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Lions Roar : September 2012
SHAMBHALA SUN SEPTEMBER 2012 50 and contribute to unnecessary added suffering. • Catch yourself when your mind automatically creates unhelp- ful stories. • Learn to recognize, observe, and not identify with your thoughts to lessen their power over you. CONNECT WITH SIMPLE PLEASURES Wake up to the small things in life. They are accessible to you at any time and can relax the mind and body and nourish the soul. These simple pleasures are boundless, changing, and personal. You and only you know what stirs you in wonderful ways that make you feel alive and your heart sing. • Rest in awareness and notice the simple pleasures available to you. • Consider what you can see, hear, taste, smell, and feel. • Reflect on connections with nature, family and friends, and animal companions. * For each simple pleasure that you connect with, pause, smile, and be grateful for that moment of unfiltered goodness. SUSAN BAUER-WU is associate professor of nursing at Emory University and the author of Leaves Falling Gently: Living Fully With Serious and Life- Limiting Illness through Mindfulness, Compassion, and Connectedness. WORK Beyond Stress Management Michael Carroll’s step-by-step guide to transforming a toxic workplace. ONE THING YOU CAN count on about work is that it’s stressful. Tight deadlines, limited resources, diverse personalities, and complex problems naturally add up to a demanding, often disturbingly uncertain situation, which we call “work.” Now, despite the inherently stressful nature of work, we often find ourselves looking for a stress-free workplace—looking for “stress re- duction” techniques or “stress management” training. On one hand, our search to eliminate stress at work is understandable, since in our modern parlance “stress” is commonly used to describe just about any disturbing aspect of life. But if we want to get to the heart of what is really bothering us about workplace stress, we will need to differentiate between what is stressful at work and what is toxic. Stress, at its very core, is about being alive. Whether we’re getting a job, falling in love, or just being a body in space, all of us face stress- ors—some annoying, some exhilarating, some devastating. At work, stress is woven into every demand, every deadline, and every goal. Toxicity, on the other hand, is what causes disease, death, and confusion. When toxicity is woven into the fabric of our work life, we feel threatened, mis- treated, and ill. So, in order to build and sustain healthy organiza- tions and revitalize our natural sense of well-being at work, we need to stop looking for a stress-free workplace and instead clean up the toxicity. Cleaning up workplace toxicity is about healing rather than harming, being wise rather than correct, enriching rather than weakening. It’s about cultivating healthy workplace emotions like fulfillment, creativity, humor, and passion, and skillfully eliminating dangerous emo- tions like insensitivity, betrayal, bullying, and fear. Cleaning up toxicity at work is a tough but vital role requiring awareness, gentleness, and ingenuity. To describe a person who takes on this role, Peter Frost coined the term “toxic handler” in his book Toxic Emotions at Work. “The work of toxic handlers is about responding compas- sionately to pain in their organizations in order to minimize or prevent it, to identify it, contain it, remove it, or find ways for people to live with it constructively,” says Frost. “Their compassion takes the form of noticing and feeling the pain of someone else and then acting in a way that is intended to help the other person heal.” Being a skillful toxic handler at work need not be a full-time job. In fact, it can be as simple as explor- ing toxic circumstances with a bit of compassionate reflection. Here’s a simple three-step contempla- tion you may want to use to more skillfully handle workplace toxicity without being poisoned by it. STEP 1: STACK YOUR EMOTIONS When we confront a work-related conflict or problem that has gone toxic, the first thing we need to do is distinguish between our emotions and the business issue, and we can do that by stacking. Imagine you’re working with Raoul and he’s shouting at you. To stack your emotions, you might say to yourself, “Raoul is really angry and distrustful right now and I’m feeling very defensive, but let me set my feelings of defensiveness aside for a moment. My feelings will PHOTO:HENKJACOBS/DREAMSTIME.COM