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Women's Health

How to Turn Down the Noise in Your Life

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STEP 1: Tune in to your mind-set. continued...

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.

Sarah French, 28, of Phoenix, a stay-at-home mom, used to notice her mood plummet when she'd fall off her diet. And that gloomy frame of mind would throw off her concentration all day. So instead of obsessing over that extra cookie she scarfed, she started using the nonemotional phrase That's interesting! And if negative thoughts (such as I messed up) start monopolizing her mind, she tells herself, That's interesting! Look how I'm putting myself down. "Stopping, stepping back, and observing myself like this helps me clear my head, let go of things, and shift my mind to more important matters," she says.

To suss out the hidden issues that might be sapping your concentration, ask yourself, What's really going on with me? If you're struggling to find the answer, think of a frank, wise friend and ask, What would she say to me right now?

STEP 2: Now, adjust that mind-set.

Just telling yourself, Don't worry, be happy won't do the trick, but there are effective ways to get your mind and mood to a better place. "While you can't change the way you feel, you can change the way you think, and that in turn changes the way you feel," says Palladino. Ask yourself, Is there anything I can do about my problem right now so I'll feel less tense/angry/worried/whatever? If there is, do it — or make a plan to. For instance, if your husband, leery of high gas prices, wants to cancel a holiday trip that really matters to you, schedule a time to discuss it with him in two days — and in the meantime, research ways to travel more cheaply. If the report your boss wants seems daunting, sit down and make a detailed list of the steps you need to complete. If you acknowledge how and when you'll resolve the problem, your anxiety level will drop and your brain won't endlessly mull over the issue, keeping you up at night or stealing your attention when you're trying to listen to your kids or finish up a work project on time.

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