I’ve been asking this question all week at work. Most people tell me they’re tired, busy, frazzled, knackered, crazy busy, stressed, ready for a holiday. What about you?
And how would you like to feel? This is something I’ve been thinking about quite a bit. I’d like to feel more calm.
When I’m calm, life seems easier, things aren’t an effort, I’m more focused, I sleep better, I’m more efficient. I’m also happier. In the run up to Christmas, both at school and in life, it’s not always easy to prioritise calm, so I thought it might be a good time to share some of the things I’ve been doing to calm my whirring mind, build my social connections at work and manage my stress so that I experience more calm, more joy and less stress in my every day.
Would you like a calmer mind?
These are five simple things that I have found help me to feel calmer:
1. Connect with your body
This is a tip from Chloe Brotheridge’s book The Anxiety Solution. Take a moment to notice how your body is feeling. Start by checking in with your hands – are they cool? Warm? Tingly?
Now, as you keep your attention focused on your body, try to maintain that attention while you simultaneously worry about something at work. Can you do it? No? Not if you’re fully focused on your body. It’s impossible to do this and worry at the same time. So for instant stress relief, focus on how your body is feeling and it will take your attention away from over-thinking or worrying.
2. Just do one thing at a time
Still think multi-tasking is a thing? It might be nice to think of yourself as a super-efficient multitasking machine, but the reality is very different. Multitasking is really just switching from task to task, which is a very inefficient way of working. Research has shown that it takes around 7 minutes to regain your focus when you switch tasks. Forcing your brain to switch between tasks not only reduces your focus and efficiency, it’s more tiring. So just do one thing at a time. Give it your full attention and when it’s done, move on. Although it seems like a slower way of working, you’ll probably get more done in less time and feel less frazzled.
3. Turn off alerts
This is my favourite. You do not need to know the minute you get an email, a text message, a tweet or someone likes your Instagram post. It’s distracting, and bottom line: probably not that important. Change the settings on your mobile so that new emails, tweets and Facebook messages are not ‘pushed’ to your mobile by turning off alerts for these apps. The result is less distraction and more opportunity to focus on what you’re doing in the moment.
4. Be mindful
Worrying or overthinking? Got that sick feeling in your stomach? Shallow rapid breathing? Take mindful action to bring yourself back to the present moment by taking a few slow, deep breaths. This immediately calms your nervous system. Tell yourself that in this moment you are safe and everything is fine. Feel better? Repeat as often as needed.
If you’re interested in exploring the physical and mental benefits of mindfulness more, you could try an app like Headspace or Calm. Both will help you to make meditation a habit and both are free for teachers!
5. Take one thing off your to-do list
What thing? That’s easy – the thing that’s been weighing you down. The thing that’s hanging over you. The thing that you agreed to do, but wish you hadn’t said yes to. It’s not urgent. It’s probably not important (or you would have found the time to do it), but it is keeping you up at night, worrying. It’s the thing that seems to have lived on your to-do list forever, the thing that fills you with dread. Yes, that thing. Dump it. How do you feel?
When you start to prioritise calm, you’ll not only feel better, you’ll be able to be there more effectively for your work, your family and friends. Remember – being calm isn’t about eradicating stress from your life, that’s probably an unrealistic aim. Seeking calm is all about learning how to assert control over your reactions. By prioritising calm you’re establishing routines and habits that allow you to find your place of calm and experience peace amid the chaos…of the school day or Christmas celebrations!
How you access calm won’t necessarily be the same as how I do. I like going to yin yoga on a Thursday night, that doesn’t mean you will, you might, but you might also find it a pointless waste of time and prefer to be out running, laughing over a drink with friends or reading a good book. Experiment. Find what works for you. You’ll get the most benefit out of doing something that you’re reasonably good at but that also poses some degree of challenge.
I’d love to hear about ONE thing you’ve done to seek calm and how it has made you feel – send me an email to let me know!