We all know that feeling of a hectic day that doesn’t slow down. Fortunately, it is possible to stay calm and focused, even when life is running on fast forward. Here’s how…
Assess Your Day
Unexpected stresses can pop up at any time. But a good start to staying calm and focused in the midst of a nightmare day is to look at your entire week in advance.
If you can’t do that, block out ten minutes every evening to prepare yourself mentally for the next day.
Let’s say you’ve got an early start with a gym session at 6am, followed by back-to-back Zoom meetings and picking up children from school mid-afternoon. Before tackling admin and paperwork before you can kick back and relax (that’s if you have any time left).
Being able to organize your schedule mentally will allow you to move from one demand to another knowing how much time you’re working with. By assessing what’s coming, you’ll know whether to pre-prepare meals, for example, and how to budget your energy to get through the day.
Set Your Intentions
Similar to making a to-do list, setting your intentions for the day ahead can give you structure and a sense of safety when things are hectic. When you’re facing an unusually demanding day, your intention might be as simple as getting through your tasks without getting overwhelmed.
If you have a little time to spare, then consider setting a goal of going for a brisk walk, doing some gentle breathing exercises, or practicing a hobby that leaves you feeling energized—drawing, painting or paging through a favorite magazine.
When setting your intention for the day, consider your energy level and mood. If you’re being overambitious, it’s probable that you’ll end up disappointing yourself. When you’re already overwhelmed, set an easy goal. This will boost your mood and energy to know that you’ve completed at least one task.
See The Bigger Picture
On your busiest days it might feel like the world is collapsing around you and somehow, it’s up to you to keep it all together. It’s easy to get trapped in the belief that if you’re not perfect, you’re a failure.
This is when you need to remind yourself that there is a bigger picture, and you aren’t the one responsible for all of it. One technique is to imagine how you’ll feel about today in a week, a month, a year, or even five or ten years.
That nagging worry about a meeting or deadline—this time next year will your worry have been worth it?
Another slightly imaginative trick is to picture yourself in the context of your suburb, then your city, country, and the world. If that doesn’t put things into perspective, look up the size of Earth compared to the Milky Way, and the Milky Way to the rest of the universe. This doesn’t mean that you’re so tiny that nothing matters, but it can show you how all-consuming stress is just one miniscule part of existence, not an unstoppable force.
Eat And Drink Wisely
Our eating habits are often influenced by the situations we’re facing or the circumstances we find ourselves in. Being hungry or dehydrated is a sure-fire way to end up stressed and depressed. When you’re under pressure, it’s easy to ignore your body’s hunger and thirst signals, which compounds the strain you’re already feeling.
Eat smartly and often. Reasonable-sized meals and small snacks throughout the day will keep you more alert and reduce mood swings (no more getting “hangry”). Drink before you’re thirsty, and preferably stick to water, not sugar-laden soda or juice.
Although distractions like social media might provide you immediate relief from stress, they aren’t at all helpful in dealing with the tasks you’re facing. Every time you procrastinate for a few minutes, you leave yourself with more pressure.
Before long, your day gets eaten away without you even noticing. Suddenly it’s 5pm and you still haven’t finished the most important bit of paperwork; you take it home and end up working until 10pm.
Some tips to overcome distractions include:
– Put your phone on silent when possible
– Set a time frame for each part of a task
– Create self-made “deadlines” by setting alarms
– When you find yourself getting distracted, take a few deep breaths, you can even give yourself a mini pep talk if necessary.
Communication is a hugely undervalued skill. We forget people aren’t mind readers. They can’t
know what we’re feeling unless we tell them.
If you know your day is going to be especially frenetic, then make use of a support system in
advance. You might need to ask for help from a friend or family member when it comes to personal
commitments, such as doing household chores, childcare, or shopping.
It’s also perfectly fine to ask for help at work. Delegate if possible and let people know in advance
that you’re under pressure. Just the act of communicating can take a weight off your shoulders.
There are many tips and tricks for productivity and most of them are useful to some extent. One of these is the 20-20-20 Rule, which helps to mitigate the negative impact of staring at a screen for a prolonged period and gives you mini breaks to help you focus.
It’s pretty basic. After 20 minutes of screen time, take 20 seconds and focus your eyes on something at least 20 feet away. This allows your eyes a vital break as well as giving your brain a moment to revive. Getting up and walking around for 20 seconds can work too.
Train Yourself To Make It Through
Everyone has to face an unpleasantly busy day now and then, but there’s no reason they should break your spirit. By implementing tools like those we’ve listed above, you can rest assured that even the most difficult day is manageable.