How to Turn Down the Noise in Your Life
STEP 1: Tune in to your mind-set. continued...
Happily, there's a very easy way to gauge, and shift, your mind-set — using
what Palladino calls your "adrenaline scale." Throughout the day,
observe and then rate your mental state on a scale from 1 (the most relaxed
you've ever been) to 10 (the most tense you've ever been). Then, make
on-the-spot adjustments to get yourself in the 3-to-7 range. If you're feeling
bored and sluggish, try revving yourself up by listening to fast music, taking
a brisk walk, visualizing a car building speed, or giving yourself spirited
commands like "3-2-1-Go!" If you're feeling overstimulated, on the
other hand, you can help block outside stimuli and get into the present moment
by calming yourself down: Take slow, deep breaths or repeat a phrase (aloud or
to yourself) like "Easy does it" or "One step at a time."
Nicole Lerario, 33, has used this technique daily since she left the New
York City theater world a couple of years ago to study massage therapy in
Ithaca, NY. When Lerario is in a lecture class and feeling understimulated, she
imagines a pot coming to the just-barely-bubbling point — 5 on her scale.
During a break, instead of lounging around chatting, she does 25 jumping jacks
outdoors. "The fact that I'm consciously checking in with myself and
changing my adrenaline level makes me feel not just focused but also more in
control of my day," she says.
Sometimes, as hard as you try to move yourself into the focus zone, you
might feel stuck in overdrive. That's likely because other forces are at work
on your mind: Whether you realize it or not, your concentration is being
hijacked by an emotion — for instance, a hurt feeling over a snide comment at
work. Major clue: You find yourself mindlessly clicking through TV channels or
Websites or flipping through catalogs you don't need. "It's easy to lose
ourselves that way; it makes us forget tough issues that, deep down, we know we
have to face," says Palladino. "But those unresolved conflicts generate
stress chemicals, which rob our brain of its ability to concentrate and
To quiet your restless mind, try four-corner breathing: Using a square or
rectangular object like a door or window, look at the upper left-hand corner
and inhale to a count of four; move your gaze to the upper right-hand corner
and hold your breath to a count of four; shift to the lower right-hand corner
and exhale to a count of four; then finish at the lower left-hand corner and
silently say, Relax, relax, smile, and do just that. Then repeat the
exercise. You'll feel more clearheaded, so you can change your perspective on
what's eating at you. Perhaps that snide coworker was just having a bad day —
while you have every right to feel hurt by her comment, remind yourself that
it's not personal.