3 Ways to Be More Mindful at WorkNone By Jessica Cassity
Your job may be fast-paced, stressful, and full of potential landmines, from choosing the right seat in a meeting to knowing where to find the right data in a pinch, not to mention staying on good terms with all of your coworkers. That’s exactly why practicing mindfulness during the day can work in your favor, says New York-based clinical psychologist Alexis Conason, Psy.D.
“The foundation of mindfulness is an actual meditation practice,” say Conason. “But it doesn’t have to be about sitting on a cushion in front of a shrine. It can be as simple as sitting at your desk in silence for a few minutes.”
Mini meditation breaks are brief but worthwhile interruptions to the workday. When you take a few minutes to focus on yourself, you’ll be able to work better because you’re in a more focused and calm state.
“Often at work, we get so busy that we lose track of ourselves,” says Conason. You’re still feeling things in your brain and body—you just aren’t consciously processing or addressing them. But these feelings are still creeping into your day, often in ways you don’t really want.
“When you check in and pause, that’s an opportunity to ask yourself: What signals is my body giving me? Is there anything going on in my mind?” says Conason. “Be sure to check in below neck and above neck, including the physical sensations in body. Very often, the emotional state we are experiencing can also be felt physically as well.”
Let’s say you get an email first thing in the morning that makes you angry. If you keep rushing through the day, that anger might stay with you and influence your actions in ways you don’t want. You might snap at a colleague or grab a big handful of candy, all because that email started off your day on an angry note. By pausing and noticing the anger, you give yourself a chance to let it go, or at least become mindful about its influence on your thoughts and actions.
The same goes for deadline day, when you’re working through lunch in an effort to get things done. If you pause for a moment, notice you’re hungry, then take a 15-minute snack break, you’ll come back with extra brain energy and one less distraction.
“Our body is giving us signals all the time, but we’re often disconnected, which means we miss a lot of information,” says Conason. “This can lead to us acting in ways we don’t always understand. Our feelings are influencing our actions, but we’re not tuned in to see.”
Things like shoulder tension and shortness of breath are clues about how you’re feeling and what you need. When you take a few minutes to sit still and check in with yourself—doing a body scan while seeing what thoughts are nagging at you—you have the opportunity to get yourself back to a more grounded place.
“When you take a mindful moment—when you pause while at work—you have the opportunity to connect with yourself and see if there's anything going on in body or mind that is calling your attention and needs to be taken care of,” says Conason.
You can take these mindfulness breaks at regular intervals—such as on the hour or at mealtimes. Doing so can help you make it through your day with a bit more grace and ease.
Of course, some of the best times to pause and meditate are when your brain and body start to work on autopilot, such as when you’re extra-stressed or anxious. Here, Conason shares how to best manage stress during three tense workplace moments.
You Just Got a Annoying Email
“As soon as you can put some space between yourself and that situation, you’re being mindful,” says Conason. “Often you’re typing a response before you even realize you’re angry. As soon as you’re able to reflect and become aware of your anger, you can make choices about how to act versus react. You may still send same email, but you’ll be in the driver’s seat. The idea is to make a conscious choice instead of an impulsive reaction. It needn’t take long. Give yourself 30 to 90 seconds to sit with your feelings, then make a choice about how you want to go forward.”
You’re About to Give a Huge Presentation
“There’s a lot of power in taking a few breaths,” says Conason. “Doing so will give you the space to recognize what’s going on. Often anxiety is about worries about the future. You’re feeling nervous because of what could happen—not about what’s happening in the present moment. Connecting to your breath will anchor you to the present. You’ll be able to see what is actually happening right then—that you’re standing in a room, holding your presentation. When you stop the spiral of fears about the future, you can slow down. If your body has been taking off without you—your heart is racing and you’re sweating—taking a few slow breaths can calm your body and your brain.”
You Have an Assignment Due in 30 Minutes
“When you can’t focus, check in with yourself and be present,” says Conason. “When you’re under a deadline, you may be tempted to stop taking care of yourself, but that can leave you depleted. You can go down the rabbit hole, losing connection with yourself and losing focus as well. When you can take time for yourself, even in the face of a deadline—to eat, take a walk, stretch, or do whatever else you need to do—it can help you complete your task. It’s hard to step away, but it’s really powerful because you come back with a new perspective.”
Jessica Cassity writes about health, fitness, and happiness for publications including Self, Shape, Health, Women's Health, and Family Circle magazines. Her first book, Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You was published in 2011.
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