3 Zen Moves to Conquer Workday Hell

It completely sucks when your work day is filled with stress. And your job title doesn't matter - we all have days that completely suck the life from us. It doesn't matter if you're self-employed or a corporate titan. We all have days from hell where we just want to run away...

Here're a few eye-opening statistics from Office Vibe that explain how much work stress we have on a daily basis:

  • Annual costs to employers for stress-related health care and sick days is over300 billion
  • 77% of workers have physical symptoms and 73% have mental symptoms from stress
  • 33% of workers believe they are living with extreme stress
  • 60% of U.S. workers are so unhappy at their jobs that they would prefer a new career
  • 87% of workers worldwide are emotionally disconnected from their workplaces, which decreases productivity by 10%

Find Ways to Laugh


In the Buddhist philosophy, there's a legend of the Laughing Monk. He " was famous for handing out sweets and small toys he took from his cloth bag, after which he would put the bag down, stare up at the sky and start to laugh madly. His laughter proved to be very contagious indeed and before long all who had gathered around him would start to laugh as well." Laughing is actually considered an important step on the path to enlightenment.

Laughter and fun are also important in the workplace. Close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50%, while people with work BFF's are seven times more likely to be more engaged at work. You can create some elaborate games (like the Nurf Battle below) or you can just have an ice cream party. You can do something silly and dress up your karate school's BOB the punching bag for Halloween.

The idea is to create a way to laugh, even on the most stressful days.

Nurf Battle:


Ice Cream Social:


Add something silly:


Try Business Edited


Leo Babauta, from Zen Habits, advises us to make small changes for big results. He explains that:

"With each step, my mood improves. One step at a time, I help myself feel better. These are small steps, taken one at a time, with as much presence as I can muster. And they make all the difference in the world."

My business, like millions of others, almost didn't survive the recession. I got very, very good at scraping by. It wasn't fun, but it was an important lesson. We weren't the same when we crawled out on the other side. Being bigger wasn't the goal. Buying unnecessary or flashy things seemed ridiculous. Cutting out everything we didn't need to survive allowed my business to grow in new and unexpected ways. It was actually a blessing for us.

Start applying a minimalist philosophy to your business. It will decrease your stress levels and help you improve profits.

Here're a few things to help you achieve Business Edited:

  • Embrace technology that helps you integrate and organize (think iPad over PC's)
  • Choose sustainable and local whenever you can
  • Create a leaner office space
  • Choose dual purpose items
  • Don't purchase "stuff" - purchase only what you truly need
  • Get rid of paper - bills, business cards, etc.
  • Learn to work mobile from anywhere
  • Start saying NO whenever you can
  • Cut out stress-inducing clients

Actively Work at It


Now it's time to get deep.

In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff says:

"Wisdom, Happiness, and Courage are not waiting somewhere out beyond sight at the end of a straight line; they're part of a continuous cycle that begins right here. They're not only the ending, but the beginning as well."

Many of us are under the false pretense that we are working towards our best lives. Except that we're living right now and may never reach that destination. Instead, start actively creating the kind of life you want regardless of your stressful job. Sandra Pawula, from Always Well Within, shares some of her top Zen Work Habits:

Start my day by setting an intention: "May my work and whatever I do today benefit as many people as possible."
  • Pause when I begin to feel overwhelmed or stressed.
  • Spend time in nature everyday.
  • Take evenings and the better part of the weekend off.
  • Celebrate my accomplishments.
  • Always be gentle with myself.
  • Practice a formal session of mindfulness meditation.

The Fight for a Zen Workday

I understand that it seems almost impossible to achieve a Zen mindset in the middle of your chaotic day. But you'll need to keep working unless you're independently wealthy (I'm not - yet!). So the question then becomes do I keep being miserable and stressed at work, or do I try something new?

I'm an advocate of trying something different. Maybe even something that sounds crazy. Can laughter help you find a little peace in your day. Absolutely! Can you streamline your day so you're not so overwhelmed? Of course! Can you change your mindset to something more Zen-focused?

Probably not every day or all the time. But what do you have to lose?