Conquer Your Whispering Devil

There are mornings I wake up feeling awful. Sore, fatigued, jet lagged, anxious… It’s as if a devil is whispering in my ear, “Oh, you’re gonna have a bad day today. You have way too much work to do. You didn’t get enough sleep. That appointment is going to go badly. The airport is gonna be a mess. The kids are gonna fight all morning..”
Shaking that devil from my ear and replacing it with positivity can be a serious challenge.

Am I alone in my battle to fight back negative thoughts? Not according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC), which reports more than 1 in 10 Americans are on anti-depressants. For middle aged women it’s even worse: nearly 1 in 4 are on this medication.

How did this happen? How has the whispering devil become so influential that we’re now a nation hooked on happy pills? Surely doctors can offer a scientific answer to why this happens but let me share my own secret formula for purging negative thoughts: Reset and Power Up.

We are fire hosed with information like never before: Emails, texts, TV, social media, cell phones.. The truth is, the default setting today is a constant barrage of messages from the moment we awake to the moment we fall asleep. Is it healthy? Absolutely not!
How can we consume a non-stop flood of urgent work requests, social media postings reminding us how glamorous everyone else’s life is, news coverage trumpeting doom and gloom.. without feeling like crap?

As challenging as it is, make time every day to reset: No phone, no email, no news channels. Get as quiet as you can both on the inside (your head) and the outside (your surroundings) and let your mind reboot. For me, that means an early morning swim, bike, or run without the iPod.
For you, is it a walk? Yoga? Whatever it is, schedule it in your calendar no later than the day before and make it a top priority.

Power Up:
When most of us hear “power up” we think of turning on our computers, right? Eeeek! Don’t do that.
A challenge for you, something I often struggle with myself but never regret: In the morning power up your body before you power up your computer.
Do you think humans were designed to roll out of bed only to flop into a chair and stare at a screen? Ha! Our able-bodied ancestors are laughing at us.
Imagine describing the start of a modern day to your ancestors: “Well, first I wake up after 4-6 hours of fitful sleep.” [By the way: Before the advent of electricity people routinely slept 10 hours/night.] “Then I stumble to a desk, turn on this bright screen that’s bad for my eyes, and start reacting to a bunch of mail messages that piled up while I was trying to sleep. I do this until I have a headache, at which point I reach for a salty, sugary prepackaged snack with a shelf life of 5 years…”
And on and on it goes until we find ourselves at the pharmacy picking up a package of Xanax.

Listen, I’m not advocating we go off the grid and live in mud huts. And clearly some people truly need prescribed medicine because there’s no other answer.
What I’m suggesting is we reconsider how we begin our days.

Power Up your mind and body first. Get some physical activity. Eat a great breakfast. Welcome in a new day before you fill it with modern day work and family realities.
Reset occasionally throughout your day before the information onslaught becomes too overwhelming.

Ben’s unscientific yet effective tips for destroying the whispering devil:

1. Turn on your smartphone or computer only after you’ve checked the box on two critical items: physical activity and breakfast.

2. Schedule the important parts of your day – including your exercise break(s) – no later than the night before.

3. Turn off the email fire hose while you’re working on important projects. Check email 4-5 times/day and stay off it otherwise.

4. Early to bed, early to rise.
(“Yeah right, Ben. How can I possibly go to bed earlier?” Well, kind reader, move on to point #5…)

5. Kill your television.
Two things about TV: 1) Studies show that people are most miserable and feel worst about themselves while watching TV. 2) TV Prime Time, which begins at 8pm, is when most of us click on the TV and sink into brain drain mode. Replace late night TV with early morning Reset and Power Up time.

6. Focus on getting one thing done one at a time. Don’t kid yourself, multi-tasking doesn’t work. (At least for the male species!)

Power Up + Reset = A happier, healthier, more productive you.