A different way of working
Stressed and stuck? You can’t think straight, you can’t come up with any ideas, you feel isolated and defensive. Depending on your reaction of choice, you’re either ready for a punch-up, want to run away or hide under your bed (all too tempting now you work at home).
Once you’re living in that hypervigilant, frozen world you’re in shut-down, unable to access the spontaneous, free-flowing mode you need to be in to get your wiggle on.
And it’s a vicious cycle. The more we struggle to fix it – by facing up to it, heading it off, ignoring it, fighting our way out it, working ever harder and longer to get ourselves out of this self-destructive, lonely place – the more stuck we become and the further away from where we’d like to be.
How mindfulness can help
Still, small voice
Counterintuitively perhaps, when the pressure is mounting and there’s more and more to do, we pause and we take stock of the clamour and the noise. The relief of seeing things clearly for what they are can be powerfully liberating in itself and learning to cultivate a little bit of stillness out of which insight can flow.
There’s a body down there
We often live like we are just 3lbs of (admittedly amazing) brain and our bodies are just there to transport our thinking mush around because that’s where the magic happens. Know that feeling when you’re so distracted by a problem or a worry that you completely forget where you are, utterly cut off from everything that’s happening from the neck down?
The activities we do help us get back in our bodies and out of our heads. And re-acquainting ourselves with what’s going on with our breath, our gut, our feet even – gives us loads of cues and anchors to bring us back to what’s going on now (not lost in regurgitating the past or angsting about the future) – and discovering the physical feedback of stress or tension in the body gives us some thing practical to work with and by working with and softening the body this opening up feeds back to the brain – increasing the bandwidth there. Working in this way is also shown to rebalance our hormones (turning the dial down on stress-pumping cortisol and cranking up the feel-good oxytocin).
Thinking about thinking
You may be working on your own from home at the moment but you’re never alone with all the chattering and muttering and shouting of the voices in your head. Trouble is, the permanent live-in companion in your head, is often someone you really would rather not have bunked up with. The liberating thing is that once we learn to really look at our thoughts and notice what we’re thinking when we can start to see them for what they are: not necessarily true, deeply ingrained habits triggered by our autopilot. And this gives us some choices to chuck out the old scripts that keep us feeling small, afraid and not good enough and rewrite the screenplay and (quite literally) rewire our brains. Not only does this make you a nicer person to live with, it frees up a shedload of time and creative energy to do more, fun, meaningful things.
The usual, definitely-in-need-of a-rebrand image of mindfulness is a slightly smug looking meditator (on beach/mountain/gazing at a lake), definitely alone, looking like they have all the time in the world for self- care. “Selfish, inward-looking snowflake” your frazzled mind might say. But the odd thing about this meditating, developing awareness stuff is that through it, by changing our attention, more clearly identifying what’s going on for us, the defensive barriers we put up to protect us start to dissolve, or at least become more porous and you find that you begin to appreciate that we’re all going through some sort of difficulty and we’re not all that different to one another. We end up better able to empathise with other people and connect with them, appreciate them. If you’re not pouring your energies into criticising yourself or comparing yourself with other people, you find that you can connect better with other people, colleagues, clients (and less prone to react defensively) – and feel a whole lot less isolated.
Pumping up the courage
The drippy, droopy image of mindfulness also gets a bad rap as being about softness, relaxing and stillness – which can all seem a bit, well, weak and flaccid. However, the practices we do and the awareness we cultivate, by getting some perspective and distance to see the wood for the trees and change our relationship with our bodies and brains, develops resilience and courage. Giving us the mental wherewithal to open up, take risks, accept criticism, learn and play – in other words, be creative.
Never mind the incense, there’s science too
The different practices, meditations and activities we do are all exercises that are retraining and rewiring our brains and bodies. Neuroscience is still in its infancy but there’s a growing mountain of evidence that shows that meditation and mindfulness practices physically change the brain. The discovery and study of neuroplasticity shows that, far from being stuck with our brain as it is in adulthood, it’s malleable for all our lives. Bad news when we’re trying to get away with everything with “it’s just the way I am”, but great news for anyone who’d like to lay down and nurture some shiny new neural pathways and dig up and close off the ones that have been hampering us and keeping us stuck and small.
Want your team to have a go?
I’d love you and your team to see what we can do.
Why not try an introduction to mindfulness online session, I’ll ease you into a bit of meditation and introduce some practical de-stressing tips to take away (no tie dying involved).
And if you and they like it, I could design a deliver 6 week Mindful Club course specially for you and your colleagues.
give your team a bit of a breather