I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat down to work on a project and found myself spinning my wheels for one reason or another. When that happens, I inevitably feel that my stomach is tight, my shoulders are hunched, and my heart rate has increased. In the past, I never noticed these signals until my body was so physically sore that I had no choice but to take a break. One of the best things about mindfulness is that it has helped me to listen to my body’s communication system so that I notice changes in my body as they’re happening. For example, I’ve gotten better at noticing that first twinge of anxiety in the pit of my stomach, I sense when my posture has slouched, and I can feel when my heart begins to beat heavy in my chest.
Becoming aware of these things as they’re happening allows me to make a conscious decision to either “power through” (which if I’m being honest, I still do sometimes) or get up and take a break to interrupt the anxiety that is building in my body. I can either take a quick 3-minute break (i.e., go out on my deck with my dogs, meditate, or drink a glass of water) or I can take a longer break (i.e., go for a walk, chat with a friend, or do a quick household chore). The benefit is that I often find that I get my best ideas while taking breaks to do something else because my mind is relaxed and no longer focused on whatever was causing me stress. Breaks also allow me to come back with a fresh perspective to think about why I was struggling in the first place and approach the project with a different mindset.
I’ve often felt that while taking a break is a nice idea, it is hard to do because it inevitably interrupts whatever I’m working on. This is true in one sense, but especially over the last two months I’ve found that they save me time in the long run because I ultimately spend less time spinning my wheels and more time generating quality work product (there may be something to that “quality” over “quantity” idea!). So, when you are inevitably at that point where you feel like you’re spinning your wheels on a research project, writing a brief, or analyzing a legal issue, don’t ignore the signals that your mind and body are giving you. Take a break, even if it’s a quick one, and see if it helps you in that moment. It might not always be the answer, but hopefully you have a similar experience to mine in discovering that they can be valuable opportunities rather than just interruptions.
Inhale through your nose for four counts and exhale out your mouth for eight counts. When you feel stressed, come back to your breath.
I wear fun socks each day, and now I'm known as the "fun sock lady" at my gym!
- Anne H. (Virginia)
I go to the gym before the sun is up and lately I have been walking there without my headphones in to enjoy the quiet peacefulness of the city before everyone wakes up. It’s sort of a meditative way to begin the day instead of constantly having pods/music/radio in my ear.
- Andrew C. (Pennsylvania)
Our firm has appointed me as “minister of culture” and my job is to always look to boost morale with work events, happy hours, fun sports pools and contests, and ensure we all take moments out of our days/weeks/months to enjoy our time together as co-workers and friends. - Tony C. (Virginia)
Be grateful for all you have to be grateful! - Kevin D. (Iowa)
I try to get outside for a walk every day, either with my dog or by myself! - Lori B. (Ohio)
I take mini-breaks throughout the day to play pieces I enjoy on my piano!
– Alice S. (Minnesota)
I always try to project positive energy to those around me regardless of the day I’m having. I’d rather project positivity than bring others down with negativity.
- Bill O. (Illinois)
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