8 Simple Steps to Mastering Zen
Let me just preface this post by saying I am by no means a self-declared "zen master." Honestly, I'm probably anything but. By nature, I am high-strung, over-stimulated, and anxiety-ridden almost constantly. Every day I must remain aware of this fact and find ways to clear my mind and stay grounded, or else I become easily overwhelmed and am content to curl up in a ball and hide from all responsibilities and human contact for the rest of the day. It proooobably happens more than it should. Working on it. However, I have acquired several techniques that I've found to help bring me back down to Earth and re-center when it seems my sanity is slipping and away and life is becoming a bit too fast-paced.
- Set aside time to plan your week. I have made it a ritual every Monday morning to pack up my laptop, my planner, a baggie of business cards and contacts that I have acquired in the past week, and my favorite fancy pens, and settle in to my favorite coffee shop to get organized for the week. I work slowly and efficiently, usually making myself a to-do list first thing when I sit down, comprised of all of the emails and correspondence I need to take care of, tasks I want to knock out, and pencilling in all important meetings and events for the week, or even the month, in my planner. I even have cute stickers to label what kind of appointments or meetings I have. I've found that starting my week this way takes so much stress off my shoulders--for the rest of the week I simply have to check my planner to stay on top of things, and don't have the names of people I need to contact or emails I need to send constantly floating around in the back of my mind, nagging me not to forget them. I can begin my week clear, motivated, and excited for what's to come!
- 5-minute meditations. I've never really been good at 'meditating.' My mind is so active, and when I sit down for long meditations I get easily frustrated with myself that i can't just chill and get my zen on with the effortless ease that so many seem to have down pat. I also usually find myself making the excuse that I 'simply don't have time' to meditate--I mean come on, I'm so busy!!! But 5 minutes? Who can't find 5 minutes in their day to just take a step back and breathe? When I start to feel overwhelmed, I take a deep breath, set a timer on my phone for 5 minutes, close my eyes, and pick a word to focus on, such as 'clarity' or 'energy' or 'positivity.' For 5 minutes I repeat this mantra over and over again silently, at a pace that feels good and natural, until I am awakened from my transcendental state by the ringing of my phone to much calmer yet energetic version of myself.
- Use your meal times as a time for relaxation. Step away from the screen. Put away your phone. Put a little bit of extra prep into your packed lunch the night before, making it pretty in its container and getting creative with its contents. Use your lunch break as a sacred time to relish in your meal, appreciating what you're putting in your body for fuel, and not thinking about whatever responsibilities await you when you're done eating. Spending quality time with your food may sound a bit odd, but it's a fantastic way to remove yourself from life for a bit and will actually also motivate you to make healthier decisions as you become more aware of what you're eating every day!
- Disconnect and go for a walk. I'm not one that can typically stay put in one place for long. I get stiff and antsy, sitting and staring at a screen for more than just 30 minutes. My favorite way to combat this? A walk outside is the perfect remedy for any stuffy office space or stiff legs. I relish in the outdoors--the fresh air, the greenery and plants, the hustle and bustle of the city or the quiet escape of nature. It's a natural reset for my brain + a great way to get in some extra exercise-- bonus points if you work from home and bring along your pup!
- Don't begin your day checking your phone. I've always been guilty of reaching straight for my phone as soon as I blink my peepers open in the morning. Immediately I am slammed with a flood of emails to weed through, and after I've scrolled through all of my social media feeds, I feel panicked and overwhelmed with all I have to do today + all of the inspiration loaded onto me first thing in the morning. Not to mention I've wasted 30 minutes just laying in bed, staring at a screen, forcing me to rush through the rest of my morning. Avoid your phone until you've settled into your morning and are somewhere comfortable and unhurried--you won't find yourself feeling as frazzled and frantic throughout the rest of the day!
- Get up earlier. I truly savor my mornings. The quiet start to my day. Slowly cooking breakfast, savoring it. It sets my day up with a peaceful energy that carries through to the very end. I despise nothing more than oversleeping and having to run around frantically trying to gather my thoughts and things and prepare myself for my day. I often forget something (or lots of things) and begin my day frustrated and in a bad mood. No bueno. A simple solve is to set your alarm 30-60 minutes earlier than usual. The peace you find may be more useful than the few extra minutes of sleep.
- Yoga anywhere! Finding yourself short on time, unable to make it out for an afternoon walk or a lunch-break yoga class? Good thing yoga really only requires a space only a little larger than you and is something you can do any time, anywhere! A few simple sun salutations, downward dogs or vinyasas, or event just some standing crescent moons really do have the power to reset your entire day for the better and help you feel centered and clear.
- Take things one task at a time (make a list). Unpack your brain by making a list of all of your daily tasks and responsibilities you need to complete, as well as writing down any ideas or spontaneous thoughts you have throughout the day, instead of making mental notes and filing them away for later. This will keep your brain clear and open to thought-flow instead of bogged down and sluggish. Adios, writers' block!
Following these 8 simple practices every day has made me a more successful, productive, and happier worker. When I am overwhelmed, I tend to rush through my tasks and responsibilities, eager to just get it all done and out of the way. Remember that your attitude and energy is often reflected in your work each day. If your mind is cluttered and frantic, your work may display the same qualities. When life is moving full-speed ahead, don't be afraid to disrupt the momentum by taking a pause to re-calibrate and re-center. You may be surprised at the new-found creativity and thought flow that follows!