With our current climate of uncertainty, it can be challenging to focus on ourselves, practice mindfulness, and wellness all while managing several different variables. Although COVID-19 has caused a tremendous amount of anxiety, distress, and confusion in many lives, there are ways we can ground ourselves to be mindful and present at work. While our jobs help us build and maintain our lifestyles, help us pay the bills, and can provide purpose to us, they also can contribute to our stress levels. With tight deadlines, essential projects, tough conversations, our jobs can be anxiety-provoking, but mindfulness can help ease workplace stress.
People talk a lot about “mindfulness,” but it’s easy to lose track of why it’s so important. Remember, mindfulness is focusing on the present moment without casting judgment or expectation, which is a powerful way to reduce stress on the job. Meditation – an active practice of mindfulness – is a positive way to train the mind to focus on a specific moment and task. Most times, we find ourselves thinking about the future, dwelling on the past, worrying about what’s next, or daydreaming. Meditation brings us back to the moment and helps us be less stressed, calmer, and kinder to ourselves and others. We have the power to control our emotions through observation and intentionality.
There are many ways to cultivate mindfulness throughout your workday, from taking some time away from your computer and walking to taking purposeful pauses to eat lunch or muting your Slack notifications. Practicing mindfulness helps us to improve our focus. Especially now that we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, it’s easy to get distracted by the constant news notifications and looming anxiety about the future; mindfulness can help by improving focus bringing us back to the present moment. The goal of mindfulness isn’t to stop thinking or to empty your mind but to instead focus on physical sensations, thoughts, and emotions to view them more holistically, without making assumptions or predictions about what might happen next. Being mindful at work can help you become more productive, improve your decision-making skills, and increase your creativity levels.
Given COVID-19, we’ve all had to shift our workplace environments from the office to working remotely, which causes a shift in our everyday work schedules and routines. By learning how to focus more effectively, communicate more compassionately, and demonstrate empathy, we can easily avoid many common pitfalls of being disorganized, distracted, and dissatisfied while doing our jobs.
Even without a formal meditation practice every day, there are easy steps to giving yourself the gift of staying present and on task during your workday, such as:
- Turn off pop-up notifications and push notifications.
- Answer email during dedicated periods of time, rather than constantly throughout the day as soon as it pops into your inbox.
- Knock out the most taxing and important on your to-do list first or right in the morning.
- Finish one task before you begin the next.
- Be diligent about taking a purposeful pause:
- Take a moment to check in with your body. What does it feel like to take one breath? How does it feel to stand, or sit, with the weight of your body balancing there?
- If your mind wanders, come back to the sensations in your body.
- And when you’re ready, proceed with your day.
Lastly, it’s important to leave work at work to maintain your mental health. Try not to check your email constantly after you’ve completed your workday. While working remotely or from home makes that difficult, focus your energy on being present with friends and family once your workday has ended. To ease this practice, incorporating a simple exercise, known as R.A.I.N., which can help us stay in the present moment and not get caught up clinging to the experiences of others or our own emotions.
R: Recognize. Acknowledge what is happening, just noting it in a calm and accepting manner.
A: Accept. Allow life to be just as it is, without trying to change it right away, and without wishing it were different somehow.
I: Investigate. See how it feels, whether it is making you upset or happy, giving you pleasure or pain, just note it.
N: Non-Identification. Realize that the sensations you are feeling make for a fleeting experience, one that will soon pass. It isn’t who you are.