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How to Keep Calm and Carry On

Jun 3, 2020 | 14m

Gain Actionable Insights Into:

  • Taking a much-needed break from your to-do list, even if you can’t leave your desk
  • Acknowledging your emotions and finding the courage to talk to someone who could help
  • Being a listening ear for your loved ones and helping them regulate their emotions


Be Kind to Yourself

Everyone has bad days. Maybe you woke up this morning and just did not feel like getting out of bed. As you scrolled through your emails and realised how much you had to do today, you turned off your alarm and decided to crawl back into bed to escape reality. You just didn’t feel like getting dressed or sitting in your home office for the next 10 hours.

No matter how you felt this morning, the job still needs to be done (unless of course, you decide to call in “sick”). People are still expecting you to show up and contribute to your team. Lives still need to be saved, and problems still need to be solved. So, how can you get through the day if you are not feeling your best?

If you’re a high achiever like me, as soon as you wake up on the wrong side of the bed, you start to punish yourself for feeling “blah”. We expect to be 100% most of the time because we are most fulfilled when we have checked off everything on our to-do list. But if you’re not feeling great, you naturally won’t be as productive as you normally would be. And that’s okay!

The main problem that hinders our productivity is our negative self-talk. Most of us don’t even realise how we are putting ourselves down. If you were to speak your thoughts out loud to a friend, you’d probably be horrified. It wouldn’t normally be culturally acceptable to speak to someone in such a degrading manner. Yet, that is exactly how we talk to ourselves.

If I happen to get up on the wrong side of the bed, I take a moment to stop and think about what I would say if my friend was in this situation. How would I encourage her throughout her day? The words I use would be gentler and kinder, and this is how we should speak to ourselves as well. Our self-talk makes a huge difference in our whole outlook for the day. If we don’t reign it in, it could lead us on a downward spiral.

With so much on our plates, we don’t often take the time to take care of ourselves. We have families and friends who need us to be present, and we have jobs that demand so much of our time and attention. We often end up neglecting ourselves and fail to take the time to do something that brings us joy.

But if you think about it, your ability to serve and care for those around you depends on how well you care for yourself. If you are not in the best place physically and emotionally, how will you be able to help someone carry their burden without falling down with them? If we want to be our best selves for those around us, we have to take the time to look after our hearts and minds.

Do Something You Love

While there are a variety of hobbies to choose from, I cannot tell you what would work best for you. But you know yourself better than anyone, so choose one or two things that can help brighten your day especially when you wake up feeling completely out of it. For me, I like to get outside and spend time in nature because it helps to reset my brain, calm my emotions, and rejuvenate me for the day.

As you prepare for your day and glance at your seemingly never-ending to-do list, try to scale back your goals for the day so you don’t end up beating yourself up when you can’t achieve everything on the list. In light of how you are feeling that day, determine a few priorities that must be accomplished and leave the rest for another day when you are feeling better.

Your brain determines the amount of work you can physically get done during the day. So, if you are not in the best place, don’t expect yourself to achieve as much as you would on your good days. Be realistic and give yourself grace as you try to prioritise what needs to be done so that you can remain sane and get through the day without breaking down.

As you schedule your day, be sure to include breaks that allow you to spend some time outdoors. Research says that your brain is best outside in motion in the midst of deep complex thoughts. Yet, most of us work indoors and sit at a desk for hours on end trying to juggle 17 different things. When we scatter our attention and try to multitask, we are actually working against the engineering of our brain.

If you want to boost your productivity and your mood, take breaks throughout the day where you can immerse yourself in nature even if it is only for a few minutes. If you find yourself too pressed for time, you can look at pictures of nature on your laptop and trick your brain into thinking that you are outside. This will help your brain rest and reset so that you can come back stronger and ready to tackle your next task.

I transformed my life 10 years ago when I left the corporate life. I was at the desk from 7:00am to 11:00pm, which I later realised was not healthy for me. When I made the shift, I learned that I am more productive and effective when I work fewer hours and take a few minutes to bask in nature. That is where we are meant to be. Unfortunately, our modern workplaces are not conducive to it, but you can make choices that can give you a much-needed break.

When you spend time in nature, your brain is better able to focus on your thoughts without any distractions. Our devices and social media have chopped our attention into bits, but when you step away from the craziness of life, you allow your brain to ease into deeper thought patterns and focus on one thing.

When you work on a single task, your brain actually sends you rewards in the form of dopamine. This creates feelings of pleasure and fulfilment, and it makes a huge difference in our happiness and well-being when we are able to take a deep dive into one project. If I find myself stuck on my work, I step away, get into nature, and allow my mind to wander. Most of the time, I return with fresh ideas.

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Amy Posey

Applied Neuroscience Expert & Author



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