Has everyone seen the commercial aimed at people with Restless Leg Syndrome? At first I thought it was a joke (you have to admit it sounds funny), and we were going to see people exhibit an uncontrollable urge to kick everyone they meet, but apparently it is widespread and serious. I'm sure it has been a great relief for everyone afflicted with the nervous jumpy willies to find out it is a medical condition. My legs are fairly content underneath my body, but my mind is another story. It wanders and twitches from one topic to another, buzzing and gurgling with things to do, people to see, wisps of possibilities for the future and images of the past. I wish I could haul some of it down to Goodwill and drop it in the donation box. Maybe somebody else can use my business plan for marketing hand-made hula-hoops. Meanwhile, perhaps if I give my problem a name, Pfizer will come up with a pill. Thus is born "Restless Mind Syndrome" (Copyright 2009, Jasmine Boussem). While they are conducting the endless clinical trials for Calm-o-trin, I will undertake my own therapeutic course. Here is my plan to move from confusion to Confucius.
I will begin by utilizing the ancient and breathtakingly obvious Japanese Kaizen philosophy, which is based on the practice of making small continuous changes over time in order to affect a large change. Basically, it's the old "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step" idea. Told you it was obvious. But what is not so obvious is that when you stop fretting about your complicated long term objectives and simply take incremental steps toward your goal, the stress and disjointed mental condition that results from looking too far into an indistinct and overwhelming future completely vanishes. The mind calms, the heart lifts one small step at a time.
Multi-tasking is vastly over-rated, more stressful than useful. Try thinking sequentially instead of simultaneously. Make a list of tasks in the order you want to accomplish them. Do one thing at a time until you achieve a degree of completeness that will allow you to walk away from it and do something else. Repeat and rinse. Remember: activity is not always synonymous with accomplishment. Sometimes it is just energy used up. I call it "Rocking Chair Syndrome" -- continuous movement, but going nowhere. Following through to completeness instead of giving everything a quick lick-and-a-promise reinforces the habit of success, and gives you momentum to accomplish the next task.
Do the Write Thing.
Writing can be a wonderfully therapeutic activity. There is some kind of magic that happens when you put your thoughts or worries to paper. It does not matter what you are writing about, just get it out of your head.
In her book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron describes a wonderful exercise she calls "streams of consciousness". She recommends setting aside a time every morning and writing down whatever comes to mind without judging, editing or cleaning it up. I have found this to be a marvelous way to externalize all the chatter. As you release those words on the page, it almost seems that they are magically sent to some hidden file. The thoughts aren't erased; they just get turned off, like when your cell phone battery runs down. Maybe it is about first acknowledging and owning your chatter so you can move away from it.
For those who have too many ideas buzzing 'round, but are more visual than literary-inclined, I highly recommend, "mind mapping", the practice of representing your ideas graphically. Maybe it objectifies them so they seem more tangible, instead of letting them simply run amok in your head. There are free online tools for this technique and the learning curve is virtually non-existent. Try www.mindmeister.com.
Learn The Art of Saying "No."
Not, "Let's play it by ear". Not, "Let's talk about it later". Especially not, "Let me think about it," because thinking about it is precisely what you are trying to avoid. If you know you have zero interest in going to that dinner or that wedding, just say, "No" sweetly but firmly. It's okay to refuse invitations and demands. People will still like you.
Dr. Steven Covey used to say: when you say "No" to something or someone, you are actually saying "Yes" to yourself and your priorities. When something is not aligned with your path, it's better to say "No" than to go out of obligation and feel trapped and resentful. Stop over-scheduling. Being stressed is not necessarily an indication of your importance; it sometimes simply means that you have no boundaries or time management skills. Remember, if you don't follow your own plan, you will most certainly fall into someone else's.
Vote Toxic People off The Island.
Do you know some people that have the uncanny power to take up all your energy by the simple act of talking to you? It's quite magical. They infuse you with fears you never knew you had until they dumped them on you, and anxieties that have nothing to do with your circumstances. But somehow you find yourself wondering, "Should I be worried about that too?" I even came up with a name to describe that: TransFear. (Sounds scary, eh?)
Sartre said, "Hell is other people," which might be a tad extreme. You can't just jettison family and ignore co-workers. But if you don't encourage them when they try to unload on you, they will get the idea and either stop doing it or move on to someone who will let them get away with it.
Connect with people who inspire you.
In his latest book, Who's Got Your Back , Keith Ferrazzi explains that one of clearest paths to well-being is through relationships. But not just any relationship. Keith suggests we nurture and preserve an inner circle of "lifeline relationships": deep, loyal relationships with a few trusted individuals (3 is enough) who will offer the encouragement, feedback, accountability and ongoing mutual support to help each one reach their visions. Who's in your top 3?
Enter Digital Detox.
I love technology, and I confess a slight addiction to shiny gadgets, but I have observed that unless I keep them in their place (which is to serve me) they can become a time and energy-consuming project that takes more than it gives back. I feel like hyper-connectivity has disconnected me from myself. Here is a challenge for all of us: Turn off messenger applications, Skype, email alerts, etc. Only check email twice a day, swear off Facebook and Twitter for a day. I am taking the pledge, and I will report back on my success. Try it yourself, and let me know how it goes.
In fact I would love to hear from everyone about how you overcome the dreaded Restless Mind Syndrome (RMS). Please feel free to leave your comments below. And don't make a draft so you can revise it later. Do it, and then move on to that walk on the beach.