It took me 7 months away from my full time job to build habits into my daily routine which keep me “Zen.”

Let me share with you my five most valuable strategies which you can implement right away, so that you don’t have to take a leave of absence from your job. Unless you want to, of course!

Strategy #1: Build quiet moments into your work day

Decide how many such moments you think you’ll need at work, but I’d suggest starting with three. You can always add to this or drop down to one or two.

Set a timer or create a trigger, such as every time you return to your desk or every time you hang up the phone.

These quiet moments are when you are going to check in with yourself.

Ask yourself some check-in questions: Hey, you, how are you doing? What’s going on? How did your day start this morning compared to where you are now? Where are you at in relation to your intention for the day?

Feel your breath; feel your body. If you’ve ever meditated or done yoga, you can draw on that experience. Do some basic stretching, or try this breathing exercise: breathe in through your nose counting silently to five, then exhale through your mouth for five. Repeat 10 times.

Or simply sit in silence and be for a few minutes.

Before we go on to the next strategy, grab your worksheet by clicking on the green button below and reflect on strategy #1.

Strategy #2: Take a walk

My last workplace, a high school, was located in the middle of a forest and walking outside was particularly exhilarating. In fact, I had to walk outside to get to the cafeteria each day. So instead of taking the shortest route, I took a detour around the school buildings, taking a moment to see which flowers were currently in bloom; no notice the rustling of the leaves in the trees high overhead; to pet a stray cat.

Strategy #3: Be aware of when you’re being reactive

This is more difficult, so feel free to just start by noticing whenever you’re being triggered in some way. This could look like you being irritated, anxious, angry, defensive, defeated …

Noticing your feeling and naming it will immediately restore you to your upper brain and you will be able to respond appropriately, as opposed to reactively.

The more advanced version of this: set intentions before meetings, phone calls, even before sitting down to write an email. How do you want things to go? What energy are you going to bring to the task?

Keeping these intentions in mind will help you stay aligned even when you’re triggered and not get derailed.

 Taking a walk during the workday, even just for ten minutes, can bring you back to yourself.
Taking a walk during the workday, even for just ten minutes, can bring you back to yourself

Strategy #4: Surround yourself with the right people

Hang out with people who nourish your soul, who give you energy as opposed to sapping it. Not sure who those people are? One woman I know created a group for reading spiritual books, starting with Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Not only did she get to know like-minded colleagues at a deeper level, she created a platform for all of them to deepen their understanding of healthy mindsets.

Moreover, she was starting the beautiful integration that would hopefully grow with time, namely integrating her work & life as opposed to balancing these separate aspects of her life. Next in this workplace series I’ll talk more about integration.

Strategy #5: Progress, not perfection

Finally, embrace the belief that no workplace is ever “done.”

Workplaces, like people, are constantly evolving. Enjoy the process, focus on the progress you are all making. This is so much more fulfilling than focusing on the failures, the problems.

Let me give you an example. Alicia is a teacher and has to attend three different weekly level meetings, which she doesn’t find particularly productive. Recently, one of the levels has been discussing moving to just one meeting every two weeks — the group is small, and they’ve been together for almost two years now.

Next, Alicia could focus on suggesting some protocols that could make meetings more productive; but in the meantime, she shouldn’t lose sight of the progress they’ve made, namely reducing the number of meetings.

Perhaps she could also see if her other two teams would be open to reducing their weekly meeting to twice a month?

Progress, not perfection.


Your Turn:

Now that you’re familiar with all five strategies, download your worksheet and reflect on each one. You’ll be prompted to anticipate difficulties and come up with solutions, thereby setting yourself up for success!

Up next in this three-part workplace series is integration. What if we’ve been getting it all wrong? What if, instead of balancing the separate areas of our lives — work, family, friends, health — we integrated them?

Originally published at


  • Cecile Popp

    Educator, Writer, Mother of three, Canadian expat living in Turkey

    Cecile Popp is a Canadian educator and writer living in southern Turkey. For over a decade she taught English Language Arts at Turkish high schools, most recently at Robert College in Istanbul, where she worked for seven years. Now, seeking a quieter life, she has returned to the south to write and work on other projects, most notably a memoir about her Baltic German grandparents. Her YouTube channel, From Canada to Adana, features visual essays about her life in Turkey. She lives in Adana with her husband and their three sons and teaches at the university.