What’s the Deal?
Your Action Plan
1. Establish a regular meditation practice.
2. Loosen the grip—literally.
- While sitting at your desk, settle your attention on your hands, (particularly if they are holding something—a cup of coffee, a pen, a computer-mouse) and/or on your shoulders.
- If you find your grip extremely tight (or your shoulders tense), realize that this will merely exacerbate any tension you feel.
- Choose to loosen your grip and/or release the tension in your shoulders as much as you can (Breathing helps!).
- Take a moment to observe the different sensations you feel when you bring your attention to your body. Remember, this is something you can do even as you plod through your to-do list!
3. Think before you speak.
- Write down an accusatory statement, in the second person, about something that happened at work (e.g.: “You’re incompetent for forgetting a deadline.”).
- Rephrase it in the first person using nonjudgmental, constructive, “I” statements (“I spent two hours looking for a misplaced file and missed my deadline as a result. How can I set up a system to avoid this happening again?”). Notice if you feel different using “I” versus “you” statements.
- Try to let go of using generalizing words like “never” and “always.” Practice using specific language that leaves room for improvement (e.g. “I was disappointed when you arrived late to our meeting. How can we ensure this doesn’t happen again?” versus “You always disappoint me.”). This kind of constructive language helps keep things in perspective and prevents unbridled deprecation, both of yourself and others.
4. Set intentions.
- Set an intention each day before leaving for work. Perhaps you wish to be more open-minded and at ease during meetings and conference calls, or you want to breathe more deeply before beginning a new task. Remind yourself of this intention every time you find yourself getting off track.
- Before engaging in a conversation, pause for a moment to check in with yourself (silently) and determine your intention: Do you want to be seen as “right”, or do you want to be seen as open, compassionate, and supportive? Do you want to foster progress or hinder it?
- Before you send an email, take three breaths. Then reread the email and imagine being its recipient. Consider the emotional impact of the message and ask yourself what you’re trying to achieve with the email. Rewrite it (before sending) if need be.
- If you find yourself bored or annoyed at work, don’t judge yourself. Instead, use the setback to shift your mindset: Even the most tedious work is an opportunity to help others, cultivate awareness, or learn about yourself.
5. Reconsider your coping mechanisms.
- On a piece of paper or on your computer or phone, make a list of everything that contributes to your stress at work.
- In another column, list everything you do on a day-to-day basis to relax, lift your spirits, or have fun (listening to music, exercising, cooking dinner with friends, etc.).
- Make a third list in which you describe the effects these activities have on your stressors.
- Look at all three lists. Reflect on how much you need to cope, if you are coping well, and/or if you need to change the ways in which you cope. Then write yourself a “prescription” for your own self-care.
6. Practice compassion.
- Sit with your eyes closed or your gaze lowered.
- Silently offer up loving-kindness by directing positive energy and goodwill to all beings everywhere, including yourself. Start by sending love to yourself: “May I be safe. May I be happy. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”.
- Repeat the mantras at a pace that works for you, focusing your attention on each phrase as you think it. If your attention wanders, begin again. The anchor here is not the breath but the phrase-repetition.
- Next, call to mind someone whom you know is having a difficult time and repeat the mantra: “May they be safe…”.
- Call to mind someone you don’t get along well with. Repeat this exercise for them. If this is too hard, send loving-kindness back to yourself.
- Finally, try offering phrases of loving-kindness to all beings everywhere: “May all beings be safe. May all beings be happy…”.