Be honest now.
In all the time you’ve spent at work, did you ever have the feeling that you were going to cry? Did you ever have the feeling that you were going to hurl?
Join the club.
Now, here’s the million-dollar question — did you ever have the feeling that you were going to snap?
Yes, snap. Lose it completely. Realize that the only rational reaction to your job was to check yourself in, stat, at the local wacky shacky and have yourself declared terminally moo-moo goo-goo. (Sorry to throw these complicated medical terms at you. That’s what happens when you graduate, summa cum laude, from 11 grueling years of “Grey’s Anatomy.”)
Well, if you haven’t snapped yet, Phyllis Korkki has, and she has written about the experience in “Ready to Snap At Work? Get in Touch With Your Inner Animal,” a recent tell-all in The New York Times.
“I could feel thoughts pinging around in my brain as I tried and failed to decide what to focus on first,” she writes in describing her snap. “Once I was able to get the pandemonium under control, my brain felt like mush.”
Putting aside the ridiculous implication that having a brain that feels like mush is unusual, you would certainly expect an experienced journalist like Korkki to have a super-sophisticated, highly scientific technique to calm herself down.
“I breathed deeply from the middle of my body. I imagined the top of my head, and pictured arrows coming out the sides of my shoulders. I stood up for a while and walked around the newsroom. And went back to work.”
The journalist learned her breathing technique from clinical psychologist Belisa Vranich. As a “vertical breather,” moving her shoulders upward when she inhaled, Korkki started practicing “horizontal breathing,” a technique in which you train yourself to “expand your belly while inhaling through your nose,” after which you “squeeze your belly inward while exhaling.”
For you to become a horizontal breather it will take a psychologist and a plastic surgeon. Without a lot of liposuction, it will be impossible to expand your belly any further than it is now. You’ve been diligently stuffing that belly with pizza and donuts. If you were to expand it one more inch, you’d explode.
According to Vranich, the reason we don’t breathe correctly is the vestigial memory of our ancient ancestors’ “flight-or-flight syndrome.”
You see, our carefree cavemen and cavewomen ancestors could have their idyllic lifestyles of eating leaves and inventing fire rudely interrupted by the sudden appearance of a saber-toothed tiger. At that point, they needed to speed their breathing skills, not to mention their running and screaming skills, “as protection from predators.”
Today, as highly evolved individuals, living in a modern world, we’re supposed to have outgrown the need for the fight-or-flight syndrome.
Consider your management team, prowling the hallways, looking for victims to eviscerate. The cave people had it easy. If anyone needs protection from predators it’s y-o-u.
After learning how to breathe, Korkki learned how to sit.
Visiting posture teacher Lindsay Newitter, she discovered that “good posture helps you feel spready instead of squished.” No need for you to take lessons in feeling spready. You’ve already mastered the technique of spreadying yourself into a gelatinous blob, which is a totally smart evolutionary move for someone who spends most the day under their desk hiding from predators.
As for the arrows from Korkki’s shoulders, that was to teach her to loosen up. This could work, and, after all, you already have plenty of arrows in your back.
It took a Cornell University professor in ergonomics, Alan Hedge, to put Korkki out of her stress-filled misery. The prof has developed a theory that calls for a regular regime of 20 minutes sitting, eight minutes standing, and two minutes of moving around.
“If you’re stuck on an assignment,” the professor professes, “moving from one room to another can actually help recalibrate the brain.”
Frankly, I think your brain is beyond recalibration, but if you want to save yourself from a job-ending snap, you could work for two minutes, take eight minutes to walk from your office to the Kit Kat Klub, and then spend twenty minutes sitting on a bar stool, throwing back Jagerbombs.
You could walk back to the office, and start the process again, but you may lose your seat at the bar, and that could severely reduce valuable sitting and drinking time.
If anything is going to cause you to snap, that’s definitely it.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at firstname.lastname@example.org.