Huh? Time out on the Toilet?

16 Aug

Tuesday evening I had the privilege of speaking to a spirited group of women at their annual meeting for the International Association of Administrative Professionals. When I arrived the wait staff was just serving them dinner and a prayer was being offered before they dug into their first course.

I was directed toward the table at which a friend and client of mine sat. She had asked me to deliver the workshop. I sat down and was introduced to a couple ladies who instantly had many questions about food and nutrition once they discovered I was the Wellness Director at The Diet Doc. They knew I would be delivering a talk on stress management and were curious if I would be speaking directly about nutrition and diet as well. I thought, they go hand in hand. “I”ll be weaving nutrition in throughout the lecture,” I said.

After dinner had been served and the conversation turned to how much we thought the chicken breast weighed, (one woman guessed 10 oz, another guessed 6 oz.–when I got home I weighed what had been packaged up for me, and it was actually 3 oz!) I was introduced and handed the microphone. Off we went through a whirlwind adventure of what stress is, how we know we’re stressed, what we do when we’re stressed, and finally, how we can get to a place where we are able to recognize more effectively when we’re uncomfortable and manage those emotions without being impulsive!

My solution for them, and I’ll share it with you now, is a trip to the bathroom! Yep! I can get you started on the path to stress management by having you take one key behavior seriously– your time on the toilet.

You already take breaks daily to go to the bathroom. At least I hope you do! So the time is already carved out of your day. Getting a handle on your stress means getting to know your mind and body. It means developing emotional intelligence skills. And that means you have to recognize and then assess what’s  happening cognitively and physically. In order to do this you must act consciously and intentionally.  What better way to begin this ritual of a self-awareness check than a two-minute time out on the toilet?!

When I suggested this to my lovely group of ladies, they laughed. And then they looked at me like I was a nut job. Then I said that I do it, and the tension dissipated….but just a little.

But I DO do it. When I sit down, I close my eyes, I take a few deep breaths and ….(get your head out of the toilet, people!) I recenter. I assess my thoughts, I do a body scan to see where I might be holding tension (I know what you’re thinking right now), I relax my shoulders, and I assess  how I’m feeling.

I explained to my captive audience (at this point they were on the edge of their seats, pensively waiting to see how far I would take this) that we are like balloons.With each challenging event that occurs during our busy work days that goes “unnoticed” our balloons are filled with a little bit of air. The amount of air will depend on the enormity of the situation and how much emotional energy we’ve had to invest. By the end of the day, our balloons may be ready to pop, and it could be the glass of spilled milk at dinner, a comment made by a spouse, or something even seemingly innocuous that could result in the blowout! The toilet time gives you an opportunity to let some of that air out of your balloon. By tuning in to yourself, paying attention, getting present, and consciously and intentionally assessing how you are and where you’re at, you can relieve a bit tension.

We can’t control the events that occur in our lives, but we can control our responses to them. In order to do so more effectively and to prevent impulsive reactions from occurring, we have to learn how to stop living in automaton mode. Emotional intelligence skills give us the ability to be able to say, “Okay, I’m uncomfortable right now, and this isn’t ideal, but how do I want to respond?” When you become more adept at assessing your own emotional state, you also enhance your skill in tuning into the emotional states of others. This does not mean, however, that your office staff should organize communal bathroom practice sessions!

Bill Gates was in Seattle this week inspecting cutting-edge toilet technology at the Reinvent the Toilet Fair.  Obviously the bathroom is a very important place! You can use it to reinvent yourself too!

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2 Responses to “Huh? Time out on the Toilet?”

  1. Donloree August 18, 2012 at 9:07 AM #

    Hilarious! I totally do this. I really thought I was the only one who took that time to breathe, relax, and refocus on what was next while in the little room. I decided it was a very effective way to keep me from exploding; literally and figuratively. 😀

    • kpropst August 18, 2012 at 10:48 AM #

      The little room! Ha. It is a magical place!

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