A staggering 60% of employees in the Netherlands feel regularly or extremely stressed and 17% of employees have experienced burnout symptoms in the last year alone (as reported in a study from the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work).
Unfortunately the percentage of staff feeling stressed at work and suffering from burnout symptoms is increasing significantly each year. And this same trend can be seen not only in the Netherlands but across many countries in the world.
Mindfulness tools developed and tested through scientific studies in the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week course have been proven to help reduce stress, improve overall well-being, increase productivity, and memory.
“Mindfulness is awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally”. – Jon Kabat-Zinn
In this blog we’ll explore five different mindfulness tools that you can try out at work to help manage stressful situations and be more resilient.
(1) Plan Mindfulness Moments into Your Work Day
Planning short mindfulness moments into your work day can be a great way to take a pause from your busy schedule and re-energise.
Try planning in about three five-minute mindfulness meditation breaks at set times during your day. Perhaps when you already are having a natural break to get a cup of coffee or between meetings.
During this five-minute mindfulness break you can choose to either close your eyes or gaze softly down to a point on the floor. Stop what you’re doing and start to bring your attention towards your breath. Observe how your body feels, and what your current thoughts, feelings and emotions are in this particular moment. And then proceed with the rest of your day.
Another nice short mindful moment you could plan in is a mindful walking meditation. This can be a nice break from sitting for long periods of time and to help you observe how you’re feeling in the present moment.
One of the key principles of mindfulness is to observe how things are in the present moment without judging yourself or trying to change your experience.
So if when you take a short mindfulness break and observe you are feeling stressed try not to push that feeling away. Instead allow yourself to feel the sensations and thoughts related to this stress, remember that these feelings will pass, and see if there’s anything you can do to address these thoughts and feelings.
(2) Find a Colleague to Join You Practicing Mindfulness at Work
You might have noticed that it’s usually a lot easier to start and maintain a new habit if you have committed to do it together with someone else.
See if you can find a colleague or friend who shares your interest in becoming more mindful and resilient to stress. That way you can motivate each other to practice mindfulness techniques together.
By surrounding yourself with people that have similar interests you’ll be able to share the benefits and challenges that bringing mindfulness into your day brings.
One nice idea could be to as a team block a weekly 15 minute break in your calendar where you go to sit quietly in a meeting room or connect via an online meeting and practice a mindfulness exercise together.
Perhaps you’re lucky enough to have a co-worker that is also a mindfulness coach or teacher and could guide the session. Or you could consider organising regular mindfulness group activities or follow a guided mindfulness practice on YouTube or a free guided meditation app like Insight Timer.
(3) Follow a Guided Mindfulness Meditation Practice
If you’re new to using mindfulness as a tool to manage stress it can be hard to know what the general principles of mindfulness are and understand what to practice.
One of the reasons why the mindfulness tools from the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week program are so popular is because they are so simple to learn.
Each mindfulness exercise involves focusing on one thing—such as your breath—and doing your best to keep your attention there. However, despite the mindfulness technique being easy to understand it can still feel challenging at the beginning to remember your focus point of the exercise.
This is where it can be helpful to follow a guided mindfulness meditation practice.
You can then practice along with prompts on how to be mindfully aware while also being reminded to come back to your focus point when you get distracted by other thoughts.
The three-step breathing space meditation is particularly useful since it’s just 5 minutes long and therefore easy to fit in to a busy day.
(4) Longer Mindfulness Practices During a Break From Work
In addition to adding some short mindfulness tools into your workday it can be very helpful to also experiment with some longer mindfulness meditation exercises.
These longer mindfulness meditation techniques of 20 – 45 minutes allow you to learn in more depth the principles of mindfulness and get familiar with the different practices.
By practicing regularly, over a longer period of time, you’ll also be able to tune into daily fluctuations and make better judgements on how to organize your day to best suit your present mindset and energy level.
Becoming more aware of your feelings and thought patterns, internal dialogue and natural tendencies when reacting to positive and negative events.
Again, if you’re new to these mindfulness practices it can be helpful to start using guided recordings.
A lying body scan is the first long mindfulness meditation taught in the first week of the Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) 8-week program. This can be a useful longer practice to start learning and will also help improve your ability to be more mindful throughout your day.
(5) Integrate Mindfulness Habits in Moments of Stress
Once you have some experience of bringing mindful moments into your work day, you’ll start to find it's easier to integrate the mindfulness habits during moments of stress and high uncertainty.
This is where the benefits of mindfulness for resilience and stress reduction really come into play.
It’s one thing to create the routine and discipline to practice formal mindfulness techniques regularly, but quite another to be able to use these mindfulness techniques in moments of high stress and anxiety.
Once you’ve been able to use some of these mindfulness tools throughout your day you will find it becomes much easier to tap into these resources when you really need them.
Using These Mindfulness Tools at Work to Manage Stress
You’ll find that the most difficult part about these mindfulness moment ideas isn’t about learning a complex technique but remembering to make the time and space to actually do these short practices.
New habits are difficult to form, so make sure you set yourself up for success. Start with an achievable goal—perhaps planning three five-minute breaks during your work day.
And when its hard to find motivation to make time for mindful moments at work take a moment to remember the benefits of mindfulness meditation and why you want to make time to practice.
We spend most of our waking hours at work, and so if we’re not mindful and aware of this time we are missing out on a large portion of our lives! In addition, the majority of us face a certain level of stress during our work. This makes it imperative for our well-being and peace of mind that we have the necessary tools available.
We need to learn how to manage the stress we undergo at work in order to have more energy both inside and outside of our workplace.
A side benefit of mindfulness practices is that they also improve our ability to focus and concentrate. This can make us more efficient and successful at our jobs, and improve our work-life balance.
By learning how to better deal with stress at work, it will allow you to have more energy outside of work to focus on other things and people that are important to you. Ultimately feeling better in our personal and professional lives.
As you can see, these five tools for practicing mindfulness at work are possible to do on your own and don’t require joining mindfulness drop-in classes or corporate mindfulness program.
However, it can sometimes feel challenging to find the motivation and time to integrate these mindfulness practices into your workday alone. This is where having a mindfulness class or program at work set up for your company or organization can be really helpful to encourage you to practice mindfulness and become more resilient in your workplace.
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