Meditation —Tips To Reduce Stress At Work
Workplace-related stress is on the rise in the United States. A recent Gallup Poll found that the number of employees reporting workplace stress increased by 5% between 2019 and 2020 alone. The Covid-19 pandemic is one of the main drivers for this recent surge. While some businesses shut down and laid off their workforce, others continued to operate with reduced staff. This forced many employees to work longer hours to keep up with demand.
One of the most effective ways to deal with work-related stress is meditation. This simple exercise can have a dramatic impact on your mental wellbeing, even if you only meditate for a few minutes a day. This holistic approach to improving mental health is easy for anyone to learn as well.
While meditation can take a lifetime to master, the basics of the practice are fairly straightforward. If you’re among the many Americans experiencing stress at work and are looking for a solution, meditation may be the answer. Read on to learn more about the benefits of meditation, why it works, and how it can reduce your stress on the job.
What Is Meditation?
In short, meditation is all about training the mind to become more aware of your thoughts. You can often do this by sitting silently with your eyes closed in a comfortable, peaceful environment. There are several types of meditation, and each uses different approaches to improve mental health. If you have employees who feel burnt out at work and you’re looking for a proven way to help them relieve stress, meditation can be your answer.
There are many forms of meditation in diverse cultures all around the world. The practice is pivotal in spiritual belief systems like Sufism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Judaism. While some meditation techniques aim to bring individuals closer to God, others seek to heighten self-awareness.
Today, meditation is widely appreciated for its ability to regulate thoughts and emotions.
Advantages of Practicing Meditation Before, During, or After Work
For a growing number of individuals in the United States, work-related stress remains a significant problem. In a 2021 survey conducted by the APA, 71% of respondents reported experiencing stress during work hours. Luckily, meditation is a simple and proven technique that can provide long-lasting stress relief. Here are some of the main advantages of meditating every day.
Improves Mental Clarity
The human mind processes an enormous amount of data every day. With so much information coming in, it’s almost too easy to get distracted, overwhelmed, or simply exhausted from all the details. Meditation helps train the brain to keep all this noise under control. As fewer worries and responsibilities compete for your attention, you’ll enjoy improved focus in the workplace.
Studies show a strong link between meditation and general mood. In one 2016 report published in the National Library of Medicine, over 86% percent of respondents said meditation improved their emotional wellbeing. Practicing meditation for only a few minutes every day can have a profound impact on your mental health.
A cluttered mind creates distractions. But a calm, organized mind translates to more efficient thought processes. In turn, employees can improve their performance in the workplace by meditating regularly.
Studies show meditation can treat social anxiety as effectively as cognitive behavioral therapy, a common anxiety treatment. Meditation helps people recognize and separate from intrusive negative thoughts that can trigger anxious feelings. As you gain more meditation experience, you can even learn to overcome these emotions.
There’s a growing body of evidence that suggests meditation can improve creativity. In the workplace, this translates to better problem-solving skills and more productive brainstorming. You may also discover new ways to overcome obstacles.
Types of Meditation Perfect for the Office
Today, there are over a dozen distinct forms of meditation that people practice every day. While some techniques are more restricted, private experiences, there are several types of meditation that work well in any environment. Here are 3 forms of meditation that are ideal for stress relief in the workplace.
Although it’s rooted in Hinduism, transcendental meditation today is a popular practice among both religious and non-religious people. This form of meditation involves sitting still for 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day.
During this time, you mentally repeat a mantra to clear out all other thought processes. Transcendental meditation has gotten a lot of attention in the last few years since celebrities like Oprah and David Lynch have started promoting its benefits.
Mindful Breathing Meditation
This form of meditation has you focus on your breathing. This single point of focus works like reciting a mental mantra, helping the meditator let go of negative thoughts or emotions. In many ways, mindful breathing meditation is very similar to the box breathing technique that Navy SEALs practice to reduce their stress levels in difficult situations.
Body Scan Meditation
With this type of meditation technique, practitioners focus on the sensations of their body. While sitting in a comfortable position, focus your mind on your feet, taking note of any discomfort you feel. Gradually shift your focus up through each part of your body until you reach your head. This meditation practice can help reduce stress, improve self-awareness, and promote mental focus.
Loving Kindness Meditation
Conflicts with supervisors or coworkers are a common source of stress for many workers. To help relieve this tension, loving kindness meditation is a technique worth exploring. This meditation practice starts with cultivating inner peace and projecting that feeling to others. In other words, loving kindness meditation can help you replace any negative emotions with compassionate thoughts.
Yoga meditation emphasizes using specific poses and breathing exercises to reduce stress. There are many types of yoga meditation, since the practice follows traditions that are thousands of years old.
The common thread across different branches of yoga meditation is the existence of chakras. The ancient Vedic texts assert that these chakras work as energy channels in the human body. Through the practice of yoga meditation, individuals can bring their chakras back into alignment. Aside from the mental and emotional benefits of yoga meditation, its various movements can work to improve blood flow in the body.
How to Get Started with Meditation
Meditating is a simple activity to learn and requires very little to no formal training. If you’re new to meditation and aren’t sure what to do, it’s a good idea to start with the fundamentals. You can use these five steps to meditate and reduce work stress.
1. Find a Relaxing Setting
First, look for a peaceful place where you can meditate for 10 to 15 minutes. If you’re at work, this location could be an empty conference room or your own office. You can also find a quiet, natural space near your workplace to visit during lunch or periodic breaks. Ideally, your meditation space should be a tranquil area with limited external distractions.
2. Set a Timer
Before meditating, consider setting a timer on your phone. Doing this will ensure you don’t lose track of time or underestimate the duration of your sessions. If you’re just starting, stick to meditating for five to 10 minutes at a time. As you become more comfortable with the experience, you can start increasing the length and frequency of your meditation sessions.
3. Get Comfortable
Assume a comfortable position in the place you found for meditating. If you’re sitting on the ground, many people will cross their legs in a half-lotus or full lotus position. You can also meditate by sitting upright in a chair.
Regardless of the way you do it, your back should stay straight while your body feels relaxed. Any discomfort will only become a distraction during meditation, so take some time to find a posture that works best for you.
4. Close your Eyes and Examine your Thoughts
Once you’re settled in, close your eyes and draw your focus inward. Try to become consciously aware of your thoughts as they arise without effort, attachment, or resistance. In Buddhist traditions, the main goal of meditation is to control the “ monkey mind,” which tends to rapidly jump from one idea to another. With time, meditation will calm the thoughts that contribute to stress, anxiety, and work-related burnout.
5. Concentrate on a Central Focal Point
Focusing on a silent mantra or on your breathing is a great way to relax mental processes. You can also meditate by focusing your eyes on a stationary object in the room. If you prefer to keep your eyes closed, consider drawing your attention to a single image in your mind’s eye.
Whichever way you find it, the goal is to use the focal point to clear out any unnecessary or disruptive thoughts that are causing personal stress.
6. Experience the Moment
Most forms of meditation work by making people stay in the present moment. This means putting aside any thoughts about the past or the future. Remember, meditation is a time to bring things into perspective, not make matters more complex. Avoid dwelling on how things could be or should have been and instead focus on returning your mind to where you are now.
Advice for Reducing Work Stress Through Meditation
When people think of meditation, they often imagine sitting in the middle of the woods next to a tranquil stream. But meditation isn’t a practice that people only do outdoors somewhere in isolation. People can learn to meditate almost anywhere, even in a fast-paced environment like a modern workplace.
Here are some helpful tips for using meditation to ease work-related stress.
Commit to Meditating First Thing Each Morning
The rising sun and chirping birds make the morning a great time to meditate. Consider starting each day with a 10 to 15-minute meditation while you’re in bed. Doing this will help center your mind for all the busy work to come. By making a point to meditate before heading to work, you can start each day with a fresh slate.
Try to keep a regular meditation schedule. While it’s easy to get sidetracked and put off meditating, staying consistent is vital for long-term stress relief. If you happen to skip meditating during the day, try to make up for it after work or right before bed. With enough discipline and practice, setting time aside to meditate each day will become second nature.
Introduce Meditation to Colleagues
Talk about meditation with coworkers to discuss their thoughts and experiences. It’s likely that several of your colleagues will share your interest in reducing stress at work through meditation. You may even wish to organize a class or seminar that explores the benefits of meditation in the workplace.
Learn About Walking Meditation
Not all forms of meditation involve sitting still. Walking meditation is a Buddhist concept that encourages people to practice mindfulness while in motion. Breathing is often synchronized with each step while maintaining a steady posture. This type of meditation is a good way to get exercise while improving mental awareness.
Make Your Office More Conducive to Meditation
Add a few decorative touches to your office to create a warmer atmosphere. You could buy a small water fountain to introduce natural sounds to your workspace or rearrange a few items to create more open space. If you like sitting on the floor to meditate, consider buying a cushion to use at work.
When the stress of work starts to affect your mental wellbeing, it may be time to look into how meditation can help. Just one brief session a day can positively change how you think, feel, and react on the job.
When you start, it may be difficult to maintain for more than a few minutes. Remember that you don’t need to force away distracting thoughts — if you acknowledge them, they will subside naturally. As you meditate more, you will be able to meditate for much longer and get much more value out of your sessions.
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