How to Calm Down


Nobody really knows what the future of work looks like but recognising the value and respect you have for the people around you will ease your way, writes Jane McCarroll. She outlines her personal strategies to keep calm.


The rise of AI promises incredible rewards but the unrelenting pace of the new technology can put us under immense personal pressure. If we buy into the ‘hurry up’ culture of today we can be overwhelmed. If we are to hang in there and ride the wave we need a good dollop of ‘calm down’ strategies to help us cope.



I practice mindfulness to help me be the best version of myself. Mindfulness helps me manage my busy life and helps me avoid responding to stress and pressure with a ‘fight or flight’ response. 

Taking care of myself and my mental well-being is my responsibility. Mindfulness allows me to keep boxing on with a long-term goal of making sustainable efforts to make me a great colleague, mum, daughter, sister and friend.

A diligent approach to mindfulness can help us create mental space around a difficult issue and influence our response to it. It allows us to reach a thoughtful conclusion versus a rushed decision that leads to that ‘fight’ or ‘flight’ response.

Practicing mindfulness has helped me reduce stress and anxiety and conflict in my own life. It has also improved my resilience and my ability to build genuine connections with people.

Making time for mindfulness has helped me improve the way I direct, engage and lead. I have changed my leadership style from reactive to proactive which has been a great development for me.

Here are a couple of examples of how I practice mindfulness to make work a more productive, creative place to be.



I am not talking about the ability to breathe. It is how we breathe that interests me. Breathing well is the foundation of health, and leads to improved energy, efficiency, focus and performance. I am a good breather now, but this has not always been the case.

I have worked with the team at Breathing Works to build a better breathing foundation and it has been a daily exercise for a few years now. 

Moon beams of difference. One of the first things I do each a day is take a moment to check in with myself, my breathing and focus on some calm, considered breathing.

Unbeknownst to me, I had been operating in a cycle of breathing too quickly, and having bad reactions which I did not relate back to my relationship with breathing.

I felt like I had the stitch a lot of the time and seemed to be holding my breath (not on purpose) while trying to gulp air which was an unpleasant sensation. Nowadays, if in doubt I breathe out, and find time to practice my breathing exercises every day. 

Last year, before a presentation to a large group of people, to glam up for the event, I was getting my face made up. As I sat down, I asked the makeup artist if she would mind if I practiced my speech while she was putting my make up on. She assured me lots of her clients did that so it was fine.

When I finished practicing my speech, I said I was going to meditate to get in the zone to focus on my upcoming presentation. She hadn’t had that request before and asked if it might make me fall off my chair, and maybe we should pick the eyeshadow colours before I fell asleep? I assured her I wouldn’t fall asleep, and away we went. Better breathing has helped me in so many ways. 


Courageous conversations

Having considered, courageous conversations. It begins with us being ourselves and comfortable in our own skin, and that sometimes means expressing vulnerability.  This can be hard but the payback for exposing your vulnerability is that it builds trust and that is good.

We have all experienced situations where another person’s behaviour causes us anxiety or distress. Sometimes we have to have difficult conversations. In the absence of conversation, people can make assumptions. I think perceptions and assumptions are misleading and unhelpful. They can take time to unpack, and cause damage along the way.

If we drill down to what is holding us back from having these conversations I think fear comes into play. We fear looking stupid, saying the wrong thing or causing offence. 

However, if done with genuine humility and a genuine intent to seek a better understanding, these tough conversations can foster deeper relationships. 

I once had a colleague whom, it would be fair to say, was very different from me. We had very different ways of seeing things and processing information. Neither was right or wrong, but we were such opposites.  I recognised that for our relationship to progress we needed to have that courageous conversation.

This allowed us to unpack our challenges and perceptions to help us build a productive foundation from which to communicate.

To prepare for our meeting we both outlined what we wanted the other to stop, start and continue. I conducted this with the full support of my colleague and my coach. We both wanted it to work – and from my experience, if the intent is present we are almost there. We have the greatest impact when we have good intent. 

Being mindful helps me actively select and process my response.


Fuel up and keep that tank full

Instead of checking my phone first thing, I aim to feed my mind with something creative. This can be an affirmation, a meditation, my favourite song, or reading a blog to kick start the day.

I have been known to dance with my kids in the kitchen as we start our day by unloading the dishwasher and taking turns to choose the songs. Whatever it is, make sure if fuels your imagination – and that it feels good.


Being friendly

Better outcomes always come from everyone having an opportunity to contribute. I am a collaborative and inclusive leader and enjoy the energy that comes from brainstorming. It is better – and easier – together.

Nobody really knows what the future of work looks like. Nobody has been there yet. Recognising the value and respect you have for all the people around you will ease your way. I am not worried about the robots and neither should you be. We all have something to bring to the table. We all have something to contribute. You included. 

Written by Jane McCarroll, the strategic partnership lead for the Skills Group including IMNZ.


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