Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes, 23s.
Podcast Length: 19 minutes, 53s (link to play podcast at bottom of post).
These days, calm can feel elusive. Anxiety comes and goes in waves, and, as I wrote about a couple of weeks back, it’s hard to be productive right now. It’s calm that we need most, not productivity.
While this is a blog about productivity, this article is about cultivating calm. Whether or not you’re working right now, investing in your calm can help you accomplish the things you want to do. Instead of forcing yourself to get work done, a calm mindset allows you to become kinder to yourself throughout the day. You’ll be able to focus with greater ease when your mind is settled, as your busy mind won’t generate distracting thoughts that derail your attention as you work.
If you’re looking for a few strategies to work more calm into your day, below are a few of the ways that I’m investing in myself (that we chat about on this week’s podcast). I’m confident they’ll work for you, too.
- Become engaged with something (anything). We all need something to be engaged with throughout the day, regardless of whether we’re working or not. We rarely feel as unmotivated as when we have nothing to do. Right now, some of us have more time to spare, and others of us have less (especially those of us who have to work with kids at home). If you find yourself with more free time than usual, consider taking on a big, new project. Double down on learning a new programming language, or an instrument. Undertake a new home renovation project, or take an online class. If you’re looking for more calm, look for something to become engaged with. The busyness that comes with engagement crowds out feelings of anxiety.
- Step away from the digital world and into the analog one. We all live two lives: an analog life (in the physical world), and a digital life (in, of course, the digital world). We have fewer activities to engage with in the physical world right now. The gym is closed, we don’t have to drive to work, and our favorite coffee shop is temporarily out of commission. This means that many of us are spending more time than we usually do in the digital world. Here’s the problem, though: right now, the digital world can be depressing as hell. If you’re finding yourself stressed out because of the time you’re spending on your devices, disconnect, and find analog activities to connect with instead—like getting physical activity, painting, cooking, or reading a book. Generally-speaking, the more time we spend engaging with the analog world, the calmer we feel.
- Recall what you’re grateful for. Each night, with your partner, with a friend, or on your own, recall three things you’re grateful for. Or, after you finish reading this blog post, write down 10 things you appreciate in your life. Expressing gratitude is a shortcut to feeling a sense of abundance, and it allows you to train your brain into looking out for what’s positive around you—both useful skills right now. Here are 100 suggestions, for things to be grateful for, sent in by readers.
- Meditate or journal, even if just for a few minutes. Meditation allows you to approach your day with equanimity, rather than a sense of anxiety. It also helps you come to terms with how things change. (If you don’t know where to start, I wrote this guide which has everything you need to get started. It’s easier than you think.) If you’ve tried meditation and it isn’t for you, try journaling, in order to reflect on how you’re feeling. Both practices have different effects, but they both allow you to create some distance between yourself and the current situation.
- Find something to savor every day. It’s impossible to both savor something and to feel anxious at the same time. Write a list of things you savor—video chats with loved ones, delicious meals, or your daily workout—and make a deliberate effort each day to savor one thing on your list. Tonight, I’m going to savor me a delicious burrito.
The above strategies take a bit of effort, but they’re all proven ways of introducing more calm into your life.
If you’re feeling a bit anxious right now, pick a few things from this list and give them a shot. I’m confident they’ll help you out.