There are some days that are trouble from the beginning. Your alarm doesn’t go off or you read something terrible in the news, so you wind up feeling anxious and stressed. From there you miss your bus or train, forget your lunch, and get in an argument with your co-worker. You may feel frazzled and distracted as you watch helplessly as the day spirals out of control. Things can easily escalate from here and impact your personal life. Don’t let them. Before you snap at your kids or hurt your partner with a well-timed passive aggressive comment, take a step back and regain control of a stressful day.
1. Write it down
If your lack of mental clarity goes deeper into a disagreement you had with your partner, family issues, or a not-so-great review from your boss, expressing your thoughts in writing can help create order in the jumble of thoughts clogging your brain. Start just writing in free form, getting down the feelings and thoughts you have and why they’re upsetting you. Once you get it all out, you can either choose to read back through it and try to harness what is going on or you can crumple up the paper and throw it away. Research has found that people who threw away their written concerns were less likely to be worried about them. Your motto: Get it out and get rid of it.
2. Get some perspective
When your mind is overloaded with worries, to-do lists, and pressure, it can be hard to realize that in the big scheme of things that project you’re stressing over doesn’t really matter. Remember that this moment and this feeling are only temporary. In a couple weeks, days, or even mere hours, this feeling of being out of control and unfocused will pass.
3. Physically remove yourself
When you have too much work and too little time the last thing you’ll want to do is step away from your desk, but this is exactly what you need to do to obtain a clear-minded perspective. Stand up, walk out the door, walk around the building, or take a stroll around the block. By pulling yourself away from the situation, you will get a break from the immediate chaos. This act of physically separating yourself from the action will help your mind let go. As a bonus, the endorphins released when you walk will help lift your mood and beat the impending stress.
4. Focus on your breathing
A five-minute meditation will do the trick, but when you’re in the middle of chaos, you may only have a minute to reset yourself and clear your mind before taking action. Turn away from the situation, close your eyes, and take one minute to focus on your breath. Start by taking deep breaths and then just allow yourself to breath naturally as you observe your inhale and exhale. Deep breathing is a relaxation technique that can help you regain some of that much-needed mental clarity that can get lost when you’re in the middle of a stressful situation. Deep breathing increases the oxygen levels in your body, providing more oxygen to the brain for clearer thinking. This method is easy to do and works quickly.
5. Talk it out
Sometimes to sort out the stream of thoughts clogging your mind, you just need to verbalize them. Take a step back and talk it out. Recruit a close friend, your partner, a co-worker you trust, or even just speak out loud in the privacy of your car, office, or bedroom. Talk through the issues at hand, the factors involved, and your initial thoughts on how to take care of them. Let the words and ideas flow freely without judgment. Don’t try to express yourself well or in a succinct manner — you may just need to get it all out so you can better understand the issues at hand to evaluate everything with a clear perspective.