Rest area? by Joe Shlabotnik
Most of us are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of noise and information we receive every day. From the very beginning of our day with the blare of the alarm clock, we watch TV as we eat breakfast, drive to work with the radio on and listen to the clatter of the keyboard, the whine of the copier, hum of the printer and babble of conversation from coworkers. We have to run errands on our break time, go over meeting notes at lunch, and sit through rush hour traffic on the drive home. It’s no wonder by the end of the day we are thinking of a million things at once and have a pounding headache.
Many of us have fallen into this trend by default. Our parents lived this way, our friends are busier than we are, and at work everyone is expected to multi-task. Indeed, many so-called experts recommend these busy lifestyles, and simply advise us to utilize tools such as organizers and electronic planners to keep track of our various obligations. The problem with this is people literally need to disconnect from their Blackberry’s and laptops so they can reconnect with themselves and their families.
Luckily there is something we can do about it. There are many different methods out there, so you have lots of choices. Here are just a few:
- Take a deep breath. When we speed up and multi-task our heart-rate increases and our muscles tense in anticipation of all the work we have to do. By taking 10-20 deep belly breaths, we can calm our mind and slow down our racing heart.
- Concentrate on one thing. Don’t talk on the phone while typing. Don’t listen to music while you read. Stop what you’re doing and look your spouse or child in the eye when they ask you something. Your focus will improve and you’ll feel more in control.
- Use a calendar. I use a printed one and a computer calendar. The computer allows me to have pop-up reminders for daily tasks. The printed one allows me to write birthdays, and other events where I can easily see them. This organization helps me focus on my business and personal goals with one quick glance.
- After work, turn your cell phone to vibrate. Many of us treat our cell phone like another appendage. Instead of answering every call that comes through while you are trying to eat dinner, workout and rest, turn your phone to vibrate. You can check it at 8:00 pm or so, then return any priority calls. Chances are most of it can wait until the next day.
- Turn off the TV for an hour. Although I too find TV to be relaxing, I know there are many other activities I would enjoy even more. I find the 7:00 pm hour has almost nothing that I enjoy watching. This is a good time for me to workout, meditate or read a favorite book. Use your time more wisely and you’ll find that to-do list getting done more often.
- Set a limit on your computer time. Setting a timer to go off in an hour will help you see how much time you spend online. Although the Internet is fun, we all need time with family and friends. Make a list of what you want to do so you won’t be side-tracked by the cute puppy video or checking your emails for the 5th time.
- Take 10 minutes of silence every day. This doesn’t sound hard to do, but you’d be surprised how hard it is to remember. When you sit quietly, doing nothing for just 10 minutes, you’ll be aware of so many little sounds; the tick of the clock, the creak of a chair, the distant barking of a dog. After a few times, you will crave that quiet serenity with a severity that puts a chocoholic to shame. Silence is golden.
- Give up one activity this month. If you have no time for exercise, relaxation, hobbies or family, it is time to give up one of your commitments. Saying no is easier than you think. Most people know before you do that you’re overworked and need some downtime. You don’t even need to give a reason, simply tell them they’ve got 30 days to find a replacement as you have too many obligations at this time.
- Make a date with your family. If you don’t spend the time you should with your wife, if you your children spend more time with the babysitter than with you, it’s time to schedule them in. Use the calendar in #3 and arrange at least one day a month to spend with your family. Plan a getaway to the zoo, a park or a great hands-on museum.
- Take lots of short mini-breaks. Although this sounds counter-productive, it isn’t. Stop what you’re doing right now. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Now count backward from 20 to 1, still breathing deeply. When you’re done, open your eyes. How do you feel? Calmer? More focused? This simple exercise only takes 1-2 minutes to do and has great benefits for mind and body. It rests and relaxes the eyes, reducing redness and irritation. The deep breathing restores circulation and the counting stops the barrage of thoughts that are interrupting your concentration.
- Stretch. Simple stretches help release the tension and stiffness in muscles, helping you to loosen up physically. As your body lightens and unwinds you’ll feel frustration and annoyance fade as your mind is soothed by those wonderful little endorphins. Try to incorporate 5 minutes of stretching in the morning, at lunch, and after work and see if you notice a difference in your state of mind.
- Meditate. Take 10 minutes twice a day to sit still and slow your thoughts. Try to bring your mind to a peaceful feeling like listening to the ocean or imagining the feeling of golden energy filling your body from head to toe. This will slow down your habitual rushing around and will diminish your urge to hurry. This is a great technique to do after getting home from work to refresh your mind and energy.
Pick a few techniques and see what happens. Keeping a balance of work and leisure is hard to do. It takes practice and effort. But if you want peace and serenity in your life you need a good plan. Practice these skills often to slow down and take control of your hectic lifestyle. There’s no time like the present.
For even more information on the slowing down and living better, visit Slow Down Now for the beginners guide to slowing down.