By Kristen Metsch
Achieving mindfulness while at work starts with awareness. The subtle practice of intentionally spending a moment to check in with your current state of being. How are you feeling? Is there a deadline at work causing anxiety and frustration? Is there a co-worker affecting your emotional stability? How about home life? Have any personal issues crept into the workplace?
Mindfulness at its simplest is the moment-to-moment awareness outside and inside yourself. It took me some time to finally put this practice as one of the highest behaviors on my priority list. At first, there was the frustration of attempting to be mindful but only finding myself playing my To-Do list on repeat or cycling through a recent event that upset me at work. There wasn’t a clear understanding of the feelings before and after successful mindfulness integration in myself.
Then I figured it out — the most basic guide to understanding and successfully utilizing mindfulness is using breath.
Becoming Aware of What You Need
In the past, a typical day for me started by dragging myself out of bed 45 minutes before needing to arrive at work. As you can imagine, I was already feeling the anxiety and rushed emotions as I grabbed my work bag and headed straight for the car. I hadn’t eaten, let alone taken a sip of water and likely stopped breathing about halfway down the stairs. At that moment, I had no consideration for how I was feeling, my state of mind, or my well-being. It’s no wonder when I walked through the doors at work that I was not entirely approachable. The rest of the day was usually a blur and every evening I found myself asking if I will ever be able to stop feeling so tired all the time.
For most of us, this slowly turns into habit and we easily slip into what’s called Autopilot Living. In simple terms, your life is happening automatically rather than intentionally. We aren’t even giving ourselves a moment to catch our breath, and especially not a deep, refreshing breath. It wasn’t until I gained the awareness for what was happening in my life that I was able to start making intentional choices. This is really where you see yourself begin to create the life you desire.
Like many, I lived by my work calendar but had little regard for investing my time into planning my personal calendar. Why was that? I started to understand that it is just as important to create personal deadlines as it is to create professional deadlines. I began to set time aside to catch up or get ahead with the various To-Do list items in my personal life. This sparked so much awareness surrounding the personal tasks I’d left pending for eternity. Awareness started to evolve into the best gift I could have given myself. It has opened the door to the gift of mindfulness, time management, and goal setting.
Creating the Practice
After having achieved the awareness, the next part in the process is to integrate mindful practices into our busy lives. I do this by setting time aside each weekend to self-reflect, prepare, and organize what I want for the upcoming week. This creates my foundation. With a solid foundation in place, I am able to choose to intentionally create moments in my day where I take 5 minutes to tune in and check in. This creates the practice.
Here are some tips to help incorporate mindfulness as a practice in your day:
1. Set the foundation for your week by preparing over the weekend (food, calendar, goals, etc.)
2. Before leaving the house, reconnect to your organization’s purpose and understand the value you bring by being present & aware.
3. Set time aside during throughout the day to practice your breath and check in.
4. End your day by preparing for tomorrow. This ensures work stays at work.
A typical day has shifted now to waking up an hour before I need to arrive at work with my breakfast and lunch already prepared in my fridge. I am able to leave for work with ease and peace knowing that I have already prepared for the week. I find myself not tired at the end of my days since I am able to be present and aware, moment by moment, throughout the day.
Why It Works
The benefits I have experienced using mindfulness practices are reduced stress, improved memory, and less anxiety. The beauty of mindfulness is truly the ability to increase your coping mechanisms of moment-by-moment events that occur throughout the day at work.
We are living in a time where being pulled in multiple directions and multitasking is the norm. Without a proper foundation and proper coping skills, this is usually a good recipe for quick burnout and employee turnover. A great reference is the book Contemplative Practices in Action: Spirituality, Meditation and Health, written by Thomas G. Plante, PhD. In it, he outlines how mindfulness practices are being used to cope with vast modern stresses.
It is clear to see how incorporating mindfulness in the workplace can be an integral part of a company culture. Forbes describes General Mills observing “that among senior executives, 80 percent reported a positive change in their ability to make better decisions, while 89 percent said they became better listeners”. (http://www.forbes.com/sites/ drewhansen/2012/10/31/a-guide-tomindfulness-at-work/#500e473b6870)
I hope you find this practice helpful and aids in your success!