How to Shift from Frazzled to Flow—InstantlyNone By Cara Bradley
If you’re like most people, your mind is busy, filled with untamed emotions and unruly thoughts. Your attention is often anywhere but right here. You churn out thought after thought as you live in the chaos and clutter of your busy mind.
Too much mental content frays your nerves and keeps you awake at night. The mental junk drains you; the drama and distraction leave you feeling exhausted. In short, your busy mind is an overwhelming place to live.
The good news is that there’s a better way to operate—it’s called “flow.”
Flow is the full-body, full-sensory experience when your awareness drops below your head and into your body. You shift from only thinking into also sensing and perceiving. Flow is an embodied cognition, or what I call “body-mind intelligence.” It’s a “knowing,” from your head as well as from your heart and gut.
In flow, not only do you think about the beauty of the sunset or the vastness of the night sky, but you feel absorbed in the moment from head to toe. Such full participation can occur during a presentation, in the middle of a concert, or on the field. And when it does, you may find yourself nailing your talk, dancing with abandon, or scoring a goal.
In flow, you feel engaged and fully alive; you thrive.
You in Flow
In part 1 of this series, you learned how you’re already in flow throughout the day, and that you simply need to get to know “you in flow” in the following ways:
1) Notice flow throughout the day in the brief moments or glimpses when you feel engaged and fully alive.
2) Realize how you feel when in flow (clear, calm, happy, focused, energized, peaceful, ready, etc.).
3) Identify the correlated actions, people, or places when you experience flow.
In Flow or Not in Flow?
Once you know what it feels like to be in flow, you’ll start noticing when you’re not in flow. Most often, when you’re not in flow, it’s because you’re stuck in the chatter of your busy mind. You may simply feel out of sorts and unfocused—or more intensely agitated, overwhelmed, or stressed.
Over time and with practice, knowing you’re not in flow will trigger you to return to flow. It’s like riding a bike—you know when you’re off-balance and you know how to swiftly regain balance without much thought. This is exactly how you’ll return to flow.
How to Get Back in to Flow
The most effective way to shift from frazzled to flow is to get out of your head and into your body—as quickly as possible. The following strategies, called “mini-wins,” will help you “course correct” by shifting from feeling off-balance and unfocused to being awake and engaged at work or play once again.
1. Take 5
Deep, balanced breathing is your most powerful state shifter. Plus, it’s free and always available. Research suggests that deep breathing can shift the state of your nervous system from stressed to a more rested state in a matter of minutes. Don’t let the simplicity of this mini-win fool you. It works!
Take 5. That’s it. Sound easy peasy? Well, it is. Just 5 breaths and you’re back in flow.
Take 5 in the chaos of your commute, in between meetings, or while waiting for emails to download.
2. Move It
Being aware of your body is another strategy to return to flow quickly and effectively, and moving is the most efficient way to do so.
How to move? The simple answer is, any way possible.
3. Get Quiet
The world is getting louder, and it’s not likely to stop anytime soon. Constant noise wreaks havoc on your nervous system, increasing your heart rate and sending you spiraling into agitation. Silence restores your nervous system by calming your body, which in turn calms your mind, allowing you to see clearly and participate fully.
When you’re speeding through the day and feeling frantic or frenzied, simply turn off the noisemakers, close the door, and relish a few minutes of peace and quiet. No joke. This mini-win will return you to flow every time.
The only thing holding you back from feeling engaged and fully alive right now is your busy mind. Move, breathe, and find some quiet time. These mini-wins or simple course corrects, done many times a day, are enough to feel less frazzle and more flow. And who doesn’t want that?
You have learned to recognize flow and return to flow. In the final part of this series, you’ll learn what to do to sustain flow when you need it most—like during a big meeting, while writing your book, or on the field in the last 2 minutes of the game.
Cara Bradley, author of On The Verge: Wake Up, Show Up, and Shine, teaches executives and athletes how to live in flow, using strategies that integrate movement, breath, and mindfulness training. She is the founder of the Verge BodyMind Center in Philadelphia.
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