This is the first in a new series on my blog called “Zen of Jen”, in which I’ll share ideas for helping you maintain a sense of calm in your crazy work world. Hat tip to Dan McCarthy of the Great Leadership blog – whose comment in an email sparked this idea. Thanks, Dan!
The other day, I found myself awake an hour earlier than usual, my mind swirling with all the things I want to accomplish. My mental landscape was a jumbled mess: two parts ambition, one part anxiousness and a dash of hope.
Can you relate?
We all lead busy lives, but there are some days when the energy of the world seems to gang up on us, creating overwhelm.
When I wake up with my mind already on overdrive, it’s a signal to me that it’s time to redirect all that swirling energy into something more focused and productive.
Here’s what I do to reclaim a sense of calm:
- Close my eyes.
- Breathe deeply.
- Repeat several times: “I have all the time I need.”
Now, you are probably thinking, “Um, Jen? I don’t really have all the time I need. That’s the reason I’m stressed.”
Well, that’s your left brain, logical side talking. It’s true that we all have the same 24 hours in a day to accomplish things. By thinking, “I don’t have enough time!” you are panicking your emotional right brain and therefore creating the sense of overwhelm. Worrying about it only makes it worse by shutting down your creativity.
According to Scientific American’s article Everyday Stress Can Shut Down the Brain’s Chief Command Center , “Freezing under stress, a common experience for all of us at some point in our life, has its roots in a loss of control over ‘executive functions’ that allow us to control our emotions.” Under stress the brain automatically shifts its focus from the immediate task at hand toward fight or fright readiness and this is why your mind can go blank at the worst possible moments. Your body and brain experience varied reactions to high levels of stress, essentially activating a more primitive mode of protection.
Here’s what the phrase “I have all the time I need” helps me do: it slows me down and refocuses me on my own “truth” which is: I do have all the time I need – to do only those most important things. It’s like providing relief from the “ice cream headache” that comes with feeling overwhelmed. This focus helps me set goals that are realistic so that, in fact, the time needed will be available to me.
So. I have all the time I need to . . .
. . .get what matters most done today. The rest can wait until tomorrow, or maybe just won’t get done at all.