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Art of Being Calm

These days everywhere we see “Keep Calm” posters. But do you know it’s origin story?

In late 1939 after the outbreak of World War II, the British government designed a number of morale-boosting posters preempting the eventual mass bombings of the United Kingdom. One such poster read, “Keep Calm and Carry On,” and though it was not widely distributed during the war, the slogan has become so popular today that it has inspired innumerable imitations and parodies.

There is a reason this message remains timeless: most of us deal with daily challenges and adversity of some kind in work and in life.

Well! Yes, this is how I look like while writing my weekly newsletter. Starting on high energy and then panicking on Sunday

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” ― Pema Chödrön

So, what this Sunday stress intended to teach me? – CALMNESS

But Calmness isn’t always desirable. Have you heard the story of two hunters?

Two guys are out in the woods hunting when one of them falls to the ground. His eyes are rolled back in his head and he doesn't appear to be breathing.
His buddy takes out his cell phone and immediately calls 911. Gasping, he says to the operator, "My friend is dead! What can I do?"
"Take it easy and calm down," the operator says in a calm voice. "I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."
There's silence and then a shot is heard. The guy comes back on the phone and says, "OK, now what?"

Calmness is desiring if it is internal or in other words not just your physical body, but mind & heart are also calm.
Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, it empties today of its strength

Despite all this wisdom, the way we feel on daily basis is best described by this one line -

Can’t decide if I need a hug, an XL coffee, 4 shots of Vodka or two weeks of sleep

So how can we become calm, despite all the chaos, selfish people, rude stakeholders, stupid relatives and infinite workload?

10 Ways to keep you calm

Well, Why just 10?
I can even give you 50 or 100 steps, but all of those will be just reading.
The below ten steps are the ones which I practised and helped me a lot

1. Events don’t upset you. Thoughts do

You failed an interview with your favourite company. Feel miserable? Of course, yes.

Now think of the same situation but after few months this company got bankrupted and closed. Feel miserable? Are you kidding me!

So clearly “getting rejected in the interview” isn’t the important factor here. What changed? Nothing but your thoughts.

Emotions aren’t random. They follow from thoughts.

This perception is inspired by Stoicism.
The Stoics are saying there are no good or bad events, there’s the only perception. The world around us is indifferent, it is objective.
“This happened to me,” is not the same as, “This happened to me and that’s bad.”

2. Control what you can. Ignore the rest

Another wisdom coming from the Stoics

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and Wisdom to know the difference.”

A key part of Stoicism is just asking yourself, “Can I do anything about this?”

There are certain things which are under your control such as your logical ability, rationality. You can and should worry about them.

Then there are things which are not under your control – Others’ reactions, bad weather, your health, economic crisis and lot more. You certainly can take the actions regarding them but worry definitely won’t help you

3. Accept everything. But don’t be passive

This one is related to point # 2
Accept the reality of the events. Things which are under your control. But that doesn’t mean you have to be passive. 
Today is Sunday! You are writing a post which needs to be submitted by the end of the week day. It is a bad reality (Believe me it used to be very stressful).
But yes, it’s a reality and no wishful thinking can turn the pages of the calendar to past.

Is it under my control? – I think so. I have to do a research on my own and then I myself will be writing my thoughts in this post. So, there is no external dependency.

Let’s take an action of writing something meaningful

4. Count to 10

When I feel like I am getting bombarded from every angle, I take a short break and then look at the situation with a fresh pair of eyes. Just taking those few seconds to count to 10 gives me the distance I need for a new perspective. It makes me realize, for instance, that the problem I am attacking isn’t the primary issue after all.

5. Fight stress with more stress

Think of an alternate scenario where a similar situation is 10 times in magnitude. Then compare the current situation with the hypothetical one and think how easier is the current situation to solve
As an example, there is a traffic jam and you are getting late for the event. Think instead of it, had there been an accident of your car which made you late. Which out of the two situations you will prefer?

6. What if Earth is going to end in a month?

Earth’s premature end is out of control but the reaction to our current problem is in our hands.
Would you really spend your final days stressing and worrying about something you have absolutely no control over?
Or would you be happy with your loved ones with whatever time you have left?
Is the stress too big that you want to keep ruminating about it through the last phase of your life?
If yes then take some action immediately.
If not then keep calm

7. Breathe

When you’re anxious or angry, you tend to take quick, shallow breaths. This sends a message to your brain, causing a positive feedback loop reinforcing your fight-or-flight response. That’s why taking long, deep calming breaths disrupts that loop and helps you calm down.

There are multiple breathing techniques which you can enjoy – Indian Yoga, Navy Seal, Zen, Wim Holf etc. but the essence of each is to take a deep breath.

I follow 10:20:10 – 10s to inhale, 20s hold and then 10s to exhale the air.

8. Change your focus

Whenever we are anxious or angry, we come up with poor solution. The reason being, during these times, our fight or flight mode is ON. This is fine if our life is really in danger, but if it isn’t life-threatening, we want our best thinking, not survival instincts

9. Write it down

If you’re too angry or anxious to talk about it, grab a journal and write out your thoughts. Writing helps you get negative thoughts out of your head.

You can take it one step further and make an action plan to continue staying calm once you’re done writing

10. Listen to music

The next time you feel your anxiety level cranking up, grab some headphones and tune in to your favourite music. Listening to music can have a very calming effect on your body and mind.

There are lot more ways through which you can become calm. Once I practised them then I would append this post to share my experiences.


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