Mindfulness in the workplace: Why does it matter?
If you are looking for that edge in your career, start by cultivating mindfulness.
You are not alone in wishing you loved your job! Imagine being excited about your role/assignments and feeling energized at the end of the day instead of drained. It is possible to reclaim greater balance between work and other areas of your life, including family, friends, and hobbies so that life outside your office hours doesn’t seem like a complete waste.
It can be hard to go back to work after a nice weekend away or a couple of days off. You have no idea how many people dread going in on Monday morning. For some, the nerves start Sunday evening and that anxiety only gets worse as the hours tick.
Stress Levels and Quality of Life
Switching from the freedom of a couple days off to bracing for another workweek can be highly stressful. Especially if your job is overly-demanding or feels unsatisfying. Pre pandemic, Canadians had a fairly high job satisfaction rate. If that includes you… I congratulate you! As we begin to see our way to a new normal, many people’s work environments may change either for the better or worse depending on one’s perspective.
We all experience a certain level of stress in our everyday lives. The everyday obstacles and setbacks, office politics, gossip, seemingly exhaustive workloads, and workplace conflict all seem to take their toll and lead to unhappiness at work. Unfortunately, these all contribute to stress levels which can lead to poor quality of life.
Unmitigated work-related stress can have some serious consequences on both mental health as well as physical health and relationships with friends or family members. It can also damage your confidence and your capacity to accomplish your dreams and goals.
And over the many years or decades you work, that can add up to an unhappy, unfulfilled life of regret.
But it doesn’t have to be this way!
It is important to take care of ourselves first so that we don’t become completely crushed down by these things coming at us from every direction!
While no job is stress-free—even a dream job has its challenges and setbacks…
How you respond to stressful situations is what makes the biggest difference between whether you feel frustrated or feel happy at work.
Yet, studies show that mindfulness reinforces your ability to be peaceful and focused at work. To be resilient and move forward towards your goals—with ANY job you take.
Tapping our "toward state"
Mindfulness also fosters what’s known as a “toward state” in the brain. This is a condition in which we feel open-minded, curious, and interested in the task at hand. And knowing how to tap this powerful state helps us thrive in the workplace!
With a daily mindfulness practice, you:
- Feel calm and energized through the ebb and flow of stress and change.
- Know that what you contribute matters and has a positive impact.
- Look back when your career is done and think “that was time well spent.”
That’s what’s possible when you know how to embrace mindfulness at work!
"I want to speak to the boss."
In fact, I experienced this myself…
Many years ago, I had a job that was right for me at that time. I had some autonomy, a lot of interaction with people and opportunities to build positive relationships and let’s face it…good hours and little stress. Until! Until one day a client came in and said “I want to speak to the boss.” I was second in command so not the boss. My “boss” said what can I do for you. This person, who was known for being cheerful and having a good sense of humour, said “No, I don’t mean you…I mean I want to talk to Sophie.”
My heart sank. I wasn’t trying to be the boss nor was I interested in the job. From that day on for about 3 weeks, my boss didn’t speak to me. That’s very stressful when you work in a very small office. His ego was shattered so I was going to pay the price.
That’s when I knew something had to change and it wasn’t going to be my boss. In speaking with a friend, she suggested I practice mindfulness. “What’s that?” I asked.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “Mindfulness is a type of meditation in which you focus on being intensely aware of what you’re sensing and feeling in the moment without interpretation or judgment. Practicing mindfulness involves breathing methods, guided imagery, and other practices to relax the body and mind and help reduce stress.”
“Right,” I said. “I can just see me burning incense and saying “Ummmmmm” while my boss watches.” My friend helped me understand how I could build mindfulness practices into my day to deal with the stress that I was feeling.
With practice and a bit of my own personalization added in, I found that I was regaining control of myself and my reactions. All this began to lead to a more peaceful path at work for me.
That’s why I’m such a big believer in taking control of my happiness at work—and using mindfulness as a powerful force to enhance my peace of mind, resilience and effectiveness.
My energy and positive outlook stayed intact all day!
There are different levels of intensity to that dreaded Monday. Mine was more of an every day but certainly Mondays felt worse.
Then there’s Samantha.Samantha was a dedicated member of the team, but she found herself feeling overwhelmed as soon as Monday morning rolled around. Every Sunday evening by five o’clock her stomach would be tied in knots and sick with anxiety for what lay ahead on Mondays! What an awful way to go through life.
Samantha was connected to the purpose of the organization but felt overwhelmed a bit like constantly almost drowning. I told her about how my friend helped me years before by introducing me to mindfulness practices, so I asked Samantha if she wanted to know more.
We went for coffee on a patio that seemed to last forever. It was a beautiful day and it felt good to be connecting and enjoying the beautiful day all at the same time. I let her take the lead with questions and didn’t push any of my beliefs on her. She wanted to know what I had done but I let her know that she was free to personalize her own path to peacefulness at work through mindfulness.
When we next met, Samantha had started on a few mindfulness practices and was starting to notice an improvement in her mental health. She had gone from being sick to her stomach every Sunday evening to a state of dread only. Eventually, Samantha mastered mindfulness and found that she was able to relieve her stress, boost her well-being, resilience, and effectiveness. Most importantly, she then had the presence of mind and calm to deal with a few issues that were at the core of her initial stress with respect to her job.
Samantha was now happier in all aspects of her life and her partner was no longer having to listen to her dumping when she came home each day from work. The two were able to plan their life together, which made them happier than ever before!
Managing Daily Stresses
Minding one’s thoughts has been shown as an effective way of managing daily stresses. You may think that mindfulness is too difficult to learn or takes a lot of time. However, it doesn’t have to be hard and you don’t need an incredible amount of time in order for the benefits to take place! In just minutes each day, your workday can become less frustrating with this new skill set from mindfulness techniques. You can incorporate mindfulness methods into your day to find increased happiness and calmness in the workplace!
What mindfulness techniques have you tried that you found effective? How do you fit it into your day?