Mindfulness suggestions for work stress
Published: March 22, 2017 Last Updated: March 16, 2020
If you are not working, but looking for work or studying, whatever your daily activities are you can modify these suggestions for your specific situation.
When you wake up, take a few quiet moments to affirm you are choosing to go to work today. If you can, briefly review what you think you will be doing and remind yourself that it may or may not happen that way.
Bring awareness to the whole process of preparing to go to work. This might include showering, dressing, eating, and relating to the people you live with. Tune into your breathing and body from time to time.
Don’t say good-bye mechanically to people. Make eye contact with them, touch them, really be 'in' those moments, slow them down just a bit. If you leave before other people wake up, you might try writing them a brief note to say good morning and express your feelings toward them.
If you walk to public transportation, be aware of your body walking, standing and waiting, riding and getting off. Walk into work mindfully. Be aware of your bodily sensations.
If driving, take a moment or two to come to your body before you start the car. Remind yourself that you are about to drive yourself to work now. Some days at least try driving without the radio on. Just drive and be with yourself, moment by moment. When you park, take a moment or two to just sit still and listen to the sensations of the body and the content of your mind. Walk into work mindfully.
Mindful work day
At work, take a moment from time to time to check in with your bodily sensations. Is there tension in the shoulders, face, hands or back? How are you sitting or standing in this moment? Listen for a brief period to any tension (sensations) you may notice and check the content of your thinking. Try changing to a posture that expresses balance, dignity and alertness. How does it feel?
When you find yourself walking at work, slow down slightly. Don’t rush unless you have to. If you have to, know that you are rushing. Rush attentively.
Use any breaks you get to truly relax. Instead of smoking a cigarette or drinking soda or coffee, try going outside for three minutes and walk or stretch slowly. Or, do neck and shoulder rolls at your desk. Or go somewhere quiet and sit still for five minutes.
Choose to eat one or two lunches per week in silence, mindfully.
Alternatively eat only a light lunch following some exercise, every day if you can, or a few days per week. Exercising is a great way of reducing tension and clearing the mind. Exercise mindfully.
Try to stop for one minute every hour and do a quick scan of your body. Notice the sensations and the content of your thinking. We waste far more time than this in daydreaming at work. Let these moments be a time to regroup and recoup. Use them to return to the present moment. All it takes is remembering to do it. This is not easy to do as we easily get carried away by the momentum of doing. Some people set their watch alarm clocks to remind themselves. Whatever you can do to help you remember.
Use everyday cues in your environment as reminders to centre yourself - let the telephone ring once more while you check in, waiting for someone else to finish something before you can begin, going to the bathroom, getting a drink of water. Instead of relaxing by 'spacing out', tune in.
Be mindful of your communication with other people during the work day. Are they satisfactory? Are some problematic? What can you do about them? Watch how people operate with you, in passive mode, or aggressive mode. How might you approach them effectively? How might you be more sensitive to other people’s feelings and needs? How might our practice help the people around us? For example, how might awareness of the tone of our voice and our body language help when we communicate?
At the end of each work day make a list of what you have accomplished and make a list of what needs to be done tomorrow. Prioritise the items on your list so that you know what is most important.
Mindfully leaving work
As you are leaving be aware of walking. Watch the process of 'leaving work'. Check in with your body. What is your energy level? Are you walking bent over or erect? What is the expression on your face?
If you are taking public transportation, feel your walking, standing and sitting. Notice if you are rushing. Can you ease up a little and experience those moments between work and home as much as any other moments?
If you are driving, again take a moment or two to listen to the sensations in your body and to the content of your thinking. Drive home attentively.
Before you walk in the door, pay attention to what you are doing. Watch this transition we call 'coming home'. Try greeting people mindfully and making eye contact rather than shouting to announce your arrival.
As soon as you can, take your shoes off and get out of your work clothes. Changing our clothes can complete the transition from work to home and allow you to integrate more quickly and consciously into your non-work roles. If you can make the time, take five minutes to sit before doing anything else, even cooking or eating dinner.
Remember these are just hints and suggestions. Ultimately the challenge is yours to decide what might help best to reduce your work stress .
Greg Bantick has over 40 years clinical experience. He has taught professional training courses and is regarded as one of the most experienced TCM practitioners. For many years Greg was a teacher and involved in senior academic positions both here and in the United States.