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Feeling Overwhelmed? Bring Zen into Your Workplace with 3 Easy Techniques

I didn’t know what to expect when I attended a week-long Zen retreat back in July, but it ended up being an unforgettable experience. Many of the lessons I learned can be applied to work life as well as personal life; I’d be remorseful if I didn’t share them with you!

Could you use a bit of Zen in your daily life? Keep reading.

Zen in a nutshell:

Trust me, I am aware of the stereotype that pops to mind the moment the Zen word is mentioned. Contrary to popular belief, though, Zen is not a practice of religion or anything of the sort. It is simply a mental practice developed centuries ago to help people focus and be happy. It is a mindset that turns bad stress into good stress. The most amazing part of Zen is that it does not matter who you are, where you are from, or what faith you believe in (if any). It is merely a method of awareness that helps people take control and have a chance to achieve the best result in anything they do.

80% of your 70,000 thoughts a day are negative!

80% of your 70,000 thoughts a day are negative!

Did you know that the human mind processes around 70,000 thoughts a day, and that 80% of them are negative thoughts? That is incredible and sad all at the same time. That means if you think negatively at your workplace, then you’ll eventually associate negativity with that setting even if it had nothing to do with your job in the first place! One of the objects of Zen is to help us find that place in the universe that consciously connects us and to recognize our role as a small fragment of a bigger picture. There is the realization that the human species is unique one in that we are aware of our conscious thoughts.

With the help of Zen, you won’t be shrouded in negativity and stress. I realize that is easier said than done, but you can do it! Here are a few Zen concepts that will ease the burden of stress and make you (or your employees) a little happier at work! Please note that this is only a starting point; there are thousands of written works and ideas on the subject, so this breakdown is meant to inspire a little enthusiasm or curiosity about Zen. There’s plenty more to learn if you like what you see.

  • BE POSITIVE! That seems silly, but you would be surprised at how far a little optimism will uplift you, your neighbor, a stressed out co-worker, a stranger, or that angry driver in a traffic jam. Even though we have 80% negative awareness, even a single positive thought, comment, exchange, or smile is enough to reverse the effects of an entire month’s worth of negative stress. You’d be shocked at how contagious a positive attitude can be! Positivity will influence your customers or co-workers. I dare you to smile at someone today and not get a smile back!
  • BE PRESENT! By that, I mean stay centered and focused. Your awareness of the present keeps you grounded. Don’t worry about the past; it does not exist anymore. Don’t worry so much about the future, either, because it’s unpredictable and you shouldn’t trouble yourself about things that haven’t happened yet. In the action-packed world we live in today (with computers, advertisements, television, cell phones, etc), we all need to take a moment in the present to just be aware of ourselves and our bodies. When you feel overwhelmed, it tends to spread quickly and cause your body to enter panic mode. You may not be consciously aware of the negativity and panic, but your unconscious brain absorbs it and can cause your work life to suffer. So, the next time you feel overwhelmed (you know what that feels like!), take a moment to understand why you feel overwhelmed instead of freaking out.
  • BREATHE! Sometimes it’s hard to breathe when you’re anxious or panicked. When you take a moment to concentrate on your breath, stress relief begins both physically and emotionally. Your brain receives more oxygen when you take deep and concentrated breaths, and it provides a moment of relaxation to sort out the negativity. Deep breaths also free up the part of your autonomic nervous system (called the parasympathetic nervous system) that helps you calm down, stay grounded, and be at peace on a physical level. I have little reminders in my cubicle to remind me to breathe, and it really works!

Work stress affects all of us at one point or another, whether we’re at jobs that make us happy or at jobs that make us wonder why we even try. Just remember there’s a Zen technique for that! You shouldn’t feel like a victim of your own anxiety. Workplace Zen is catching on to the point where major companies all around the world, like Apple or Google, have found its benefits in a work setting. Happy employees are not only more productive, but they have better home lives as well.

Simple Zen techniques may seem trivial when we have extra bad days, but remember that even the worst days (like everything else in life) will pass. It is said that it only takes 66 days of doing something repeatedly for it to become a habit or routine. So with a little consistency and an open mind, you will notice the difference not only in your work life but also in your personal life!

I merely scratched the surface of this amazing practice, but there’s so much more to learn about Zen. Are you inspired to try it and do more research on your own? Have you used Zen when you’ve been overwhelmed or overworked? Which technique is most effective for you?

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  1. Amy Swanson

    First of all, “smiling is my favorite” (was about ready to explode if I didn’t comment with that, haha!) and secondly, it does work! When I worked retail, it was amazing how a simple smile would make a frowning customer smile back and their whole disposition would change. That was one of the things I genuinely enjoyed about working retail, making people smile.

    I easily get overwhelmed so I am totally keeping these tips in mind, Sam. When someone I know is feeling stressed out I always tell them to close their eyes and take a deep breath, however I rarely follow my own advice.

    Loved this post, thanks for sharing your knowledge πŸ™‚

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Thanks Amy! Yeah I wasn’t convinced myself about a lot of these tactics until I started applying them to everyday life, it is literally like having a refresh button for bad moments/days!

  2. Mandy Kilinskis

    Sam, this post couldn’t have been more perfectly timed! There’s always a lot going on during the day, so these tips were a huge help. I took about a minute to do these and I already feel so much better – I can only imagine what results would come from some extra time and practice. πŸ™‚

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Seriously it is amazing when you can just take a moment to really apply these things and truly know how to not sweat the small stuff. I love the fact that I know how to just remember to take a breath dial it back and then push forward and I always feel like my mind is so much more focused and aware of what I am trying to overcome! I am glad you started these practices, trust me with a little reminder and routine you would be surprised at how eventually your subconscious does this automatically!

  3. Rachel

    I agree with Mandy — great timing on this post! This is just what I needed to read this week. πŸ™‚ I think the hardest thing for me is to be present; I need to work on letting go of the past and worrying less about the future. Thanks for the explanation, Sam!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      You are most welcome I just think that with something that seems so hard is actually so easy to start doing and the effects are contagious! They actually did studies with the positive effects this has on blood-pressure and depression. With a little determination and understanding you might surprise yourself! πŸ™‚

  4. Eric

    Thinking positive always helps me through my day, because I know everyone’s their own fight, and even if mine’s hard at the moment, someone else out there’s probably got it worse. Also, nothing like passing not on a hospital, but a nursing home on my way to and from work, every day. That’ll put it in check.

    Really, though – and back to the point – sure, it’s easy to get down, to feel tired, and to not look at things from the most positive point of view. But I’d found it’s in the moments I decide to make a joke over doing nothing at all that it pays off. Puts me in a better mood, and keeps me engaged. It’s a choice that involves more effort, but the payoff’s bigger, too.

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Exactly! I totally I agree there are always other things to really put your debbie downer attitude back in check! It is so easy for people in our culture to be so detached from the horrible things in the rest of the world that we tend to make the most trivial things into the most devastating or stressful circumstances. I think a lot of that has to do with all the distractions and millions of things environmentally and mentally we are exposed to it is easy to get knocked down. That’s why I have noticed just taking a moment to focus on your breath and nothing else helps put blinders on the whirlwind of chaos in our lives so we stay focused on what really matters.

  5. Jill Tooley

    That’s a hell of a lot of negative thoughts in a single day…yikes! How much do you want to bet that my count is way higher, too? I’m one of the most negative people I know when it comes to my own life…sigh.

    I’ve been re-reading Chris Hardwick’s self-help book, and he mentions a lot about “tricking your brain” into thinking more positively, which is what this reminds me of. Also, in “Hardcore Zen,” Warner mentions reprogramming of sorts. I’m beginning to think that you know what you’re talking about, Morris… πŸ˜‰

    Thanks for the advice. We could all use a bit of Zen in our lives, myself (utterly) included!

    • Cybernetic SAM

      Of Course I know what I am talking about and how dare you question it! πŸ˜‰
      I wouldn’t have believed any of this myself until I really started applying it to everyday life. It is not instantaneous but the pay off is HUGE and totally worth it! It is a lot of work and it takes patience and a lot of determination and discipline. There have been moments where I want just call BS but then something happens to reassure me, it is amazing! It is kind of ironic, but I sometimes get very overwhelmed and sad because these things didn’t come to me sooner… then I remember to get over the past and move on because it doesn’t exist anymore. All we have is right now, that is good enough for me. I am trying to work on exercising the big demons but I have a feeling that it going to take years. SO instead of living in the past or living for the future, it’s the here and now. Don’t waste it. If you live life obsessing over the past/future it all starts blending together and each passing moment is lived like the last until there aren’t anymore and that is not how I want to spend my precious time. Make Sense? Thanks for reading! πŸ™‚

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