After Lockdown: Self-Care at Work
By Deepak Chopra, MD
There is a movement that needs to be encouraged. It revolves around improving the world after the pandemic and the lockdown conditions that for many caused a decline in their well-being. If you think about improving, not the world at large, but your world, consider what happens at work. It would improve almost anyone’s life if well-being can extend to the workplace, which is often the last place we think of when well-being is considered.
The post-lockdown environment is the right time to reconsider what your options are at work.
For a long time it was acceptable to put so much emphasis on output that it was justified to demand longer hours, cutbacks in hiring, and insecurity about long-term job security. But the pandemic increasingly challenged the coping skills needed to make work tolerable, much less fulfilling. But fulfilling work should be a normal goal, and despite external pressures, you should feel comfortable with your coping skills rather than overwhelmed and stressed out.
The whole point of coping skills is to take care of yourself from the inside out. Stop and ask yourself how you want your work to feel as a typical day unfolds — this is something you can have control over. The criteria for coping well at work include the following:
- Being relaxed.
- Having fun.
- Enjoying yourself.
- Feeling no pressure.
- Appreciating the steps that get you to your goal.
- Immersing yourself in the process.
- Being focused and centered at the same time.
These things are achieved only through a conscious process of changing your coping mechanisms. The questions you need to ask are simple. Take each item on the list and ask yourself: Is this how I feel?
If not, then you aren’t thriving. You are letting your work be in charge, sacrificing who you are for what you can accomplish. The two should come together. Conscious living can make it happen. I know that many successful people are immersed in competition, deadlines, time management issues, and other stresses. But as soon as you blame your woes on externals, they have won. The externals change when you change. That’s entirely how it works.
If your mindset is to constantly chase deadlines, react to other people, and beat the clock, you can’t reasonably cope. There is no time for the inner person and the security that only comes from knowing how to use the mind-body connection to your advantage
First you have to value who you are inside and care enough to preserve the self from stress. Most people are not in charge of themselves. Their work is in charge of them instead. They take it as mandatory to sacrifice who they are for what they can accomplish. The two should come together.
Conscious living can make it happen. The more self-aware you are, the more you can achieve. Achieving from within sounds alien to most people, and it’s rarely presented as the best strategy for success. There’s a strong social bias in favor of action where the focus should be on the awareness required to make action reach its goal. the more centered you are, the deeper your source for inspiration and creativity, the wider your vision, and the sharper your focus. These are the traits of success, and they are all inner traits.
Now you can see that coping at work isn’t the same as putting out brush fires all day. It’s an inner journey that teaches you to match inner and outer life. For every person who has heard of meditation, yoga, and stress management, only a fraction have adopted a lifestyle of inner growth that brings the expansion of awareness year after year. Meditation isn’t about turning into a monk; yoga isn’t about stretching and becoming limber. they are about establishing your awareness in the self.
The self isn’t a thing but a state of awareness, and even though you can find plenty of references to the higher and lower self, there is only a single self with many possible states. The shallowest state has little awareness, being reactive to external situations and prone to a restless search for distractions and the support of other people. The highest state is complete self-awareness, with mastery of inner and outer life. All of us find ourselves somewhere between these two poles, and at a certain point it dawns on us that awareness isn’t static. It’s dynamic and ever-changing.
So the real question is this: who’s in charge of the changes? Once you see that you aren’t actually the author of your own story, naturally you want to be. Sacrificing yourself to work, other people, and outside demands is the greatest mistake anyone can make. So take seriously the fact that your inner potential is your most precious possession and begin to look at how to fulfill your potential from the inside, not as a long range goal but as your purpose for getting up every morning.
DEEPAK CHOPRA™ MD, FACP, founder of The Chopra Foundation, a non-profit entity for research on well-being and humanitarianism, and Chopra Global, a whole health company at the intersection of science and spirituality, is a world-renowned pioneer in integrative medicine and personal transformation. Chopra is a Clinical Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California, San Diego and serves as a senior scientist with Gallup Organization. He is the author of over 90 books translated into over forty-three languages, including numerous New York Times bestsellers. His 90th book and national bestseller, Metahuman: Unleashing Your Infinite Potential (Harmony Books), unlocks the secrets to moving beyond our present limitations to access a field of infinite possibilities. For the last thirty years, Chopra has been at the forefront of the meditation revolution and his latest book, Abundance: The Inner Path to Wealth (Harmony Books) offers the keys to a life of success, fulfilment, wholeness and plenty. TIME magazine has described Dr. Chopra as “one of the top 100 heroes and icons of the century.” www.deepakchopra.com