stress management

3 Mindfulness Practices for Your Work Day

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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.   

The solution?

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.


Conclusion

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.

4 Best Practices for Creating a Fall Routine

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With only four months left in 2018, the fall season presents the perfect time to hunker down and refocus on those slightly forgotten, and perhaps dusty, 2018 New Year resolutions and goals. Now that schools are back in session, the weather starts to turn crispier in the morning, and summer vacations are only a memory of the past, this season couldn’t be a better time to set your mind on finishing this year strong.

As fall brings less daylight, our inclination to sleep in, watch a little more television, and rest through the weekend starts to grow. Knowing this, however, we can be strategic in how we spend our waking hours during the fall season. A rainy Saturday every now and then might be a good opportunity to catch up on your favorite TV series,  but eight or ten Saturdays spent catching up might leave you feeling a sense of regret or disappointment come December 31st. So what can you do to make the most of this time of year?

Well, before the hectic holiday season starts, you can prepare yourself for a strong finish in 2018 by developing a healthy fall routine now. So grab your planner, find a comfortable spot, kick up your heels and check out these four awesome tips for setting your routine.

1.    First things first, set your year-end goals.

It’s hard to know where you’re going when you don’t have directions and a final destination. With your planner in hand, take time to sit down and write out anywhere from one to three goals for your mental, physical and emotional health this season. Be sure to set your goal completion dates when you’re planning. Your completion dates don’t all have to be December 31, 2018. In fact, we encourage you to sprinkle goals throughout the rest of the year to make them more manageable.

Need an extra best practice for writing goals? Make your goals measurable so you know when you’ve reach them. For example, if you're looking to shed a few pounds, set a goal weight instead of simply saying “I want to lose weight.” When you’re done with your goals, share them with a trusted friend who will hold you accountable and encourage you to hit them.

Once you've identified your goals, pick the first one or two you want to complete and dedicate your time and energy to finish it early in these last few months!

2.    Plan your work week on Sunday.

From food to social outings, setting a schedule allows you to be more strategic throughout a busy work week. We all know what it feels like to have an entire week, even month, go by in what seems as quick as a blink of an eye. As such, if you aren’t strategic and intentional about what you’re doing, before you know it, January 2019 will be at your doorsteps.

Take the time weekly to sit down and plan out what you’d like to accomplish each week. You can start by reflecting on the past week. What did you do well? What where your areas of improvement? Then, create space in your schedule for exercise plans, social outings, spiritual growth, work goals, housekeeping, and/or financial targets for the week. This planning shouldn’t take longer than ten minutes, and at the end of it, you'll have a roadmap to help you get through the work week.  

3.    Re-discover balance in this season of your life.  

Balance. It’s a real buzz word in today’s society. Yet we all know that sometimes “balance” isn’t really possible. Balance is an ever-changing equation based on not only the calendar season but the season of life you are in personally. Starting a new job? Welcoming a baby? Buying a home? Searching for work? Life brings various different opportunities for our balance equations to shift.

As you evaluate what’s ahead this fall, get real about what balance looks like for you through the end of the year. Where will you be focusing your energy? Where can you give a little? To help, set clear expectations for those around you in order to communicate what’s going on in your life and where you are.  Communication and an analysis of the season you are in or moving into will help as you commit yourself to what’s ahead and fine-tune your balancing act.

4.    Embrace unexpected changes to your plan.

While many of us like think we are in control of our lives, every now and then, something happens in life that clearly shows we’re not in as much control as we think whatsoever. Sometimes, life just happens, and the variables capable of throwing wrenches into our plans are endless. Rather than letting speed bumps throw us off, we can use them as opportunities to slow down, reflect in the moment, and grow from it. When the hiccups occur, we can re-evaluate our balance equation, and see what’s important at that time and how we can move forward.

Planning is great, but be careful about becoming so focused on getting things done. The unexpected interruptions can easily sour your mood, even if distractions are pleasant. Prepare by being realistic and accepting that not many things go as planned. Embrace the new paths that are forged as your life progresses and re-balance your equation.

Conclusion

Routines are a great way to create a consistent level of motivation in the areas in which you would like to grow. Those routines can be for work, health + fitness, family life or other areas you find important. By setting goals, planning your weeks, re-balancing life's commitments and embracing unexpected change, you can develop your own routine for finishing 2018 strong and hitting your goals.