Ever have one of those days where you look at your list, you look at your desk, and you just collapse back into your chair wonder, “Where the whatever should I even START??”

There’s a technical EQ term for that state — it’s called, “Confusion.”

Frequently confusion seeps in when you’re “running on empty” or you’re juggling too many balls. A kind of mental, emotional, and physical fatigue creeps in — maybe as a defense mechanism, it’s your body saying, “Hey! Take a break or I’ll make you!!”

When you feel that “slow down,” of energy and engagement the first challenge is to notice it. Then take an effective break.

I spent a good part of the morning in overload — going between stress and wet blanket. I literally stared at my “to do list” for a few minutes and it all was a blur — nothing stood out as important… but I KNOW I’ve got some important work to do!
Luckily, today the sun was breaking through the clouds, so I picked up a sandwich for lunch and headed to a favorite beach for a 15 minute renewal break.

It’s wonderful to go to the beach in winter — there were five people on the mile of beach I walked. The sun was warm, and the water sparkling. I walked and tried to pay attention to all that.

I kept thinking about work, about this article, about whatever — thoughts just spinning without much focus or direction.

So I had to break out the “big guns” for renewal: my senses.

I stopped. Stood still. Looked at the water and tried to just see without evaluating. I picked up some sand and felt the texture. I reminded myself, “Don’t think about feeling the sand — actually Feel the sand.” I listened to the waves.

I just about gave up — I was telling myself, “I’m too busy to spend another minute on the damn beach — no wonder it’s empty!”

I tried again, really paying attention to the physical sensations instead of the mental “chatter.” And like a light switch, I experienced a cessation of “noise” and extraneous thought. I felt myself breathe more deeply and see more clearly. For just two minutes I sat down and was truly still — and my energy shot back up, my muscle tension dropped, my back pain was less, and I felt excited to go back to work. Not agitated, but excited!

For me, the beach is a compelling symbol of renewal. The constancy of the waves, the sand washed clean each day. Walking, it seems, upon land that’s never seen a human footprint. It’s also easy for me to get to the beach — but you can apply the same method anywhere.

Tom Wojick, a colleague and resiliency expert, teaches about “rituals of renewal” as simple mechanisms that restore energy and balance. A ritual of renewal can be as simple as walking to the water cooler, or looking at a photo, or putting on a favorite piece of music. Thirty seconds an hour, according to Dr. Robert Cooper, is enough to increase energy and resilience by 100%.

A Ritual of Renewal is not intended as a complex feat of logistics and time. It should be easy enough to become automatic. It needs to shift your body, your mind, and/or your heart — and ideally all three, without adding stressors to the body. So coffee, cigarettes, candy, and soda are not as effective as:

  • Go give someone an appreciation in person.
  • Look out the window at something beautiful.
  • Sing a song you love.
  • Sip icewater.
  • Walk around the floor.
  • Shoot a few hoops.
  • Weed 1 square foot of garden.
  • Pick up 5 pieces of trash.
  • Laugh at a silly joke.
  • Call your love and tell her so.
  • Read an EQ Reflection (collected on www.6seconds.org)

And remember — don’t think about feeling the sand: feel the sand!

Originally posted 3/16/04 by Joshua Freedman on www.6seconds.org

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Joshua Freedman

Joshua is one of the world’s preeminent experts on developing emotional intelligence to create positive change. With warmth and authenticity, he translates leading-edge science into practical, applicable terms that improve the quality of relationships to unlock enduring success. Joshua leads the world’s largest network of emotional intelligence practitioners and researchers.
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