Conductors of Commotion, Constructors of Chaos

14 Jan

The busiest place around me…the most incessant commotion…is not the crowded Boston T. Not the workplace with its constant chat and emails and phone calls and drop-bys. It isn’t even my phone with its voice mails and emails and text messages and alerts.

It’s my mind.

I don’t have a very still mind (and I somehow doubt I’m the only one in this predicament).

Stress and worries and anxiety about work and my future and things I can’t control like the weather on long run days and how much my rent will increase and whether the bench I prefer at the gym will be available. Appointments to book and birthdays to remember and meetings to attend and friends to keep in contact with and healthy meals to plan and hotel rooms to book and the dishwasher to unload and becoming a better person to attain.

I doubt that I will ever have a completely free mind but here are the tactics I’ve been using so far in 2013 to silence the commotion:

  • Exercise. For me, an hour in the pool where I do nothing but count laps and concentrate on my stroke helps me calm my mind. The same thing for a long run (it takes me about 3 miles to get into the zone and then I’m good for  a couple of hours until my stomach rumbling overcomes the zen-ness I experience). I think its partly that I am being active so my mind is engaged, I am outdoors or in an environment where there is nothing to distract me, I am not near a phone or computer or book. Long walks work as well. Sometimes I isolate one problem that is within my control to fix and concentrate on that. 
  • Plan activities where you forget everything but the present moment. Think about things that make you happy. You know those moments when you say “Wow! I didn’t think about work or errands or ____ the entire time!” Those are the activities you need to fit into your schedule at doable times. Coffee with a friend, a long leisurely dinner catching up with old classmates, responding to snail mail. Anything that relaxes and calms you and pushes the commotion away for a bit.
  • Write down every task when you first think of it. Otherwise, you will keep on thinking about it. I have Reminders on my phone. I have a Grocery List and an Errand List and a Task List and some race specific ones, as well. When I use up the last of the almond milk, it goes on the grocery list. When the mail arrives and I need to pay a bill or respond to an invite, it either gets done right then or goes on the list. I no longer wake up in the middle of the night worrying about things I may have forgotten. There have even been a few days lately when the lists were blank!
  • Quiet Time. Whenever you can make it happy – early morning, late at night, during naptime – take some time for reflection and train your mind to push off feelings of guilt – that you should be productive. Find out what time in your week you are most conducive to relaxing and being still, and use that time. I know that an hour after a long run when I have stretched and showered and eaten, I will be most happy to sit still. I do my best to not book activities during that slot so I can have that peaceful time when I know I will most appreciate being peaceful.

    No one wants to be the  man next to me at the gym on Sunday who dropped his little music player while on the treadmill. He stopped to pick it up and almost fell off the equipment. What followed was a spewing of swearing that poured forth with no end in sight. Then he started kicking the equipment. Pretty soon the gym manager was escorting him away from his trigger point (I mean, no one loves the treadmill but really…?).  Maybe he has an anger management problem. Or maybe the commotion in his brain just grew too much and he didn’t do a good job of releasing it and now the poor treadmill is in worse shape and I know more swear words than I did on Saturday and the gym manager has another good story to share.

    It certainly reinforced my decision to not be a conductor of commotion, a constructor of chaos.


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