Yesterday, a former coworker forwarded me this Wall Street Journal article about the trend of companies offering chaplain services to their employees. Her subject: "We definitely could have used this!" Another friend forwarded the same piece and said, "What would Steve Carell think?"
Thing is, this idea isn't as crazy as it first sounds: A bad day at the office can be mentally trying -- just ask Dwight (fans of "The Office" know what I mean!)
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These on-the-job chaplains are more spiritual Zen masters than super religious (law permits voluntary expression of one's beliefs at work, but employers can't legally pressure employees to take part in prayer or religion-specific services).
Assuming your boss doesn't offer an on-call chap, here are some (free) ways to find your Zen at the office:
1. Get a potted plant. Office workers with a view of nature are more enthusiastic and patient than those without, according to a study from the University of Michigan. And research indicates that people feel less stressed and get more done when they have potted plants around at work. Opt for a fern or a peace lily, which are hard to kill.
2. Breathe. Some studies show that regular meditation reduces the recurrence of depression as effectively as medication. If sitting and chanting isn't realistic (especially in a cubicle!), start with baby steps by focusing on your breath. If your mind wanders, let your thoughts go and refocus on inhaling and exhaling. Aim to do this for a couple of minutes a few times a day -- or anytime you feel like your head is ready to explode.
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3. Pack a nutritious lunch. Salmon and fruits and veggies are a great choice. The omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish help the brain respond to signals from the mood chemicals dopamine and serotonin. The antioxidants and flavonoids in colorful fruits and veggies work in combination with omega-3s to protect the brain from harmful inflammation that can trigger depression.
4. Prioritize. Try this trick if your mind is scattered: Picture a firefighter's ladder (strong, lifesaving, simple to climb). Set your to-do's on each rung with the easiest on the bottom. You instantly prioritize and can start putting out fires.
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5. Pick a mantra to prevent a meltdown. Repeat a positive affirmation ("I can do anything I put my mind to!") in your head. Research shows that reflecting on a personal value controls cortisol levels, effectively reducing stress.
6. Hop on the treadmill before work. Or at lunch if you can sneak out. Of all of the things you can do to bring on calm, aerobic activity may be most effective. Studies show that workouts counteract stress-related memory loss by speeding up production of new nerve cells in the hippocampus, the brain's memory processing center. For tons of ideas for getting your sweat on, check out our new Workout Builder.
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Photo Credit: Condé Nast Digital Studio