The better your focus on the task at hand, the less space will be left in your mind for stress—and the more productive you’ll be. The ideal is a “flow” state of consciousness, keeping your mind in the moment, where you become completely absorbed in your work and are fully enjoying it.
Sound impossible? To many people, stress is the normal state of existence, and the only excuse for staying calm is refusal to understand the seriousness of the situation. The truth is, most of us don’t appreciate the seriousness of the physical, relational, and functional situations we create for ourselves by worshiping constant motion and seeking chemical means to improve our effectiveness. If we did, we’d be more than willing to put effort into changing.
That’s not to pretend change is easy or quick. But even small new habits can make a difference. Try:
Your Mind in the Moment – Knowing Your Personal Rhythm
“Official” recommendations on when to go to bed, when to expect energy peaks, and what to eat when are generalized to the majority; they were never intended as inviolable directions for every individual. Consider whether you’re trying to do high-energy tasks when your personal energy is low. A schedule adjustment may work wonders.
Knowing Your Goals
If you have no idea where you’re going, you’re unlikely to be happy with either the trip or the end point—and you’ll be plagued with a constantly wandering mind. Pinpoint your interests, skills, and personality characteristics, and set goals with the aim of contributing your personal best to the world. Set up a vision board or long-term-goals list where you’ll see it daily.
If you try to keep everything in your head, you’re carrying internal interruptions around with you. Keep a written to-do list and schedule calendar. For maximum effectiveness, give the most challenging tasks your highest-energy time slots, and include at least one task per day that moves you toward a long-term goal.
Keep similar tasks together when you can: one 2–3-hour period for appointments; another for computer work; another for errands. It’s harder to keep your mind in the moment if you’re constantly shifting attention between entirely different tasks.
Keeping a “Dump Sheet”
Of course, some interruptions will still find you, if only by rising from your own mind. Have a tablet handy to write down whatever pops into your head; even if you never need it, getting it into tangible form will discourage it from lurking in the background to distract you again later.
Your Mind in the Moment – Counting Your Blessings
Positive people concentrate better—because they find purpose in their work, because they enjoy what they’re doing, and because they don’t overload their minds with complaints and worries. Post a list or photos of blessings in your life—home, friends, family—plus a list of affirmations to remind you of your own good qualities. Consider adding a few additional blessings to your room or cubicle in the form of flower arrangements, inspirational samplers, or a jar of brightly colored marbles. And if you have a window view, keep the blinds open!
Taking Care of Yourself
Diet, sleep, and exercise all affect physical health and, by extension, concentration. You can’t be at your best with fatigue and sugar overload weighing down your mind and body. Additional health tips:
- Stay hydrated. Drink water instead of, or in addition to, coffee.
- Remember your regular physical check-ups.
- Exercise your mind. Find a creative or puzzle-solving hobby, or one that involves learning and exploring.
- Stay in touch with your spiritual side through meditation and prayer.
Using Your Down Time Wisely
We think of “stress” as a work-hours thing, but it can also attack when we’re inactive and open to intruding worries, or when we’re conditioned to feeling “lazy” or “selfish” if doing things for pure enjoyment. Actually, down time and vacation time, like shorter breaks, are vital to recharging our whole selves for maximum effectiveness. If you’re having trouble just relaxing:
- Find activities you truly enjoy—don’t collapse and turn on the television, or spend the time “catching up” other chores. (Don’t make a “chore” out of leisure, either; no one’s watching to see how fast you finish that novel!)
- Get outdoors when you can. The more natural your surroundings, the better for your health and concentration, especially if you keep your mind in the moment.
- Have nightly rituals for relaxing before bed: a hot bath, a cup of herbal tea, soothing music. (Nothing adrenaline-generating or caffeine-laden!) Visualize peaceful scenes and hold the picture in your mind after retiring. You’ll reap all the benefits of sleeping better.
Another good use of down time is enjoying the company of others, whether “doing something” or just sitting together. Companionship and assistance also reduce stress during work activities. And of course, support groups, accountability partners, and an aftercare program are invaluable for dealing with general stress as well as substance abuse issues.
Aside from organized support, put some thought into your choice of regular companions. Anyone who is either “all give” or “all take” is setting both parties up for long-term stress. And constantly negative souls influence you to be equally negative.
That doesn’t mean you should never listen to or sympathize with anyone else’s problems. In fact, if you want to encourage maximum mutual stress relief, be attentive and empathetic in everything. Listen to what people are saying instead of formulating your own reply after their first sentence. Encourage others to talk about their ambitions and interests. This helps keep you and your friend’s mind in the moment.
Mindfulness at Kemah Palms
None of the above is learned overnight, any more than is the general principle of paying attention. But, don’t get discouraged. It’s like learning to walk; eventually, keeping your mind in the moment will become second nature.
When you find recovery through our programs at Kemah Palms, mindfulness becomes natural. Through meditation therapy, yoga therapy, and our holistic approach to recovery, Kemah will give you the coping skills necessary to find lasting sobriety and wellbeing. Call us at 866.604.1873 for more information today.