Greetings -

Welcome to CoachTALK – a complimentary e-newsletter offering an eclectic, thought-provoking and aesthetic view of business and life. We hope it provides a peaceful but inspiring few moments for you on arrival.

   
 

Many of us – understandably - find ourselves anxious over the frantic pace of life - that we continually have more to do and less time to do it in. That we do too much and live too little. In the midst of all the turmoil, we often wish that we could make things stand still, even for just a few moments. In fact, making life do just that on occasion is precisely what is needed.

“Every now and then go away, have a little relaxation, for when you come back to your work your judgment will be surer. Go some distance away because then the work appears smaller and more of it can be taken in at a glance and a lack of harmony and proportion is more readily seen,” advised Leonardo da Vinci.

In this day of ever faster computers, speedier modems, BlackBerrys and Palm Pilots signally increasingly urgent matters, it is imperative for us to find ways to regularly – if only for brief periods - stop all activities. Release, refresh
and regroup. To that end, I look forward to hearing that this month’s feature –
The DELICIOUSNESS of Doing Nothing - will assist you in finding some favored ways to stop and be idle for a few precious moments.

J.


 


     
 

It has been said that there is no pleasure in having nothing to do – rather the fun is in having lots to do and not doing it. So, if you were about to dismiss the idea of taking time for yourself because you’re too busy – forget it. There is something terribly delicious – and exceedingly healthy - about time stolen just for you even in the midst of the busiest days. So, plan to take it. Routinely.

Here are some suggestions to get you started on a few moments of delicious idleness:

1. Get That It's Good.
We are more keenly aware today than ever that stress and tension are linked to heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety disorders and substance abuse. In contrast, simple relaxation techniques have been shown to reduce many such stress-related problems. In 1975, Dr. Herbert Benson published The Relaxation Response, a groundbreaking work which detailed stress-reduction relaxation mechanisms which short-circuit the "fight-or-flight" response, lower blood pressure, relieve muscle tension and reduce the heart rate. Benson's work also shed important light on the link between the mind, body and healing. For all overachievers who make things happen - and happen fast - it is vitally important to take seriously this life-giving information and hold still - for even just a little bit - out of respect for good health and well-being.

2. Start by Just Stopping.
The most effective stress-reducing techniques require no tools, no skills - just an honest desire to stop the 'beat-the-clock' jitters. The key word is 'stop.' Stop to catch your breath. Stop to decompress. Stop to replenish and revitalize. Stop to become more energized and more productive. Stop to make time for your precious self. Often, the very times when you feel the strongest drive to 'push ahead' are the most important moments to 'stop and smell the roses.'

3. Retreat to a Relaxation Space.
Dedication to daily decompression involves setting up a space that provides escape from the phones, business meetings, traffic jams and other irritations of the day. While there may be more options for this kind of space at home than at work, companies - more attuned to the benefits of mind-clearing breaks - are creating on-site relaxation stations complete with reclining chairs, earphones, nature tapes and sign-up sheets. If that's not the case with your business and you can't authorize it, commit to closing your door, pulling the blinds and hanging out the 'Do Not Disturb' sign for a short, scheduled time each day.

4. Breathe.
Frequently when under stress, we begin fast, shallow breathing which leads to shortness of breath, increased muscle tension and inadequate oxygenation of the blood. A short regimen of breathing exercises can both improve respiratory function and relieve stress and tension. Try it. Push back from your desk and relax your body. Inhale slowly to the count of four, hold your breath to the count of twelve, then slowly exhale to the count of eight. Repeat this process until you start to feeling the relaxation effects. While three times might do it, ten would be even better! If you'd like a little outside help, visit this gentle, healing site: http://www.peacebreath.com/breath.html.

5. Bury Your Nose in Flowers - If You Dare!
"Breaths come in pairs, except at two times in our lives - the beginning and the end. At birth, we inhale for the first time; at death, we exhale for the last. In between, through all the lather of one's life, each breath passes air over our olfactory sites...Unlike the other senses, smell needs no interpreter. The effect is immediate and undiluted by language, thought or translation. A smell can be overwhelmingly nostalgic because it triggers powerful images and emotions before we have time to edit them...As to why floral smells should excite us, well, flowers have a robust and energetic sex life. A flower's fragrance declares to all the world that it is fertile, available and desirable, its sex organs oozing with nectar. Its smell reminds us of the vestigial ways of fertility, vigor, life force, all the optimism, expectancy and passionate bloom of youth. We inhale its ardent aroma and, no matter what our ages, we feel young and nubile in a world aflame with desire." Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses. So, order the flowers and go for it - at the very least - the 'vigor, life force, all the optimism, expectancy' part.

6. Burn the Candle - at One End Only.
The Greeks were well-known for their use of fragrances, even integrating candles and essential botanicals oils into their state and religious rituals. They were also aware of the medicinal properties of herbs and aromatics - considering the fragrant essences that were extracted to be the very soul of the plant. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that the use of candles laced with such oils has sky-rocketed in recent years - their natural scents offering relief from tension, fatigue and pain. In truth, scents can and do alter the mood and emotions - quickly making one feel peaceful and calm. Light a lavender-scented candle and you'll experience a soothing and calming effect, reduce tension, even alleviate a headache. The peaceful effects of such essential oil candles can be just the relaxation method for office or home. Such drifting scents carry with them energy, power, mystery and peace.

7. Worship at Your Own Fountain of Youth.
Water has been known for centuries to have soothing effects. Indeed, history
has grandly recorded the existence of glorious Etruscan and Roman fountains constituted of various spouts and embellished with a wide range of sacred decorations. Such ancient civilizations were also well-aware of the healing properties of water. Society's re-acquaintance with this knowledge, in part, accounts for the many gently bubbling table fountains, water pictures even aquariums in homes and offices today. There is a huge array of unique and beautiful fountains available from shapely hand-made variations with water continuously flowing over multi-colored rocks and slate to those combining the soothing, gentle, babbling brook sounds of water with flower blossom ponds. Each offers those magical, continuously flowing water sounds that result in an extraordinarily relaxing experience. Whether you choose to watch fish quietly swimming through an aquarium or favor the fountain version, invite a simple water stress reliever into your workplace.

8. Be a Copy Cat.
Like them or not, cats have mastered the art of deliciously doing nothing. Certainly, they know that stretching and napping are two of the most delightful, relaxing things to do. Rather than envying them, emulate smart felines by stretching out those limbs. If you can, lie down and elongate your spine, flex the whole body, and nod off for ten minutes. If you find that totally out of the question, get yourself into a comfortable sitting position and tense for five seconds then relax the muscles of the body for thirty seconds, one group at a time. Start with hands and arms. Head, neck and then shoulders. (Neck rolls are excellent for releasing the tension from sitting at a desk.) Next, chest, stomach then back. Thighs, buttocks, legs. Slip off your shoes and - finally - deliciously - curl those toes and flex those feet. Remember that experiencing high levels of stress for prolonged periods can destroy grey matter, that the brain requires rest to solidify memories and clear out the neurochemical garbage that accumulates. Two perfect excuses for a regular stretching and naptimes.

9. Don the Headphones and "Soothe the Savage Breast."
Handel's Water Music. Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony. Mozart's Requiem. Chopin's Nocturnes. Bach's Sinfonia (David Mamet recently said, "Our consciousness, listening to Bach, has been rewarded, refreshed, chastised, soothed - in Bach and Sophocles both, the burden of consciousness has momentarily been laid down.") Keiko Matsui's Night Hawk's Dream. Enya's Watermark. Or tune into www.beethoven.com. Your choice. Just heed Oliver Wendell Holmes' advice, "Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons, and you will find that it is to the soul what the water bath is to the body." In fact, soothing music stimulates the brainwaves, produces profound relaxation, heals the body even increases the ability to learn. So, choose your own special CD, put on the headphones, sit back, close your eyes and listen totally and completely for a few minutes. This provides an instant de-stress that leaves your body relaxed and your brain rested and more alert.

10. Dream a Little Dream.
"Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time," according to Sir John Lubbock. So, make time to spread out a blanket in the backyard, lie down and watch the clouds or count the stars. Beyond the relaxation that results, this gives you a chance to use your imagination - to dream those little - or not so little - dreams. Here's what follows according Henry David Thoreau. "I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."



 


 
 

Come clean, Lynn Myers.
The Press of Atlantic City

You're a sensible person. You know the score. What is it about baths?

"It's not necessarily a cleansing activity," Lynn Myers, New Jersey learning consultant says. “Not physically, that is. But mentally ... I can't tell you for how many years, probably my whole adult life, I couldn't wait to get in the doorway and fill the bathtub with water. A bath is just a... ohhhhhhhh, it's like that sigh. It's the body sighing, the weight and the warmth of the water, it just feels great. I love the feeling of gravity on me in a supine position. You light the candles and you just slide into that scented heat. My muscles all relax. They all warm up. It's such a calming thing." So. It's not a bath, it's a spiritual experience that happens to include hot water. And more.

A healing way

From hot springs to the Roman baths, there is a tradition, a culture, surrounding bathing-as-healing. Modern life put a big-time dent in that action. Why spend an hour in a vat of hot water when you can sprinkle yourself and in seven minutes be off hammering at something much more serious and pressing?

But from New York, a city not known as a leader in hygiene or relaxation, comes word that bathing for relaxation may be a trend again. A survey says 23 percent of American women bathed within the past 24 hours, up from 17 percent last year.

However, the survey was commissioned by a company that sells bath and shower-care products, which raises validity flags. So The Press conducted a random and entirely unscientific survey of its own. The questions: Are you a bath person, and are you taking more baths these days? The answers stacked up two ways:

1) Ohhhhhhhhh yesssssssssss!
2) Are you kidding????? What fantasy land are you from???? Who has time for that with kids???

Showers? What showers?

And so it is with baths. Either you're a member of the Order of the Ritualistic Bathers or you shower and get on with life. "I would be a bath person if I had the time," one woman said before her aerobics workout. "When you work, you're in a hurry - in and out." But another woman started murmuring the Bath Mantra: "candles .... music ... a glass of wine ... flowers." Added another, who admitted she often bathes twice a day: "Scented water seems to help the experience. " Finally, it should be noted that many men enjoy a good bath, but the numbers seemed to overwhelmingly favor women.




 


 
 

The Art of Doing Nothing
Veronique Vienne

By taking procrastination out of the home and into the woods, Henry David Thoreau helped make idleness part of the American cult of nature.

‘When I go out of the house for a walk, uncertain as yet whither I will bend my steps,’ wrote the celebrated resident of Walden Pond, ‘I submit myself to my instinct to decide for me’…Thoreau preferred to ramble aimlessly in the wilderness, a distracted pilgrim in search of leafy sanctuaries. ‘The walking of which I speak has nothing in it akin to exercise,’ he offered…Two or three hours of capricious meandering would carry him to ‘as strange a country as I ever expect to see.’

This approach to walking was what Thoreau called sauntering…Don’t let mercenary activities take over your life. Poke along, once in a while. Show the feudal establishment that there is more to the pursuit of happiness than a job description, a rigid schedule, and a fat paycheck.




 


 
 

Question: I've been the Pres/CEO of a multi-million dollar business services consultancy for six years. I'm also a wife and mother of two children so I live a very full, busy life - one that I worked hard to achieve. I'm finding, however, if I'm not accomplishing something with my time, I feel I'm wasting it. Even worse, if I spend time on myself, I feel guilty that my family or my job needs my attention more. I have every hour of my life accounted for. I have no time when nothing is scheduled. I can't remember what I once did for fun. The thought of having an unexpected day to myself - free from responsibilities - makes me feel anxious. I know this is not good for my health. What do I do?

Answer:  No doubt about it - running a high-powered company along with being a fully-engaged wife and mother carry tremendous responsibilities. But, you're right. Attending to those responsibilities at the cost of your individual needs fits the category of 'unhealthy.'

When we find that we have become more important or essential to people and things outside ourselves - the well-being of the company, spouse or children - we are running counter to our foundation purpose which is to fully experience our individual lives in all aspects. Further, when we deny ourselves the opportunity for a well-balanced, self-caring lifestyle, somewhere along the line, someone will pay. Resentments toward spouses develop. There will be flare-ups with the kids. Staffers will find themselves being snapped at. Clients will sense inexplicable tension. Or worse, we will find ways to further punish ourselves for feeling angry and resentful. In other words, a relentlessly, self-sacrificing way of life can not deliver the successful results we are, undoubtedly, after.

This is an all-too common scenario, particularly, with 'fast-trackers' who book their lives just as tightly as possible so that there's not a moment to think or breath a nice long sigh. Agreeing to such overly scheduled, often uncreative lives is crippling and, if not undone, can have devastating personal consequences.

Fellow Coach, Cheryl Richardson in 'Take Time for Your Life' wrote poignantly on this topic: "George Leonard, a pioneer in the field of human potential and author of several books, in 1989 stated that '48 percent of male executives saw their lives as empty and meaningless despite years of professional striving.' This emptiness is often marked by an underlying sadness that, according to one client, 'rises to the surface when I slow down long enough to feel it.' A forty-seven-year-old doctor who after four years finally spent a week by himself doing nothing said, 'I was surprised at how much I just wanted to sit around and cry. I don't know why, but I felt an incredible amount of sorrow for the loss of myself and the life that was passing me by.' Another client admits that a 'nagging sense of loneliness' follows her around in spite of the number of people involved in her life. Such feelings can be the reason why some people stay so busy. Slowing down means unleashing the pent-up emotions that have built up over time."

There's only one solution to this problem: make yourself your own top priority.

Learn to set boundaries. Focus on creating time for yourself. Regularly do things that you love, most particularly those that have nothing whatever to do with work or anyone else. Initially, this may feel all 'wrong' - uncomfortable, selfish, guilt-producing. But, when you grasp that these are truly life-giving measures, you start appreciating the ultimate importance of putting yourself first. Take time to fully care for yourself - physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Unearth those things that used to be fun - and do them. Often. Learn to live life as the precious and important person you are and you become the healthy role model and leader you most certainly want to be. In other words, stop being self-sacrificing to the extreme and start being self-respecting.


 

 
 
©2002 by Joyce K. Reynolds. Duplication with credits only please. Click here for easy access to all books referenced. For complimentary 20-minute Coaching session e-mail jreynolds@jkr.net or visit www.business-coach.org. Click here to send this newsletter to a colleague. Executive Business Coach on bluesuitmom.com Click here to Unsubscribe. Newsletter maintained by Web Factum, LLC.