Create a Clearer Mind
3 Tactical Techniques to Show Up as Your Best Self
Feeling off? Foggy? Not yourself?
I’ve been there. An endless barrage of zoom meetings and priorities. A chaotic, compounding, amalgam of home and work life. Rushing to refill your coffee, take a bathroom break, respond to a pressing message, or grab a snack before your next appointment. Feeling scattered. Rushed. Overwhelmed.
I’ve struggled with this experience across a variety of different life domains and contexts. When I’m in this state my mind becomes cluttered, I feel stressed, and my performance degrades. My performance degrades across all identities: colleague, coach, leader, friend, partner, and community member. I don’t communicate effectively, my body contracts, and I’m not present.
When I’m in this state I sometimes spiral into a stress ball as I put a lot of extra pressure on myself to show up as my very best, in everything I do. I have a habit of always expecting peak performance. There’s an inner critic that likes to light up and point out everything I could be doing better. This inner narrative creates some compounding problems like anxiety and insomnia, which degrade performance even further. Effectively I create a hairy wombo-combo where I am feeling scattered, lacking presence, and am immersed in an internal dialogue of pressure & shame. Sheesh.
This experience may resonate with you. I suspect I am not an anomaly. The good news is that when you’re a funk like this, no matter whatever it is you’re feeling, it’s just a state. It’s a moment in time. It’s not permanent and it’s not the real you.
You have the opportunity to shift. An opportunity to clear your mind. To move through the tension that is coming up, and then to ground. To come back to the present moment and to the real you. A capable, focused, more expansive you.
Below are 3 easy and reliable ways to clear your mind. Use these before your next meeting, on a lunch break, or before any other key social interaction. Use them as a way to transition in or out of the work day.
Each can be performed in under 5 minutes. Get creative and try them anywhere, anytime.
Music can be grounding when you’re feeling redlined. Music has the capacity to calm the left side of your brain (the logical, analytical mind). What this means is that all your thoughts, worries, and preoccupations with the past or the future are dulled when you’re immersing yourself in music. Music brings you into the present moment. Additionally, certain music reduces heart rate and blood pressure which can help out a lot when you’re in a heightened state.
This can be a simple and reliable tool. Throw on some headphones or crank up your speakers. Pick out a familiar song that creates the energy you’re seeking. Often, I am feeling fatigued throughout the work day so I put on something energizing. But sometimes I’m angry or frustrated and need something aggressive to clear my internal gunk. Or other times I have had a particularly confronting meeting and need to calm my nerves. Whatever it is, throw it on, and get up out of your seat if you feel called to. Move. Dance. Shake it out and move your body as if no one’s watching. Feel free to sing too.
Do this for just a few minutes and you’ll find that you have shifted your inner experience, sense of presence, and ability to perform.
This variation on Tummo breathing is one that inspires an alert, quiet mind. It is a profound, simple tool that can ground you rapidly and reliably. This technique also helps by increasing dopamine, and reducing cortisol.
For this, you’ll need to close your eyes and be in a space where no one can hear or disturb you. This is important, because you’re going to make some funny breathing sounds and you don’t want to be preoccupied with feeling self conscious. The point of clearing your mind is to become present and grounded. Worrying about what others think can get in the way of that.
Once your eyes are closed take a few deep breathes in and out. Focus on slowing your system down and observing the natural sensations of your breath. After a few breathes begin the Tummo exercise as follows:
In through the nose, in through the nose again, and then out through the mouth. With each nose inhalation make the in breath sharp and quick. With each mouth exhalation make the out breath equally as sharp. Imagine you’re quickly fogging a mirror with each out breath. Do 2 nose in breathes and 1 mouth out breath per cycle. Build a rhythm. Perform a total of 40 cycles.
Once you’ve completed your 40th cycle, take a deep breath in up through your nose and through your belly, ribs and chest. Breathe in as full as you can and then hold your breath, trying to hold it for 15-20 seconds. Then let your breathe out slowly and calmly through your nose. At the bottom of your exhale hold your breath out for another 15-20 seconds or until you experience a hunger for air.
Go directly back to step 1 for another 40 cycles. After completing another 40 cycles, do step 2 again. Once completing, return to a normal relaxed breath and observe how your body and mind have shifted.
Here’s a brief recording of what your breath should sound like.
To practice Tummo breathing with a guide I recommend downloading Still Life (iOS / Android), or Othership (iOS / Android). Note: I am not affiliated with either of these companies, just simply an avid happy user.
Another means to clear your mind, and to find a sense of focus, is through emotional release. Emotional release is letting out whatever is bottled up inside. To do this, you’ll again want a private space. Ideally a space where you can be as loud as you’d like. Maybe your car, a closet, or your office. Having a pillow on hand can help too, as a means to mute noise.
To practice emotional release you need to simply let out whatever is coming up. This is a no judgement zone. We’re doing this to ground and be present. Judgement takes us out of that. The idea is to not think about what to do, and just let your emotions come out however feels natural. Scream, whine, cry, sing, complain, stretch, make incomprehensible noises, dance like a whacky inflatable man, or whatever else feels true.
Doing this for just a couple minutes will empty your body of whatever pent up tension you’ve been building up throughout the day. It’ll help you feel more clear and capable. Advanced tip: Perform emotional release while listening to music and notice how these two synergize well together.
To be your best self it is helpful to clear your mind, and to clear your mind you must release whatever is standing in your way of being present. This practice may feel uncomfortable at first. That’s natural. Just let that feeling out too and trust that whatever is coming up is what ought to be released in the process of becoming clear.
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