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Women's Health

How to Turn Down the Noise in Your Life

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STEP 2: Now, adjust that mind-set. continued...

You can also try asking yourself some probing questions: This thought that's upsetting me — do I absolutely know that it's true? Or, How will I view this five years down the road? "These questions provide a dose of perspective that will tame your unruly emotions by making them feel less intense, urgent, and dire," says Palladino.

Or substitute a positive thought for the negative one, she suggests. Just make sure your thought is stated positively: I'm going to make it instead of I'm not going to fail. Otherwise, your brain will tend to focus on the possibility of failure.

As part of her high-pressure job as an information specialist at a Seattle nonprofit, Nina Cindrich, 34, has to make presentations to senior executives, which she finds nerve-racking. So she has developed strategies to manage her energy level and calm her mind, allowing her to focus on the task with a cool, clear head. "After I've done a good amount of preparation — because that reinforces my confidence — I stop rehearsing two hours before the presentation and switch to a totally unrelated task, like catching up on email replies," says Cindrich. "I leave for the conference room with 10 minutes to spare, stop for some water, and once I arrive, I lower my nervousness by focusing on the people attending the meeting: saying hello, asking them about their work, connecting at a personal level. When I present my talk, I keep my anxiety in check by telling myself, I know more about this than anyone else in the room!"

STEP 3: Quit procrastinating.

Now that you've adjusted your focus level and mind-set, you should be ready to dive into the task at hand. If you aren't, it may be because the task seems either dauntingly important or mind-numbingly dull. Once again, you're facing the over- or understimulation that can sabotage your concentration — and the easiest, most tempting way out seems to be to avoid the job altogether.

Before you start another round of computer solitaire, "Ask yourself, What is it that I'm not doing right now?" says Palladino. "You may not be ready to tackle a job you're too nervous or too bored to face, but asking the question means that eventually, you'll face it — or at least you'll be aware that you're avoiding it, which moves you mentally a step closer to taking action."

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