It’s 2:30pm and I can feel the day slipping away.
I’ve been sitting at this computer for hours and I don’t feel like I’ve got anything of any worth accomplished, despite the beautifully detailed and totally overwhelming list I made this morning. I look through the tabs on my computer to try to prioritize and check my bank balance one more time to see if my deposit has gone through. Mike is in the next room over and he’s talking about his cars again. At top volume — doesn’t he have any work to do? I try to look at my list, but my eyes can’t seem to rest in any one place for more than a moment or two. I can feel my shoulders starting to creep up around my ears and I have that familiar feeling of dread. I check back in with my screen and -what was I supposed to be doing again?
Whether you work in an office or at your kitchen table — or anywhere else for that matter — there are bound to be times when you hit a wall of overwhelm. Ideally, at this point I’d put my work away, make a relaxing cup of tea, have a snack, talk a walk or even close my eyes and dream for a few minutes. More likely, I’m all too aware of the fact that I’ve got to finish writing a piece, update my website, and remember to get out the door to collect the kids from school on time.
And that’s often the problem, isn’t it? Time is arguably our most valuable non-renewable personal resource and the hardest to get a hold of.
When you’re short on time, but high in stress, here are a few of my favorite 30-second strategies to reset and move forward (without your boss or your co-workers noticing anything — other than your calm and professional demeanor of course!).If you have a few minutes, I recommend either lengthening the time, or trying two.
I know this is said time and time again, but it’s true. Your brain needs oxygen and if you’re not feeding it, it simply won’t work. (Kind of like me without my morning snack!) I recommend bookmarking https://www.calm.com/breathe This link leads you to a “breathing bubble” that will increase in size while you breath in for 5 and decrease as you breath out. Even 30 seconds of mindful breathing can help lower your heart rate and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and improve your mood. Remember to breath in through your nose and let your diaphragm drop as you inhale. Your belly should move when you breathe!
2. Close Those Tabs!
Multi-tasking is the new sitting (which is the new smoking). Do you often have a bunch of tabs and programs open that you switch between? Or maybe you try to catch up on your favorite tv show while finishing that something boring for work? Put down that remote! It’s been proven (in a Stanford University study among others) that multitasking effectively divides your attention and leads a lessened ability to complete either task effectively. Try to focus on one task at a time.
While I’d like to think that most of us can get up and walk away from our desks for a few minutes for a quick break, I know that’s not possible for everyone. Instead try a few of these:
· Draw circles with your toes
· Raise your shoulders up and circle them back — try a deep sigh while you do it
· Head tilts — let one hand dangle, tilt your head to the opposite shoulder and feel a pull between your hand and your head, stretching out the side of your neck. Both sides!
· Thigh raises — put your feet close to your chair, but not under, and mime walking, let your thighs raise up and down one at a time
Really, anything you can do to move is going to be beneficial. And, of course, if you can take a break to walk around the room for a few minutes — do that!
4. Let it Rain
This might be my favorite. If you’re lucky enough to be able to put on your headphones while you work — which is more and more of us these days — this can be a game changer. While this should be done only as appropriate within the culture of the organization, listening to music with no words or white noise can be very beneficial (music with words splits your attention as your brain tries to decode the language and emotion of the lyrics, whether you mean to or not). My personal favorite sounds to destress by are the tracks found at Rainy Mood. This website plays the soothing sounds of rain and the occasional thunderstorm in the background. It’s incredibly relaxing and I find myself strangely productive while listening to it!
5. Five Senses Check
This mini meditation can be done with your eyes open or closed. Take 30 seconds to think about each of the five senses, though you could focus on just one or spent much more time on each. Sight. Sound. Touch. Smell. Taste. Place your hands in your lap, try to turn away from any screens and start with a sigh.
· Sight — what do you see around you? Softly focus and try to look for just one color.
· Sound — what do you hear? Try not to place a judgement on what you hear, just listen.
· Touch — how are your hands laying? Feel the texture of the cloth underneath your fingers
· Smell — has someone just put on a fresh pot of coffee? What subtle or not so subtle scents can you pick up?
· Taste — If you have a snack handy take a taste and really experience the textures and flavors. If you don’t, take a moment to notice the tastes already in your mouth.
I like to put a little piece of dark chocolate near me for the end and wait for the chocolate to melt in my mouth. Dark chocolate is practically medicinal!!
It’s amazing how short, mindful moments can make all the difference in your day. Just think — even if you use each of these twice a day, you’ve still only put five minutes into it. And you are definitely worth the time!