Someone at work said to me recently, “how are you always so calm? Even when everybody else is stressing you seem so calm.”
It is interesting to me, the things that people observe about you. Prior to this, I did not even know that people perceived me as calm. What’s more, if you ask me to describe myself, calm is not a word that would ever come to my mind. Having an appearance of calmness on the outside does not mean that on the inside, I am not sometimes bubbling up like a pot of boiling water about to overflow. It does not mean that I do not have to call up a friend every now and then, to vent about a situation.
But calm, is something I am continuously working on because it is crucial in managing my anxiety and overall mental health. My toxic working environment is one of my major triggers. One WhatsApp message from my manager, outside of working hours can trigger endless rumination and insomnia, as was the case yesterday.
Even before sitting down to write this blogpost, I had been ruminating on a work situation. I also had an impassioned conversation with a colleague in which I am sure I did not sound very calm. My efforts to break free from the mental prison of rumination led me to my computer.
So how do I manage to stay calm at work and avoid being overwhelmed?
Start the Day with a Yoga Practice.
My goal is always to do this 5 days per week, but there is rarely a time when I reach that goal. I also struggle to stay fully present during my practice. With that said, the days that I do start my day with yoga, I feel energized, positive and good about myself and, the fact that I did something to take care of my body and my mind. It also creates for me a sense of self-awareness and peace of mind.
Stay Positively Motivated
I listen to motivational, inspirational talks and music. I mostly do this on my commute to work. But in order to help me combat the stress of the day, mounting anxiety and the chaotic nature of my environment, there are times I also have to do it while I work. The occasional uplifting and enthusiastic conversation that is completely unrelated to work, that I have with a colleague also helps me stay motivated and calm. This serves me best, when the conversation is at the start of the workday.
Maintain a Clean Workspace
A dirty and cluttered environment leaves me feeling flustered and anxious. Overall, the building in which I work is dirty, and housekeeping leaves a lot to be desired. But I take control of what is within my realm of control. That means, I always tidy my desk before leaving work in the evening. I also start my workday by cleaning my space – wiping my desk, sweeping etc. I sometimes even light a candle.
Focus on a Single Task
I do my best to focus on one single task at a time. Trying to juggle multiple tasks lead to confusion and feelings of stress, frustration and anxiety.
Make a Plan
I plan what I want to accomplish each week and work steadily towards that goal. I also try to be realistic in my goal setting. Most times I reach my goal for the week, but on the occasion that I don’t reach my goal, I am learning not to be too hard on myself.
I try not to become distracted or flustered by what I call ‘outside noise’. That is, requests from colleagues and emails that I may have been copied in, that do not relate directly to me or the work that I was assigned.
Assess Requests from Others Before Taking Action
Assessing situations and requests from others, for ‘hallucinated urgency’ has been a game changer for me. I assess and then schedule a time for dealing with the request, instead of engaging in immediate and frenzied activity. The time could be next few minutes, next hour or next day, depending on the request or the situation.
My pause/break is usually in the form of making myself a cup of tea or coffee. I self-soothe with this warm beverage while sometimes literally saying to myself, “I am ok, I am safe, I need to stay calm”. Sometimes, I even recall a memory of an enjoyable activity or experience I had and imagine myself back at that place.
Stay Calm with ‘White Space’
I recently learned about the concepts of ‘white space’ and ‘hallucinated urgency’, from Juliet Funt, author of the book,, A Minute to Think. Like me, many people work in environments where frenzied activity and busyness is considered as productive. Environments where quantity is the gold standard and there is little consideration for work-life balance. This can drive us to burnout and a host of other problems.
According to Funt, ‘white space’ is a chance to take a strategic pause, for thinking and refocus. She refers to it as the oxygen that allows our effort to catch fire, because it provides room for us to innovate, strategize and reflect. She suggests beginning with a simple tool which she calls the ‘wedge’. This means instead of looking for large or impossible stretches of white space, look for tiny opportunities throughout the day to refocus and gain objectivity. Read more about ‘white space’ here.
Stay Calm by Not Responding to ‘Hallucinated Urgency’
Funt says, when under pressure we value our own needs more than the time we steal from others. This causes us to race through the day and interrupt our colleagues – ‘hallucinated urgency’.
If a sudden request of assignment comes up, “we dare not step back to clarify the scope of work, who should be involved, the timeline, or the precise parameters of the request. We’re more likely to clear our desk with a dramatic sweep of a forearm and “go, go, go,” ignoring the possible rework our haste may create. This barrage of urgency will kill any deep work we attempt…”. This happens a lot at my workplace. Read more on hallucinated urgency here.
Thanks to Funt, I am learning to resist the urge to respond to every request immediately, but to take a strategic pause and question the time sensitivity and motivation of each seemingly urgent request and plan my response accordingly.
Equally, I am practicing managing my expectations, in order to allow my colleagues a day or two to respond to any requests I may have, and not burden them with my sense of urgency. Urgent for me does not mean urgent for them and vice versa. According to Funt, “Urgency is not an emergency”. This method has become extremely important to me, in remaining calm throughout the workday.
Be Still, Be Calm…
As I began writing, the following verse of scripture immediately came to mind:
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10.
When taken literally, these words command us to stop and focus on God.
Stop! He is saying. Stop fighting, stop worrying stop carrying on with frenzied activity. I am God. More importantly I am your God. Take a pause, reflect on me, take confidence in my ability and willingness to help you overcome your current situation. Take a rest and then go again, not in your own strength but in Mine.
What better way to maintain calm and peace of mind than to hope in and tap into, a Higher Power?
These are the strategies I use for staying calm, particularly at work. It is always my hope that you find encouragement and inspiration in anything I write. You may also be using some of these strategies or you may be using other approaches that are more suited to you or your current situation. If you feel comfortable sharing, I would really like to hear about it in the comments section.
Thank you for stopping by and reading my blog. If you found the content useful, I would appreciate it if you shared it with a friend.
Until next time~ Namaste 🙏
2 replies on “Tips for Staying Calm at Work”
Your words are always inspiring and brings a smile to my face.. And this topic for who ever reads it will some how relate to their present situation.. Looking forward to the next one..
Thanks you your kind words. Glad you enjoyed it😊