I think relaxation is bullshit. I’m naturally hyper, I jump at loud noises, and I shake my leg when sitting. I am not a human zen garden. I consider meditation an infringement on time that could be spent working or sleeping. My hobbies include masturbation and showering. I am a workaholic.
I also have insomnia, chronic back pain, and I clench my jaw. It makes eating and oral sex difficult.
Being freelance makes my work addiction less of an ugly confession, more of an admittance to a competitive edge. If you’re going to make money in this field you’re going to have to work…a lot. It’s okay to suddenly believe that weekends are optional, it’s acceptable to sit in the same position for hours on end, it’s beneficial to not take social calls, and people should understand if you suddenly wander off in the middle of a conversation because you “got an idea.” The ROI with freelance writing is great, but the investment itself is all of your time and mental capacity. All of it.
Everybody who works deals with stress on the job, no matter their title, field of occupation, or the country that they live in. Everybody knows that being stressed, sleepless, and cranky doesn’t make you the happy dwarf singing Hi-Ho. So what’s the world to do?
The Japanese have nap salons that let the average worker in Tokyo shell out the equivalent of seven bucks for twenty minutes of sleep in order to avoid karoshi, or death from being overworked. Even some Japanese high-schools have nap time. That, for me, was called algebra class.
In France they regard being stressed and sleepless as an epidemic that contributes to things like highway accidents. The country spent $9 million to investigate sleeping issues, and the Health Minister, Mr. Xavier Bertrand, is quoted as saying, “Why not nap at work? It can’t be a taboo subject.”
I might not think that napping is a go-to solution, and I definitely don’t put faith in this woo-woo relaxation crap, but I do believe in burnout. I know it intimately. For me personally it presents itself in sudden fits of crying, relentless insomnia, and an involuntary fixation on stupid things such as the YouTube video of a hamster on a piano eating popped corn. (I watched it eight times in a row and then my roommate intervened.)
There must be a balance between all work and all play. Even monks have to balance their checkbooks, even hippies have to pay their dues. In these times of gloom and doom, most of our workdays are spent worrying if tomorrow we’ll even have a job. So how does one cope with work stress, especially when you work from home?
Fans of workplace yoga insist that it’s a great way to retain mental alacrity and stimulate your muscles, all from within the confines of your cubicle. They say that keeping a peaceful mindset at work, and making sure that your body remains limber and well-stretched, helps to reduce stress, which, in turn, reduces illness, carpal tunnel, and repetitive stress injury. Desktop yoga is looked at as a proactive measure to prevent workplace absenteeism, which cost businesses upwards of $250 billion a year.
I decided to try one of the poses out myself. I followed the instructions I found at Everyday Yoga and sat up tall in my chair. I raised my arms, interlocked my fingers, breathed deeply from my so-called core, and slowly leaned from one side to the other. All and all, it wasn’t much different than the stretches I do somewhat automatically after sitting at my desk for too long. The pressure and pain in my lower back (caused by a crappy desk chair and a project that had me nervous) remained.
Because I like to try to stay positive, even in the middle of being a cynic, I tried a different site and a different pose. This one was a forward bend in my chair. I took a breath, bent over, and got a head rush. At least it was distracting. They say to repeat this pose ten times “with increased awareness of your breathing.” I don’t have time for that.
My Yoga Online has various yoga routines and poses you can do while on the clock, including Corporate Rejuvenation Flow and Worktime Energy Flow. Don’t be surprised if the hot guy from accounting asks you out when he catches you with your legs above your head. Also, if any men do office yoga, drop me a line. I seriously don’t believe men do yoga without a nagging girlfriend dragging them by the wrist.
I have enough trouble meditating in the privacy of my own bedroom. There’s something about sitting still, in silence, breathing in and out, and visualizing nothing that just feels a bit like a waste of time. Before sleep I’ll try to do this every once in a while (it’s part of Step Eleven of AA, otherwise I’d totally say fuck all) but really I don’t get into the whole om-ing out thing. I mean, promoting deep breathing is always good, sure, but beneficial to your job? I’m not sold.
Before my Performance Poetry class in college we had to do a little of the “inhale, exhale, hold it, let it out slow” game that allowed us all to feel the depth of our new found love of smoking anything we could get our hands on. But if you’re going to try to tell me that stepping away from my desk and breathing with my eyes closed is suddenly going to make ten taglines and an About section appear behind my lids, well, I’ll ask you what you were smoking. ‘Cause, really, relaxation, to me, will be what happens when everything on my to do list is done.
For the sake of this blog, I tried it. It lasted three minutes before the incense gave me a headache. On the plus side, I figured out a new term for being unpleasant: “wearing the cunt hat.” Works nicely, doesn’t it? So if meditation helped me to make that discovery then I say it works.
If you dig the calm, cool, and collected approach, you can purchase a Workplace Meditation CD for only around nineteen bucks.
“An oasis of calm awaits you. Gentle birds sing harmonies with flutes and guitars while the rhythm of trickling water surrounds you in an envelop of sound. [sic] This unique recording has been effectively used in workplace settings for promoting deep states of relaxation and meditation. It is a great tool for managing stress and anxiety.”
Sounds like a blast.
A Fancy Chair
I am not a chair freak, but Simon is. He has a vintage Eames aluminum chair that he paid $150 for thanks to Craigslist, and it was through that purchase that we met my now-roommates. The owner of said chair was the one moving out. I replaced her. So everyone got to relax about where to live due to a chair. Case closed.
The benefits of a good office chair are many. Think about it, what touches your ass more than the chair in your workspace? (The answer had better be a paddle or a lover’s hand.) An ergonomically sound chair helps to prevent those injuries that are lame to talk about: carpal tunnel, backache, migraines, eye strain. And they supposedly increase productivity, but I think that’s only for those individuals who shell out the $1,279.95 to $1,605.00 for an Aeron or Freedom chair and now find themselves needing to work harder to pay their credit card bill.
An overwhelmingly detailed description of what a true ergonomic office chair actually is can be found here.
Besides, having a nice office chair is intimidating to your fellow workers. Trust me. I might not be able to tell you how devastatingly comfortable these particular chairs were to my cheeks, but I can say that when Simon sits in his Eames he sure is able to make me his editing bitch.
So if you can’t nap to prevent burning your mental toast, you should take a full lunch hour, eat breakfast before work, don’t let your desk stay cluttered for too long. Some suggest turning off automatic email updates and IM clients. Let me just call bullshit on that. If I didn’t have my friends sending me their work complaints in real time I think I would be driven insane.
These friends, who include an entertainment producer, a television writer, and a physician, have offered their at-work relaxation techniques. They include reading, wandering around aimlessly, looking up surf reports, drinking water, and urinating. (The last two are related and were submitted by the same individual.)
In other countries, including future world dominating superpower China, relaxation at work is regarded like roaches in your salad bar. Even Spain, the country that gave us the siesta, has begun a series of reforms, even going so far as eliminating the nap for civil servants and striving to forbid workday snoozing for once and for all. Pasqual Maragall, a former Spanish government official, was quoted as calling a workday nap “not rational, it’s not efficient, and it does not pay in terms of family life.” Mexico, too, ended the siesta for government workers in ‘99. I should joke that, no matter what country you’re in, if you’re a government worker you’re probably sleeping on the job anyway, regardless of what Lou Dobbs thinks.
I suppose we each have to find our method of coping with stress in order to prevent going batty. If you’re figured out that, for you, it’s looking at kink sites on the DL, or reading this blog, or even a regular, old game of Internet solitaire, more power, and power naps, to you.
Tell me how you bliss out, email me at AinsleyDrew at the gmail one. As always, thanks to those of you who donate, send mail, or shout me out. You’re the bed I’m living the dream on.
If you, or someone you know, needs text of any sort, you can hire us.