6 ways to refocus your mind at work
“The biggest challenge in the 21st Century is choice. There is too much choice … You can’t do everything. There are too many things to listen to. Too many books to read. Too many things you want to get done. Whether it’s take care of the trash, clean the house, renovate the back porch, go to the gym, go hiking, have a holiday, take care of your marriage, take care of your kids, advance your business, get some part-time education – there’s too much to do.”
These are the words of renown personal coach, mentor, and corporate speaker, Scott Harris, taken from his podcast interview on The Mentor List. However, you or I could just have easily said them, couldn’t we?
When we’ve got too much going on (or think we do), it’s easy to start feeling frazzled, anxious or highly stressed before we know it. We can feel the tension building up in our bodies and our breathing becoming more rapid. This physical reaction reduces the flow of oxygen to the brain, so we lose the ability to think clearly or make rational decisions, including decisions around the best use of our time and energy.
When this happens at work, it can affect our productivity and effectiveness and impact those around us in many ways. If you find you are often frazzled at work, you may want to deal with it by going on a long holiday, but you probably won’t get to do that every day. Instead, it makes more sense to learn how to calm your thoughts quickly and get on with things.
How to reset your brain
One of the best ways to get rid of your brain fog and refocus is through the use of mindfulness techniques. While this may sound like a lot of mumbo jumbo, being ‘mindful’ simply means being focused on the present moment and noticing the things around you. Learning how to do that and clear the clutter in your mind is one of the best habits you could ever form. What’s more, it is scientifically-proven, free, and anyone can do it.
“Imagine it (mindfulness) as an upgrade to your internal operating system that can make you faster, more efficient and more balanced. It’s been proven to redirect brain activity to the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that handles ‘executive functioning’. This deals with logical processes like judgement, decision making, planning and impulse control.”
(From the article Mindfulness at Work: 4 Ways It Can Benefit Your Organisation by Conor Kiernan on the Core HR blog.)
Simple ways to calm your brain at work
Before you can switch on your inner calm, you need to be aware that you are tense in the first place. Whenever you catch yourself rushing, using short, shallow breaths, hunching your shoulders or feeling like you want to scream, imagine a red stop sign image popping up in your head. Use that as a prompt to pause, take a deep breath, and look around you. If the world is not about to end, then try one or more of the following suggestions to ground yourself back in the real world.
Clear your environment
Just as you would clear some memory from your hard drive whenever it gets too cluttered and slows you down, try doing the same for your immediate surroundings. Tidy your desk, put things away in an organised manner or even move away from others if you can and re-establish your own space.
Go for a walk
Get more oxygen through you by moving your body and taking longer, steady breaths. Notice things like the weather, what people are wearing, the sounds and smells around you or any plants you happen to pass. Don’t pass any judgements, just mentally list what you notice and move on.
Breathe and stretch
One way to practice deep breathing is to close your eyes and imagine that your diaphragm is a balloon that inflates as you breathe in, pushing your lower ribs out slightly, and deflates as you slowly breathe out. Listen to your breath and feel the changes in your body. The longer you do this, the calmer you’ll become.
If your whole body is full of knots, sit or stand straight while you gently roll your shoulders back in increasingly bigger circles, then roll them back the other way. You can also try keeping your feet, hips, and shoulders still and just turn your head to look over one shoulder then the other.
Learn to block out distractions
People can live peacefully in noisy places like beside train tracks or on busy roads because their minds learn to filter out the sounds until they don’t ‘hear’ them anymore. A simple way to do that is to not pay them any attention. If you try not to think about something, you’ll probably notice it more. Instead, keep your attention on the things that interest you or the good things around you.
Play some calming music
Music can be used to help us pump up the adrenaline, but we can also use it to help calm us. At work, you might be able to put on some headphones and play something soft and soothing. It doesn’t matter what style of music it is but pick something with a slow beat and gentle melody that relaxes you.
Use a heat pack
You don’t need to have aches and pains to use a heat pack at work. Pop a wheat or gel pack in the microwave and then place it across your lap, around your shoulders or behind your lower back while you work. The warmth will melt the tension out of you in no time.
When you use calming techniques like these regularly, your mind learns to respond to them quickly, so keep them coming.
Have a plan to come back to
Once you have allowed your mind and body to slow down, you’ll want to try and stay that way as long as possible. To prevent your thoughts from becoming all cluttered again, bring them back to the task at hand.
Know what it is that you really want to achieve and deliberately allocate your time and energy in ways that align with your goal. Use something tangible like a calendar or an image that reflects your purpose so when you are ready to re-focus, you only need to look at this touchstone you’ll be recharged and ready to go again.
Call to action…
For more tips on how to think and act with deliberation, allow yourself the time to listen to Scott Harris’s podcast interview on The Mentor List. In it, Scott shares his journey, from being a kid from Frankston who was asked to leave high school to later being on stage as a presenter with Tony Robbins and going on holidays with Richard Branson. Scott’s passion is to help others ‘wake up from the slumber of their lives’ and achieve all the things they really want to achieve. Tune into the podcast to learn Scott’s inspiring tips and philosophies.
Kick start your personal journey to success from the conversations David has with his inspirational guests on The Mentor List. www.mentorlist.com.au
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