According to The American Institute of Stress, “job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults.” Even when we practice excellent self-care outside of work, it’s not always enough to keep on-the-job stressors in check. Fast-approaching deadlines, demanding bosses and button-pushing clients can wreak havoc on our nervous systems.
Here are five mindful practices you can bring with you to work:
#1: Be on breath alert
One of the simplest and most effective ways to soothe our nervous systems is to take a deep belly breath. The tricky part is remembering to make use of this built-in resource. This is where our devices can actually serve us. Set alerts on your phone or computer that prompt you to push pause and enjoy a few conscious inhalations and exhalations. Doing so ensures pockets of calm throughout your workday. Moreover, with regularity, this practice also increases your chances of remembering your breath on your own during those times when you most need it.
#2: Take heart
An often overlooked but similarly effective way to restore calm is to place a hand over your heart and notice your inhalations and exhalations meeting your hand. This unassuming gesture can reestablish a sense of equilibrium in two ways. It encourages us to get back into our body, thereby putting the chatter of an overactive and anxious voice in perspective. It also serves as a gentle reminder that we are more than our title or our job; we are in fact a whole person, a whole person with heart.
#3: Meet with intention
Do you get you worked up sitting through meetings? Try setting a personal intention before a meeting begins. You might agree to notice something positive about everyone in the room – even that coworker that endlessly frustrates you. When it’s your time to speak, you could first take a breath. Listening fully rather than preparing responses while others talk could be useful. Or perhaps you simply bring awareness to your shoes making contact with the floor. Whatever you choose, the idea is to cultivate a sense of purpose that transcends any anger that may arise and that isn’t contingent upon how others show up.
#4: Buy yourself time
We all have difficulty with people in our lives, including our professional lives. Sometimes we get so used to being triggered by these people we autopilot-react in their presence and, in turn, activate and reactivate stress. To break this cycle, take the time to brainstorm open-ended questions you might call upon in place of habitual reactions. Questions like, “Can you tell me more about what you mean?” or “You’ve put a lot of thought into this, can you elaborate on the benefits you see?” or “I want to make sure I’m understanding you correctly, would you clarify my responsibilities in this?” What you’re doing with these questions is buying yourself time. Time to mitigate the hit to your nervous system with a breath or with a hand over your heart. Time to get curious as to what’s really driving your reaction. And time to dig a bit deeper for a reply that is genuinely responsive.
#5: Hijack your brain
When your brain is truly short circuiting, “awkward reading” is one of my favorites. Look for a sign or piece of paper with words. Then read the letters in a word or sentence, backwards. Hijacking your brain like this creates an opportunity for your whole self to recalibrate. You might be able to turn to your breath, your heart, your intention or the opportunity to simply push pause more often.
[Photo by RelaxingMusic – CC BY]
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