Staying calm with Linda Blair

17 May
Linda Blair

Linda Blair

Deep breath and OMMMMM….

At least that was what I was expecting during last night’s session with Linda Blair on mindfulness, but that didn’t happen. Linda is a clinical psychologist based in Bath who has written The Key to Calm, a book on how we can bring more calm in our world. Her approach is much more about being aware of yourself and your surroundings rather than finding a way to escape from it. And it seems like the world needs it; I was surrounded by a packed out audience of stressed out men and women, all looking for advice on how to manage their lives better. Linda has really positive energy and a we-can-do-it attitude made better by her Southern American accent and I’ll put my hand up and admit I was one of the first to yawn as I relaxed in her presence. I was also quite anxious as everyone in the audience seemed to have a pine cone in their hand. Why did they all have pine cones and I didn’t? Was there something special about the people with pine cones? Were they the chosen ones? Why wasn’t I offered a pine cone, etc?

People scribbled notes on pads as she shot through parts of her book and theory at speed. First, there was a demonstration about multi-tasking. Two members of the audience bravely put themselves up to the task of writing the sentence ‘multi-tasking does not work’ and then wrote numbers one to 29 underneath. Then she timed them as they repeated the exercise (29 and 33 seconds). Then they were tasked to write a letter and a number underneath. It took 49 and 51 seconds to complete. Humans really aren’t built to do more than one thing at a time, even women.

Then Linda went into the nine elements of life that cause stress and anxiety:

  1. Information overload. I think this is my problem too. Human receive far too much information daily to process it properly. So we get anxious.
  2. Technology has made us isolated. We physically need to have people around us for our wellbeing so ensure you make time for this.
  3. The news. It’s all doom and gloom because that’s what sells.
  4. Media presenting us with unattainable images of perfection that we compare ourselves to. I’m getting the Kardashian blocker app.
  5. Too much choice/too many decisions to make in everyday life meaning we feel overwhelmed. Yeah to this too.
  6. Multi-tasking. Again, yeah.
  7. Using the phone before sleeping at night. *innocent whistle and twiddles thumbs*
  8. Can’t remember.
  9. As above but I’m not going to stress myself out by trying to remember it. So there. It’s in the book. But there were a lot of people nodding and making noises at this point so whatever the last two points are, they’re very important. And Linda said stress affects memory.

So, how do we get control over the chaos? Linda happens to have a five-point plan, and her book goes into way more detail than this:

Stop, look and listen. Basically, be in the moment. Stop worrying about the future and the past, just be here now. And don’t judge or compare the moment. Just. Be. Here.

Look after your body. Cut out the crap, eat mainly plants, and not too big portions.

Know who you are. Apparently your birth order really affects every aspect of your personality and it’s worth reading up on traits that come with being first, second, etc. Being a first born myself, I realised that I got the harder road than my sibling. I guessed this from arguments I used to have about going clubbing with my parents, then by the time my sister was the same age they were nagging me to take her out for some fun. Sigh.

Streamline your life. This is a biggy. It means getting rid of the physical crap in your life, eg, all the stuff you have but never use. This is going to take me a while.

And finally…reach out. Be with people, ensure you have one-to-one contact with people.

The pine cones were used. I had to settle for the bracelet I was wearing. Linda asked us to look, really look at the pine cone/bracelet to the point where we had a narrative running in our head about the item. And we had to do it for two minutes, describe the item for two minutes. I tried hard not to drift off. I was very relaxed at this point.

All too soon the talk was over and it was time to take our lessons learned and go out into the world. I really think the world could do with bottled Linda that we could sniff occasionally at my desk when things get stressful.

Linda Blair was helping people sleep in Swindon Central Library, as part of the Swindon Festival of Literature, Friday 15 May 2015.

Words by Claire Snook.

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