For many people, work and all the pressures of day-to-day life can be overwhelming. Yet no matter how we are feeling on the inside, life usually doesn’t slow down to give us a break. For those of you who work for nonprofits and schools, your job comes with high expectations, serious fundraising stress, tough tasks, and requires measurable results— often with constraints beyond your control.
Practicing mindfulness on the job (and off) is a way to manage stress in a healthy way. By focusing on the present moment mindfulness calms our bodies and minds; improves our ability to produce great work; and helps us confront challenges.
How is it possible to fit mindfulness into your already busy day?
Here are some simple ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life:
First, notice your breathing. Sense the flow of the breath, the rise and fall of your belly. Breathe in deeply through your nose for 5 or more seconds and hold the breath for a moment, then exhale. Remember to breathe deeply all the time, especially when feeling stressed. If you are feeling flooded with emotion, try to take 3 deep breaths before reacting.
Clear Your Mind
It’s amazing how much control our mind has over our emotions and how we judge ourselves and others. Recognize that thoughts are simply thoughts; and breathe deeply to center yourself. If you find a recurring thought that won’t stop circling through your head, write it down on a piece of paper a couple times and rip up the paper. Take note of the activities where you tend to zone-out (e.g., driving, listening to music, writing, exercising, etc.). Practice bringing more awareness to that activity.
Whatever you are doing, typing an email, drinking coffee, or making copies, notice what you are doing and focus on your senses. When you are eating lunch (preferably not at your desk), notice the color, texture and taste of the food. When you are walking, tune into the sensation and rhythm of the steps, instead of worrying about the next task on your list. If possible, spend time in nature every day, even if it’s a 5 minute walk around your office building.
Some people feel if they are rushing that they are being more effective; however multitasking and running around can leave you feeling scattered. Create some time (even if it’s just a few minutes) to simply be. Go for a short walk, look out the window. The best ideas come to us when we aren’t distracted.
Listening is one of the hardest things for people to do in the workplace. It’s also one of the most important. Next time you are speaking to a co-worker, or in a board meeting, breathe deeply and really listen to what people are saying. Absorb it and don’t feel the need to say something just for the sake of being a part of the conversation.
Be mindful this 2015 and start implementing some of these easy practices into your routine.
If you have any exercises of your own, share them with us in the comments!