Mindfulness at Work

Stress Reduction Gets The Job Done

We hear a lot of talk about mindfulness. And sure, I want to be enlightened as much as the next person, but what do we mean when we talk about mindfulness and how can it work for us? More specifically, how can mindfulness help us to work better?

So, it turns out, New Yorkers are seriously stressed out people. No surprise there, right? We get so used to this constant stress, that we may not realize how detrimental it is to our health and productivity.

A recent study by the Gallop Organization found that employees who report higher stress show 37% higher absenteeism, 60% more errors, and an 18% decrease in productivity. So, is all that stress really worth it?

The American Psychological Association reports that 1/3 of New Yorkers plan on leaving their job in the next year due to work stress.

So, what do we do? Mindfulness. No, really. It works. Some very curious, very intelligent researchers are studying the effects of mindfulness in the workplace. A recent article ,published in in the journal, Stress and Health writes that, “mindfulness relates directly and negatively to work stress and perceptions of emotional demands as well as buffering the relation of emotional demands on psychological stress.”

Mindfulness doesn’t eliminate stress. Mindfulness decouples job difficulties and your reaction to those stressors.

A new comprehensive analysis of mindfulness research, co-directed by Case Western Reserve University reports that mindfulness improves attention, cognition, stress and physiology.

You have a meeting at noon. Your assistant is behind on his workload. Your boss is behind on her projects. The train was delayed and you’re late for work. All of this is out of your control, but all the responsibility will still fall on your shoulders. Mindfulness allows you to be aware of your physiological reactions and to respond rather than react.

Mindfulness reduces your perception of job demands by teaching you to “squeeze out” competing stimuli to better focus on the task at hand. Mindfulness creates the perception of greater autonomy at work. Mindfulness = Empowerment.

Okay, mindfulness is pretty great. How do I get some? My first choice is yoga, which may be obvious being that I am a yoga instructor. But really, yoga is essentially a gateway to mindfulness.

While simply deciding to be mindful sounds great, it just isn’t that easy. Think of yoga as a cheat sheet for mindfulness. Just ten minutes of practice allows you to focus on your breath, your movement, and teaches you to let thoughts both come and go. Mindfulness is not about blocking out negative emotions.

Mindfulness is about learning to function with background noise.

Not quite ready to break into downward dog in the office? Here are a few quick ways to slip mindfulness into your day.

Try this one: Sit on the edge of your chair with your weight in the front of your feet and your spine long. Bring your attention to your breath and the physical sensations of breathing. Once you can linger on your breath, expand your awareness to the sensory information around you. What sounds do you hear? What scents do you smell? Notice your emotional reactions without judging or holding onto your reactions.

Here’s another one: Step outside your office into the fresh air. Deepen your breathing and focus on how the air feels against your skin. Simply removing yourself from your office environment and focusing your attention on physical sensations will help rest and refocus your mind.

One more: Listen to a guided breathing exercise. Fitbit offers a new on-device breathing exercise called relax. If you use tech to simplify your life, this is probably for you. Breathe is available on the Fitbit Charge 2

If you aren’t into yoga and you aren’t into technology and you just don’t have time to step out of the office, I recommend the simple breathing exercise my grandmother taught me when I was younger. Breathe in and out for 8 counts. As you exhale breathe out the bad and when you inhale, breathe in the good.

We can’t control much in life, but that doesn’t mean that we can’t create a sense of autonomy and awareness to help us achieve greater calm in our daily lives.

Sometimes the fastest way to get things done is to slow down.

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