Some days suck and yesterday was one of them for me. That was the downside. The upside happened as the day drew to a close with a bit of wisdom that came my way in one of those synchronous ways that things can unfold in life. The advice was helpful and what I needed to hear. However, that piece of wisdom did not surface before I had spent a good part of the day feeling sluggish and as though I was lugging a dead weight around with me.
The wheels were spinning for most of yesterday. For some reason I was getting little accomplished and sitting there staring at my computer screen or with pen in hand did not seem to help the situation…and it wasn’t as though I hadn’t been there before or spoken to friends in a similar situation. The solution was sitting a stone’s throw from me, and I knew it, but was I acting on that solution? No! The fast failing belief of “gotta get something done and as long as I sit here something will manifest,” was foremost in my mind overriding more sound wisdom.
The solution is where I ultimately wrote a first draft to this post (though that was not the intention) - outside. I went and sat by the ocean to get some perspective and feel the energy of the waves breaking over the ancient volcanic rocks that make up these Hawaiian Islands. I allowed my mind to rest as my gaze wandered across the bay or to the horizon.
My words of advice to others when nothing seems to be working and the mind feels like pea soup is to down tools and take a break. Forget about work for a moment and allow the healing powers of the natural world to work their magic. In our productivity driven, got to get things done world the tendency is to push on regardless. We tell ourselves, as I did yesterday, that if bum is on the chair and utensils are in our hands something will happen sooner or later. We have been there before and know about the unproductive results, but no matter we sit there stubbornly telling ourselves that we are going to get this work done.
So I’d like to offer you (and me) a few strategies to take your mind and body away from that which is frustrating you, to a place that supports you and gives you much needed space … to breathe, to stretch and to hopefully bring some inspiration back to those tired brain cells.
- As I shared above, down your tools and get outside. Take a walk. If time allows, find a place with a view - distance and perspective will help to rest a cluttered mind. While I was working on my thesis for my Masters paper a decade or so ago I would take a 5 minute walk every 40 minutes. I set an application on my computer that disabled the keyboard at set intervals. With the computer out of action I would get up and take a short walk outside. I still think that it was one of my most productive times.
- Listen to some music. Music that inspires or rests you. Music that lifts your mind out of the funk that it is in. Preferably that music is not on your computer so that you move away from it, but with YouTube and other portals at our finger tips, music is never far away - and that was a part of yesterday’s restful mix for me.
- Have a book or two that inspire you near at hand at all times. Whether it is a work of fiction, an account of a time in history that rouses you, or a spiritual volume - let it be something other than work that lifts your spirits and offers you another perspective.
- Stop and meditate. Whether a stationary meditation, such as focusing on the breath, or getting outside to practice walking meditation, both can be available to you. The focus takes the mind away from the worry.
- Get away from your chair and stretch, practice yoga, t’ai chi or something similar. Go outside if that is available to you. Feel the freshness of the air on your face as you go through your movements.
- …And the words of wisdom that I received at the end of the day…? Just remind yourself how unproductive, contrary or pessimistic states of mind can be. This was shared with me during a meditation class that I was at last night, but it is just as relevant in our everyday lives. We were being introduced to a Tibetan Buddhist technique for developing a calm mind, a single-pointed mind (Tibetan: zhi-gnas) - there are nine stages, but there is a pragmatism to those stages. A few stages in, if you are struggling and spending a lot of time dwelling on questions like, “why am I doing this, I’m really not getting anywhere?”, ask yourself, “what use is this way of thinking to me?” “Does this state of mind bring me happiness?” “Does it help me progress in my practice?” “Look at how much time I am wasting in thinking this way.”
Reflecting on what we want to achieve and how our thoughts are really completely unproductive helps to pull us out of that pea soup mind. It might take time to create a habit of bringing the positive thoughts to our mind, but regular familiarization will help to change our habits.
I hope that something here is of help to you. Today has certainly been more productive for me, and for that I am grateful.
How do you pull yourself out of a work funk?