By Monica Nolasco, Ed.D.
I was having lunch with a couple of friends a few weeks back. Next to us was a beautiful couple with their son and daughter. We chatted for a brief moment with the couple, and what I remember about this young man is his obligations and the stress he appeared to be under. He shared, “I’m a father, a husband, a student, and a leader preparing for a career change, and each role has its own responsibilities.” The stress he appeared to be experiencing made sense after I heard all of the things he was committed to. I asked how he handles everything, and he said, “There is no time in my schedule to ‘handle’ anything. I just do.”
Can you relate?
I felt compassion for the young father and offered my support.
Stress triggers a fight-or-flight response, which in turn creates a physiological reaction in your body. This constant fight-or-flight response, if not addressed, can have negative snow-ball effects on your overall well-being, and, over time, your resulting behavior will affect everyone and everything around you.
Herbert Benson, M.D., gives us a glimpse into what happens when this response is evoked, “…it brings into play the sympathetic nervous system, which is part of the autonomic or involuntary nervous system. The sympathetic nervous system acts by secreting specific hormones: adrenalin or epinephrine and noradrenalin or norepinephrine. These hormones, epinephrine and its related substances, bring about the physiologic changes or increased blood pressure, heart rate and body metabolism.” If your body’s response is a reaction to stress, it is your cue to do something about it.
Do you easily lose your temper when you are stressed? Are you hoping the problem will go away? Or do you feel the present moment is asking too much of you?
More and more people are openly talking about their everyday stress. Are you one of them? I like how Louise Hay clearly frames what happens when we talk, “Every cell in your body responds to every single thought you think or word you speak.” What I get from what she says is that, when we talk about our stress with other people, we need to find a way for that talk not to add to the stress by forcing us to relive it.
Stilling the mind through meditation is a way to feed positive energy rather than the negative energy that comes with stress. For now, it is important that you first acknowledge the challenge. Then, decide what you are prepared to do to remedy the situation.
To get you started on achieving more peace of mind, you can use the following technique: In your next moment of solitude, after reading this article, instead of filling that moment with another activity (let’s say, checking your email, calling someone or going out to buy coffee), how about turning your phone off for 5 minutes? It will be okay; I promise you. Set it next to you if it makes you feel better or put it in a safe drawer. Now, simply sit and just be.
Reside with yourself for 5 minutes, wherever you are – at the office, in your parked car, in a restaurant, in the library – any of those will work. What comes up for you from reading this article? Sit with that for a minute.
Now, to help yourself further, be intentional about setting aside a few minutes each day to reside with yourself. For example, choose to be alone for 10 minutes each day before heading out the door. It’s not much. Decide to live in awareness for these few minutes so that you turn them into the most powerful moments of your day.
This week, you might do the following:
- CREATE “MY TIME” OPPORTUNITIES to check your calendar for when your moments of solitude might best fit in. If this means not meeting your peers for an after-work drink or skipping a social event, do that. Identify the resulting gaps in your day or week and fill them with “My Time” moments on your calendar.
- IDENTIFY A SPACE to reside with yourself. This is your space for your protected time. This space should be one where you are comfortable and that is free from distractions. If the company you work for has a meditation room, that is ideal. If not, a conference room, a cozy corner, a chair in front of a window…any of these will do. This space is one where you can simply be for 5 to 20 minutes.
- MEDITATE REGULARLY. Before you begin, always remember to eliminate that built-in distraction of yours, your phone. Be sure that you are in a comfortable, seated position, on the floor or a chair, ensuring that your back is erect and supported. You can begin by breathing normally; choose to bring your attention to your breath. As you continue to meditate, notice how each breath travels in through your nose and out of your mouth. By doing this you are following your breath’s path. When you are finished meditating, get up from your comfortable position gently so that you can ease yourself back into your day.
You will notice that this regular meditation practice will increase your productivity both professionally and personally.
Remember: Your overall well-being is of utmost importance. If you are not well on all fronts (physically, emotionally, and spiritually), how effective do you think you can be throughout the day?
Now you know. No matter how short the “meditation” time, your day will go better moment by moment.
If you’d like to learn more about mindfulness and meditation and how both can help with your career development, contact me via email.
Benson, Herbert, M.D. The Relaxation Response, William Morrow and Company, Inc. New York 1975.
Dewe, P. (December 01, 2003). A closer examination of the patterns when coping with work-related stress: Implications for measurement. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 76, 4, 517 – 524.
Hay, Louise L. You Can Heal Yourself, Hay House, Santa Monica, CA 1984.