We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” Or “put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others.”
But what if it feels like you never have time to catch a breath? There’s always something going on, and you can’t seem to get away to “refill your cup.”
Modern humans today carry so much on their shoulders in their careers, families, friendships, and beyond. (Is it any wonder why we all have stiff and tense necks and shoulders?!)
We all hear that we must prioritize our wellness and mental health, but what does this actually mean? How do you practice “self-care” when it feels like one more exhausting task on your to-do list? And when it’s so much easier to just put it off until later and start playing your favorite Netflix series instead…
If you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or burnt out, practicing mindfulness during your day, especially in the workplace, could be the answer.
By focusing your attention on the present moment, you can learn to move through your days with more peace and free up time for what matters to you.
In this article, I will cover the basics of mindfulness in the workplace and how you can use it to get out of survival mode and start living your best life with ease!
What Is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of being open and paying attention to the present moment without judgment. When you practice mindfulness, you are being aware of your thoughts, emotions, and actions in the moment but with a relaxed detachment. You are not concerned with the past or anxious about the future — you are present.
Mindfulness has roots in ancient Eastern religions and philosophies, but the ability to stay present is increasingly important in today’s busy and noisy world.
With higher workloads and constant distractions from our smartphones and devices, our attention span is shorter than ever before. With mindfulness, you can learn to be present, train your focus and reduce stress. Which ultimately will help you be more productive and satisfied with your work!
Benefits of Mindfulness in the Workplace
As the workforce continues to shift and evolve with the changing times, mindfulness will be a beneficial practice to support our health, wellbeing, and productivity.
Are you a company leader who wants your team to succeed and perform at their best?
Research shows that companies with integrated mindfulness practices in the workplace have employees who are:
- Less stressed
- More focused
- More thoughtful
- More resilient
- Better communicators
- More open to new ideas
- More empathic
- Better at making decisions
The ability to stay calm and focused in the face of countless distractions is a powerful competitive advantage in today’s work environment.
A mindfulness practice is one of the best ways to manage our time and attention.
How to Implement Mindfulness in the Workplace
Sometimes mindfulness is used interchangeably with meditation. While meditation is one of the most widely used techniques to practice mindfulness, it isn’t the only way. Check out this short video to understand the difference!
Here are TEN strategies you can use to implement and practice mindfulness at work.
1. Notice and Name Your Emotions/Feelings
The first step to being more mindful at work is to notice when you’re not being mindful. Make it a habit of noticing when you feel stressed, anxious, overwhelmed, or your thoughts are jumping all over the place. In these moments, pause and take notice of your inner and outer world.
Is your heart racing? Is your stomach in knots? Are you sweating?
Did you know that our minds and bodies are connected as one? When you’re thinking stressful thoughts, it manifests as physical and emotional experiences of stress in the body.
Next time you’re feeling physical discomfort, take a moment and check in to see what’s going on.
Can you name the emotion and describe the sensations you’re feeling? Naming emotions helps us notice the gap between thoughts and feelings.
Instead of “I am anxious,” you can state, “I am feeling anxiety and tightness in my chest right now.” This simple strategy helps you begin to detach from the emotion and observe it without judgment. Recognize that learning to feel your feelings is one of the SECRETS to becoming unstoppable, as I share in this video.
As you pay attention to what you’re feeling, simply take a few breaths and sit with it. Allow it to wash over and pass through you. Almost all feelings pass within 60 seconds, and you’ll feel better after!
2. Be Present
To help you be more present, strive to focus on one task at a time. Can you go through your current task with an open, accepting, and even joyful appreciation for the present moment? Don’t get distracted thinking about the previous tasks you’ve completed or all the future work that’s still waiting on your to-do list; bring your attention to the now and focus solely on the task at hand.
You can do this by:
- Silencing your cell phone and notifications until the task is complete
- Setting a timer and committing to only the task for that period
- Placing a “do not disturb” sign on your office door
Over time, these mindfulness practices will become habitual in how you structure your day.
3. Be Kind to Yourself
Practicing mindfulness at work means letting go of perfection because perfectionism is a myth. Learn how to be kind to yourself through practicing self-compassion. Can you give yourself permission to acknowledge that you are human and we can only do so much in a day?
When you give your full attention to one task at a time, a text may have to go unanswered for a few hours. That email may have to wait until tomorrow. It can wait — your mental health is more important.
4. Minimize Multitasking
Did you know multitasking makes us less efficient?
To get out of the habit of multitasking, take time to clear your priorities each day. When writing your to-do list, determine which activities are actually pressing and which can wait, then put them in order from most to least important.
You can also check out these top time-management strategies to help you be more efficient and productive. Move through the list, working on one item at a time with plenty of scheduled breaks.
Remember that you can be mindful doing anything. You don’t have to go on a silent meditation retreat or do yoga to experience the benefits of mindfulness.
One of the simplest ways to practice mindfulness is through the act of breathing, or breathwork.
A simple breathing technique is called the “Cleansing Breath”, where you take an inhale through the nose and exhale through an open mouth ahhhhh, releasing any stress or tension you’re holding onto.
When you feel negative thoughts creeping in, try taking a deep breath and see how it makes your body feel. Close your eyes and breathe deeply through your nose, filling your lungs. Hold for a couple of seconds, and then gently release the air through your mouth.
Even just one deep breath can slow your heart rate, elevate your mood, and help you relax. Continue to intentionally focus on your breath for a minute or so until you feel calm again.
6. Meditate at Work
You don’t have to sit cross-legged on your office floor with incense burning to experience the powerful benefits of meditation at work.
Many people get discouraged and dislike meditation because they think meditation is about sitting quietly with no thoughts. Which feels impossible when you have a busy mind and active life, so they don’t try it. This is a common misconception.
Meditation is simply a practice of becoming present and aware. It does not mean you do not have thoughts. In fact, it is training your mind to focus on a particular object, thought, or activity as a way to improve your attention and awareness. It’s learning to become an observer without getting reactive. In this way, you can achieve a calm and stable state emotionally and mentally.
Here are some meditation techniques you can practice during a busy day at the office.
Set a timer for one to five minutes. Sit with your back straight, both feet flat on the floor, and your hands in your lap. Feel supported by the ground and seat beneath you. Inhale and exhale at your own pace, focusing intently on your breath. When thoughts come up, allow them to come and go like clouds in a sky. Gently bring your focus back to your breath and feel your body in this chair.
Body Scan Meditation
You can do this sitting or lying down. Close your eyes and focus your attention on each part of your body. Start with your toes and slowly work your way up, noticing any physical sensations or thoughts associated with each part of your body. This practice helps you to be present by connecting with your physical self.
Meditation can be active! Set an intention to “walk mindfully”. Slowly walk back and forth the length of 10 to 20 feet. Pay attention to subtle movements and sensations in your body and breathing as you walk. Feel your feet on the ground with each step.
Notice any sounds you may hear around you. This walking meditation helps boost blood flow, relieve anxiety, and connect with the present moment. Remember that anytime thoughts or physical sensations interrupt your concentration, simply acknowledge it and bring the focus back to your breathing or activity.
7. Schedule Breaks/Rest Time
Attention is like a muscle — it wears out with repeated use. Take frequent breaks to allow your brain to rest and recharge. Block out quiet time so you can do nothing and just be. Allowing your brain to enter a relaxed state can stimulate the production of alpha waves and boost creativity.
8. Automate Your Work Activities
Automation allows us to work harder, not smarter. Take inventory of your daily tasks — how many of them are repetitive, tedious activities that zap your brain power? Is there a way to automate any of them?
Here are some examples of how you can use technology to automate your work:
- Automated email sorting
- Automated hiring processes
- Automated file transfers
- Automated accounting
These are just a few examples. You may be surprised how many daily activities can go on auto-pilot so that you can save your precious time and attention for critical tasks.
9. Work With a Mindfulness/Wellness Coach
What is a mindfulness/wellness coach? A professional who can help you learn and practice mindfulness to increase your self-awareness and feel so much better. You can learn to prioritize self-care, quiet your inner critic, and reconnect with yourself so you can reach your full potential. Are you ready to move away from survival mode and into thriving mode? A wellness coach is key! And yes, you might “know” all the right things to do.
But to know and not do, is to not know. Having a coach by your side helps keep you accountable so you can be successful with ease!
10. Model Mindfulness for Others
Encourage leadership in your organization to adopt mindfulness practices. A company-wide mindfulness campaign is an investment that will pay dividends in the long run.
According to a study by Cornell University, companies that incorporate mindfulness and wellness programs have happier and more productive employees, lower turnover rates, more creativity and innovation, and attract top talent.
Implement a Wellness Campaign in Your Workplace
If you want to implement a wellness program at your company, here are some proven strategies to promote mindfulness and stress management in the workplace:
- Yoga classes
- Group meditation sessions
- “Think tanks” for unstructured thinking time
- Mindfulness training and workshops
- Wearable/visible devices to track health and well-being with direct feedback and guidance
You might consider bringing in a wellness expert to teach your team a course or seminar on mindfulness. You could designate an annual “wellness week” with various speakers and events to reinforce the importance of wellness practices.
If you are considering implementing a wellness program at your workplace, reach out and let’s talk. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
I offer consulting, keynote speaking, and coaching to companies seeking to implement stress management strategies in the workplace for everyone to banish burnout and succeed at work.
Stay in Touch
There are all kinds of strategies you can use to increase mindfulness in the workplace.
Remember, it’s not one-size-fits-all. Everyone is different, so the things you need are different.
I encourage you to try one mindfulness technique for one week and see what happens. Keep it simple!
Coaching clients report significantly higher levels of self-confidence, work performance, time management, and overall happiness and well-being by learning how to live in the present and believing in themselves.
Are you a high-achieving leader who is ready to stop the cycle of overthinking, overdoing, and overstressing?
Check out my bestselling self-help book So Much Better: Life-Changing Strategies to Develop Calm, Confidence & Curiosity to Become Your Own Inspiring Success Story to start this process!
Dr. Cindy Tsai
This article originally appeared on Thrive Global in 2022.