Peace of Mind at Work

The holidays are not always associated with peace and rest, despite calls for these things at this time of year. Rather, many people find the holidays extremely stressful and overly busy.

At work, there are parties to plan and attend, and still work to be done. At home, there’s shopping, cooking and decorating – and, for some, stick handling difficult family holiday dynamics. Plus, there are financial and time pressures.

Not especially peaceful, or restful.

Nevertheless, there are ways to find a sense of peace with yourself and with others this holiday season.

According to Dr. David Burns, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, there are six ways to obtain more peace of mind at work and at home, amid the usual holiday rush.

1. Watch Out For Truth Seeking.

A sure way to jangle your own nerves in your relationship with others is to become focused on showing them that you are right and they are wrong in a misunderstanding or conflict. If we drop the quest for “truth” in our dealings with others, we can find ourselves feeling more peaceful. We realize that it doesn’t matter if we can “prove” that Sue in marketing dropped the ball. It is more important to listen closely to Sue’s thoughts on what happened, accept what occurred and work on getting things moving again, together.

2. Steer Clear Of Blame.

While it may be tempting and lead to feelings of self-righteousness, telling others, “This is all your fault” backs people into a corner. It also leads to ruminating and feelings of resentment. Peace of mind in this instance means letting go of fault-finding. Whether at home or at work, it is difficult not to blame others when we feel hurt or put out. However, no one responds well to being blamed. You probably have never heard anyone say, “Thank you for pointing out that everything is my fault when things go awry”. Finding others blameworthy, when we don’t want to be blamed either, points to the folly in this strategy. Peacefulness requires us to treat others as we would like to be treated and that includes avoiding blaming them.

3. Stop Defending Yourself.

When others blame us or try to show us that we are wrong, we try to defend ourselves. We might believe that we must argue our position and we should defend ourselves against finger pointing or unfair accusations. To obtain peace of mind when you are feeling unfairly treated or blamed, start listening and be curious rather than get defensive. This is not easy, especially when we are feeling attacked. However, by doing the opposite of what we might instinctively feel is warranted, we can ensure open communication rather than a protracted period of fighting or tension. Asking a blaming colleague to tell you what they see is the problem, or being curious when an angry spouse tells you that you don’t care about her (e.g., I’m sorry I missed the party and it seems you thought it was because I didn’t care about you or your family) will help create a more peaceful environment and mindset.

4. Put Aside Mistrust And Listen.

When relationships at work or at home are in a state of upheaval, it is easy to believe that if you listen to another’s point of view, they’ll take advantage of your goodwill. Some think that trying to understand another will lead to a loss of face or make the other person’s hurtful behaviour “legitimate” in some way. This is not the case. Trying to understand how another person is feeling or thinking, even though they may have hurt or annoyed you, is called empathy. It doesn’t matter if we agree with other people’s feelings. The point is to try to build, rather than burn bridges with others. You won’t get hurt or be used by trying to completely understand what someone else is saying or feeling. In fact, you’ll probably be better able to find a solution to the problem by listening closely.

5. Watch Out For The Victim Role

It may be difficult to try to understand someone else or stop blaming. It can be hard not to want to show you are right. The reason could be that you are the wronged party and that you have no part in the problem. Or do you? Peace of mind won’t come from engaging in an orgy of self-blame, nor will it come from denying that there may be a way you could be implicated in the difficulties you are experiencing. By refusing to adopt the victim role, and by looking at what you could do differently in your dealings with a co-worker or boss or family member, you may be surprised at the result.

6. Deal Directly With Entitlement.

Nurturing a peaceful mind is difficult when we believe that family members shouldn’t hurt us, or that the boss should give us more credit or a colleague should return our calls more promptly. The fact is that we get hurt, we sometimes don’t get credit and co-workers sometimes ignore us. It’s hard to let go of the idea that we aren’t necessarily entitled to better treatment and people don’t always do what we think they ought to do. Getting hurt, overlooked or ignored is inevitable. Accept it and have a peaceful conversation about how to get your calls returned, or ask that your name be put in the company newsletter when the new project is rolled out. In other words, ask for what you need. But don’t expect things to change because you asked nicely, once. You’ll have to keep the lines of communication open whenever you bump into the inevitable hurdle.

Nurturing peace of mind takes a lot of thought and discipline. We may wish that it wasn’t so much work and didn’t require some soul-searching. Yet, there probably is no better time, than this time of year to contemplate a more peaceful attitude towards yourself and others.

We wish you a safe, peaceful, and restful holiday and happy New Year.

Dr. Jennifer Newman and Dr. Darryl Grigg are registered psychologists and directors of Newman & Grigg Psychological and Consulting Services Ltd., a Vancouver-based corporate training and development partnership. They can be contacted at

Identifying information in cases cited has been changed to protect confidentiality.

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