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Archive for the ‘Workplace ethics’ Category

Do not fear – I am not advocating a fast route to obesity, there is a method (sort of) to my madness. I have been thinking recently about how you can keep sane in situations where it all seems to be like a bad episode from a horror show. When chaos reigns supreme, there are deadlines hammering your door down, the phone will not stop ringing, more and more work is landing by the minute, and you still have a hundred other tasks such as filing those all important tax returns or renewing the car tax, that must also be somehow fit in. You constantly feel as though life is a treadmill and you are on it in high-speed, steep incline mode, and cannot even come off, for fear of falling flat on your face, and suffering permanent damage.

Sounding like a “usual” day in your life? I am sure it is not uncommon for most of the populace, trying to juggle demanding jobs, families and a whole host of other activities every day. I had one of those frequent moments last week and was beginning to despair as to how everything on my “to do” list, which was as long as my arm, was ever going to get done in a week, let alone a day. So, sitting in during yet another lunch break, staring in panic at the dreaded list and computer screen at alternate intervals, I glanced at my currently favorite drinks mug, a present from a close friend for my last birthday. A simple mug, yes – albeit, a pretty pink and white colour, with the words, “Keep Calm and Eat Cupcakes” emblazoned on it, crowned with a cupcake, replete with the obligatory cherry, in case someone did not get the point.

It made me automatically smile, the first step to arresting the panic before it runs away, with you in its grip. I then took a deep breath and forced myself to get up and walk away from my desk for a much-needed five-minute break. I made a tea and yes, resisted the urge to eat an actual cupcake, but simply reminded myself that unless calm prevails, in some form or another, productivity cannot result. Oh, it did not make the day magically better – not at all, there were still more “hair tearing” moments in the day, but that little jolt which allowed me a moment of respite and in an odd way, allowed a slight re-charge on otherwise flat “batteries”, did its work well. After all, the cake can be consumed but the sweetness lingers awhile, right? It certainly worked for me and I found that I was able to get through the day, managing various commitments and achieving what was strictly required, despite having to re-organise deadlines and tasks.

It also reminded me (at the end of that particularly hectic day) to reflect on whether I could identify any other associative tools that may be of help in the future when the weight of various pressures seems to weigh down with crushing impact, causing panic and thus putting an end to making any meaningful progress, thereby exacerbating the original reason behind the onset of the anxiety – too many tasks and too little time. It is always tricky and sometimes probably impossible, to stop yourself feeling overwhelmed. However, recognising the “danger signals” before it is too late, may be of some help. This may at least help to somewhat stem the flood, if not divert it totally. Even panic, as long as it is in manageable proportions, can be controlled and in some cases, may actually become an aid to spurring delivery despite unrealistic but immovable deadlines or focus the mind to ensure that the work being produced is actually focused and to the point, in the way that it sometimes is not when there is no urgency underlying it.

I found a variety of techniques, some of which I had myself been using almost subconsciously and probably daily, to beneficial effect. After all, what else was practicing deep breathing as taught in my yoga class, if not an instant relaxation aid? No wonder, we are often told to take a deep breath when we get agitated – I have found that many deep but systematic breaths buy you the time to calm your responses and of course also have the universally acknowledged health benefits we all know about. There is then the other obvious, but still effective methods, such as taking a quick moment to have a drink, looking at a picture on your wall or even computer screen that you associate with serenity, other seemingly silly accoutrements such as the poster I spotted recently in our offices which contains a wide circle on a page, with the words, “Bang Head Here” and a downward pointing arrow above it. I love those types of implements, as they do their work but also afford some amusement to the observer. Another very obvious mechanism for me is to almost forcibly remind myself that no matter how much I stress, it will not make the tasks any easier or the time it will take them any shorter, unless of course, I actually get on with them, rather than sit or stand there, worrying myself ill over them.

It is after all, about perspective and no matter what happens we must also try to remember that in most cases, if something simply cannot get done today, we need to organise and re-prioritise and ensure it is done as soon as it can. (I caveat this by clarifying that I am not referring to tasks of life saving importance – those are well beyond the scope of this post). Of course, one size will never fit all, and those very basic techniques I describe above may seem laughable to some, but I always believe that if a simple formula can solve the equation, why try to devise a more elaborate one?! If you are of a more intelligent disposition than I am and only feel fulfilled by a more challenging methodology, if it still causes the desired effect, i.e. that of inducing much-needed calm in difficult situations, it is all for the good. What is indisputable is that, only by conditioning yourself to this state, can you ever successfully master it. Once attained though, the benefits from remaining calm under pressure cannot be adequately described here. After all, as James Allen reminded us, “Calmness is power.”

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You cannot change others- how many times do we face this stark reality and how many times does it hurt or frustrate us or make us upset or angry? So, what is the solution? Is there an answer?  I think so- and it is a very simple one- you cannot change others, but you can change how you react to them and by doing that, you may find you actually effect a change by rendering them powerless in the eternal battle most wage against themselves and others, be they friends, family, colleagues or any number of authority figures.

It may sound simplistic but the fact remains, it is possible to achieve such change, but it may prove incredibly difficult for most.  The reality is that most of us find it easy to be warriors, and fight external elements, real or perceived. For example, a lot of us will be willing to take on an unjust boss, an unfair decision, an aggressive friend or alternatively cave in to pressure and feel sad, upset or angry etc but how many of us can control our natural flight or fight reflex and simply train ourselves to master our anger at a situation or person, thereby nullifying whatever detrimental effect it or they can exert on us?

Someone once mentioned the concept of a “shit shield” to me. I suspect that many will flinch at the graphic image conjured by this fairly crude term but please bear with me and read on! The idea behind this was to create an imaginary shield and every time you feel like you are being subjected to aggression or abuse or are on the receiving end of a rant that is making you feel stressed or overwhelmed, magic your shield in front of you and let the offensive content simply hit your imaginary shield and splatter against it. Add to this mental imagery, yourself standing unaffected, safe behind the shield and once the “attack” is over, simply step out, discarding the by now battered and dirty shield. Simple but effective, I thought. It is a personally tried favourite and I can recommend it.

I recall my own experiences and almost wince at the memories of the highly strung, extremely sensitive young woman (almost child) I was in my late teens/ early twenties. I remember the girl a lot of people found easy to manipulate into reacting by a few carefully chosen barbs and even worse, very easy to reduce to an emotional wreck with more subtle but effective forms of mental torture.  That girl would cry, get angry, break out in hives and have her stomach often knotted with anxiety- the combination of dealing with a demanding job and worse, a bunch of malicious, manipulative people she lived with at that time. It took years and a brutal break from the latter, with a whole load of self analysis and connection with my spiritual self, that finally cured me, or almost cured me I suppose, as it is very easy to have an occasional, albeit very infrequent, lapse!

Anyway, the effects were instantly cathartic and definitely beneficial, both physically and mentally. I can now generally manage to distance myself from that rush of automatic anger or frustration most feel when subjected to an aggressive person or situation and once you have mastered your anger, you almost always find that you stay in control and no matter what the outcome, you can box that unpleasant experience off relatively easily, as opposed to having it spoil your day, night or even week. You are, in effect, taking control and boy, does it feel good to be in the driving seat! You may have to often concede the minor skirmish, you will still feel as though you have won the battle, as it all becomes a matter of perception and by taking away the power you gave someone in the first place to hurt you, you become your own master.

I appreciate that this is a somewhat random piece but I have had a relatively difficult week and it was good to write it all down to remind myself of the promise I made to myself a while ago. I will not try to change the world as such, I will change how I behave to the world and in that way, who know, I may change the world anyway, simply by changing my perspective of it!

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