We live in a hectic world. The demands of our job can be overwhelming, and oftentimes overworking can lead to burnout and exhaustion. In this fast-paced era of work, how can employees cope and ease their stress?
Experts suggest a form of practice called mindfulness to ground and centre a person into the present. Unfortunately, our minds naturally wander all the time, with flights of ideas about the past and future. But mindfulness as a skill teaches us the skill of paying attention, according to Harvard University course instructor Suzanne Westbrook.
Imagine sitting in silence, focusing on your breathing and the world around you. It’s not easy because we’re all naturally fidgety. But Westbrook teaches an eight-week course focusing on mindfulness and reducing stress. She says that when we practice mindfulness, we can rest and settle our minds.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is an act of living moment-by-moment, with having a gentle and nurturing lens of our sensations, thoughts, emotions, and surrounding environment. It involves acceptance of our thoughts and emotions without judging them. When you practise mindfulness, you don’t believe that there is a correct way of thinking at the present. You don’t judge them to be good or bad. You just feel or think.
Meanwhile, mindfulness meditation is a practice of exploring. When you do it, your mind doesn’t automatically become free of thought. But when you do it, you venture into sensations, emotions, and thoughts.
The goal of mindfulness is to bring a sense of peace and tranquillity among its practitioners. It focus on awareness and acceptance of thoughts and feelings, allowing practitioners to pay attention to their inner experiences and processes, particularly the experience of the present.
Benefits of mindfulness for individuals
More than 750 people have participated in mindfulness programs since 2012, said Jeanne Mahon, director of the Centre for Wellness and Health Promotion in Harvard University.
Mindfulness can help reduce the following:
• High blood pressure/hypertension
Mindfulness can help with the following:
• Improve attention
• Lower stress levels
• Reduce harmful ruminating or ideation
• Protect against depression
• Help people cope with social isolation and rejection
• Decrease burnout
• Improve diabetes control
• Improve sleep
How to practise mindfulness at work
So if you ever find yourself highly stressed at work, we suggest practising mindfulness.
• Stop and focus on what’s happening. It’s hard to notice things in a hectic world. When you’re in the middle of an anxiety attack or when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take the time to experience your environment with all of your senses – sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch.
• Sit still and quietly. Focus on your natural breathing. Allow thoughts to come and go without judging them and return to your breathing.
• Go with the flow. Once you establish concentration when you are meditating, observe the flow of your thoughts, bodily sensations, and emotions without judging them as good or bad.
• Pay attention. Notice external sensations that make up your present experience. Do not latch onto one particular idea, sensation, or emotion, or get caught thinking about the past or the future. Watch what comes and goes in your mind and figure out which thoughts produce a feeling of happiness or suffering.
• Stay with the thought or feeling. The process of mindfulness meditation may not seem easy but over time it provides greater self-awareness and happiness as you become comfortable with what you are dealing with.
Mindfulness meditation techniques
• Basic mindfulness meditation. The step-by-step process to this is to first sit on a chair or sit cross-legged on the floor. Focus on a part of your breathing, such as your belly rising and falling. Expand your awareness to sights and sounds around you. Consider each thought and sensation without judging it as right or wrong. If your mind starts to wander or race, return your thoughts into your breathing.
• Body scan meditation. You can lie on your back with your legs extended and arms at your sides, with palms facing up. Focus your attention on each part of your body, from head to toe to toe to head. Be aware of any thoughts or emotions associated to each part of the body.
• Walking meditation. Walk slowly in a place that’s 10 to 20 feet in length. Focus on the experience of walking. Be aware of the sensations of standing and the subtle movements that keep your balance. Maintain awareness of your sensations.
When you’re feeling overwhelmed at work, you can take a break, practise mindfulness, and pay attention to your surroundings. This can help you ease your stress and improve your well-being.