Some days just get out of hand. The workload is heavy, and still the emails and calls flood in. The pace can seem frenetic, and the constant interruptions not only disrupt your actions but your thought process as well. You move so fast you feel unproductive and sloppy. By the end of the day, you feel stressed and edgy. Worse, you can't shut down your brain because you feel you might have missed something important.
It doesn't have to escalate to the point at which you head home to snap at your kids and yell at your dog. There are simple ways to gain control during the most hectic and frantic of days. Below is a simple, 15-minute regimen from my friend and writing coach Carolyn Roark, Ph.D., who taught college students for years and knows a little about creating calm amid a world of chaos.
The next time the world is spinning you in all directions, go find a quiet place for 15 minutes and use this exercise to recenter yourself in the universe.
5 minutes of physical activity
Even though you may already have your blood pumping from running around the office, Roark suggests that heading outside and running or fast walking around the building will give you a break from the immediate chaos. Separation from the action will help your mind let go of the immediacy of issues. The release of endorphins will lift your mood and begin to break the stress.
4 minutes of gratitude
Now that your body is a little looser, you can start to clear your thoughts. The easiest way to slow down the pace is to remember why you are doing all of this to begin with. Use these minutes to contemplate how grateful you are for the people around you who support you and add value to your life. Be thankful for good health, good opportunities, and the wonders of the world you live in. You can take a broad approach and make a list, or pick one person and write a note. Send it tomorrow; no need for another task right now.
3 minutes of meditation
Now that you are in a positive state of body and mind, you can go to work on getting your mind to clear. Meditation is a very effective way of clearing out all the distractions and allowing you to find your center. There are several approaches you can use. Some people use prayer to quiet the outside and create an inward focus. Others cross their legs and hum. If you don't have an established method, Roark recommends you find some examples on the Internet or find a guided video on YouTube. Either way, make sure it has specific structure that guides you through the process so you have one less thing to think about.
2 minutes of silence
With your mind clear, the last thing you need now is to walk back into the distracting frenzy. Find a quiet place you can sit and desensitize. Even if you are at your desk, turn out the lights, turn off your computer and electronics, put on some noise canceling headphones, and block out all stimuli. Be alone with yourself and focus on your calm. You can set your smartphone on airplane mode so it doesn't disturb you, and put two minutes on the timer. If it's in vibrate mode in your pocket, it will gently let you know when the two minutes of quiet are over. By now, you should be calm, cool, and clear.
1 minute of deep breathing
At the end of the quiet mode, set one more minute on the clock. Of course, you know you have to head back into the fray, so, time to prepare. For the next 60 seconds, focus on slow breathing as you bring yourself back to awareness. You'll find that just the act of deep breathing will slow things down. For the rest of the day, if you find things edging out of control, you can simply go to a quiet space and repeat this one-minute breathing exercise, which should settle things down again. If it doesn't seem to work, just find another 15 minutes and go back to the top.
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