As our lives get blurred Jasmine Martirossian, Ph.D., VP Marketing at TÜV SÜD Americas shares with us how she is finding some calm, with a bit of Zen in these stressful times.

It’s all about having perspective. 

With COVID-19, we are all in uncharted waters.  In fact, at no time in recent memory, or ever, for that matter, as modern communications networks did not exist previously, nor was there the extent of global mobility, has the population of the entire planet been this united in a common plight.  And we shall overcome it, especially when a proven vaccine is rolled out, but until then we have to manage … on a daily basis.

Everyone is encountering difficulties, granted, to varying degrees, yet no one is immune from the pressures of the COVID constraints.  The “how” of managing it on a daily basis confounds and frustrates many people.

Life as we know it has been upended.  Work from home has become a norm for many.  This has impact on long-term market trends, employer/employee expectations, commercial real estate, as well as residential real estate, among other things.

In many ways, change has become the only constant.  But then this has been true for a long, long time, it’s just more obvious and visible now.  And if we think deeply, working from home was the “normal” state in agrarian societies pre-Industrial Revolution (the first one).

I heard someone mention that the new elite in the world are those that have jobs that allow them to work from home.  There is truth to that, so we can all look on the bright side and practice some gratitude for that.  And then there is the fact that most people who are working from home are knowledge workers.  

How does one separate from their overall thinking and fuuuuully disconnect mentality has always puzzled me.  I love to travel, love to learn new things, can appreciate digital detox, contemplative states, and the like, understand and appreciate the concept of separating from work (in fact, any of my team members will attest that they are encouraged to go on vacation to disconnect and recharge). 

Yet in the end, the human brain acts in a way that it makes connections, identifies patterns, finds unexpected solutions, and all of that ends up helping our work outcomes.  And, yes, a rested brain is better at accomplishing these things.  At the same time, for knowledge workers, the relationship between work and life is more holistic than we wish to acknowledge or accept.  Now it would be a different story if one worked on a conveyor line in the 1930s, automatically punching in and out (though, if you ask me, even in that scenario one could innovate).

This is where perspective comes in.

Ultimately, it’s about being present, truly present in the moment and being focused on the task at hand.  It’s about having a sense of ownership of whatever it is we are doing in that moment.  The saying goes that practice makes it perfect, and, indeed, with practice one can become truly present in the moment.  Many speak of mindfulness, to me the concept of Zen has greater resonance.     

Finding Zen

My love of travel has given me much practice and taught me how to invoke a sense of calm in the most stressful of situations – be Zen about it.  In China, I was told the Chinese character for Zen consists of the symbol for a heart with a symbol for a sword hanging over it.  In effect, in Eastern philosophy, being Zen means keeping the strength of heart in the most trying of circumstances, and the only way to do it is with a state of calm.  And then there is Japan, where the entire country appears to be immersed in the practice of Zen.

Traveling requires an escalated sense of skills needed in everyday life.  Becoming a practiced traveler goes a long way to quell and quiet the mind.  Think Zen, think ability to focus, shed everything extraneous, and try dealing with … one … thing … at … a … time.  And if I, a notorious multi-tasker, can do this, so can pretty much everyone.

Being Zen means channeling your focus onto what is the priority, what truly matters, and avoiding wasting unnecessary mental energy on extraneous matters.  

Being Zen is about keeping perspective and practicing gratitude.  Being Zen, quieting yourself to be mindful of the moment, and dealing with just one thing at a time brings with it a sense of optimism, quashing the sense of hopelessness that might dominate otherwise.

Being Zen also helps you focus on things you can control.  What can you do here and now?  Go through alternatives one at a time.  You can do it, believe in yourself.  And I always have the visual of a heart with a sword over it in my mind – it helps me focus, rather than flail.  Yes, think of the heart with the sword hanging over it, and gain the strength of your heart to keep calm and carry on.  Be Zen and you will know that this too shall pass, and paths – literal and figurative – will open.

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