Try silence to help with your mental burnout: expert

Niki Bruce
·Contributor
·7-min read
(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

Thanks to COVID-19 many of us are dealing with a lot more stress than we even realise. Even if you aren’t in lockdown like the poor folks in Melbourne, the issues of working from home or office, or having lost your job, can leave an impact on your wellbeing.

There has recently been a resurrection of an ancient Greek term to help describe how many of us might now be feeling. Acedia was coined to cover the “strange combination of listlessness, undirected anxiety, and inability to concentrate” which was experienced by reclusive monks in the Middle Ages, and now describes how modern people are feeling.

So how can we manage this strange new feeling that also fits in with what is commonly called ‘burn-out’ that many of us are now experiencing?

According to Singapore-based expert Maria Micha, maybe we should be thinking about “intermittent silence”. Micha is a clinical mental health counsellor, corporate trainer and hypnotherapist, and uses the concept of intermittent silence to help people cope with issues like burn-out in the workplace, and now, from working at home.

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(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

What is intermittent silence?

“Intermittent silence is the act of shifting our attention from the chatter in our brain - [for example] thinking of obligations, problems etc. - to bring ourselves to a state of inner peace and tranquillity by disconnecting ourselves from everything around us and reconnecting with our inner selves,” explains Micha.

Micha says that you can achieve this “state of inner peace and tranquillity” through various ways, including meditation and hypnotherapy, or with silence.

“... Closing your eyes for 10-15 minutes and actively listening to the sounds of nature [like the] sounds of the wind, leaves on the trees, water flowing ... is the process of quieting our minds,” says Micha.

“This doesn’t mean that there will be no thoughts when I’m engaging in intermittent silence, but I’m watching my thoughts pass by, similar to watching a train departing a station.

Through the process of shifting our attention away from all the stressors, to-do lists, and our life laments, we can get in contact with our higher selves, our subconscious mind.”

According to Micha, we all have a part of our subconscious mind that wants to be calm, and when we “quieten our cognitive minds”, that part is revealed.

“In that moment, the ‘thing’ we wanted or were upset about is no longer necessary as we feel that we have it already as we have achieved inner peace and happiness. Our attention shifts to what we already have in the present and not what we want to accomplish in the future,” she explains.

For thousands of people, meditation is a daily activity, and practitioners of traditional religions have also used meditation to create a sense of mental wellbeing, as well as peace and calmness.

One of the core practices of meditation is to be silent, after all.

(PHOTO: Maria Micha)
Maria Micha is a Singapore-based clinical mental health counsellor. (PHOTO: Maria Micha)

Silence at Work

Trying to meditate in a busy workplace or home might not be all that easy. Micha says that you can try suggesting a workshop or webinar to introduce the idea to your company.

“I work with organisations to conduct such webinars where apart from explaining the process, I carry out a 10-15 minute intermittent silence session during the webinar itself. This allows them to learn how to disengage their brains from everything that upsets them and enter an altered state of consciousness. They are then able to recreate the experience so they can bring themselves to that state regularly as a practice of wellbeing,” says Micha.

Micha suggests that using the intermittent silence practice can be incredibly helpful when you are upset. If you are dealing with an emotional issue at work, or have a fight with your boss, a 10-minute break of silence can help you to calm down, and look at the problem more productively.

“As we shift our attention from something painful, and that seems impossible to what is possible, we will likely find a solution, one that we were unable to see before. This is because all we could focus on the feelings of stress, anger, disappointment and fear,” Micha explains.

(PHOTO: Getty Images)
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

How to practice intermittent silence

The ideal place to try intermittent silence is away from people and preferably out in nature somewhere, but that’s not always possible, mainly if you are at work.

Micha suggests that you use recorded nature sounds - you can easily find these for free online - or gentle music that has been designed for meditation.

You will know the practice is working if you become aware that you have moved away from the things that have been upsetting you, and that you have reached some decision or answer to your problems, says Micha.

“An added benefit of quieting our minds is that we start introspecting. We achieve calmness when we direct our attention internally. This will release our natural endorphins, and in that space, you can bring all the information we have together and remove difficult emotions such as anger, disappointment, irritation and even hatred. We cannot introspect and find our inner peace when we are focused on negative emotions.”

To put yourself in a better frame of mind for intermittent silence to work, Micha suggests setting up a space that you use only for this practice. Add items that make you feel calm like candles, a pillow, or crystals. You could also add an aromatherapy diffuser for a relaxing scent.

Once you feel comfortable, you should be more able to get to the calm stage of internal listening you need. However, Micha does say that you also need to have the “intention to calm down”, saying this is crucial for it to work.

“This will help to focus your mind and let your mind know that you are the master, and are in control when your mind starts to wander. Let the thoughts and stressors pass by like watching a train pass by.

“As you visualise these thoughts go by, you will find that your mind and body are slowly relaxing. The more you allow your body to calm down in the space of silence, the more you are creating a stable state of inner peace, and the more you practice, the faster you can enter a state of inner peace.”

A recent study showed that “78% of Singaporeans feel that they can never switch off work and work outside their normal hours while working from home”, but we all know that most of us can’t switch off even if we are working in an office. So, why not give intermittent silence a try, after all, it can’t hurt.

For more information about Maria Micha, go to mariamicha.com.sg.

SINGAPORE

For information about the Covid19 outbreak in Singapore go to https://www.gov.sg/features/covid-19.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact SOS on 1800 221 4444 (24hrs). If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact Emergency Helpline (IMH) on 6389 2222 (24hrs). For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, go to www.healthhub.sg/findhelp_servicesformentalhealthsupport.

MALAYSIA

For information about the Covid19 outbreak in Malaysia go to http://www.moh.gov.my/index.php/pages/view/2019-ncov-wuhan.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact Lifeline on (+603) 4265 7995 (24hrs). If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact the Malaysian Mental Health Association on (+603) 7782 5499. For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, contact the Befrienders on (+603) 79568144 or (+603) 7956 8145, or go to www.befrienders.org.my.

PHILIPPINES

For information about the Covid19 outbreak in the Philippines go to https://www.doh.gov.ph/2019-nCoV.

If you are struggling with thoughts or feelings about suicide, contact Lifeline on (02) 8969191 or 0917 854 9191. If you have concerns about mental health issues, contact the National Center for Mental Health (NCMH) Crisis Hotline on 0917 899 8727 (USAP) and 989 8727 (USAP). For more information and help dealing with mental health issues, go to the National Center for Mental Health at ncmh.gov.ph.