Depending on the moment, work can be fun, challenging, exciting, fulfilling, or intellectually stimulating. But let’s be real—it can also be downright stressful.
Chances are, you spend more time at work than anywhere else. And if those downright stressful moments outnumber the fun, exciting, and fulfilling, all that work-related stress can start to have a seriously negative impact on your life (both at work and outside of it).
But the good news is that work-related stress doesn’t have to derail you. All you need is a little mindfulness at work.
When you practice mindfulness at work, you can get a better handle on stressful situations—and, more importantly, let go of that stress, recenter yourself in the present moment, and continue on with your day (and life!) with a deepened sense of calm, ease, and overall well-being.
Let’s take a look at what mindfulness is, how mindfulness can help you at work, and specific mindfulness at work exercises to help you battle stress and feel more calm, centered, and collected throughout the day:
What is mindfulness (and how does mindfulness help you at work)?
So, first things first: what is mindfulness—and how does mindfulness help you at work?
So much work-related stress comes from mulling over the past (Did I bomb that presentation? I think I bombed that presentation.) or worrying about the future (I don’t know how I’m ever going to hit this deadline. I’m going to have to put in work on Saturday again.) Mindfulness is the simple practice of focusing your awareness in the present moment. Simply put, mindfulness is paying attention to what’s going on in the here and now—and it’s a total game changer when it comes to dealing with stress (work-related or otherwise).
How to practice mindfulness at work
Practicing mindfulness at work is a simple way to better deal with stress and make your work (and your life!) easier, calmer, and all-around more manageable. But how, exactly, do you do that?
Let’s take a look at how to use mindfulness at work with these simple (but effective!) exercises which you can practice at work:
Keep a gratitude journal
Practicing gratitude is good for your soul—and it’s also good for your health. Research shows that practicing gratitude has a host of benefits like lower blood pressure, increased immune function, and—you guessed it—decreased stress. People who practice gratitude have a whopping 23% fewer stress hormones than people who don’t—so if you’re looking for a mindfulness practice to lower stress at work, a little dose of gratitude is just what the doctor ordered.
Keep a journal at your desk, and when you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed at work, take a break and jot down a few of the things you’re grateful for—both at work (like the support of your colleagues or your inspiring office space) and in your life (like your family or getting to spend time pursuing your favorite hobbies). When you take the time every day to bring attention to the things you’re grateful for—in the office and at home—it makes it easier to keep a healthy perspective on work-related stressors.
Practice mindfulness meditation
One of the most effective strategies for getting a handle on work-related stress is, without a doubt, meditation. Mindfulness meditation helps improve focus and concentration, which can make it easier to manage stressful situations—plus, a recent study found that mindfulness meditation can actually lower stress hormones in the body by about 15% (the study also found that participants who practiced mindfulness meditation over the course of 8 weeks were better overall at coping with stressful situations).
And the best part? You don’t need to meditate for hours a day to reap all the stress-busting benefits (come on—you’re not a monk!). All you need is 10 minutes.
Mindfulness meditation is easy. Sit in a comfortable chair with your back straight and your feet flat on the floor (you can also sit on the cross-legged on the floor with your back against the wall). Allow your eyes to close and bring your attention to the gentle inhale and exhale of your breath. If your mind starts to wander (and trust us—it will), it’s all good! Just acknowledge it and bring your focus back to your breath. Do this for 10 minutes and boom—you’re done.
It seems crazy that something as simple as sitting and paying attention to your breathing can have such a huge impact on the way you deal with stressful situations, but it works—and that 10 minutes a day can completely revolutionize the way you handle stress at work.
Get your breathe on
If the thought of full-on meditating feels a little overwhelming, no worries—you don’t need a full-blown meditation in order to reap the benefits of mindfulness. Quick, easy breathing techniques can be a great way to lower your stress response and feel more calm in stressful moments (including those at work). There are tons of breathing exercises out there, but here are a few to try the next time you’re faced with a stressful work situation and need to find your Zen.
One of the most simple—and effective—breathing exercises to manage stress is deep, purposeful breathing. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and breathe. Breathe in and out slowly, making each breath a little longer than you would normally (if you need a benchmark, count to four on each inhale and exhale). This simple practice of bringing attention to and deepening your breath can be all you need to chill your stress response and tackle work-related stress from a more relaxed and centered place.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed and need immediate results, try the 4-7-8 breath. Do a deep exhale, pushing all the air out of your lungs through your mouth. Inhale through your nose for four counts, hold that breath for another seven counts, then exhale slowly through your mouth for eight counts. Do this entire cycle four times, keeping to the 4-7-8 ratio.
The 4-7-8 breathing exercise can help to calm the nervous system, immediately making you feel more calm—which puts you in a better position to handle work-related stress. So, next time you’re stressed about a deadline or dealing with a frustrating work situation? Pause, ground yourself in the present moment, and do a few 4-7-8 breaths. (Bonus: this breathing exercise can also help you get to sleep—and the better you sleep, the better you can deal with any stress work throws at you.)
Set a mindfulness alarm
If you find yourself struggling to incorporate mindfulness in your day-to-day work experience, the solution might be as simple as setting an alarm.
Set up a mindfulness alarm on your phone (or a notification on your computer) to go off at random intervals throughout the day. When you get your mindfulness alert, use it as a reminder to ground yourself in the present moment. Take a deep breath, take a step away from whatever you’re doing (that email can wait!), and tune into to your five sense. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell, feel, taste?
Taking mini-breaks to experience the present moment in all its glory will help make mindfulness a regular part of your day-to-day to experience—and you can use technology to make those mini-breaks happen with a regular mindfulness alarm.
These mindfulness at work exercises will completely change the way you work
Gratitude. Meditation. Purposeful breathing. They seem like such simple concepts—but these mindfulness at work exercises will completely change the way you work, the way you deal with stress, and the way you feel on a daily basis. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get mindful!