Workplace perks are continually increasing to attract talent in a competitive job market, including healthier snack options, on-site yoga classes, the option to work from home, and even gourmet catered lunches. Sadly, however, many of us still have days where we just can’t seem to relax and enjoy our work.
Why? Maybe you didn’t have time to enjoy your cup of coffee in the morning or you snoozed one too many times and had to rush to get out the door which swept you into a frenzy for the remainder of the day. When you have days where you wake up on the wrong side of the bed or nothing seems to go your way, you’re more susceptible to getting triggered at work. Frustration can bubble up in a conversation causing your body temperature to rise. The interruptions from new emails, meetings, phone calls, and deadlines leave you so overwhelmed that your upper back or jaw tighten up! Then, by the time you get home you’re so exhausted the only possible way to unwind is to sit in front of a mindless task and you can’t seem to shake off the dreary draining feelings. It’s a cycle.
The good news is that when you realize you have moments of unsteady discomfort you’ve taken the first step to cope mindfully. Simply put, awareness is the first step to dealing with the ebbs and flows of life and mindfulness is a tool to help snap you out of the funk.
Mindfulness is defined exactly as you might infer, the mind is fully attentive to what’s happening in the present moment, and not over or under reactive. With mindful awareness, we have a moment-by-moment process of actively and openly observing one’s physical, mental and emotional experiences. The challenging part is that we are all humans and our mind races from past, to the present, and to the unknown future and we judge our experiences to be good or bad causing a reaction. That’s totally normal. But that back and forth thought, or living without mindful reactions to our stimuli, makes us anxious or more susceptible to blowing up.
Create a method or a tool to snap you out of mindless days of reacting will be helpful in not only avoiding an emotional spiral but also assist you in proactively tending to your mental health. Below are three tips to start your mindfulness practice at work.
1. Notice and Take a Deep Breath
When we find ourselves in overwhelming, stressful, or even less than ideal situation our breath can become short and rapid. This happens so quickly that we may not even notice that we’re no longer taking full breaths in and out. Our breath is directly linked to our nervous system, when the breath is rapid our nervous system is in fight, flight or freeze mode making it harder for us to make rational decisions at work.
In situations where when we need to run from a dangerous situation, this is not a bad thing, our nervous system is protecting us. However, by making our breath rapid and our body hot, our physical body is prepared for action and blocks out other thinking functions. This is why noticing and changing our breath on our own is so helpful. When the breath is steady paced we are most likely in the rest and digest mode, which allows our brain to make better decisions, learn from past experience, focus, and problem solve more efficiently.
How to: When you notice that you’ve been triggered, flushed, or overwhelmed bring your attention to your breath. From that point, invite a big breath in through your nose counting to the number seven. Then, begin to exhale for a count of seven. Continue to repeat as you draw the breath in again. Take about 2-3 rounds of this style of breathing until you notice your mind is calmly back in the present moment.
2. Practice Active Listening
Disagreements are part of the package when working on a team. It’s one of the key factors in problem-solving, team building, and arriving on an agreement together. But when we’re in the heat of the situation we may speak over each other, or choose to mentally check out in order to get our point across without actively listening to our peers.
Research suggests that we remember only about 25% to 50% of what we hear. In a short 10 minute conversation with your colleagues, that’s less than 5 minutes! This might not be a problem in our everyday conversations but when the conversation has high stakes or is taking a turn toward disagreement at work it can become an issue. In crucial moments or when you find yourself in a conversation with different viewpoints, practice active listening.
How to: One method of active listening is to take notes. While you hear the other viewpoints, take notes on the message they are relaying without applying your own filters. Be objective in your note-taking.
In addition, actively listen and then summarize to confirm your understanding of what they said. Again try your best to repeat verbatim and afterward ask “Did I get what you meant?” This may ease the tension and increase mindfulness of others in the room as well.
3. Use Your Sense of Smell
All five senses are helpful in practicing mindful living but our sense of smell is our most powerful sense. Have you ever had that moment when you catch a whiff of something and it brings back to childhood or to a dreamy vacation?
Our favorite way to intentionally activate mindful awareness using smell is with delicious aromatherapy blends including lavender and peppermint. The lavender plant is well known for its beautiful floral aroma. While the extraction of its oil has been around for centuries, most recently it's been found to alleviates anxiety, sleep disturbance, and depression providing a good calm mindful reminder upon smelling. Peppermint essential oil, on the other hand, has a sharp and strong scent. Its freshness is known to boost energy and alertness. For these reasons, we love how direct it is in bringing us back to the present moment.
How to: Enjoy our new Kneadpeace aromatherapy dough by playing, pinching or kneading the dough while taking in the calming smell. You can even get creative making fun little dough animals or practice the exercises to strengthen and stretch your muscles and sense of touch.
In our current fast-paced work environment, stressful or overwhelming moments are unavoidable. Acknowledging that stress will occur and using it as a growth opportunity to practice mindful living. Finding your own personal method that works for you is essential in keeping your mind and energy healthy while still enjoying the rollercoaster of life. Share with us, which mindfulness practice you enjoy using in the comments below and join us this year for our mindfulness challenge. Follow us on Instagram to learn more.