Zen Made Easy: 4 Tweaks to Reduce Anxiety
We live a fast-paced life in an overstimulating world. The extent to which we are connected by technology and media would be mind-boggling to our ancestors just a generation or two ago. Just take a step back and look at one single aspect of modern life—namely your email inbox(es)—and you can start to get a sense of how complex our lives have become.
It’s not just email. Between text, voicemail, video conference, social media, DVR, Netflix, we have plenty of brain space to distract us from our non-digital lives: work, family, household, laundry, dishes, travel, and so on and so on.
Inevitably, there comes a time in each of our lives when simplifying becomes a matter of survival. Anxiety, depression, hypertension, and exhaustion are all rooted in our stressful lifestyle. Our health and wellness depend on our willingness and ability to turn down the noise.
Here are 4 tweaks to reduce anxiety:
- Compartmentalize: Be Present in Each Moment
Divide up your time and be fully present to the task at hand. This is a muscle that can be developed. When you're working, really focus on work. When you're parenting, be wholly present to your kids. Imagine that you have various hats that you put on and take off. Don’t allow yourself to go to your kid’s soccer game wearing your “work fedora.” Nor should you wear your “mommy cowboy hat” when you take a meeting. When you finally carve time for yourself, do it without guilt, even if you choose to do nothing at all. When we let ourselves off the hook for what we're not getting done, it frees us up to celebrate what we are fully showing up for in each moment.
- Be Still: Begin Your Day Peacefully
It’s important to set the tone for your day in the first hour you are awake. How often do you grab your device from your night table and immediately check your alerts? Starting the day like this immediately engages the part of your brain that activates the sympathetic nervous system. This means that your stress levels rise and your body responds. Instead, take a few minutes after your alarm sounds, to present yourself in the room. Explore your environment with your five senses. Look around and notice the quality of light. What sounds do you hear—birds, traffic, your partner breathing? Notice the way the sheets feel on your skin, the temperature of the room. What do you smell? What do you taste? During slumber, our brain rests so that neuropathways can restore and strengthen. Giving yourself a few minutes of stillness as your transition from sleep state to waking state, allows the brain to adjust and
- Limit Your Emails to 5 Sentences
One of the ways we can simplify our lives is to use fewer words. In the landscape of the information superhighway, we seem to have lost the art of the single-lane country road. The easiest place to practice brevity and trim up our daily communication is in our email. Try limiting your emails to no more than five sentences. Not only will you save time that can be allocated to other tasks, but you will also carve out some mental space to simply be. After all, we are human beings not human doings.
- Get Your Feet Dirty
Chaos in our lives is almost always reflected in our physical energy. We get caught in our heads as we try to manage many things at once and regain some sort of order and control. Even at moments of critical stress, stepping outside and putting our feet in the dirt (grass or sand will do) has a calming effect by drawing the energy down through the body. When someone we know is level-headed, we say they are “grounded.” Feeling connected to and supported by the Earth is a path to instant stillness.