What Messes With Your Zen?

By Marianne Clyde

When I ask this question, I get a beautifully diverse garden of answers.

  • When I’m having a bad hair day
  • When the lady in the next cubicle pops her gum
  • When I see a certain politician on TV
  • When I hear a certain person’s voice
  • When my boss is breathing down my neck
  • When my employees bicker like children
  • When I have to take all the responsibility in taking care of a sick relative
  • When someone accuses me of something I didn’t do
  • When my doctor doesn’t listen to me
  • When my employer says one thing but really expects another
  • Getting passed over for a promotion that I deserve
  • Incompetence
  • Self righteousness
  • Gossip
  • Pettiness
  • Traffic

What would you add to the list? It can easily go on and on.

Wouldn’t it be great if nothing could ever mess with your zen? When people respond to this question, the assumed definition of “zen” is the more popular, slang meaning indicating a peaceful state of mind. Unless you look deeper, and learn good grounding techniques, almost anything could potentially knock you off balance.

Rafael Espericueta, a professor at Bakersfield College describes it more fully by saying that “Zen brings us face to face with our true original nature, undefiled by cultural conditioning and painful neurotic tendencies.”   When we come face to face with our true nature, connected to “all that is,” nothing can throw us off balance.  This is the state in which all the things listed above, and all of life’s irritations, large and small, become nothing more than a mosquito circling your ear. You learn to just brush it away.

The every day stressors at home and at work are normal, ever-present and varied in intensity, and they are, most likely, not going away any time soon. So you have a choice.  You can continue to allow external stressors to irritate, frighten, and anger you, or you can learn to refocus, reprogramming your brain to tap into the power within your true nature.

The truth is, when you allow stress to dominate your experience, you become less effective at work because your brain is not fully engaged. The amygdala is over active, leaving the parts of the brain that aid in decision-making and executive function weaker. But you can change this.

Dr. Lantie Jorandby, Board Certified Psychiatrist and Addiction Specialist, Amen Clinics, D.C., explains, “Your body reacts to every thought you have and if you are under stress, you can develop physical symptoms, such as a racing heart, high blood pressure, shortness of breath and sweaty hands. Stress causes the hormone cortisol to release in the body, which causes these symptoms and help with getting you out of a bad or threatening situation. However, if there is chronic stress, the cortisol hormone is constantly released and can actually cause harm to the body and the brain. Chronic stress on the brain can contribute to moodiness, irritability and even impulsive actions or reactions.”

Choosing different thought patterns and focal points can create better mood, as well as more thoughtful, effective responses, causing better productivity at work and at home, as well as contribute to a more healthy life overall.

A couple of practices to fit into your life that help re-train your brain, create better health and more effective results are meditation and gratitude.  While studies show marked improvement in the brain with a regular meditation practice of an average of 27 minutes a day over the course of 8 weeks, it’s thought that even small amounts, like 10 minutes, also have beneficial effects.

Gratitude has also been shown to improve mood and make lasting changes in the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, memory, and rapid learning. These things alone can make you more productive.

When you add skills that include being respectful, less judgmental and more forgiving, with coping mechanisms such as the ability to take a deep breath and detach from the drama-du-jour, you enhance your relationships and your ability to cooperate more effectively.

All these practices will reduce your stress, improve your health and enhance your productivity when practiced on a regular basis.


Marianne Clyde is an expert in Mental Health in the workplace. Speaking to businesses and associations about empowerment, team building and relationship networking, she is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, in practice for over 27 years, energizing speaker and dauntless world traveller. She lived in Japan for over 8 years and has spent time in at least 20 developing countries, teaching about recovery from trauma, personal empowerment and interpersonal relationships.

She has met with child soldiers, amputees and rebel army leaders in Sierra Leone, visited with victims of rape as a weapon of war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, taught doctoral students in Afghanistan about the effects of stress on mental health and spoken to large gatherings in Pakistan after visiting with earthquake victims in the Northwest Frontier. After partnering with the former Ambassador from Malawi to Japan, to establish village maize gardens and other projects, the Ambassador had this to say, “Marianne is an excellent trauma counselor, networker, change agent and revolutionary. Through her initiatives, the poor children and women of Malawi have realized new lives. Child mortality has been mitigated by the provision of clean borehole water. Hospitals are no longer overcrowded by children who were admitted due to hookworms. School going rates have doubled as no child is soaked while at school. In return Malawian women call Marianne ANAPHIRI meaning a woman from the great clan.”

She has written and published numerous articles, appeared on radio and television worldwide, commenting on topics ranging from gun violence to having a happy marriage. Host and producer of her own TV shows, she has also hosted a call in radio show and has produced Moments of Mindfulness Meditation CD.

After launching 2 best-selling books, Peaceful Parenting: 10 Essential Principles and Un-Leashed: Practical Steps to Get Your Life Unstuck, she has now released her most powerful book to date, Zentivity™: How to Eliminate Chaos, Stress and Discontent in Your Workplace. As chaos, reactivity and polarization reign, whether your workplace is in politics, business or home, she recognizes and advocates for mental health in the workplace. She encourages readers to establish a strong internal locus of control, so as not to get knocked off balance by the winds of opinion, changes in the economy or upheaval in politics. Only then, she asserts, can you truly make the changes that need to be made. Only then, can you even begin to be the leader you are called to be.

Marianne is the founder of the Marianne Clyde Center for Holistic Psychotherapy, in Warrenton, VA, winner of the 2017 Best of Warrenton award, and also the founder of Be the Change Foundation empowering and equipping women in need to build successful home-based businesses.

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What Messes With Your Zen? — 3 Comments

  1. She never related this to any religion. Just think of it as common sense human style. What is good for me in this situation….not who am I worshipping with this stress-relief practice.

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