you don’t bother to check!
- If your score dips below 7, reverse the trend. If your numbers start dropping, reverse the trend by resuming the positives on your PCI and avoiding the negatives. When your Personal Craziness Index is restored, your personal craziness will, likewise, diminish, your personal sanity restored.
Personal Craziness Index
The Under Toad and the UnBalancer
The Balancer/ReBalancer Tag Team
A Mini-Lesson on Mini Self-Care
Gyroscopes and Personal Flywheels
Hanging in the Balance
Balancing the Books
How to Design an Experiment
Build Your Resilience in 6 Steps
How to Rebalance Your Brain in 3 Easy Steps
How to Boost Connections and Support
Handling Change, Part I: Radical Acceptance and Self-Compassion
Handling Change, Part II: Forgiveness and Self-Forgiveness
Handling Change, Part III: Creative Approach and Experimental Attitude
Three Ways to Mix Mindfulness into Your Life
Keep Your Sanity with the Personal Craziness Index
From Paths to Wholeness: Fifty-Two Flower Mandalas
PATH: “If you don’t know where a path goes, it’s hard to take the first step. When we are on a path with heart, the going may be no easier than when we are on another path. But we don’t mind. We sense that we are not just passing time because we can feel the path taking us where we need to go. And when we come to the end of our days, we know that our time on the planet has not been squandered.”
NOTE: Paths to Wholeness is now available at the following Boston-area bookstores and libraries:
Cabot Street Books & Cards, 272 Cabot Street, Beverly, MA 01915
The Bookshop, 40 West Street, Beverly Farms, MA 01915
Boston Public Library (main branch)
Brookline Public Library (main branch)
NOBLE Public Libraries (Beverly Farms and Salem)
MVLC Public Libraries (Hamilton-Wenham)
Please let me know if you find it in other locations!
52 (more) Flower Mandalas: An Adult Coloring Book for Inspiration and Stress Relief
52 Flower Mandalas: An Adult Coloring Book for Inspiration and Stress Relief
Paths to Wholeness: Selections (free eBook)