Burnout isn’t a buzzword.
An American Psychological Association study suggests 79% of people experience workplace stress, and three out of five say it negatively impacts their work. Stress is a leading cause of decreased energy levels, motivation, and physical fatigue, which are telltale signs of burnout. And burnout can happen to anyone, even people who feel passionate about their work.
Given high professional stress levels, we must care for our minds, bodies, and souls. While some of us like to work with a therapist, some attend yoga classes. And all of us can benefit from grounding ourselves through mindfulness.
Research implies that mindfulness boosts positive feelings and reduces pain. It shifts our perspective and makes confronting the day’s stressors easier. Think of it as the difference between “being mindful” and “having a mind full.” While the former indicates self-awareness and sounds comforting, the latter highlights an information overload and screams stress.
Here’s all you need to know about how to practice mindfulness, stay in the moment, and reduce stress.
The definition of mindfulness
Mindfulness is a meditation technique that brings us into the present. By intentionally focusing on the sensory aspects of the here and now, we prevent ourselves from reliving stressful moments from the past or becoming anxious about the future.
It’s a judgment- and analysis-free practice through which we give our minds a much-needed break. When practicing mindfulness, we turn off our brains and experience the world without trying to understand or qualify what we feel.
Does mindfulness really work?
Our minds are powerful. The same brains that rile us up when stressed and incite somatic changes, such as physical pain, can calm us down, recenter us, and reduce stress-induced bodily discomfort. Here are some of the research-proven benefits of a successful mindfulness strategy:
- Improved physical health: Mindful meditation results in numerous health benefits. It can reduce high blood pressure (hypertension), physical pain, and digestive and sleep disorders. Meditation also helps people control diabetes and prevent critical illnesses like cancer, thanks to more restful sleep and increased melatonin production.
- Better mental health: A mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) study from the American Psychological Association shows that the practice boosts well-being, performance, and job satisfaction. Mindfulness meditation can also lessen stress and anxiety.
- More behavioral regulation: Many practice proponents believe meditation helps people exhibit self-control, regulate reactions, and objectively assess situations. One study showed that meditation helped participants control emotional reactivity, and another research suggests it allows individuals to feel more empathetic toward others.
6 ways to practice mindfulness
Anyone with stress, anxiety, depression, or a lack of motivation may have trouble finding the initiative or headspace for meditation. And “staying in the moment” might sound frivolous or impossible. But mindfulness techniques can guide them into practice and provide the structure through which beginners go from wary to devoted. Here’s how to practice mindfulness in daily life and reap its wellness benefits:
- Mindful breathing: Breathing activities can redirect your focus away from stressful thoughts. You can try counting your breaths, starting with “one” when you inhale, proceeding to “two” when you exhale, and so on. Alternatively, take deep breaths and feel the air entering and leaving your body. To break an anxious thought cycle, switch your attention to backward counting or feel your breath’s physical sensation.
- Body scan: In this activity, you refocus awareness from mind to body, noting the sensations you feel. Remember, any meditative exercise should be non-judgemental, so avoid labeling positive or negative emotions and simply try to feel them. If you can, perform this meditation practice lying down with your arms at your sides and your palms up. Scan your body from the head to toe.
- Mindful walking: Physical activity places us in our bodies. As you walk, chart your feelings. Feel the air on your face, your footfall on the ground, and other bodily movements. You can perform a walking meditation even if you can’t get outside. Walk 10–20 steps forward, turn back, and repeat.
- Mindful eating: Eating, especially in the workplace, can feel like only satiating hunger. But you can turn the activity into pleasurable meditation by bringing your full attention to your senses. Pay attention to the food’s smell, taste, and texture. Slow down by eating with your non-dominant hand, setting a minimum time limit for your meal, and chewing slowly.
- Mindful listening: Our environments are full of sounds — many of which we want to block. Close your eyes and listen, without judgment, to the world around you. The sounds of the recycling truck going by may not be as pleasant as birdsong, but they both bring you into the present moment. You can also practice mindful listening in conversations. Listen intently and without expectations or criticism as the other person talks.
- Self-acceptance: Remind yourself of your worth through mindful self-acceptance. Celebrate your achievements, and acknowledge your failures. If you look for guided meditations online, you may come across several exercises. Some will ask you to recite mantras like “I am enough,” while others focus on breathing and letting thoughts flow in and out of the mind without interrogation.
Simple mindfulness exercises to get a headstart
If you’re a workplace mentor or a professional coach, share mindfulness exercise examples with your peers and mentees. Anyone, at any stage in their career or personal journey, can benefit from these. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned professional looking for guidance, here are four simple techniques to get started:
- Track feelings: When stressed or anxious at work, acknowledge and sit with the emotion. Avoid engaging with the feelings –– rather, note their presence. Then, return to the stressful situation with more control and a clearer head. The idea is to only notice, acknowledge, and dismiss it. You don’t need to form negative thoughts in your mind.
- Take deep breaths: Take a 5-minute break for breathing exercises, such as cyclic sighing and box breathing. Apply this technique before an important presentation or a difficult conversation to avoid fumbling and panicky situations.
- Focus on one task at a time: Multitasking may seem productive, but it only distracts us from doing one task with another. Anyone whose mind wanders after long periods can use the time boxing technique to work on one task for a certain number of minutes (like 30) before switching to another.
- Set boundaries: Know when to say “no.” Entrepreneurs should determine their workload limit and what concessions they won’t make for clients. Similarly, employees should practice asking for help when taking on too much. After setting boundaries, you should check in with yourself and sit with the emotions that arise when things go out of control.
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