How often do you sit down with a racing heart and a buzzing head ... and you’re not sure why? Thoughts blend together in a roiling sea of emotion, intentions, hopes and fears. It’s a pretty gnarly feeling. It’s as if you’re running a marathon, but you’re sitting completely still. Eventually, you turn on the television, watch a few (okay, a lot of online videos), and drug yourself with a digital cocktail.
This happens to me quite a bit. So, I’ve decided to collect a few resources I use to gain peace of mind in case they prove helpful to you. But first, what do I mean by “peace of mind”? I mean a consistent and long-lasting period where you glide from one emotional state to another, rather than ride a roller coaster. It’s when you may have thoughts, but you are not overly preoccupied with them. It’s the ability to be in the present rather than wallow in regret or fear of what’s to come. In every moment, you feel slightly more optimistic than pessimistic, able to see the opportunities better than the risks or flaws.
Okay, here’s what helps me...
Sit with your thoughts, so you can learn how to live with them.
Meditation is the most helpful of all the things I do to find peace of mind. It doesn’t always work, sometimes the mind just isn’t down for that jazz. It just needs to have a temper tantrum and that’s the end of it. The great thing about meditation is it lets you develop resilience against the tantrum, because it teaches you how to watch the tantrum as it rages, rather than get carried away by it.
Take the path less sugary or caffeinated
I’ve been trying to keep processed sugar and caffeine out of my diet for the past week to help me get greater peace of mind. A few more cookies had been slipping into my diet than I would like, and I had been drinking more and more caffeine, rather than water. So, the pounds were coming on, and my mood was going south. So, I decided to cut them out. I’ve done this from time to time, and you’d think the caffeine withdrawal headaches would be enough to tell me that the stuff wasn’t doing me any favors. I’m going to try to use the same methods for avoiding alcohol in the hopes the habit sticks this time, but even if it doesn’t, the respite is very helpful in giving me greater peace of mind.
Reduce (or eliminate) alcohol.
It makes my workouts really difficult and destroys my mood, so I quit drinking. That’s not for everyone, but alcohol is basically sugar, and quitting alcohol has significantly improved my peace of mind, so that’s helping to strengthen my resolve on the above goal of quitting sugar. All told, some people are better than others at moderation. So, it’s up to you to know what’s best, but I’ve found that, for me at least, getting rid of alcohol has really helped my mood.
Sleep if off.
I’ve written quite a bit about sleep in this newsletter, but it’s incredibly important in helping me gain (and maintain) peace of mind. We generally need about 7-8 hours of sleep. When my workout routine starts to feel more difficult, I know I haven’t slept enough. Without sleep, we can’t ever expect to find peace of mind. The brain needs sleep, so if you find yourself in need of sleep, drop everything and get it. In my quest to learn more about this, I’m adding Matthew Walker’s “Why We Sleep”
to my reading list.
Sweat it out.
Some routines work better for some people than others, but finding some form of exercise you can do will likely go a long way towards helping you find peace of mind. I find that, after my work out (which I do a bit early), I feel ready to take on the day. No meeting or difficult personality or traffic jam will ever be worse than the glorious pain I felt during my workout. Oh, and drink lots of water (which I can always stand to be better at doing).
Feed your social animal.
As per my last newsletter, spending time with other people is a great way to gain peace of mind. Ideally, these are people you like, but sometimes getting to know a stranger can be really helpful. We’re social beings who crave interaction with one another. So, feed your social animal.
Keep your home space clean.
I make my bed every morning. It’s a habit now. I cannot wake up without making my bed. The behavior has also been linked to success, but that aside, there’s something about having a clean space in which to live. Making my bed, cleaning the dishes, doing all of those menial tasks really helps me keep my peace of mind. When things get disorganized (and we all have our own definition for what “disorganization” means), I tend to go berserk.
Consume information that helps you make meaning.
I used to read the news constantly, but I’ve been backing away over the past few years. The more I read the news, the more I am brought into my “circle of concern” and out of my “circle of influence”
. I end up spending a lot of time worrying and caring about things I cannot change, and then I don't have any energy left to care and work on the things I can change. So, I’ve backed away from the news. I now listen to and read things from which I learn how to live and work better. I read analysis pieces and listen to podcasts like The One You Feed
, Tara Brach
, The Art of Charm
(not as pick-up-artisty as it sounds), Rad Awakenings, The TED Radio Hour
and 99% Invisible
. I read a bit of news to keep up, but I mostly focus on work done by friends in the industry, which helps me tie my reading back to the goal of keeping up with friends and family.
I don’t do this one as often as I would like, but I try to journal at least once a week. It gives me a cozy space to write without any expectations or judgment. I can play with words and ideas without the need for polish. I can make sense of my thoughts and even come up with new ideas for the newsletter. It helps me work through difficult emotions and break periods of rumination. It also gives me a running log of lessons learned.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got! If you have other ideas, please share them on the slack channel, and I’ll incorporate them next week!