isn’t a better job in the world than working with mainframes – after all, why
do so many people do it? Especially as many of those people are over retirement
age or getting quite close to it. But even so, the life of a mainframer isn’t
without stress. I’m not talking about the threat of a ransomware attack or even
simply ensuring that recovery processes can take place quickly and easily in
the event of a file becoming corrupted or deleted. I’m thinking more of those
interminable meetings with, sometimes, senior people who joke that mainframes
are dinosaurs and believe that as soon as the company ditches them, the
business will naturally go from strength to strength.
Now I’m not
talking about how to change someone’s beliefs today. I’m not going to rehearse
all the arguments about why mainframes are cheaper and more secure than many
other platforms. What I am going to talk about is how to unwind – how to
destress – after a day or a week arguing with members of the flat-earth society
(or at least that’s how it seems!).
use a laptop, a phone, and a tablet. Some of the apps I use reside in the cloud.
I’m not saying that different IT platforms don’t have their role. It’s people
who don’t recognize and acknowledge the role of the mainframe that I, and many
other mainframers, find frustrating, irritating, and stressful.
So, what can
you do to retain your equanimity? How can you return to your Zen-like
peacefulness and calm after yet another encounter? Here are some thoughts.
The easiest and
most straightforward way to relax is by breathing! Two very simple and
effective techniques are 7-11 breathing and square breathing.
involves breathing in for a count of 7, then breathing out for a count of 11. The
important thing is to breath out for longer than you spend breathing in. If the
timings seem too long, count faster! Most people feel calm after a few minutes
with this technique.
breathing, you sit upright in a chair with both feet on the floor. Breath in
for the count of four, hold your breath for the count of four, exhale for the
count of four, and hold your breath for the count of four. Keep repeating the
pattern until you feel relaxed.
If you know a
meeting is going to be stressful, at home before the meeting, lie on your back
on the floor and put one hand on your chest and one on your abdomen and simply
breathe. As you relax, you should feel your abdomen rising and falling rather
than your chest. This is what you want in order to become relaxed. 10 minutes
of abdominal breathing is good. 30 minutes is better. If you can do this every
day, it will help you stay relaxed in difficult situations.
coming out of a meeting where you are still feeling angry or upset, it can be
useful to carry out grounding exercises. These provide a way to anchor you in
the present. The idea behind it is to use your senses (sight, hearing, smell,
taste, and touch) to link your mind and body in the present moment and turn off
any intrusive feelings. Some techniques that have been suggested for grounding
- Slowly, think of five things you can see. Then think of four things you can hear. Next find three things you can feel (eg your feet touching the floor). Then two things you can smell. And, finally, one thing you can taste.
- Talk about yourself. Say your name, your current age, where you are now, what you have done so far today, and what you plan to do next.
- Splash water on your face.
- Sip a cool drink of water.
- Hold a cold can or bottle of soft drink in your hands. Notice the coldness and the wetness on your hands. When you drink it, notice the bubbles and taste.
- Hold a mug of tea or coffee in both hands and feel its warmth. Then take small sips and really notice the tastes with each mouthful.
- Wear an elastic band on your wrist and gently flick it, so that you feel it spring back on your wrist. Notice the sounds you can hear and the sensations you feel when you do that.
after some practice, provides techniques for a person to dissociate from what’s
happening. For example, you can recognize how you feel at any instant and you can
accept that that’s simply how you are feeling. That takes all the emotional
power out of the feeling. You can also recognize that however you currently
feel, that feeling won’t last forever, and will probably pass in a few seconds
or so. (Some estimates have been quoted that an urge, eg for a cigarette or a
bar of chocolate, last no more than eight seconds.) Using mindfulness
techniques does require a certain amount of practice before it becomes easy for
a person to use, but that training can be worth it.
commitment therapy (ACT therapy) calls this ‘defusion’ because it stops
thoughts and feelings becoming completely fused with your attention or focus
and becoming your reality.
Programming (NLP) offers a number of techniques that people can learn to use to
help them to stay calm. For example, anchoring is a very effective technique.
You know how a smell or a tune can remind you of a particular place or time in
your life. Anchoring is a bit like that. It’s also a bit like the bell and
Pavlov’s dogs. A particular stimulus – that smell, tune, or bell – results in a
particular response, eg salivating! In this case, the stimulus might be rubbing
your earlobe, and the response might be you feeling very calm and in control.
Like Pavlov’s dogs, the stimulus has to be learned, but, after that, rubbing
your earlobe (or whatever stimulus you want to use) can make you feel very calm
in any situation.
technique is peripheral vision relaxation. The fovea in the eye is where most
light is focused when looking at something (eg reading) and is associated with
sympathetic nerves (associated with fight and flight) of the autonomic nervous
system. This is where most of the cones are found, the light receptors that see
colour. Outside this area are the rods, the light receptors for seeing shapes.
These are associated with parasympathetic nerves associated with rest and
digest. By using the brain to focus on the signals from these peripheral cones,
it’s possible to move the body from fight-and-flight mode to rest-and-digest
mode – and so become calmer.
technique is to use the circle of excellence. With this, you imagine there is a
circle on the floor in front of you that has all the skills and feelings you
need to perform a particular task – like staying calm when talking to
flat-earthers. You can even imagine that someone who you know is highly skilled
has put all their skills in this invisible circle. Just step into the circle
and feel what it’s like to be very calm and able to think of logical and quick
answers to criticisms etc. Then you take your circle of excellence with you an use
it whenever you need to.
techniques you might use include going for a walk in the countryside (woodland
is particularly good), progressive muscle relaxation, exercise or dancing,
listening to music, stroking your dog, and there are many others.
these will help you to keep your cool, as you go into your next meeting.