Could this be your day: You wake up in the morning, the coffee maker is broken, the driver in front of you is going 20 below the speed limit making you late, your desk is already piled with the overdues when you get in and then your boss calls you to assign you to a job and a team that you cannot stand! You may not realise it but your anxiety level goes up, your blood pressure may rise, your throat tightens, your heart beats faster and you think you might be headed for a sick day.
The workplace—whether you are a highway worker, an office assistant, a retail clerk, a senior manager or a limo driver—is stressful. Often times there aren’t enough hours in the day to do what’s required of you. The people you work with may be TDO’s [The Difficult Ones] and your boss may be a person who just really enjoys exerting power over others. So, what do you do? You probably can’t quit. Most people need their paycheck. Instead of physically leaving the job, consider mentally approaching the workplace in a different way. Become mindful in the workplace.
What’s mindfulness? According to the The Oxford Mindfulness Centre, “Mindfulness is an aid to enhancing human potential by combining modern science with ancient wisdom.”
In reaction to the stress at the workplace, our bodies change in a negative way. Mindfulness allows us to reset our bodies aiming to a more positive, productive outcome.
But, if you are a limo driver or retail worker, it might not be prudent to start a meditation in the middle of what you are doing just to begin to relieve the stress. Mindfulness in the workplace has to be practical and workable in whatever line of work you do.
Five steps towards greater mindfulness
There are five steps you can take to become more mindful in your daily work activities:
- Knowing your triggers
- Becoming aware of your surroundings
- Listening to and changing your self-talk
- Learning to breathe
- Having a variety of tools you can use
Start by recognising what triggers you
Most people don’t know what sets them off and starts the downward stressful cycle. Something happens and you react—but what? Begin to pay attention to what gets you. When does your heart rate go up? When did your palms get clammy? When did you start to clench your teeth? Keep a journal if possible so throughout your day you can begin to note the things that trigger your negativity.
Become more aware of your surroundings and your physical state
Bring your attention back several times a day to how you are sitting, or standing. Focus on how you hold your body. Focus on the people around you and how positive, or negative they are. People move through their day largely unaware of their surroundings and their own physical state so pause several times throughout the day and just take stock of what’s happening. Once you recognise something that is painful or negative, resolve to drop it and move your attention to something more positive.
Watch your self-talk
Recognise the self-talk you give yourself as you react to things throughout the day. Once you know your triggers, and become aware of your surroundings you will probably hear the self-talk that starts up. “I hate my boss.” “This place is the worst.” “I’ll never get all of the things done that she is asking me to do.” “I wish I could win the lottery and give my notice.” The talk you engage in, inside of your own head, is often the most debilitating thing happening throughout the day. Your talk drags you down and keeps you down. Listen to what you are saying and choose to reframe. “Yes, this person I work for can be challenging but I can learn to deal with him/her.” “I am fortunate to be healthy and working and I’ll do the best job I can do each day.” “There is too much to do but I can only do one thing at a time, so let me focus on what’s in front of me.” Your self-talk doesn’t change your conditions, but it can normalise them and give you more strength to deal with them.
Next, learn to breathe
The most amazing thing about deep breathing and its ability to centre you and calm you, is that you can do it anywhere and at any time. Most people never learn to breathe properly and they take rapid breaths in the chest area. Imagine a deflated balloon in your stomach. When you breathe in, fill that balloon with healthy air, when you breathe out empty the balloon of all negativity. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. The mind can’t focus on two things at once so bring your attention to your breath and the other stresses are diminished.
Lastly, build your toolbox
There are a number of things you can do to practise becoming more mindful: Chew your food slowly and thoughtfully; Take a moment before a meal to give thanks; drive your car at the speed limit; slow your walking pace down when you catch yourself rushing; count to 10 before you respond when speaking to someone; keep a smooth stone in your pocket to rub when you begin to experience stress.
The more you practice being mindful in the things you do each day, the easier it will be to be mindful in your workplace.