The Zen Habit of Stillness

You probably have friends and acquaintances who are always rushing about and complaining about their lack of alone time. Maybe they don’t even say anything about it because they don’t know any other way to be. Every moment, they’re busy. Maybe you’re one of them.

If you examine the lives of overly busy people, you’ll probably find that they’re not contented, happy people. There’s always so much to do and so little time. Perhaps you’re reading this because you feel rushed yourself and want to slow down and reap the benefits of being still.

Two Kinds of Stillness

You can be quiet in body and quiet in mind. Both are important. Being still physically saves you a lot of energy and effort. You feel less exhausted by the end of the day. Mental quietness has a similar effect on your psychological, intellectual, and emotional energy.

All you have to do to achieve stillness of body is to finish your chores and then relax. Even while you’re completing your tasks, you can conserve energy by using little movement. To get an idea of how to do this, just watch a monk in action. Or notice how a cat relaxes.

Stillness of mind is more challenging to achieve. However, this kind of quietness is much more critical to overall contentment. 

How do you feel when you get some shocking news? How about when you finally reach your target at work, win an award, or find yourself suddenly in a crisis? You feel a rush of adrenaline and you’re off, letting off steam in a gush of emotion, words or action.

So if this is such a natural response to big changes, why do you need to cultivate stillness? When you’re in the middle, when you’re centered, you can see both ends of the spectrum.

When you refrain from reacting in an extreme way, you can control your response to the situation. You can be objective. Most importantly, you can learn from your circumstances and use them for self-development.

From another perspective, when you’ve cultivated internal quietness, you’re less likely to face extreme ups and downs.

Try these tips to develop a still mind:

  1. Stop. In an extreme situation, pull away from the circumstance for a moment. Take a deep breath before you react.
  2. Listen. Listen carefully to what’s being said. If your mind jumps the gun with words you feel compelled to speak, bring it back to the moment. Return your attention to what the other is saying.
  3. Think. Contemplate why you’re facing the situation. Did you play a part in creating it? Is the other simply mirroring you? Is there something you need to learn from this circumstance?

If you take these steps, you’ll be able to avoid overreacting or reacting negatively in haste. This means your response, if and when it does come, will be the right one for the circumstances and for you.

 The Importance of Silence 

Another way to develop mental stillness is to practice silence. Speak only when necessary. Speak only when you have something of consequence to say or something that will help the other.

Before you speak, examine your motivation for saying what you want to say. Is it to further the welfare of the other? Or is it to praise yourself or prove that you’re right and the other wrong? A need to always be right is the basis of much conflict.

Moreover, when you’re habitually silent, your words have more effect. People pay attention when you speak.

As you work toward greater self-awareness, try cultivating internal stillness. Just follow these guidelines as a start. As you practice, you’ll realize many rewards.

Crash Course in Office Break Room Etiquette

The office break room is a place for camaraderie among colleagues and can be a happy place. Make yourself popular around the office by mastering the basics of professional etiquette in the communal gathering place for cleaning up, dining, and conversation.

Cleaning Up:

1. Clean up after yourself. The most common complaints about office break rooms are about people leaving messes behind. Wipe your table after eating. Throw away all your garbage. Wash your plates and food containers and avoid leaving dishes soaking in the sink for indefinite periods.

2. Clean up after others occasionally. People are more likely to clean up if the room is kept neat at all times. If you sometimes wipe off a dirty counter or wash a sink full of coffee cups, your colleagues may return the favor when you need it.

3. Take turns with the major chores. Sometimes the refrigerator needs a thorough cleaning. Volunteer for your turn or offer your assistance when you see someone undertaking a big job.

Dining:

1. Replace anything that you use up. If you take the last cup of coffee, make a new pot. When the condiment dispensers get below half-filled, top them off.

2. Take the last piece. The last donut sometimes lingers for days. It’s okay to use a knife to cut off single portions as long as you keep your hands clear of the shared food. If one lonely bite remains on a previously full platter, transfer it to a single dish or napkin and wash off the serving dish.

3. Avoid strong odors. Your colleagues may not share your passion for robust cheeses or fish. Mild aromas are safer in the workplace. If you accidentally burn something in the microwave, wiping it down with vinegar and lemon will get rid of most smells. Clear all leftover foods out of the refrigerator at least once a week to avoid spoilage.

Conversation:

1. Put off non-urgent business: Let your co-workers enjoy their lunch. Unless it’s an emergency, wait until they’re back at their desks to talk about ordering supplies or rescheduling a meeting.

2. Keep your conversation G-rated. Everyone should feel comfortable in the employee lounge. Avoid topics that could be controversial or offensive. There may be individuals at work who share your political views or irreverent sense of humor, but save your analysis and jokes for happy hour with them alone.

3. Talk softly. When one person raises his or her voice, everyone tends to talk louder to compensate. Make it more pleasant to chat by using your indoor voice. The people who work next to the break room will be especially grateful.

4. Use your cell phone discreetly. Similar guidelines apply for cell phone conversation. Avoid any subjects that your co-workers would be uncomfortable hearing. If you get a bad connection, step outside or call back rather than shouting over people.

Other Courtesies:

1. Know the TV policy. If your employer puts a television set in the lounge, follow any guidelines in place. You may need to keep it on a news station or take turns with the remote. Adjust the volume to keep from interfering with conversation or nearby workstations.

2. Leave other people’s food alone. Food disappearing from the refrigerator is another common office complaint. If your bags and food containers look similar to what other people bring in, label them to discourage any mistakes.

3. Grooming belongs in the rest room. It’s good to floss after meals but do it in the rest room. The same goes for combing your hair or applying cosmetics.

4. Ask your supervisor to establish policies if needed. If difficulties remain in spite of everyone’s individual efforts, you may need to ask your supervisor or human resources department to establish policies for chronic challenges.

By following simple courtesies, everyone can enjoy the office break room!

Avoiding Overwhelm

avoid overwhelmAvoiding the feelings of overwhelm is something that is not only necessary for our health but to our mental state of mind as well.  When we actively and consciously avoid those feelings we can ultimately avoid the burn-out feeling.  We all know what that feels like, exhaustion both mental and physical, short temper, sad, anxiety and sometimes depression.  Before we experience these feelings let’s look at some ways that we can avoid them all together.

  • If you sense the feelings of stress or anxiety coming on it is important to analyze what you do on a daily basis.  All too often we get up and go and don’t take time to truly focus and determine if we are doing too much.  Consider taking out a pad of paper and writing every detail of our day on this pad.  You will be truly amazed at what you do on a daily basis! If removing some items from your long list are impossible, then consider stretching out the tasks throughout the week.  Do you truly have to wash several loads, cook dinner, clean the floors, take your child to baseball all in the same day? Break down your tasks and you will automatically feel the sense of relief.
  • We as women, tend to believe that we can do everything on our own, which of course will lead to burnout.  It is perfectly acceptable to ask for help.  If you are married, ask your spouse to help with the daily activities.  If you have children, teach them tasks that will help you throughout the day and week.  Remember they are never too young to participate in family activities and that includes chores.  Ask a friend to help or simply be there to vent. Yes, it’s okay to vent!  Keeping all those feelings of overwhelm inside is not healthy.
  • Learn to incorporate breaks into your busy day.  It is important to take breaks to refresh your mind, and get the second wind which is needed to continue.  Take a nap or to rejuvenate yourself, consider going outside to inhale the fresh air.  Take a 10 to 15 minute walk and feel totally renewed.  It is important to simply step away from whatever situation or activity is causing you stress at the moment.  Once you take the necessary break, you will beat the burnout stage before it occurs.
  • Ultimately no one knows your body better than you!  Don’t ignore the signals that surface when your body or mind is feeling overwhelmed.  Headaches,  for example are not normal and are signals that your body gives you to signify that something is wrong and many times it’s because we have taken on too much.  Be careful and listen to your body.  Just as the oil light goes off in your car as a sign that it’s time for a maintenance check, your body will give you signals too.  Be aware of them and you will ward off the burnout stage and enjoy life to the fullest.

These are just a few tips that will help you stop the feeling of burnout in its tracks.  Begin implementing some of these tips today and you will enjoy getting up each day to a brand new day full of greatness.