How to Keep Your Mind in a Fast-Moving World
It starts from the moment you open your phone each
morning: the barrage of daily life in America. The volume feels turned up everywhere … and oh so often, you just want to get away from it all.
When the urge strikes to pull the covers over your head and not deal with anything—people, politics, friends, family—how do you proceed?
- How do you stay involved in issues that matter to you without burning out?
- How do you stay sane in what feels like an insane world?
- How do you give your best when the volume is too loud and getting louder?
Here’s how: stop for a moment and consider what you are doing (or not doing) to take care of yourself and your headspace in these tumultuous times.
1. Are You Exercising?
First things first. Your health is the most important thing you’ve got. If you don’t take care of yourself, how can you care for anyone else? Remember what Sharon Salzberg says, “You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.”
It might boost your ego to say you’re too busy to exercise, but boosting your heart rate will do more for your productivity and your longevity. Nobody in the graveyard wishes they had cared less about their health. Guard your exercise time like you’re breastfeeding an infant. You wouldn’t deny food to a baby, right? So, don’t deny yourself an essential stress-reducer. Move your body!
2. How Are You Starting Your Day?
Stop reading the headlines or watching the news first thing in the morning. Don’t start your day with stress. Drink in the media updates after you’ve thoroughly prepared yourself for the day.
Try this: start your day with 15 minutes of meditation or 15 minutes of reading. Use a meditation app like Headspace or Simply Being. Set a timer for as little as five minutes. You can even do it on your commute (if you’re not driving), in the airport, or on the plane. Once again, Sharon Salzberg: “Meditation is the ultimate mobile device; you can use it anywhere, anytime, unobtrusively.”
If you want to start your day with reading, try a daily passage book like 365 Nirvana by Josh Baran or A Year of Miracles by Marianne Williamson, or even Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris. By the time Alexa (or a timer) signals that your time is up, you’ll have primed your brain for a great day!
3. What Are You Talking About?
What are your daily conversations like? Are you making sure you talk about things other than politics? In a world of upheaval and high emotions, it’s easy to get sucked into a constant discussion stream that’s centered on the news.
You can still discuss politics, but make sure it doesn’t become your only focus.
- Diversify your news intake. Pay attention to sports, health, education, weather, comics, etc.
- Remember to ask your kids what they’re learning in school.
- Remember to check in with your spouse or partner and take care of your relationship.
- Remember to laugh.
4. What Are You Listening To?
What you allow into your mind through your ears is crucial. Choose your music and your radio station wisely. If you commute, try switching off the news at the end of the day and listening instead to a fun or thought-provoking podcast:
- Consider big questions with Krista Tippett of On Being.
- Laugh with the folks on Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me!
- Lose yourself in the storytelling of The Moth.
Feel the stress of the day fall away instead of cling to you. Walk into your home refreshed and awake to the delights of this world.
5. Have You Considered a Digital Sabbath?
I’m not going to tell you to abandon social media or unplug forever. Few people want to live in an offline cave.
But there is a growing popularity around the concept of a digital Sabbath. You pick one day a week to unplug—many folks choose Sunday. That doesn’t mean you have to do it every Sunday, or that you have to do it for 24 hours. The point is to make a concentrated effort to unplug for an extended period. Recover and recharge yourself. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, “I spend so much of my life in front of a screen, otherwise, that I really need the extra time away, just to feel my life and to cocreate it.” So, do that. Cocreate your life by taking a breather from screens.
6. How Are You Breathing?
Weird question, huh?
But the truth is that we so easily overlook breathing, and yet how we breathe can be massively helpful in counteracting stress. That’s why the US Air Force teaches breathing to pilots. As USAF Lt Colonel Jannell MacAulay says, “Our breath is always with us and it’s free. Learning how to use that in times of stress is powerful.”
When stress mounts, close your eyes—even momentarily. Focus on breathing slowly and exhaling for longer than you inhale. Notice the effect. Then, return to your tasks. Repeat as needed.
Note: These six tips won’t save the world, but they can help you save your mind and that’s a start. Experiment and see what works for you. There’s a reason that Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “All of life is an experiment” … because it is. So, give it a try. Good luck!