cover image How to Calm Your Mind: Finding Presence and Productivity in Anxious Times

How to Calm Your Mind: Finding Presence and Productivity in Anxious Times

Chris Bailey. Penguin Life, $28 (288p) ISBN 978-0-593-29851-0

Productivity consultant Bailey (Hyperfocus) delivers a pragmatic guide to reducing stress. He recounts how experiencing a panic attack during a business presentation led him to search for strategies to fight burnout, contending that “investing in calm is the way to maintain and even grow our capacity for productivity.” Downtime, he posits, can lessen anxiety and helps to percolate new ideas and break the addiction to stress, which occurs when one becomes reliant on the stimulation provided by such sources of anxiety as negative news stories. He recommends setting aside time each day to not worry about productivity and suggests taking up meditation, which lowers the level of dopamine that the body craves. Bailey is frank about the difficulty of seeking calmness and notes that self-care will likely cause guilt in readers who have an “accomplishment mindset,” but he adds that such busywork as refreshing one’s email can become mentally equated with accomplishment even though it’s more stress-inducing than productive. Instead, he urges readers to take breaks, exercise, and eat more complex carbohydrates, which all increase calmness and productivity. Bailey’s discussion of how dopamine and serotonin influence feelings of productivity brings scientific rigor to his observations, which are sensible and occasionally counterintuitive. This practical manual is worth slowing down for. (Dec.)