This week is “World Well-Being Week,” the one week a year when we are stimulated to explicitly pay attention to our own well-being and that of others. Of course, that is something to pay attention to every day, but a special week like this can help to draw attention to this crucial aspect of life. Because crucial it is. In today’s overheated society, many of us are stressed out by all the things we can do and should do—at work, at school or in our private lives. And doing something about that is not only good for ourselves. It is also good for others. Therefore, this week is an excellent moment to get started.
“But how?” You may wonder. “How can I feel less stressed and still do the things I should do and want to do?” About two years ago I found myself asking those questions too. I felt restless, stressed out and uncertain about the way I was living my life. It wasn’t really a specific moment, but around that time I decided to do something about it. I went on the search for remedies and found so many that I started to write them down. This became my book No More Bananas: How to Keep Your Cool in the Collective Madness which came out last week.
The total journey towards a calmer and more confident life outline there consists of nine steps (see this recent article to see all steps). But as all journeys, also the journey towards a stressless life starts with the first step. Therefore, I’d like to share with you the very first step: Calm down.
As both my research and my personal experience showed, before you can do anything else you need to calm down and probably cool down too. When you are in an overheated stress mode, you can’t think clearly. Therefore, before being able to do anything else, you need to create sufficient silence and room in your head. As explained in detail in the book, I found five different ways of doing this. The first two are noise-cancellation remedies that help you block the external noise. The other three are more targeted at reducing the internal noise that is going on. They are:
- Remedy 1: Switch Off Notifications. On your phone, tablet, computer, snail mail, or any other channel, switch off as many notifications as you can. And then switch off a few more to find out that you can do with even less.
- Remedy 2: Consume Less Information. Ignore the inner voice saying that you should keep abreast. Drastically reduce your information intake. Limit your exposure to media-pushing information (TV, Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.) and search less.
- Remedy 3: Stop Babbling. Reduce the number of words you utter and focus on the things that are worth saying. Suppress your impulse to respond. Lean back and ask questions instead of saying things you don’t want to say.
- Remedy 4: Seek Silence. Find moments and places where you can be alone in silence. Don’t do anything except letting your mind go and process all the things that you have seen, heard, felt or done.
- Remedy 5: Channel Your Thoughts. Control the vicious thinking cycles that make you stress out. Stop them by knowing your pitfalls, planning how long and when they can take place, or make them extreme to get yourself back to reality.
Once you have gone through this first step and mastered it to a reasonable extent, this paves the way for the other eight steps. It is important to take this step first. Before you can do anything else in an effective way, you first need enough calmness. When you are no longer overloaded with all kinds of external or inner noise, this frees your mind enough to go on with the next step.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to be completely Zen after this step or perfectly master all five remedies. That will never happen. Getting rid of your stress is a never-ending process, in which you will always have to persevere, learn, and adjust. That applies to this first step as well. You are never done.
But there is a point when you feel you can go on. Only you can tell this. But you will know it. It is when there is enough room in your head to think clearly every now and then. This is the point when you know you can go on to Step 2: Let go.
This post was published earlier here on my forbes.com page.
Image credit: Getty