Decrease noise, gain focus: Reduce your stress level

Written on February 1, 2022

Category: General

Author: David Rodríguez, @davidjguru

Picture from Unsplash, by @nikkotations
Picture from Unsplash, user Nikko Macaspac, @nikkotations

Pandemic times have increased our stress levels, without a doubt. A very strange time that gradually stabilizes (it does not disappear, but becomes constant, inescapable and already installed in our daily lives). During this time, we have added new layers of concerns to our lives. We have said Goodbye to many loved ones. We have become (somewhat) more aware of the dangers of our consumerist way of life, seeing the risks of global warming and how this is intertwined, creating new serious problems that travel fast in our interconnected “world-system”…

And furthermore, it’s just as true that before these days, we were living in a roller coaster of tasks, worries and rush - a great deal of rush -. A whole life inserted in the guidelines of the so-called “late capitalism”, a turbo-version agitated between the sources of a meritocracy that does not exist, the crazy consumerism and the thousands of daily injustices and arbitrariness. It is in this context that we have recently (and very closely) seen the true fragility of life and the real engines that govern it (and none of them really belong to us).

Strange times in which the old aspiration “to dream life, to change history” is beginning to reappear. But to begin to think we must remove the scabs of nostalgia and eliminate the noise and gain focus. Only then will we be able to reduce our stress and be able to think more clearly: anxiety, fatigue and stress are our enemies that prevent us from dreaming well.
How can we reduce our anxiety and stress level? There are some interesting ideas from some diverse contexts that can be useful to improve our inner state as a previous phase to be able to better reflect on what life (and what world) we want to have.

First: Simplify your daily life

To begin with, we must understand one of the basic tensions of our daily life: the relationship between what is important and what is accessory, what is key and what is secondary… in order to be able to order well how we consume our time.

Some oriental philosophies call our occidental mind “The monkey mind”: our brain is passing quickly from one stimulus to another and then, connecting to another new input. This has been seen as a role model since ancient times, but what were neon lights decades ago are now mostly redirected to the Internet environment: Social Media, links after links, colours, ads… Instagram has a notification to let you know that you’re already up to date on your entire timeline (Ok, I’m sure you know it) but did you know Instagram also has an option to estimate the time you have consumed using the app? …so we can ask ourselves a few questions:

  • How much time are you spending chasing digital stimulus?
  • Are digital social media robbing time in your life?

Think about the latest big thing released by Netflix: the film “Don’t look up” (Adam McKay, 2021)… the asteroid could fall on us at any time (as a rock or in the form of a pandemic). Do you want it to reach you while you are looking at your smartphone? would you rather have done something else?

Picture from Don't look up
Picture from Don’t look up, Hyperobject Industries, Bluegrass Films

Second: Purify, purify, purify always (debugging)

In addition, Let’s say in software development there are some principles oriented to get better results in any scenario, working iteratively and incrementally, perfecting your code. You have to think that your code can always be improved, but you should also think about reaching a minimum validated form, something functional that brings value and starts to solve your problem. Think about how methodologies such as “Lean” and its derivatives approach the processes and the achievement / scope of goals…Can we learn something?

Sometimes one way to manage our stress and anxiety is to reduce our goals to the achievement of a “minimum viable product”, thought to get ahead and leave aside an obsessive perfection that can be problematic. In times of pandemic we have become acutely aware that our time is limited, and we are learning to give it as much value as possible - but towards the things that matter to us - Look for example at the case of “the great resignation”: What are we doing with our time or our life? What do we need, basically? With the old “protestant” legends about work and the meaning of work out of the way, what’s left? maybe it’s time to think about our tasks and please, review the scope of your goals.

  • Is this task very complex?
  • Can they be reduced?
  • Is it really interesting?
  • Does this have a minimal version?

Perhaps it is time to review our daily agenda, our commitments and objectives, and as Danton said in the middle of the French Revolution: “Audacity, more audacity, always audacity”. So you know: Purge, debug, clean. Permanent movement, permanent purification, permanent revolution… it may seem interesting, no?

Picture from the film The Trotsky
Picture of Jay Baruchel in the film The Trotsky, 2009

Third: Learn how to say ‘No’

Finally, there is an example I would like to share with you: José Saramago (Portuguese writer and Nobel Prize of Literature in 1998) once said in an interview that the word ‘No’ was one of his favorite words, and this made a strong impression on me. I was much younger than I am now, and lived more impressed by the culture of appearance, looks and relationships. Cultivating “no” was like growing a plant that could only lead to isolation, but I was wrong: it’s a sweet treat for personal dignity.

José Saramago
Portrait of José Saramago

Just how the author of “Blindness” and “The Cave”, try saying ‘No’ also as an internal way to review the connection of the thousand daily situations with your values and schemes…as someone once said: the best policy is the policy of principles.
Ask yourself:

  • How many things do I do a day that I don’t really feel like doing?
  • How many tasks would I rather not do?
  • How many comments and attitudes are obvious even though I know they are wrong?

Train your behavior. Start with small “no’s”. Weak, whispered, progressive, musical. Rehearse until you find the tone, the voice. Your voice. Then you can prepare explanations, give context, refute, open up your position, locate the opposite, establish your dividing lines. With time and training the “yes” will gain even more beauty and will be much more refined, more poetic, stronger. They will come to mean much more. We will learn to identify who are the strongest and who are the weakest in a conflict situation. We will be reaching the Satori.


To conclude, I would like to think that these lines have been useful to someone, starting with myself by putting together the ideas in my head after two years of continuous changes and various adaptations… Perhaps this article is not so much about reducing stress (what I had initially set out to do) as it is about stopping for a second to think about how we live, just before the flow of time sweeps us away.

In any case, I think that there are useful things in the former three blocks:

  1. Ordering “real - digital” relationship
  2. Reviewing and adjusting the scope of our goals
  3. Learning to say ‘No’

You can live more comfortably and maybe, reduce your stress level. Or at least, you will gain some time to dwell on the only pending account that nostalgia (backward thinking) and worry (forward thinking) prevent us from facing: dreaming life, changing history.

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Written on February 1, 2022