Occam’s Razor

Occam’s Razor

This year I set a fuzzy goal to create a warmer atmosphere in my home. I have no idea how to go about it, but I know it’s something I desperately want–and before my kids get any older. I don’t know what I need to do to get there. I have  no plan.

But I do know this: my home was warmer–I was warmer–when I went on my Whole 30. I felt great, and had more energy and patience because of it. When I changed, the atmosphere in my home changed with it.

Do I still have progress to make? Sure. But I was amazed how much progress I made (and how fast!) just by taking care of the basics. By taking care of myself, really.

I thought I needed a complicated plan to meet my goal, but I made dramatic progress with 3 simple steps: Eat clean. Quit coffee. Get more sleep. 

Complicated plans for complicated problems

I’m not the only one who makes complicated plans to solve what seem like complicated problems.

Last week I got an SOS text from a friend who was having a bad day. Everything was horrible. Her marriage sucked; her kids were brats. She was frustrated, unhappy, exhausted. She wanted to quit blogging; she wanted to go to counseling.

I told her (gently, I hope) to take a nap.

need a nap

Last month another friend was fighting with her husband and yelling at her kids. She wanted to go blonde, move out of state, give away the dog. She ate a panful of brownies for dinner. (It didn’t help.)

After a week of this, she went to the doctor for a horrible headache, and found out she had a sinus infection. She took her kids to the pediatrician the next day for routine well-checks, and found out they both had double ear infections. 3 courses of antibiotics later, everyone is feeling fine. Which is good, because blonde’s not really her color and I’d miss her if she moved away.

Sometimes, my problems really are complicated, and demand complex solutions. But sometimes, the underlying problem turns out be pretty simple.

And when they do, I always think of Dr. House.

Life Lessons from Dr. House

I was hooked on the show from an early episode–#3 or #4–called Occam’s Razor. The title comes from a medical principle of the same name, which holds that the simplest diagnosis that fits the facts is usually the correct one. Med students are taught to begin with simple theories, and only move on to complex ones if they truly explain the underlying problem better.

The “razor” part is shaving away unnecessary assumptions. Here’s a funny example from several years ago:

I was in great shape after having my third baby.  I was setting PRs left and right in Crossfit; I was tinkering with my diet to improve performance. (This was just before the Whole 30 was born, and I was eating along those lines.) In fact, Melissa Hartwig was reviewing my food logs for me and making recommendations to improve performance.

And every time I implemented one of her suggestions, my performance got worse. At first I thought it was just a fluke, but over the course of a few weeks my performance tanked. I was going backwards, fast. Not only was my performance suffering, but I was feeling tired all the time–not just in the gym.

I started freaking out, and tried to go back to what I’d been eating before–but I hadn’t been keeping records then. I was distraught; Melissa was confused.

Can you see where this is going? It wasn’t the food.

I was pregnant.

Start simple

When I’m having a bad day, I don’t need to go to counseling, move out of state, or any of that stuff. (Okay, maybe I do, but it shouldn’t be my first assumption.) The simplest explanation is usually the best one.

So when I have a bruise on my leg, I could google it and find out I might have cancer–but I probably bumped into my desk. When I have a bad day, I might need a whole new life.

But I probably just need a nap.

Can you relate? How has this played out in your life?

photo credit

41 comments | Comment

41 comments

  1. I can absolutely relate to this, and I am trying to implement this very strategy in my own life, I am even starting to track the simple things like sleep, TV watching, mood and energy to help me figure out what makes me run the best. Oh and I’m tracking Sugar consumption as well and finding I absolutely run to it for a stress relief at the end of the night when everything is beyond me and I just want to be done. Usually I can keep it in check, IE I’ve been keeping Dark Chocolate Dried Cherry Almond clusters… bc they’re comprised of all natural, mostly healthy stuff. Way better than a pan of brownies right?

    It’s been frustrating because I’m still far more tired than I should be, last night I passed out against my will at 8:15 after dragging myself around since 6.

    I loved House as well by the way… miss that guy.

    • Anne says:

      Definitely better than a pan of brownies!

      I quit House 3 or 4 seasons in. Is it worth picking it back up? (You know, in all my free time… 😉 )

  2. Tina B says:

    You gave me a giggle for the day… I open your email and see a picture this HUGE razor and this first sentence: “This year I set a fuzzy goal to create a warmer atmosphere in my home.” Should I decribe the thoughts I had for how you were going to create this warmer atmosphere??? LOL! I hope this gives you a chuckle too. And I miss House too.

  3. I loved “House” – slightly messed up, but at the same time, completely enjoyable to watch.

    On a secondary note – Tina’s thoughts echo my own (razor, warmer atmosphere, ???). 🙂

  4. Meredith says:

    Thanks. This was a very inspirational post. Step back, see what the simple solution is and take a nap. Love it.

  5. Beth @ the Goad abode says:

    This is so true. The food we eat, amount of sleep we get and so much more impacts our mood/attitude. I try to keep those things in perspective when I find myself grumpy and annoyed at life. My husband is great about graciously asking such question like “when was the last time you ate?” if I’m acting irritable.

    • Anne says:

      “My husband is great about graciously asking such question like “when was the last time you ate?” if I’m acting irritable.”

      Um, yes. That describes me pretty well too!

  6. Robin in New Jersey says:

    I love this post. I no longer have small children at home, just 3 teen girls. 🙂 However, when my kids were small, I always took a nap when they did.

    PS. Going to a Christian counselor was the best thing I ever did for myself and my family. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Robin, I’m with you on the counseling. Finding a Christian counselor has been one of the best things I’ve ever done, too.

      My bag of tricks for when I’m struggling definitely includes a maintenance visit to my counselor–if things don’t start looking up after a nap 🙂

  7. Jaimie says:

    It’s so nice to know this isn’t just me. When I’m hungry or tired, everything seems worse–ESPECIALLY when I’m tired! I cannot get into any intense discussions late at night (last night, for example, Joshua and I were talking about computer games we played as a kid–perfect pre-sleep conversation material). And if I’m frustrated or worried about something it seems 100 times worse if I’m exhausted. Taking a nap, or letting it out with a good cry, or getting something in my tummy are usually the easiest remedies if I feel out of sorts!

  8. My oldest daughter figured out a few years ago that if she started having random urges to beat someone to death (which, as she has a black belt, is not a good thing) it usually meant she had let her blood sugar drop too low. Once she started carrying snacks with her everywhere, she said her mood was 100% better!
    I had serious mood/energy issues when I worked nights for six months. I would come home at 7, sleep for 4-5 hours, and get up and homeschool the kids. Not. pretty.
    Sleep and food can make all the difference, can’t they?!

  9. Tim says:

    I’m all for naps, Anne. Even just sitting down a taking a load off can be a pretty good cure for what ails you, body and mind. And on the idea of eating chocolate as a curative, can I say maybe? Dark chocolate especially.

    Sometimes I’ll be out running errands and feeling in a rut or something (my aunt used to call it feeling a bit punky), and if I see a small dark chocolate bar at the checkout stand I might add it to the pile. Eating one of those can really change my outlook for the better awfully quickly.

  10. I feel like moving away at least once a week. Usually when the dishes are piling up, my daughter is whining and the baby is crying inconsolably. Yes, a nap, a snack and maybe a few minutes of quiet will do wonders. The problem of course comes when you know what the problem is but can’t do anything about it.

    • Anne says:

      “The problem of course comes when you know what the problem is but can’t do anything about it.”

      Big sigh. Yes.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, I like that one! (And I relate all too well to what you said in the post–my doctor sent me off for an MRI and a couple of other painful and expensive tests last year when I I had headaches and neck pain. Sheesh.)

  11. Karlyne says:

    This may have been your best post; it was not only funny but practical, too. I remember a friend saying one time that when studying the Bible, we should always reason from the simple to the complicated and never vice versa. It works in life, too!

    • Anne says:

      I didn’t say this above, but I also find a good book and a glass of wine provide some high-caliber self-care.

  12. All very true. I find that most of the time when I get upset, I either need to exercise or have a rest. When a particular problem keeps coming back, that’s when I know I need to start praying about it and making some changes. Most of my problems are stress and busy-ness related, so I’m trying to be more organized and take on fewer extras right now for Lent. Being flexible and cutting myself and others slack is something I have to work on as well.
    We ladies also have to remember what time of the month it is before we start upending our lives 😀

      • Tim says:

        OK, but what excuse does that leave me? I can cry at the drop of a hat. Puppy food commercials have even been known to make me tear up some days!

  13. Heather says:

    Anne, in ABF back in the old days, Rusty gave one of his more quotable quotes: “Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is sleep.” I’ve often recalled that. So true.

  14. Kara says:

    I started reading your blog a few months ago and really enjoy it. Almost all of what you write is relevant to me since we have similar interests – books, personality knowledge and application to daily life, parenting, food, etc. However, I found this blog post for the first time after google searching for this exact meme to hang up on my desk at work after a tough day yesterday. Apparently when I need self-care reminders I should bypass google and come straight to MMD!

  15. Brenda says:

    I too learned about Occam’s Razor from “House”! I have been fascinated with it ever since. It is not reserved only for medical diagnosis though, it’s applied in other fields as well, such as science and philosophy as you are doing!
    I’m so glad you wrote this, as I had not realized that Whole 30 is probably the biggest key to MY home warmth as well. It all seems to fall into place when I eat and feed my family well. I relax and feel good about myself when I know I’m taking care of us – and it eases my anxiety about all of our health, as I know it is moving in the right direction. Also I am in the kitchen more, which makes my kids happy, as they love my cooking – but also I need to keep it clean in order to cook, (that tidy, environment brings peace to my mind). When I cook, we eat around the table and connect with each other, (my hubby is usually at work, but he appreciates something healthy to come home to!) my kids appreciate my efforts and are actually happier, with less quarreling between them (3 teen boys) and we all FEEL better which ALSO makes us less cranky. Thanks for the spark to me think it through – I am getting back to it immediately!

  16. Kristín says:

    Thank you for this post, just what I needed! Also, love your blog, thank you so much for writing 🙂

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