A genuine feeling of peace is a difficult thing to come by, especially in our increasingly digital, fast-paced culture. And it doesn't help that many of us have elevated our jobs to be markers of our identity. Have you ever noticed people you meet at cocktail parties often begin conversations with the ever-popular question, "What do you do?"
As this cultural obsession with work continues to clamp down on us, the harder it becomes to feel like there is space for true inner peace. But here's the thing: peace is not just an optional mindset to be able to access. It's necessary for our happiness, both at work and after hours, but also our productivity.
I discovered this the hard way. One day, I found myself particularly overwhelmed about how my work seemed to be going nowhere. I slumped around for most of the day unable to focus. Then, while washing my face in the bathroom, I suddenly caught a glimpse at how wrecked I was really feeling on the inside — how my toxic approach to work flooded me with feelings of helplessness and inadequacy. Ultimately, this pressure totally derailed my productivity (along with my happiness).
When our days are unavoidably chaotic, finding a way to access feelings of peace can be a struggle. So I've listed 14 simple habits that have transformed my ability to find peace in every day. These tips vary from specific schedule suggestions to general productivity tips. Try them out and see what works for you ...
1. Wake up early.
Much of the reason I wake up early is to allow myself time to relish the early morning hours. That way, I have some personal time each morning to start the day with a clear head. Having this time also keeps me from feeling rushed throughout the day, as I show myself I can allow myself time to relax.
2. Start your day with a calm exercise.
This doesn't have to be a formal exercise, but try and implement some kind of ritual or practice that calms you. For many, this mean beginning the day with a run. For me, this means reading a book before beginning my work day.
I use my shower as a time to collect my thoughts. Some people may find a morning shower clears their head. If you work from home, you may use a shower as a pleasant break during the day. Others may like to "wash off" any stress at the end of the day.
4. Set your goals for the day at the beginning of the day.
In your list, begin with your most important task and end with your least important task. You may also include more abstract goals or intentions for the day on your list, such as, "May I treat people with kindness today."
5. Visualize space in your mind before you dive into your first task.
By now, you might be thinking that there have already been ample opportunities for mental breaks in this day already — and the work hasn't even begun yet! But I assure you that allowing yourself to move slowly through your morning rituals will help you establish a foundation of calmness early on in the day (to keep with you all day long).
6. Tackle any big assignment early in the day.
But make sure to focus on it for just a short amount of time. Rather than obsess over big assignments for multiple hours in a short window of time, try chipping away at them over a longer stretch of time. Keep yourself from feeling rushed, in other words. I usually feel refreshed after my calming activity, so I feel motivated to tackle my most important task early on, and with a sense of patience.
7. Pace yourself.
Once you start tackling your goals, there is no need to rush. In fact, rushing will just increase your stress levels, and the cycle becomes vicious.
8. If you feel yourself beginning to rush, give yourself a brain break.
If you're starting to get stressed out, you will probably bring that negativity to your work. So if you begin to get that rushed feeling, realize it may be time to take a break. Put work out of your mind completely for a short time. Then return to it once you can clearly think again.
9. Don't feel guilty for any work you don't accomplish in a given day.
Your day is not all about your work. As a mental shift, prioritize your state of mind and happiness over your work, and you'll be better able to get things done in the end anyway.
10. If you mess up, keep going.
In other words, don't ruminate on what you did wrong right in the moment. There will be time to reflect on it later, so don't your primary work time to get down on yourself.
11. Truly rest during your break times.
When you want to take a break, take a break. Don't stimulate your mind more by going on Facebook or playing a game. Take the time to zone out completely. It will help you feel better — and work better.
12. Learn to love your travel time.
If you commute to and from work, recognize the gift you have: more time to decompress. Read. Observe your surroundings. Listen to peaceful music. Sometimes, I begin my day with classical music, and my work habits just feel better in the later hours of the day.
13. Avoid hanging out with stressful and/or distracted people.
You might inadvertently end up absorbing their anxiety. If you feel yourself teetering on the edge of losing your peace, hang out with those who take things slow, and make you feel able to relax.
14. Give yourself a mission as an anchor.
The times I feel most overwhelmed are when I don't know what I'm doing, or why. When I get like this, I take a step back, look at my goals (which I have usually written down somewhere) and I return to my intention. Knowing what you're doing, and why you're doing it, can greatly impact how you do that something. So take the time to clarify your focus.
Peace is not an abstract, pie-in-the-sky ideal for life. It's possible, practical and necessary.