If you work in a fast-paced environment, the need to multitask and deliver work quickly can be overwhelming. What’s more, it may affect your mental health and wellbeing. Practising mindfulness at work can help to combat this.
As a Mindfulness Expert at Bupa UK, I give practical advice on using mindfulness in everyday life. Below are some easy to use mindfulness tips to try at work.
During idle moments
There are always moments at work when you have a minute or two to yourself, such as while your computer is loading or when you’ve been put on hold on the telephone. You might find you use these moments to check social media, have a snack or get a coffee. These moments are ideal for practising mindful breathing.
Use these moments first to become aware of the sensations in your body. Then narrow your attention down to your breath. Notice your breath as it goes in and out of your body. You can also count your breaths as they go in and out. Do this for at least 10 breaths. If you lose your concentration and your mind begins to wander, you can gently guide your attention back to the count of your breath.
Hint: This technique can help improve your ‘attentional functioning’ (ie concentration) which is useful if you’re struggling to focus at work.
Dealing with colleagues at work can sometimes be stressful (especially if there are differing opinions or tensions within your team). Take a few mindful moments before entering a meeting or having a discussion with a colleague, to mentally ‘check-in’ with yourself.
Do this by first focusing your attention on your body and taking note of the sensations you feel – you might notice that your shoulders are tense or you’re clenching your jaw.
Then, focus your attention on your thoughts – is your mind racing or are you dwelling on an earlier comment by a colleague?
Finally, make a note of your emotions – you may be feeling stressed or anxious. Try not to judge yourself for how you feel. Being aware of how you feel is the aim of this practice.
Hint: Being mindfully aware of your thoughts and feelings can help you to step back and reflect on, rather than react to, potentially difficult situations. It’s thought that this may also help to reduce the psychological effect these situations can have on you.
If you’re feeling stressed
Sometimes you may find that you’re unable to prevent stress at work. This stress can cause you to feel emotionally exhausted and lead to burnout. You may feel reluctant or dread going to work and may not be able to work to the best of your ability while you’re there. Stress can also lead to depression and anxiety.
Taking a mindful moment may help you identify this – you can use either of the practices above. Once you're aware of how you feel, you might realise that stress at work is an ongoing problem for you. If so, it’s important that you speak to your manager or a trusted colleague so that you can get the support you need.
Hint: If you’re stressed, you’re more likely to have a negative frame of mind. It’s thought that mindfulness can help to reduce repeated negative thoughts. It’s also thought that being a more mindful person makes you less likely to dwell on the negatives in a situation.
Why not try getting out at lunch and going for a mindful walk? Mindful walking combines the traditional mindfulness practices of awareness and breathing with the physical benefits of walking.
On your walk, start by noticing your breath. Then notice the sensations in your feet and legs as you walk. Finally, build in awareness of the natural swing of your arms into your stride.
You don’t need to take very long – a brisk walk round the block should do. If you don’t find the time during lunch, try mindfully walking to the bathroom or when you go to make a cup of tea.
Hint: Try it out with our walking mindfulness podcast.