5 Minutes a Day Can Save Your Sanity (and maybe your job and your marriage!)

So. It’s summer, and you are desperately looking forward to that blessed, long-awaited vacation. Or you are completely depressed because it is over, and it was way too short. Either way, face up to it: that vacation isn’t going to do very much to fix what’s wrong, and you know it. You are working too much and too hard, and you have been for a very long time. You don’t do a lot of the fun things you used to enjoy, and your relationships (including the really important ones) are mostly instrumental—cook the meals, pick up the kids/drycleaning/groceries, pay the bills.

You’re putting on a good act, but underneath it, you hear the proverbial wake up call. Don’t be like this guy.

Listen! And be sure you know what our wake up call really means.

Chances are you need to change your approach to life and work pretty substantially—and a two week vacation just isn’t the answer. Finding balance is the answer—but not in the way we’ve become used to thinking about it. For most people today, having enough time to dedicate to family, work, learning, community, exercise, spirituality … well, there just aren’t enough hours in the day or days in the year to get it right. Something’s always going to be getting short shrift.

So what can you do? Find balance inside. Mind, body, heart and spirit—each is a crucial part of your Self, defining your very humanity. Are you tending to your intellect, challenging what you know, seeking to learn? Are you taking care of your body, exercising, eating well, finding joy in health? Are you paying attention to the miracle of emotion, how your feelings ebb and flow, how they move you and others? Are you noticing how your feelings and moods are contagious, touching those around you for better or worse? And do you, once in a while, really think about your values, your beliefs, your noble purpose, and what you are here to do, during the years you walk this planet?

Now, I know, we’re not used to talking this way when it comes to work, jobs, leadership and effectiveness. But against the backdrop of our rapidly changing world, our stressful lives and the pressures we all feel, we need to think differently about ourselves and how to manage life and work. We need to cultivate inner balance and resonance through mindfulness.

Want to start to find a bit more balance? For one week, give five minutes a day—just five minutes—to quiet reflection. Choose a time and a place when you can be alone, uninterrupted, silent. If you are lucky, you will find a beautiful place in nature, or a peaceful corner in your home. But even if it’s just those few minutes before rising, lying quietly in bed, that’s good enough.

For five minutes, just breathe. Deeply and slowly. And as you breathe, let go of anxiety, irritation, and stress. To chase negative emotions away, begin to think about your ideal life—a life ripe with laughter, learning and love. Imagine yourself living this life. Who is there? What are you doing? Where do you live and what is your job or your work? What gives you joy? Who and what challenges you to be your very best? How are you giving to the people and the communities you belong to? How does it feel to be you, living your ideal life? Oh, and don’t let that little naysayer in your head mess up the picture. It’s your picture, and you have a right to it! Stay with the vision. Notice how you feel — for those few minutes, live in hope, optimism, and joy.

Now, will these five minutes fix everything at work, give you more time with your family or get rid of all your worries? Of course not. What it will do, however, is to give you a head start on a path to renewal. Realistically, our stressful lives aren’t going to change much. But we can change how we respond to the stress and the pressure. We can learn to find inner balance, through cultivating mindfulness. Learning to practice mindfulness helps us to attend to our whole selves, making it possible for us to maintain equilibrium and sanity in a crazy world.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.