Mindfulness in the workplace
Mindfulness practices can help you de-stress at work
It is sometimes hard to find a good work-life balance. Sleepless nights, anxiety, and even panic attacks at times can suddenly be part of your life. I learned breathing techniques that helped me calm down and handle stress a bit better, also found Mindfulness and various other interesting self-awareness programs and developed skills to regulate my emotions, get to know myself better and find a safer, healthier place in Life.
There are times when long meetings, decision making, deadlines, telephone calls, 200 whatsApp texts, confrontation, or undesirable comments or people fill your day. Nice. This is when I try to bring to my life the techniques I have learned from the professionals.
Here is my favourite: when everyone else is having a break for coffee or tea, I just try and find a window. A window that I can open. I am a lucky person, I can see the sea from my school so the sea breeze will fill in my space as I open the window. What I do is Just Breathe. Let the air come in and out. Breathe slowly. Connect to my inner self. And slowly and nicely feel the air fill my body. My body then relaxes. My mind expands and calms down. I just stay there for a few minutes, close my eyes and listen to the surrounding sounds. Reset my mind. When everyone comes back from their coffee breaks I feel fresh, rejuvenated, ready for the second round.
How to be more mindful at work
adapted from www.mindful.org
Even one minute of consciously connecting with one of your senses can be classified as a mindful exercise. You don’t need to close your eyes. You don’t even need to be sitting down. Be creative about finding slots in the day to practice mindfulness exercises. The process helps to rebalance your nervous system, toning down the fight-or-flight response and engaging the wise part of your brain, so that you make reasoned decisions rather than automatically react to situations. Mindful exercises train your brain to be more mindful. The more mindful exercises you do, the easier your brain finds it to drop into a mindful state, thus optimizing your brain function (Benefits of Mindfulness). Mindful exercises can be as short as you wish.
Doing some things automatically, without thinking, is fine but research undertaken at Harvard University showed that 47 per cent of a person’s day can be spent lost in thoughts. Being on auto-pilot means that you’re not fully present and awake to the opportunities and choices around you. You can’t be creative, plan something new or respond appropriately if you’re operating mechanically. Remember to be mindful. When you’re going about your usual daily activities, your brain switches you into this low energy state, which is unmindful, almost dreamy. By using some form of reminder, you can be mindful again. I have an application in my mobile that sends messages every now and then. I love reading the reminders which connect me to my present life. Here and now.
When you’re consciously present at work, you’re aware of two aspects of your moment-to-moment experience—what’s going on around you and what’s going on within you. For instance, if you’re writing an email, mindfulness requires you to give that your full attention. Each time your mind wanders to other things just acknowledge the thoughts and bring your attention back to the task in hand. When multi-tasking your brain is in reality madly switching from one thing to the next, often losing data in the process. Like I always say, yes, I can multi-task, of course, I can do many things in one day! I can make doctors appointments for my kids, I can write my entries to this blog, I can get my students homework checked, I can write shopping lists for dinner, I can enjoy a drink with my husband. I do multi-task but I do it all one by one. First one then the other. Fully aware of each task. I find I finish my tasks earlier and the result is better when my mind totally focuses on this one task.
your stress response wants you to be surrounded by people who care about you when life is difficult
One of the most useful things I learnt recently was about the functionality of emotions. Emotions are not negative or positive. Fear, for instance, prevents us from getting into dangerous places. Sadness sometimes is necessary when say, you have lost someone and need the time to mourn this beloved person. Emotions are there for a reason. Stress as well can have a functionality like Health Psychologist Kelly McGonical points out in this interesting Talk. We can learn to make stress a friend instead of our worst enemy. That is short term stress not chronic stress (MSBR). A bit of stress is fine from time to time so long as we can learn how to let go of that stress. A positive approach to stress will make us healthier people, more social and it may help improve empathy and compassion. Your stress response wants you to tell someone how you feel instead of bottling it up, or to notice when some else in your life is struggling so you can support each other.
Chronic rushing through a never ending to-do list feeds anxiety and heightens stress levels. Our bodies become addicted to rushing and our minds switch into autopilot with everything of high importance and needing to get accomplished quickly.We start rushing when rushing is not necessary. Due to the epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, released in the brain during stressful periods, our brains get “hooked” on the stimulation of activity. This is particularly true for leaders who tend to get caught in the cost of time ideal, making everything time-sensitive and urgent, when in fact, only a few matters at hand take true priority. When you need to do work two or three times over because you did not do it right the first time, you begin to see the value of patience and the cost of rushing. Slow down and do it right once. We are not only being paid to do things quickly, we are being paid to do things well. And if well means patiently, then we owe it to ourselves and others to stay focused.
We tend to value doing over being. This is especially true when we have multiple tasks to complete under pressure. When we rush through tasks in order to feel busy or to impress, it’s easy to lose sense of why we are doing them in the first place and their importance to the direction of our lives.
If you feel like you’re stuck in a job you don’t enjoy, the first step is to practice gratitude. What’s going well in your job? Maybe you’re grateful for the money? Even though it may be less than you’d like, you probably prefer it to having no salary at all. You may not like your manager, but maybe you’re friends with a couple of colleagues? You hate the office politics, but they give you insight into what you don’t like in a job, so in the future you know what to look for.
Humans have a negativity bias. Essentially, this means that we’re much more likely to focus and dwell on something that’s gone wrong than on things that have gone well. Behaving in this way every day means that we ultimately adopt an excessively negative and unbalanced way of thinking. Gratitude is the antidote. Plenty of evidence suggests that actively practicing gratitude makes us feel better and has a positive impact on our creativity, health, working relationships, and quality of work. Gratitude makes being at both work and home more positive experiences.
To be mindful means to accept this present moment just as it is. And it means to accept ourselves, just as we are now. It doesn’t mean resignation or giving up. But it does mean accepting what we can’t change and acknowledging the truth of how things are at this time before trying to change anything. Personal acceptance is even more powerful. Self-acceptance is embracing all facets of ourselves—our weaknesses, shortcomings, aspects we don’t like and those we admire. When we accept ourselves, we cut down on energy-draining self-criticism. We’re then much better able to enjoy our successes and smile at our shortcomings.
Being open to new possibilities means we can improve our intelligence and talents with effort. Having a growth mindset or a fixed mindset can have profound impact on our lives as Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck puts it. A «fixed» mindset assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static givens which we can’t change in any meaningful way. A “growth» mindset, on the other hand, thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities. Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, springs a great deal of our behavior, our relationship with success and failure in both professional and personal contexts, and ultimately our capacity for happiness [Mindset: The New Psychology of Success].
Adapted from mindful, healthy mind, healthy life
I take deep breaths and enjoy the moment when I see my kids smiling in the morning, for instance, or on special days in the classroom
[You may also like to read Emotional Intelligence in the workplace]