We provide fresh ideas for carving out small pockets of calm during even the most hectic, hair-raising times.
1. Eat the Same Breakfast Every Day
There’s something to be said for consistency. Knowing exactly what you’re going to eat—and when—decreases stress and sets you up for a less harried morning. Plus, your mood won’t determine what you put on your plate (making it less likely that you’ll find yourself eating a glazed doughnut). Choose a healthy dish that you enjoy: an omelet with vegetables, oatmeal with seeds and nuts, or Greek yogurt with muesli and fruit, for example. You’ll begin your day with energy as well as certainty.
2. Savor Your Coffee
How long did it take you to down your last cappuccino? Next time, take a cue from the Japanese, whose formal tea ceremony can last four hours. Before taking a drink, participants raise their bowls in tribute to all the factors that came together to create that moment—from their ancestors to the farmers who grew the tea to the elders who taught them how to prepare it. Try this amended routine: Focus on the drink in front of you. Notice the smell, and relish the flavor. You’ll find it’s a wonderful daily exercise in mindfulness.
3. Write an “Ignore List”
Most people have a to-do list, but to succeed in today’s distraction-prone world, you also have to ask yourself: What’s not worth doing? Jot down what you’re willing to disregard—e-mails you have no intention of responding to, vacuuming, the guilt of not vacuuming. Review the list from time to time to make sure that nothing on it is getting your undeserved attention.
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4. Turn Off Your Mind for a Few Minutes
A major-league pitcher once told me he wished he could cut off his head and just let his body play the game. Even the best athletes fall apart when they give in to their internal dialogue about what they have to do on the field or the court—especially since much of what goes through their minds may be negative. To help you calm down, you need to quiet your own internal thoughts. It doesn’t need to be a complicated process: Listen to music, play cards, or zone out in front of the television. Ask any player who had a good game what was going through his head and he’ll tell you, “Absolutely nothing.”
5. Really Listen to the Answer When You Ask, “How Are You?”
The minutes of the day tick by so ferociously that it’s easy to disregard how others are feeling. But asking, “How are you?” with warmth and compassion can lift your spirits. I stand at my classroom door each morning greeting students with that simple question, and I pay attention to their words or expressions to see if something is wrong. When that’s the case, I try to find out exactly what’s going on and let them know I care. Hopefully it means as much to them as it does to me.