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Open Your Despair-Release Valve

Three techniques to get through your workday when it seems the world has gone mad


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Shane Kinkennon

2 years ago | 2 min read

This morning, the continued cries of shock and despair in my Facebook feed over the siege of the U.S. Capitol are punctuated by memes about the folly of now attempting to concentrate on a desk job.

I get it. I allowed myself to go to bed last night in a stinky foul mood. I tossed and turned. When the dog barked in the middle of the night, I lost my cool. This morning’s work to-do list feels menial. Like most of us, yesterday’s unfoldings are deeply under my skin.

Yet I know I have some choices. Releasing the internal pressure doesn’t require snapping at my colleagues or shouting down my frightened sidekick. It requires me to take responsibility for my state of mind.

It requires me to be intentional about staying steady, keeping my well of hope from being drawn down, and getting through my workday with a modicum of productivity.

This morning, if you’re struggling to put your mental state in such a place that you can do your job, try these three techniques.

Control your consumption

Know the difference between being adequately informed and going down the social media and news-commentary rabbit hole. Lift your head up from your screen regularly and assess where you are relative to the line that demarcates “too much.” That’s not to suggest sticking your head in the sand nor slipping into denial.

Consume the information you believe you must. But know that if staying grounded and steady is your aim, there is a line between commitment to being up to speed and indulgence in your echo chamber. The latter of the two has the practical effect of keeping the cortisol coursing through your veins, keeping you agitated and more wound up than optimal to focus on the day’s tasks.

Take stock

When the world sees to go crazy, draw your focus in to that which is dear to you. Cast your eye upon your family members who you love. Or your home in which you feel safe. Or your health or career for which you’re grateful.

And watch for any knee-jerk temptation take out your anxieties on your loved ones or coworkers. (I failed miserably at this when I snapped at the dog.) Consume your news, but pause regularly and be supremely intentional about taking stock in that which is good in your life and makes you feel whole.

Think long game

One of tenets of mindfulness is to recognize the impermanence of literally everything, including traumatic current events. It’s trusting the old adage “This too shall pass.” I know that, for the intellectually conscientious, this can sound faintly like giving yourself a hall pass from being concerned about that which is grave.

I’m not suggesting that you try to forget the state of thingsthat wouldn’t work anyway. Instead, acknowledge the truth that, no matter how much it may feel like it, we will move on from this moment. We may not know where, and I acknowledge that is a disconcerting thought. But the truth is, this ugliness too shall pass.

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Shane Kinkennon

Certified Executive Coach. I work with CEOs of company up to $500M to help them get the most of their human capital and to lead change.


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