It’s very easy to overlook our mental health when we have a full list of tasks to do each day. But to prevent burnout and becoming overly stressed, below are 9 ways to practice mindfulness in the workplace.
Mindfulness is more than just a means of paying attention to your surroundings or attempting to be aware of what you’re doing. Mindfulness is a state of mind describing a sense of being in the moment, of being aware, and of embracing a healthier perspective.
To be mindful is to calm yourself from a reactionary state, and instead choose to be attentive. It’s to focus your time and energy on a single thing, rather than go on autopilot. And to pull yourself out of a daydream and be productive.
Mindfulness has its distinct advantages in life, especially as part of a mental exercise program to combat anxiety, irritability, and depression. Many mindfulness exercises are rooted in the ideas already established and researched through cognitive behavioral therapy, wherein patients are taught to be cognizant of how their disorder affects their thoughts and behaviors, and how they can recognize those errant thoughts and replace them.
Patients are taught to be mindful above all else and recognize when they need to step out of their head and take in the moment around them.
These lessons aren’t exclusive to people with serious mental health issues. Mindfulness can be a great protective tool for preventing burnout, reducing the long-term impact of stress, and being aware of your own mental health and your boundaries (and how your work might be affecting them).
Mindfulness in the Workplace
Research shows that mindfulness provides a number of benefits, including reduced aggression and stress, as well as improved productivity and sociability. By incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine at work, you can become more focused and improve the rate at which you get things done, and help you become open to opportunities for learning and growth – critical aspects of career-building that, when ignored, can lead to a sense of stagnation and dissatisfaction with one’s work.
One of the key factors behind the effectiveness of mindful practices at work is that it decreases mental rumination or breaks from focused cognitive activities.
It also helps boost what is normally referred to as your “working memory,” and allows for greater cognitive flexibility (the ability to adapt to situations and think on the fly), as well as much less emotional reactivity (learning to disengage from distractions and upsets, and focus on productive tasks and activities).
Yet for many, implementing mindfulness in the workplace is far easier said than done. Most people feel they don’t have time to meditate in the mornings or begin doing mindfulness exercises at their desk.
But practicing mindfulness doesn’t require a huge time commitment or drastic lifestyle overhauls. You can become more mindful in your daily life and reap those benefits in your professional life through a few simple ways.
1. Start Your Day with a Task Journal
It might seem a tad simplistic or overdone to start this list with a journal, but this is not the same as writing a self-reflecting journal or starting a diary to keep track of your mental state.
Think of this as a slightly expanded to-do list, meant to help give you the chance to start the day with a list you can work through step-by-step throughout the workday.
A task journal also lets you time yourself, and review over the weeks how you spend your day, and where you might want to improve your efficiency or swap tasks around to make the most of your time.
2. Take 5-Minute Mindfulness Breaks Regularly
A 30-minute meditative session is a utopian goal for most people with busy workdays. But a 5-minute break is easy to fit in. Even if you pride yourself on never taking breaks, the truth is that we don’t run well on fumes. There is a chance that if you never give yourself any room to breathe, you’re running your long-term productivity into the ground.
Every hour or two, take five minutes to get up from your station and be mindful. Use the opportunity to get a glass of water and focus on each sip, make a cup of coffee and focus on the process of making it, or step out into the balcony and be mindful of the scenery around you.
3. Set Reminders to Refocus Yourself
If you’re prone to daydreaming, sometimes all you need a reminder to snap out of it. You can set these reminders yourself with a simple vibrating phone alarm.
Set it to vibrate every few hours and use that as your cue to take a break or snap back to the moment if you’ve caught yourself ruminating or drifting away.
4. Grab Some Time in the Nap Room
Sometimes, repeated distractions and poor cognitive function at work is a simple sign of sleep deprivation. Instead of grabbing yet another cup of coffee, just get some more rest. This can mean improving your sleep hygiene to grab extra ZZZs at home or getting a regular power nap in at the coworking place.
5. Enjoy the Little Pleasures
Rather than rushing through the day like clockwork, stop and remind yourself to enjoy the pleasures of any given moment – whether it’s the first sip of coffee in the day, your first bite of food, the feeling you get when you complete your first task for the morning, or the satisfaction of a good stretch after an hour or more spent sitting down.
6. Quit Multitasking
7. Be Consistent
Mindfulness is not a panacea for productivity issues and stress, but it can make a major difference in your workplace – provided you are committed to implementing it on a daily basis.
Being mindful for a week or two isn’t enough to see lasting change. Be consistent, and reap your rewards.
8. There Will Always Be Slow Days
We should aim to be productive most days but cannot be productive all the time. There will always be slow days, when you’ve hit your creative and productive limits, and when you just need a break.
One or two slow days is fine, and you have to learn to cut yourself slack for that.
One or two slow weeks may be a sign that you need an extended break, or that something in your life is causing some serious issues that need to be addressed through more than mindfulness exercises.
9. Consider Seeking Help
There are certain states of mind that won’t always be improved with just a bit of mindfulness.
Crunch time at work, an abusive or hostile work environment, serious financial trouble, or a mental health condition cannot always be thought away, or tackled alone. We all need support sometimes, whether it’s friends and family, the authorities, or healthcare professionals.
Sometimes, the greatest act of mindfulness is to know when you’ve exhausted your own options, depleted your stores, and reached your boundaries. You need to know when to seek and accept help, and preserve yourself.