Beat Stress By Jay Pitkänen You finally reach a place of calm and peace, and then it hits you: You can’t escape the buzz. The static won’t quiet down. It’s like there’s a parade outside, but closing the window won’t help … because this parade is inside your mind. You juggle through a dozen things at once every day, just to keep up. Coupled with the amount of distractions thrown at you by the modern world, you probably won’t have much chance to pay attention to your own thoughts. But when it’s all over, and you sit down to take a deep, relaxing breath, you realize your brain has other plans. Instead of slowing down for a restful evening, your overcooked noodle is still busy sorting through a barrage of information, memories, embarrassing moments, guilty feelings, and stress about work. It’s like your own life is haunting you. Some of us live our whole lives in this turmoil. But rest assured – you can calm your mind. A natural mind in a world of artificial burdens We live in a world where we can’t fail the social ladder because we need a good job to get more money — and because a fear-mongering media tells us to buy more and more useless stuff to feel satisfied. We become engulfed in a reality that revolves around becoming increasingly selfish and disconnected from our humanity – our natural state of living in a community with our fellow person. This is the core reason behind a busy mind. The further you are from your natural state, the more burdened you become with artificial concerns. The following seven techniques only take minutes, but they’ll have a profound effect in calming down your overworked mind and helping you to fully unwind. 1. Ground yourself – Compliment a stranger Making contact and meeting strangers is essential to keeping your perception of the outside world grounded in reality. This exercise is quick and simple, but it’s an incredibly powerful way of getting to know yourself and others. On your way home, on your lunch break, or maybe at the grocery store, go up to a stranger and give them a compliment. Smile. Tell them they’re awesome. Wish them a great day. Walk away and feel great about yourself. Try to give an honest compliment – something you really feel is true. Then say it with feeling. I realize talking to strangers might feel a bit overwhelming. Hey, I said it would be simple, not easy! I’ve been doing this for a few years now, and it still gets my heart pounding approaching a total stranger. If the idea of strangers freaks you out, you might consider warming up by first complimenting friends, family, or people at work. Either way, you’re connecting with your fellow person in the most natural way. When you end up making someone smile, you’ll feel like a hero. Warning: You might end up meeting a new friend too. 2. Reset your day – Brush your teeth Your mind can’t quiet down because it can’t distinguish between your peaceful time and your hectic time. Like shaking down an etch-a-sketch, you need to get rid of the mess and start from a clean canvas to clearly separate the two. You need a restart. Don’t worry; it doesn’t involve applying a mallet to your temple. You do it by brushing your teeth. Don’t look so skeptical. See, our morning routines most often include, or should include, brushing our teeth. You do it every time you wake up. You’ve done it regularly for years. So without even realizing it, you’ve taught yourself to connect a certain physical activity to starting a new day. Your mind takes this as a signal to shake off its previous state, i.e. sleepiness, and get ready for whatever comes next. Why not use this existing mechanism to achieve the opposite — getting your mind ready to accept a calm after-work environment? 3. Become aware – Check your tension Being aware of your physical and mental state is key when looking for that inner calm. This exercise will help you understand the state of your body and its different extremities. You’ll be surprised at how tense you are without even realizing it. Here’s your task: Sit or lie down, and mentally run through the different parts of your body. Make sure every part is relaxed and hanging loose. Stretch and flex when needed. Start by wiggling your toes, then move upwards through your ankles and shins. Are your knees hanging loose? Do you feel tense in your thighs? Check your posture – stretch your back and swing your hips. Then think about your shoulders. Are they resting easy? What about your neck? Let your head fall forward. Are you clenching your teeth? Open your mouth wide, and then let it hang. Yawn if needed – it’s a sign that your body needs oxygen. Did you find tension? Let’s shake it off. Stand up, and shake your arms and legs. Then shake your whole body. Shake it like no one’s watching! 4. Extra time – Massage your eyebrows An eyebrow massage is a quick physical exercise that will literally soothe your aching brow. You’ll give your eyes some rest and alleviate possible headaches, but more importantly, you force your mind to a standstill. Close your eyes and use both thumbs to press on the inner parts of your eyebrows, at the top of your nose. Breathe deeply, and slowly move your thumbs outwards until you reach your temples. Repeat. 5. Learn to screw up – Forgive yourself Major causes of undue stress and anxiety are lingering thoughts about not being good enough or not saying the right things. In most cases, these thoughts result from setting impossibly high expectations for yourself. What you need is to remind yourself that you’re only human. As humans, we screw up because it’s the only way to learn. Then we move on. So, when you reach your peaceful place, grab a pen and some paper. Yes, a piece of paper and not your laptop. Trust me; it can even be a post-it note. Then list every little screw-up. Every regret and embarrassing moment. Then go over each bit and tell yourself, “Well, I guess I’m just human.” Throw the paper away. 6. Leisure mode – Shut down communications This exercise is about forming your peaceful place into something radically different from the outside world. It is free of distraction and worries. It’s where your mind roams freely. Make sure your friends and family know that you can be reached only for important calls. Everything else shuts off after your day — your smartphone, laptop, even the news on TV. If you must, spend no longer than 30 minutes on Facebook and various social media sites. Lacking the need to constantly check for new emails or instant messages will quiet your mind. Remember to play. Board games, card games, reading, painting, writing, dancing – these are all your duties during playtime. This is the downtime your brain needs to process everything you’ve learned during the day. 7. Reflection – Meditate If none of the above helped, it’s time to sit down and actively not react to whatever your mind is shouting about. Meditating at its core means to focus on a single thing intensely. The easiest way to start is to sit down, close your eyes, and focus on breathing slowly and deeply. Then let your mind shout. Like an unruly screaming child, it wants to be heard. So let it speak. Your real task here is to not react. Simply focus on your breathing. If a fly lands on your arm, concentrate on not reacting. Even if the whole house crumbles from underneath you, do not react. Keep to your breathing. The real trick comes from not reacting to a thought or idea. You must stay a passive observer to whatever noise your mind tries to throw at you. It might take five minutes, or it might take an hour, but eventually your mind has said what it needs to. This is when you can truly begin to build a relaxing environment. Your unwind starts today Imagine a breeze of fresh air rolling through as you open the windows in your mind. There’s no parade outside, just a serene bit of nature. It’s a place you gladly return to. Imagine being in control of what lingers in your mind. It’s no longer a chaotic cacophony of intrusive thoughts, just a harmonious arrangement lead by you. You’ve got the tools. You know the techniques. You can now take steps toward a more peaceful existence or just occasionally silence that extra noise. It’s all at your fingertips, and it’ll only take you moments from your busy day. About the author: Jay Pitkanen is a blogger who found happiness outside the box and is on a mission to help other non-conformists find and live their true passion. Do you have what it takes to become a Rat Race Maverick?