Stress is a daily occurrence for lots of folks. And work-related stress is near the top of that list.
Chronic workplace stress can lead to work-related burnout when the stress isn’t managed properly, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Practicing mindfulness at work is one way to combat stress, improve your mental health, and avoid burning out.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is one of those words that a lot of people have heard, but they might not be sure what it means. To sum it up, mindfulness is stopping to observe the moment that you’re in so that you can appreciate all the little things in your life.
Far too many people are focused on completing one task and moving on to the next task, especially at work. No one’s saying checking items off the “To-Do” list doesn’t have its place. But your mind should be able to self-regulate attention so that your daily routine isn’t all-consuming.
Workplace Mindfulness is Easy to Forget
Mindfulness quite often goes right out the window as soon as you walk through the door at work. Phone calls, urgent emails, meetings that run long, project deadlines, and multi-tasking fill your day as you move from task to task. You even work through lunch so that you leave early to see your daughter’s softball game after school.
With your focus squarely on work, stress, and pressure build. And mindfulness is a distant memory.
To determine whether practicing mindfulness can be your new stressbuster, you need first to know if you’re suffering from work-related stress or simply having a bad day, or even a bad week.
The WHO defines work stress as the response elicited from workers when their work demands and pressures exceed their knowledge and abilities. Thus, their coping abilities are diminished.
Symptoms of work stress can be physical, psychological, and behavioral, according to the Department of Health & Human Services of Victoria, Australia. Some of them are as follows:
- Trouble sleeping
- Gastrointestinal issues
- Feeling overwhelmed or an inability to cope
- A slip in work performance
- Mood swings
Work-related stress can be brought on by working long hours, a heavy workload, job insecurity, and over-supervision, to name a handful.
Left untreated, long term stress can lead to emotional exhaustion and eventual burnout at work.
The WHO now classifies workplace burnout as an occupational phenomenon in the International Classification of Disease. There are a few notable signs of burnout including:
- Energy depletion or feelings of exhaustion
- Negative or cynical feelings towards one’s job
- Reduction in professional efficacy
If you feel as though work stress is overwhelming you, and that you’ve possibly started down a path of experiencing burnout, there are methods you can utilize to help return you to a state of mindfulness.
1. Breathing Exercises
Deep breathing is a great way to reduce stress in the body because breathing sends messages to the brain to calm down and relax, notes the University of Michigan. And breathing can be done anytime, anywhere. Including an office setting.
Harvard Medical School recommends practicing breath focus. From a quiet, comfortable spot, take a normal breath followed by a deep breath. Finish by breathing out slowly through your mouth.
Meditating is one way to focus on the present while hitting your mind’s reset button. And there are multiple ways to meditate while at work.
Download a free app to your phone that allows you to follow a guided meditation. Try repeating a silent mantra – something as simple as the word “relax” – and repeat it over and over.
During lunch, take your time eating. Focus on each bite and being fully present – savoring the taste as you go – instead of racing through your meal.
3. Get Up and Move
Instead of mindlessly scrolling online during your lunch break, take a walk instead. Exercise provides plenty of mental benefits, including reducing stress and improving your stress-coping abilities, according to the Association for Applied Sport Psychology (AASP).
A lunchtime walk is also a great way to recharge for the rest of your workday.
4. Cease Multi-Tasking
One of the allures of multi-tasking is the perception that you’re maximizing your work time. But that isn’t necessarily the case. Research shows that multitasking leads to a disruption of focus, prevents you from getting into a productive flow, can lead to more mistakes, and is less productive since it can take longer to perform simple tasks.
5. Practice Mindfulness Exercises
Practicing a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program allows an individual to improve their ability to stay present in the moment while improving focus. It also helps to improve sleep quality while decreasing preoccupation with the past and the future.
6. Take a Break
Be sure to make time for yourself each day, even if it’s just 15 minutes. Unplug and recharge with a good book, try keeping a journal, or simply meditate.
7. Focus on Work/Life Balance
There’s an adage that you should work to live, not live to work. A key to that is paying attention to your work/life balance.
Start by having an active social life. Make plans with friends and family so that you maintain strong relationships in your life. Enjoy your hobbies too, be it recreational sports, outdoor activities, or reading books.
There will always be days when your job is going to be quite stressful. Practicing mindfulness at work is one way to help alleviate that stress, manage your mental and physical well-being, and avoid burning out.
Looking for ways your workplace can incorporate mindfulness? Learn more about Zeel’s Corporate Wellness Program, which includes personalized mindfulness sessions the whole team can benefit from.
Steven Auger is a freelance writer whose specialty niches include health and fitness, family and parenting, and dental health and oral care. Auger’s work has appeared on sites such as Planet Fitness, Care.com, Family Education, Colgate and Tom's of Maine. A born and bred New Englander, Auger lives in Massachusetts with his wife, three young sons, and their dog. In his spare time he enjoys staying physically fit, traveling, and cooking. Follow him on Twitter @Corner_Cube