Like most parents, when my daughter was younger and misbehaved, I relied on the tried-and-true punishment of the ubiquitous ‘time out’. It was clear, quick, easy to monitor, and most importantly, effective. After just a few minutes of sitting quietly to “think about what she had done”, her whole demeanor changed. It was as if the silence was magic, softening her angry edges and allowing her to return to her normal, adorable self. (I always had a sneaking suspicion that she was naughty just so she could create some forced quiet time for herself.)
When we find ourselves stressed out, snipping at our colleagues, and struggling with focusing on that all-important project we just can’t seem to summon the energy to tackle, maybe it’s time to take matters into our own hands and take a big-kid time out.
Mindfulness and meditation has been around for ages, but it has only recently found its way into the mainstream through initiatives in corporations, athletics, law enforcement, and in education. In fact, mindful classrooms are popping up all over the world that give students a new way of coping with challenges and behavioral issues: using meditation instead of detention. It turns out that when we end up giving our young people the tools to quiet their minds, increase body awareness and regulate their breathing, they are remarkable at turning those frowns upside down.
How can you put yourself in time out the next time you feel overwhelmed by your workload and your bad mood is threatening to stink up the joint? Try these simple solutions:
Quiet Your Mind – Get away from the digital chatter, mounds of paper, or incessantly ringing telephones that are stirring up your frustrations. Find a place where you can just sit in silence for a few minutes, whether it’s an empty conference room, a break room, or even the front seat of your car. If needed, the office restroom can double as your meditation space!
Increase Your Body Awareness – Notice how your body is feeling when you are under the wave. Where is the stress currently residing in you – your shoulders, your neck, your jaw, your lower back? Until you know where you are holding the toxic gunk, you can’t get rid of it. Once you identify its location, you can use visualization, conscious breathing, massage, and stretching to reduce or eliminate it.
Regulate Your Breathing – Concentrate on only one breath at a time. Notice how each inhalation and exhalation feels. Slow them down for a count of four (Inhale…1, 2, 3, 4…Exhale, 1,2,3,4…) so you can create a balance between what you are taking in and what you are sending out. The purposeful rhythm you create with your breath will slow your heart rate down, clear your head, and give you more power to deliberately address the tasks in front of you instead of creating resistance or constriction.
Once you are done with your time out and ready to re-enter the work zone, take one last moment to mentally brush off any limiting thoughts or resentments that may have contributed to your frazzled state of mind. Imagine that you will resume your work with a fresh, focused approach that truly reflects the best of who you are. Let’s work to make our cultures free of all adult temper tantrums; it all starts with us.