You have been scattered all day. You haven’t finished a thing. Your to-do list keeps growing and you are starting to forget even the most minor of things, like feeding your dog. You are caught in the surge of overwhelm. This is especially true during the holidays. All the annual items start popping up at the most inappropriate times at like say…2 AM and then again at say…3 AM. Holiday cards for your co-workers. Poinsettias for the company party. That conference in San Antonio that you don’t want to forget to budget in for 2017. Welcome to year-end overwhelm.
There are ways to mitigate the annual barrage of holiday, year-end, one off to-do’s without succumbing to it. Restful nights without waking up to, “Did you remember to budget for the company picnic?” The secret to getting your head back from the overwhelm is mindfulness. You probably are skeptical. You might be thinking, “But Cath, I haven’t got time to be mindful.” How can 10 minutes of peace actually help me, when all I want to do is dive in and start checking things off my list? I can’t shut off my head. There is science behind this.
Here are small steps to bring mindfulness to work:
- Take a breath. In Thich Nhat Hanh’s book, Peace in Every Step, he recommends taking a mindful breath every time you sit down. So while at your desk as you sit in your chair, take a breath. As you sit in your car, driving to work, take a breath. As you sit at the table to eat, take a breath. You need to take a breath anyway, right? So why not pay attention when you take a breath. Give it a try today. It’s amazing how one breath can change the trajectory of your day. Try it now. Breath in. Breath out.
- Greet the day with a smile. Nhat Hanh says, “Waking up this morning, I smile. Twenty-four brand new hours are before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and to look at all beings with eyes of compassion.” I have tried to do this for the last week. The very first thought when I wake in the morning is to smile. Smiling relaxes the muscles in your face. It brightens the day. How can anything go wrong when you start it off with a smile? Try it. Feel your face relax. The day just got better, didn’t it?
- The promise of hope. Instead of getting caught up in what will go wrong today, get caught up in what will go right. Nhat Hanh writes, “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” Optimism is contagious. So is negativity. Be the one that spreads optimism. So when you are in the meeting, ask what is going right or what does success look like. It brings it back to hope instead of languishing in negativity.
- Tie it to your roles. I have been teaching the 5 Choices of Extraordinary Productivity for the last 18 months. I think one of the greatest values of the training is identifying your role and making that extraordinary. So instead of being a “Coach”, I have recreated that role to be “Inspiration Engineer”. Instead of being a “Wife”, I have recreated that role to be “Kevin’s Best Friend”. Recreate your roles to be extraordinary. It makes everything you do at home and at work into something inspirational. For me, personally, it makes everything I do have value, whether it’s washing the dishes so my husband and I can get out of the house faster, or taking an extra ten minutes with a client to help them work through an insight. Create your extraordinary roles.
- Be happy now. I’ve spent a good deal of my career waiting to be happy. I’ll be happy when I get that promotion. I’ll be happy when I pay off the car. I’ll be happy when I have the corner office. This is futile. I was putting my life on hold until the next hurdle. As Naht Hahn says, “The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” It’s the small things that I need to take stock in. My dog curled up asleep on the coach. The sunshine outside. The smell of fresh brewed coffee. Don’t put off happiness until – Be happy now.
By being more mindful throughout the day, the little distractions seem to fall away. I’m able to buoy against the struggles and float over the disagreeable nuisances. The sea may be roiling but I am floating on top.