Is Work Killing You? (Part 2)
by Michael Licenblat
A few years ago, I remember was watching my two sons playing. At the time, Raphael was 2½ years old and was focused on putting together his favourite jigsaw. Zackary was 1 year old and was studying a plastic ring that had a soft toy hanging off it. They were in the same spot for over 15 minutes totally absorbed in their play.
I thought to myself... 'When was the last time I was 100% totally absorbed in the non-work aspect of my life? How many moments have I missed in my life because I was rushing to get things done, being busy, or thinking about something else?'
When was the last time you went for a walk and just absorbed yourself in the smell of the grass, the sound of the neighbourhood waking up, the freshness of air or the bright colours in the flowers – instead of letting your mind drift to other thoughts or things you should get to later. How often have you been in a conversation only to find that your mind is drifting off to other things you need to get done in your day? How much of your non-work time do you spend thinking about other things instead being 'present' and in the moment?
Each day allow yourself to be absorbed in the moments of what you are doing. When I catch a train I spend much of it reading a book, but I always allow time to just sit and notice the finer details of the scenery that I may have otherwise missed – much like being a traveller in a new town.
Realise that in every day are beautiful experiences waiting to be had and memories waiting to be created. No matter how intensely busy life becomes, there will always be small moments of joy somewhere in your day. Becoming resilient to pressure is about looking after your body, developing mental toughness and balancing work and life – but ultimately it comes down to your desire to seek out those moments in your day, week, or life that bring you happiness - so that you can look back over your life, at any point, and say to yourself 'I lived a full life'. At some point in your day, suspend your thoughts of what you need to be doing next or what is coming up in your day, and just focus on the sounds, smells, and sensations around you. It's a conscious state of mind that allows you to get in touch with the things you may ordinarily miss and never knew existed.
"The past is dead, the future is imaginary, happiness can only be in the eternal now moment" - Ken Keyes, Jr
In nearly everything you do in life requires active output, your work, driving, cooking, conversation, virtually everything! In today's busy work, our bodies lack stillness. Being still helps to let go of tension and unwind from being 'on the go'.
A study published in Psychosomatic Medicine profiled 25 office workers who spent eight weeks in meditation training before receiving a flu shot. Those who meditated experienced a 53% rise in antibodies compared with their 'stressed-out' colleagues.
Stress cannot exist in a state of stillness. Giving yourself a mental time-out is like installing a safety switch that protects your body from burnout. Being in a state of calm and stillness will relax your blood vessels, so you'll have fewer headaches. Your stomach won't be in knots, which will help your digestion. Your muscles will be relaxed so you'll feel less tension or pain and you will be able to recharge your batteries faster and function at you best under pressure.
Mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) is a meditation technique that is based on being "mindful," or having a heightened awareness of the present, and has been found to reduce both physical and mental stress and increase immunity. Mindfulness is about creating a feeling of stillness by paying attention to the sounds around you, as well as your breathing rhythms, and feelings. Coined in 1979 by Dr Jon Kabat-Zinn and colleagues at the University of Massachusetts Stress Reduction Clinic, mindfulness can help to calm the mind, relax the body and ease you into sleep.
OK, so how do you do this 'stillness' thing?
Creating stillness is not simply a quiet house or a serene environment - it's the stillness inside of you that creates the calm and peacefulness.
In my practice, I saw how people's mental stress would create such body tension that it would physically exhaust them, debilitate their work performance and drain their wellbeing. Those who practised sitting in 'stillness' were able to reduce many of their stress related ailments without any outside assistance.
Stillness is an inside job - we need to allow ourselves to get in touch with it. Stress cannot exist in stillness. It's a mental time-out - just like having a half time break in any sports game.
Follow these steps:
You can do this activity in a dimly lit room before going to bed or at busy city street cafe. I used to practice this technique whilst waiting for a train when I was travelling to college. For these purposes, practice the stillness technique in a room, by yourself, at home with the lights turned down low. 1. STOP Stop what you are doing and sit down for 4 minutes.
2. OBSERVE Feel the intensity of how fast your body is working. Notice where your body is tense, relaxed, hot or cold. Listen. Just listen to the noises around you - the hum of the computer, the people around you or the silence in the room. Sit still and allow your mind to focus on the present moment, on the sounds and smells around you. If the muscles in your shoulders or neck feel tense, then gently relax them.
3. BREATHE Relax your breathing - breath like you do when you sigh. Make sure your 'out breath' is longer than your 'in breath'. Most importantly become aware of your breathing. Focus your attention on the sensation your breath makes as you inhale and exhale. In can be useful to light a candle and place it about 2 meters in front of you to focus on, and take your attention to your breathing.
4. STILLNESS Focus your thoughts on the sensations and sounds your breathing makes as it enters and leaves your nose/mouth. If other thoughts enter your head - don't fight them, just gently bring them back to your breathing. Just sit and feel the stillness.
It has been said that stillness always exists inside you; you just have to allow yourself to get in touch with it. Start with 3-5 minutes, then try 10, 15 and up to 20 minutes of sitting in stillness.
"Learn to be silent. Let your quiet mind listen and absorb" - Pythagoras
Michael Licenblat B.Sc.(Psych) is a Resilience Expert who helps people in business bounce back fast from pressure, stress and burnout in their work and life. He is a professional speaker, coach and author of three books. To download your free special report on the 'Seven ways to prevent yourself becoming Over-Worked, Stressed-Out, and Run-Down', visit:www.BounceBackFast.com.
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