When a crisis or challenge hits, everyone hopes that whoever’s in charge remains calm under pressure while at the same time acting decisively and effectively to sort out the problem. But what if that person in charge is you? Unfortunately, so many of us, when faced with a critical decision in a moment of crisis, behave like a dear in the headlights of a car which stares in horror at the approaching lights but dares not move. These people end up achieving little or possibly, like the dear, making things worse.
It may be the last thing you would expect, but there’s evidence that people who meditate regularly are more likely to act effectively when things go wrong. Let’s take a look at why this might be and look at a quick technique that you can use to help out at those times when a crisis in the workplace (or anytime in your life) requires you to perform at your best.
Meditation used to be confined to Eastern religious gurus and trendy Californians. However, research, much of which is backed up by brain imaging techniques, has shown that regular meditation can produce real changes in the structure of the brain and consequently in the way we behave. Here are just some of the reasons why so many workplaces around the globe are encouraging their staff to take up meditation:
● Regular meditators are better at coping with stressful situations
● Meditation can help you to control your emotions
● Meditation can increase emotional intelligence and empathy
● Meditation increases mental resilience
● Regular meditators are better at decision-making and problem solving
If you want to start experiencing some of these positive changes in the way you think and behave, then it’s time to make meditation part of your daily routine. It might be hard to find the time at first, but once you start to experience some of the benefits, you won't leave the house in the morning without having meditated, just as you would not leave the house without having showered or brushing your teeth.
You might decide to join a class or simply to listen to guided meditations in the comfort of your own home or in your office during the lunch break.
Another way to start a meditation practice is to combine it with another activity. Years ago I was having a tough time fitting it into my morning routine so I started meditating right after lunch, before I went back to work. I was already on a break, so I just extended it another 15 minutes with a meditation. I found myself really enjoying the quiet time before heading back to my desk and even experienced feeling rejuvenated and often inspired with new and creative ideas. It also gave me time to step away from the hurriedness of the day and problem solve with greater perspective and clarity.
A moving meditation is another option. Sometimes when I’m having an unusually difficult day or just feeling unmotivated, I’ll take myself on a short brisk walk. I’ll even ask myself while I’m walking a question or two and listen to any answers as a way to connect with my inner wisdom. Such as: How can I support myself right now? Or, What are some options for resolving this issue*? (*Insert the actual situation you’re seeking solutions for here). I’m always amazed at how much better I feel and the ideas that I come up with on these meditation walks.
A Useful Technique
Next time you have to cope with a crisis or challenge at work, try using this technique. It will only take a couple of minutes and will help you to tap into your inner strengths. Make sure you won’t be disturbed for several minutes.
Sit comfortably in a chair with erect posture, close your eyes and focus your attention fully on how your body feels at this stressful moment. Is your jaw clenched? Are your shoulders tense? Has your breath changed from normal? Notice the thoughts you are having (without judging them). Now change your focus so that your attention is just on the sensation of breathing. Do not try to change the way you breathe. Just notice the bodily sensations as each breath goes in and out. Notice how it feels in your nose, lungs or abdomen – wherever you feel the sensation of breathing most strongly. Continue to breathe naturally for a minute or so as you observe your breath and how you’re feeling. Now open your eyes. You should feel calmer and more able to cope with what you now need to do. The more regularly you take time to pause and practice meditation the easier it will become to use this technique.
I suggest starting with a very easy and do-able first step. Experiment with a minimum of 5 minutes a day to begin. The benefit will come from your consistency versus trying to do 20 or 30 minutes right from the start. Once you have a consistent practice established, you can add more time to your meditation practice. But even if you only have a few short minutes to meditate, you can still reap the benefits.
If you have time to breathe, you have time to meditate.