Three Steps to Peace
I've seen it time and time again.
Someone says “everything is fine”. But you can feel it. And see it. The crossed arms. The pursed lips. The downward facing eyes. In meetings, the verbalization doesn’t match the energy. And you know they are taking something personally.
For example, at work, when a project is shifted from one to another, there is often a natural inclination to assume that the work wasn’t done right. That there was a failure. Otherwise, why would the work be shifted? When one person gets a promotion and another doesn’t, there is self-reflection and internal dialogue about “why didn’t I get that promotion?”
And yet, when approached, often we are trained to say the most appropriate answer – “I know it’s just business. I’m not taking it personally. It’s just FINE.” Regardless of what you are saying, how are you feeling? (P.S. "Fine" really never means fine. It means you don't want to talk about it.)
How does that feel in your body?
• Your stomach – Is it twisted in knots? Do you feel somewhat nauseous? Did you lose your appetite? Do you feel the urge to eat out of stress? Do you have a sudden craving for an adult beverage, or two or three?
• Your head – Do you have a headache? Are there a million thoughts suddenly swirling?
• Your throat and jaw – Does it feel tight and constricted? Do you feel you want to say a thousand things? Are you swallowing more? Is your throat dry? Are you clenching your teeth? Is your jaw tight?
• Your hands – Are you trembling? Are you clammy and warm? Or unusually cold?
• Your back, neck, and shoulders – Are your shoulders tight and pulled forward towards your chest? Have you shrunk down in height? Have you crossed your arms? Are your shoulders up around your ears?
• Your legs and feet – Did you cross your legs or ankles? Are you tapping your toes? Are your toes curled up? Are your legs tense?
So how to relax . . . and then release the stress.
Step One: The first step to help you relax is to do a body scan. Start at your toes and physical relax then, working up through the top of your head.
Step Two: Then regulate your breathing. Slow your breathing down, taking a long 4 to 7 count to breathe in, hold for a 4 count, and then breathe out for a 4 to 7 count. Try this for at least two to three minutes.
Step Three: Emotionally distance yourself from work. It’s just “work”, right? And accept the fact that decisions are made that have an impact on you that may not be because of you. Accept that you aren’t the center of the world. Accept and believe that you are doing a good job and work just shifts. If you don’t think are you doing a good job, then fix it. If you don’t think others think you are doing a good job, take action and ask. Ask for feedback. Ask if there is an opportunity for you to learn, grow and contribute.
Make this an Opportunity
I understand how difficult it can be to look at a negative situation as an opportunity. It honestly took me years, rather decades, to find a way to look at every bad situation as a gift and as a message that I needed to reframe and change. Through painful experiences, I let anxiety and stress affect and harm my body until I learned how to take that energy and transform it into change that I needed to make.
You have an opportunity to turn this anxiety and stress into enthusiasm and interest. By relaxing your body, choosing a different attitude and stepping up to ask, rather than assuming something negative, you can change this entire experience.
If you need support in this area, reach out to your leadership. Ask HR about programs they may have access to. Explore meditation. Try Sound Therapy. Retrain yourself to both stand up for yourself while letting go of the outcome. Understand what role unresolved stress and living in a constant world of assumption means to your health and well-being.
Also published on Medium.