Changing Culture From Productivity to Presence

Stop measuring days by degree of productivity and start experiencing them by degree of presence.”
~Alan Watts
One of the common causes of  emotional and physical imbalances I see in my acupuncture practice is people WORK TOO MUCH!
I was taught from a young age that my self worth was equivalent to how productive I was and how much I served others. Self care  meant I was selfish. We’re you taught this? Working harder meant more success… but does it? Not always. It’s ok and sometimes necessary to work hard. But a lot of people get into the habit of feeling the need to work hard all the time instead of occasionally. Many people don’t have the tools on how to work smarter. This leads to fatigue and burnout. According to Chinese Medicine, this unnecessarily uses up qi (energy) and blood which can affect multiple organ systems. Sometimes that can even create heat in the body (like pressing on the gas pedal in your car when the car is still in park). Most people don’t feel this process on a day to day basis because they are focused on getting through the grind of the day. And then suddenly, after years of these habits, they get injured or an internal issue comes up. I’ve noticed a lot of digestive issues and mental health issues due to overwork which causes kidney depletion (water element) and  spleen/stomach issues.
On the other hand, there are plenty of other people who find fulfillment in their work, even if they are working long hours. This doesn’t mean those long hours will catch up with their bodies over time, but from a mental health standpoint they are happy. Why? I would think being present in the moment with the job they are doing at that moment plays a more significant role than the job itself.
Our society is starting to acknowledge the importance of mental health and burn out prevention, but few employers are offering tools on how to make that a reality. This is because they are requiring the same amount of productivity output without the resources to support their workers. These habits are even worse for self employed people. (I know, because both my husband and I are self employed). There’s this unspoken pressure to always be on the clock, answer just one more email, send one more text message, organize one more networking opportunity. But it doesn’t have to be this way!
So here are a few things you can do to bring more presence into your work day.
1) Make breaks for napping and meditation a priority.
Rest is a human right that has been underrated for far too long in western culture.  According to the American Psychological Association, taking breaks can help improve cognitive function and productivity. Set a timer on your phone to get up from your desk or go for a short walk around the office/stand up and move every 30min – 1 hour. I highly recommend lying down for a 11 min nap a day and meditate daily to ultimately increase productivity.
2) Tune into your body when you feel stressed.
When I feel stressed and my mind has trouble focusing my eyesight gets blurry, head gets foggy, I feel constricted in my chest, sometimes short of breath with a side dish of feeling slightly short tempered. Taking this time to be present in the moment is essential instead of pushing through. Ideally it’s best to stay present in the body during the task at hand. Take notice of the sensations in the body, thoughts and emotions and notice them without judgement.
3) Pause when under pressure
When feeling the need to push through take a moment to ask yourself, “How can I bring more ease into this moment?” Maybe this is as simple as taking a deep breath, chanting a mantra in your mind or drinking some water even though you have 5 hours left in your work shift.
4) Stop the cycle
If you feel have the feeling of “I need to do just one more thing”… “Give me 5 more minutes”… or have other thoughts like that on repeat in the name of being more productive ask yourself the origin of those thoughts? For many people, it is rooted in childhood trauma. Each child has a different response to events in life. These events cause kids to develop coping mechanisms to help them feel safe and/or get through the event(s). Often times these habits transfer into adulthood. Talking to a somatic based psychotherapist or Compassionate Inquiry practitioner is helpful for this.
5) Work with a health/life coach to help find ways to achieve your goals by working smarter, not harder. Did you know that I am also a certified life coach? You can schedule an online coaching  session with me.
I’m confident that there is hope for a more balanced approach to how we work. I don’t think it will require us to be taking 10 weeks of vacation a year. At the same time I don’t think it is healthy to be productive robotic machines if only we bring more awareness to our work. There is a balance and it is different for every individual.