Stress in the American workplace has become so commonplace that it often seems like just another aspect of having a career. However, the negative impact it can have on your productivity, personal life and wellbeing shouldn’t be overlooked.
In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 36 percent of American workers suffer from workplace stress. Lack of job satisfaction, disliked management and practices, feelings of under-appreciation, low pay, high demands, and long commutes can all contribute to job stress.
In some cases, this tension can evolve into psychological and physical problems like anxiety, depression, heart disease, and illness, to name a few.
Workplace stress doesn’t just affect your own life either. Loss of productivity and creativity, employee absences, and turnover rates all negatively affect a business’s bottom line.In fact, many large corporations collectively lose billions each year to stress-related employee issues.
That’s why many companies like Apple, Google, Yahoo and some hospitals use mindfulness training to help people manage stress.
Mindfulness is sometimes an elusive and misunderstood concept, yet it’s a very basic and powerful tool for stress relief. Although it may conjure images of meditating Zen masters, it is really something that just about anyone can practice successfully.
Mindfulness is based on the concept of consciously stepping outside of the context of everything but the present moment. It doesn’t require wiping all thoughts from the mind or reaching a place of enlightenment, just being present.
Studies how that mindfulness meditation can have profound effects on the human brain. In addition to improving emotional intelligence, productivity, creativity, morale and relieving stress, mindfulness has even been shown to generate more gray matter in the brain used for information processing.
If you’re confused as to how to start, here a few simple ways you can employ mindfulness in your career.
If you find yourself pounding away at a project or deadline, taking a break can seem counter-intuitive. But, simply placing yourself outside the context of work can relieve stress.
Take walks with the conscious goal of intentionally experiencing the literal world, outside of work. Walking mindfully means truly experiencing the sounds, sights, smells and sensations you encounter.
Focus on the feeling of the ground beneath your feet, the air on your skin, the drawing of each breath. These walking meditations can help clear the mind of anxious thoughts, improve concentration and stimulate productivity.
Exercise During Lunch
If you have the ability to exercise at work, do so. Exercises, like running or weight training, provide you with a boost of dopamine and improves your health. But, it can also be an indirect form of mindfulness meditation.
As most avid runners naturally know, you have to regulate breathing and remain aware of your surroundings, two important aspects of mindfulness. Furthermore, regular exercise can refresh your mental state, invigorate your body, and clear your mind. Just don’t over do it. And remember: stretching, warming up, and cooling down are also opportunities to practice mindfulness of body and breath.
Focus Only On The Challenges Immediately At Hand
The next time you feel overwhelmed with challenges, itineraries or multiple tasks, ask yourself a simple question. “What can I take care of right now?”
Consciously direct your efforts to the only thing that matters in the moment. Everything else is yet to come and, as such, should bear little consequence on your present actions.
Fix what you can now: devote your entire focus to that one thing, then move on to the next. Eventually, you’ll find that without the distracting internal chatter, you’ll likely improve your productivity and reduce job stress.
Practice Asking Yourself, “What Am I doing Right Now?”
By asking yourself, What am I doing right now?” you can pull yourself out of the quagmire of stress and return to the moment. It may be momentary, but with practice, you can train yourself to sustain that presence longer and longer. In doing so, you prevent the whimsical mind from stealing your attention and directing it toward stressful thoughts.
Practice A Form Of Meditation During Off Hours
This can be helpful for other areas of your life that may be causing stress or anxiety. What you do outside of work can positively affect how you feel at work. Meditation practice comes in many forms so you shouldn’t limit yourself to sitting still for an hour or regulating breathing.
Yoga, tai chi and qigong are but a few ways to practice meditation while in action. These practices allow you to be fully present in the moment as you focus on intention and motion. For some people who find it difficult to maintain stillness or prolonged postures, any of these are a great alternative.
Don’t feel compelled to put yourself in a box or conform to what works for others. The important thing is to find what works for you—what you find enjoyable and effective. With practice, you can literally change your mind, reduce job stress, and improve your wellbeing.