I don't think there's a worse feeling in this world than being fearful. I went through a phase of my life not so long ago where fear very nearly crippled me. The stress of fear manifested itself in me physically and it took nearly a year to recover. I still fight it back sometimes, in the late night or early morning hours, but I'm hopeful that I'm winning the battle.
After I became physically sick, I sought the help of a counselor who taught me about mindfulness—being aware of whatever is happening inside and around me and the determination to initiate change when appropriate.
One of the greatest tools in combating fear is writing your thoughts. Think of it as giving yourself permission to let go of those fears. This blog is my latest method for combating fear, fear of being laughed at for my innermost thoughts. But here I am, writing it out and it looks ridiculous even as I see the words.
I use mindfulness daily. One of my most-effective work habits is cleaning my house. (No, I'm not obsessive-compulsive. One visit to my house affirms that fact.) The joke in my family is if the house is freshly cleaned, mom has a deadline fast approaching. It's true. To others it may appear that I'm procrastinating about work in favor of cleaning the house. But I use mindfulness while cleaning to help focus my thoughts. While I'm dusting and running the vacuum, scrubbing and mopping, my mind is not occupied with what my hands are doing. It's reviewing all the notes about a particular assignment. It's rearranging paragraphs, constructing ledes, organizing thoughts, developing sidebars and creating context. I'm not able to magically sit in front of the computer and begin. I have to go through this process first to get my head focused. And when I do sit down, the story is very clear in my head.
Most writers I know are keenly aware of time, or the fleeting nature of it. Mindfulness also has an application in the workplace. Saki Santorelli suggests using green dot stickers placed over your watch or clock (ideally both). Whenever you get the urge to look at the clock, you see instead the green dot and should take a moment to take a deep cleansing breath and relax. You'll be surprised how often you watch the clock—it can be as many as 50 times a day. Instead of triggering the reaction to tighten up even more, the green dot serves to remind you to relax, take a deep breath. Try it. It can transform you. Here are some of Santorelli's other suggestions:
Ways to Reduce Stress During the Workday
1. Take a few minutes in the morning to be quiet and meditate. Gaze out the window, listen to the sounds of nature or take a slow, quiet walk around the yard.
2. Take a minute to quietly pay attention to your breathing while your car is warming up or your coffee is brewing.
3. While driving, become aware of body tension (how tightly are your gripping the steering wheel, are your shoulders raised, is your jaw locked and stomach tight?). Consciously work at releasing/dissovling that tension. What does it feel like to relax and drive?
4. Decide not to listen to the radio and be alone with your thoughts.
5. Stay in the right lane and go 55 (OK, that's a hard one).
6. After parking at your workplace, take a moment to orient yourself to your day.
7. While sitting at your desk, monitor bodily sensations and tension levels and consciously attempt to relax.
8. Use your breaks to truly relax, rather than to simply pause. Take a five-minute walk.
9. Change your environment at lunch, get away from your desk.
10. Try closing the door (if you have one) and take some time to consciously relax.
11. Use everyday cues in your environment to center yourself—green dots on clocks, booting your computer, phone ringing, etc.
12. At the end of the day, pay attention to the short walk to your car. Take deep breaths and listen to the sounds outside your office. Can you walk without feeling rushed?
13. While in your car, make a conscious transition from work to home. Take a moment to simply be.
14. Before getting out of the car, take a minute to come back to the present and orient yourself to being with your family.
15. Take the few minutes to change out of work closes when you get home. Say hello to each family member and, if possible, take a few moment to be quiet and still.