If you think about it, it’s really kinda ironic that, for all of the corporate propaganda about ‘openness,’ so many of us feel more closed off – more trapped – than ever before. Incidences of claustrophobia seem to have been very much on the rise in recent years, afflicting a broad swath of white-collar types. It appears that we’ve graduated from the more rural-sounding cabin fever to the more modern and corporate Cubicle Fever. Irrespective, the feeling sucks.
They’ve issued you a cubicle, a ‘Herman Miller’esque workspace. A place for you to spend at least seven hours a day; ergonomically designed to ensure that you do what you get paid to do, while occupying the least amount of floor space possible.
And, I would add, with the very least amount of human interaction possible. Everyone chained to their computer screen, the silence pretty much only broken by the click-clack of many keyboards. So the feeling of isolation and confinement intensifies, after all, they’ve limited your peripheral vision and made it possible for people to approach from behind without warning. No wonder your internal tension mounts. Before you know it, you’ve got Cubicle Fever.
All of a sudden, and almost out of nowhere, your pulse begins to race, your heart thumps, and every breath is a struggle as the sweat trickles down your back…Soon, these nasty symptoms subside, and while you feel relief that you didn’t faint or otherwise become a spectacle, you now begin to worry all the more about what will happen the next time.
You would think, that with all the talk about open versus closed systems, the benefits of open architecture, and the like, that we would feel free, creative and more or less happy to be where we are, doing what we do best. Light and airy, as opposed to confined and restricted. After all, isn’t this the HR mantra?
>Move out of the cube! Take a walk down the hall, go to a break room, the bathroom, anywhere-just move. Physical activity is the greatest tensional outlet.
>Walk away. There is absolutely no excuse for not taking a brisk outside walk every day at lunchtime. The weather really doesn’t matter, especially since what you want is to feel better inside. Guaranteed that you’ll return feeling calmer, stronger, and much more focused than when you started. Even if you’re calm at the time, this walk can pay dividends later. If you’re truly motivated, why not give walking meditation a shot?
>Distraction. Folks who are answering phones and other types might be anchored to their desks without the opportunity to walk away. If you start to feel the onset of Cubicle Fever symptoms, then at least clean your area, re-organize files, get new supplies, etc. Do something –anything – so long as it’s physical and starts to occupy your mind.
>Make a visit. Visit a friend or co-worker in a different part of the office. Engage, talk about anything other than work. You know the drill; sports, sex, the state of the world, whatever. In this case, silence is not golden.
>Eat it. Have a snack, a drink of water, chew gum. These are all good mini-activities, because they help by substituting positive physical sensations for the claustrophobic ones. Plus, a trip to the vending machine can free your mind. So many choices!
>Beautify your work area. It’s more likely that you will have the tendency to feel trapped when you are someplace you don’t want to be. Make every effort to customize your workspace so you’ll be as comfortable as possible. Start with these positive items for your desk.
>Squash anger. It’s no secret that anger is the gateway to a lot of bad stuff. In fact, it’s often the precursor to Cubicle Fever. You might have already met anger’s siblings: boredom and nervousness. As soon as you feel any of these annoying family members breathing on your neck, tune out the agitating factor and concentrate on your breath. Learn more.
It should not be at all surprising that a very old Buddhist saying compares the human mind to a runaway horse. The difference is that we do indeed hold our own reins- we have only to use them.