In the past two weeks, my stress levels started to increase, and I started feeling exhausted. Travel, meetings, paperwork … I love to travel, but when you combine it with meetings and paperwork, it becomes a nightmare. All those activities are distractions from things that I really enjoy: physics, coding and reading.
A day after my return to Ljubljana, I was on my way to meet my friend for lunch. I was cutting it close, and of course, the garbage collectors were blocking the road completely. As I was driving after them with snail speed, I started feeling anxious. The tension slowly rising in my body.
I finally parked my car and rushed towards the meeting place. As I was about to cross the road at a green light, a construction truck almost ran over me. The truck driver smiled at me with a smug face and drow off.
My mind boiled up. I got angry. Stress went through the roof. Without thinking, I started taking deep breaths, and in 30 seconds, I was as calm as I ever am. After I “cooled” down, I started thinking:
What the hell body?
The whole experience quite rattled me. What scared me wasn’t the feeling of nervousness and anxiety, but how cold bloodily I reacted to stress. Slow deep breaths. I didn’t even blink I subconsciously started the mindfulness routine that I picked during stressful periods in the past.
During my 3rd year at uni, I was managing some large scouting projects, leading a large team and was overwhelmed by the uni course work. So as any productivity geek would do, I started looking for a way to cope with stress and be even more productive. Just cause why would you ever consider dropping a project.
This tweet summarises my situation pretty well:
So I started with practising mindfulness. Mindfulness isn’t exactly meditation; it’s rather a much simpler version of meditation.
Mindfulness: Practice that achieves calm empty mind through slow deep breaths.
Sound super easy, but when a thousand thoughts are rushing through our brain, it’s not so easy to make your mind completely quiet.
So how do I practice mindfulness?
I would sit on the floor, my back facing a wall and start breathing deeply. Slow deep breaths. Once a thought comes across my mind, I would slowly push it away (ignoring it) and retake a deep breath.
What helped me a lot was counting. I would count towards ten taking slow deep breaths. If a thought came by during counting, I would start back at one. As I started with mindfulness, I usually managed to count to three maximum four before the next thought interrupted me.
After a year of practice, counting transitions me into a state where, I can sit still for minutes, and my head is just empty. No thoughts at all. It does feel kind of zen.
If I circle back to 800 projects. A lot of people doing stressful jobs practice some form of meditation (mind clean up). But ask your self:
If I need to practice mindfulness to cope with stress from work, shouldn’t I revaluate what I do?
Some people thrive in stressful situations. I surely do. Close deadline, productivity goes through the roof. No time to overthink what to do but just act. I’m your guy. But in 2017, I decided to hit the break and ramp down on the number of my projects.
I finally realised that there’s a vast difference between:
How much we think we can do? Vs. How much we can do?
We hit our limits. Every since I ramped down on my workload friends ask me: How am I so calm?
I think because I slowed down and decided to do less. Journaling and constant reflection helped tremendously. But if you can’t afford to remove the majority of your projects give mindfulness a shot. If you haven’t tried it already.
I propose you start with 30 seconds of mindfulness then slowly increase the duration of your sessions as you practice it. With practice, you’ll be able to calm down your body with deep breaths in any situation.
I’m slowly amassing the gadgets I need for my next trip. In the meantime, I’m enjoying tasty food. Now that I’m back in the capital, I started revisiting the food market. Yummy 😋
In the next week, I need to refigure how to keep my work-life balance. Lately, it’s been more work. But that makes sense. At least for me since I have trouble maintaining work-life-balance every time my environment drastically changes.
Let me know how you manage work-life-balance and if you recommend any weekly experiments for me.
If you find a typo, have a comment or have an idea for improvement shoot me a message. 😉
Till the next weekly experiment.
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