It’s very easy to get caught up in the buzz of work, and not give yourself time to step out and relax. Yet brief periods of relaxation actually make you more effective – and healthier. Here are five tips…
Be aware of your own inner state. This is especially useful during difficult encounters. Keeping an awareness of your emotions means noticing if you are being dragged too far into a situation. It gives you the freedom to remove yourself metaphorically and decide whether to take a stand on an issue or to back off and ‘live to fight another day’. At less stressful times, it is still good to monitor yourself and when you feel tension beginning to rise, give yourself permission to relax then go and do so. A good tip is to notice certain parts of your body, such as your neck or shoulders that habitually tighten under stress – this can become your signal that you need to use some pre-determined strategies of the type suggested below.
Get out of the workplace. Those people in the ‘sin bin’ outside, having a smoke, may not be doing their lungs much good, but in another way they are acting healthily. A change of scene, however small, can take away the ‘power of the moment’ at work. Breathe in some fresh air. Look up at the sky. Tell yourself you don’t ‘have’ to think of anything. Often your mind will naturally wander, then actually come up with very helpful stuff – but if it doesn’t, don’t blame it; just enjoy the break.
Take a power nap. Even five to ten minutes can be extremely refreshing. Find somewhere where you can be alone – the loo is as good a place as any – and go through the motions of falling asleep. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing. Even if you don’t actually sleep, the business of switching off refreshes the brain. If you are worried you’ll nod off and stay asleep, set an alarm on your phone. You’ll probably never need it: the body gets used to power napping, which is the process of going to sleep without actually falling asleep.
You can relax in parts of a meeting that are irrelevant to you without totally disengaging. You can half-listen in these otherwise dead times. Look at the speaker and try and copy their posture: this will give the appearance of listening attentively. Meanwhile you can focus most of your attention on relaxing. Become aware of your feet on the floor and your weight on the seat. Then concentrate on your breathing, deeply, slowly and calmly. At the same time, stay quietly aware of the speaker, if not the exact content of what they are saying. ‘Clock’ back in from time to time to ensure the subject hasn’t moved on. Strangely, I have often found that the speaker will increase eye contact and smile at me if I do this: the attentive posture provides positive feedback, as well as much needed rest – a true win-win.
Simply taking five deep breaths, mindfully (with your attention on them), is your best quick relaxation tool. Use it whenever you feel the need.
Robbie Steinhouse is author of Mindful Business Leadership, published by Routledge at £19.99. Check out his new meditation app visit http://www.nlpschool.com/meditate