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Calm Your Chaos

6 min readApril 8, 2020

We’re experiencing a time of unprecedented turmoil. A time of chaos. Everything feels out of control right now. Especially out of your control.

It’s natural to feel anxious. I normally spend a good chunk of my life traveling for business and pleasure. Instead of catching frequent JetBlue transcontinental flights, I’m staring out the window of our apartment in Manhattan on a sunny spring afternoon wondering if there’s a place I can go for a walk and still stay socially distanced from others.

In the midst of all this uncertainty, we also have to focus on doing our sales jobs well. Which is understandably hard to do if you’re feeling anxious about this damned virus. This anxiety has an impact on how we communicate, receive and process information. Which are at the heart of sales.

So, here’s the most important perspective for you to keep in mind in this time of chaos: Sales, while important, is nothing more than the most important of the unimportant things in life.

The important things in life are the health and safety of you and your family. Nonetheless, there are increased demands on all of us to be safe and work hard without skipping a beat. And, it’s impossible to do if you’re surrendering to the anxiety of the moment and not taking care of yourself.

Here are a few of my personal tips for calming your personal chaos.

Control your breathing

Feeling a bit anxious? One of the best ways to fight back against it is to control your breathing. To reduce your respiration rate and heart beat. To reduce your stress.

Here’s a really simple tip to control your breathing. Practice breath control using the breathing exercise on the CALM app. Download the CALM app on your phone or tablet. When you open it there are choices to jump into some guided meditation. I recommend that you click on More at the bottom of your screen and then click on “Breathing Exercise.” It will ask how long you want to do it. Start with 5 mins. What you see is a pulsing orb that guides you when to breath in and when to breath out. Just do what it tells you to do. There’s a chiming soundtrack that also guides you.

I do this for five minutes per day. It’s my form of meditation. Some days I do more. It just depends how I’m feeling. Often I close my eyes and just fall into the rhythm of the sound. The 5 minutes passes quickly and I feel relaxed. More recently I’ve been doing these breathing exercises before I go to sleep. Which leads to my next tip…

Get your sleep

I know that it’s harder to drift off to sleep at night if you’re head is full of the latest statistics about the corona-crisis. You’re worried about your family. Your job. Having to go to the grocery store. And you’re feeling stressed about working on your own and getting into a productive groove with your home-based work routine.

Getting a good night’s sleep is vital to calming your chaos. For me personally, the first three months of 2020 were a cascade of one stressful event after another. A close friend was diagnosed with brain cancer. A long-time friend died of colon cancer. I negotiated an agreement to sell a part of my company. And just when I was looking forward to being able to relax, here came COVID-19. It took a toll on my sleep. Then my wife, Vicky, recommended I take melatonin before bed. Combined with 5 mins of CALM breathing exercises before the lights are turned out, the melatonin has been a godsend. This is what I use.

Turn off the noise

Meaning you need a lot less news. And Twitter. And Facebook in your life. Less noise.

I read a recent interview with a psychiatrist who is an anxiety expert. He gave what I believe is excellent advice for keeping your sanity, and reducing your stress and anxiety, in dealing with this deadly threat on a daily basis. He said that you should read just enough news every day to keep you and your family safe. And, beyond that, you should stay willfully uninformed. Such smart advice. After all how many stories can you read about COVID-19? After the first one or two it’s like piling on. So, stop.

I spend 20-30 minutes first thing in the morning scanning all my usual news sources on my phone as usual. After that, I don’t look at the news or Twitter again until the next morning. Sort of like the good old days when people read morning newspapers. This routine has freed up a lot of brain space for more creative and productive work. And less chaos.

Give yourself a break

Build work breaks into your day. Set a timer or your alarm to go off at set times to remind you to get up and move around. Use a Pomodoro timer on your computer or phone to work in 25 minute sprints with a built in 5 minute break to move around. Or fix yourself a snack.

Vicky noticed after her first few days working from home that she was going all day, head down, without a break. Since she wasn’t in the office, she wasn’t getting up to walk to meetings, or grab some lunch or just to talk with colleagues. She found that it was too easy to stay in work mode all day, head down, without a break. Suddenly it 6pm and she was feeling more exhausted the usual at the end of a day.

So, give yourself a break. And, when your Apple Watch tells you that it’s time to stand up? Don’t ignore it. Stand up!

Call your mom.

Use video calling to stay in close touch with family and friends. Do in on a regular schedule. You shouldn’t underestimate how isolating and lonely this shelter in place time can be for so many people. Make use of FaceTime. Zoom. Skype. It will make you feel better if you know that the people you care about are safe and healthy. It will make them feel better knowing that you are too.

Exercise just a little

It may not be possible to maintain your peak triathlete fitness levels during the period. However, you still need to keep active. I live in Manhattan and the sidewalks are so empty now that it’s still possible escape our apartment to go for short walks while maintaining a safe social distance. We are also fortunate to have a Peleton in our apartment. I’m riding that every day. And, since going to the gym is out of the question I also do the New York Times 9 Minute Workout routine. If you have enough floor space for a yoga mat you can do this routine. (Of course, we’re offsetting the benefit of this exercise with our stress eating and depletion of our wine supply…)

Daydream. Set some goals.

This whole nightmare will end. At some point, I guarantee it will end. Events like this are extremely disruptive of your personal and business lives. Hopefully, however, the corona-crisis will give you a new appreciation for the important things in life and work that you have been taking for granted. So, instead of just sleep-walking through life, use some of your enforced indoor time to stare out the window and just think about what you’d really like to do once life goes back to normal. Set some goals for what you want to change.

Calm Your Chaos Implementation:

Use Calm to integrate breathing exercises into your daily routine.
Get good sleep every night.
Turn off the noise.
Give yourself a break.
Call your Mom.
Exercise a little.

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