By Ora Nadrich
Burnout with work is a well-documented phenomenon — so much so that the World Health Organization identifies it as a syndrome associated with chronic workplace stress. It has become incumbent upon workers and employers alike to decrease stress even as they promote productivity.
The delicate dance between burnout and delivering results can be executed with a more present and balanced perspective brought through Mindfulness. By bringing a Mindfulness practice to our work life, we’re better able to handle challenging situations and face work pressures. This is because Mindfulness teaches us how to be present in the moment with total awareness. When we make the effort to do that, we decrease stress, increase productivity and efficiency, and form a better connection with coworkers. Instead of just putting our heads down and charging through each day, Mindfulness raises our overall level of consciousness. We’re able to show up in all the moments of our lives as present and as authentic as we can be.
Today, many organizations are introducing and practicing Mindfulness, and it’s changing how people work together as well as improving the environments in which we work. To address the burnout crisis, a number of workplaces are striving to become more than just places to put in one’s time, but instead, places to enjoy.
Mindfulness allows more active listening, thoughtful communicating and authentic engagement with others — all qualities that make for better working environments.
Engaging in a Mindfulness practice can be particularly helpful in handling the transition back to in-person office life. Mindfulness is a way to be present in the moment with total awareness. It enables workers to bring their best selves to interactions with coworkers and bosses. Mindfulness creates a feeling of expansiveness that lets us show up fully awake and authentic. By living each moment in a heightened state of awareness, we become more cognizant of when we’re being inauthentic, either to ourselves or to others.
Mindfulness can become integrated across an organization and change the energy around how everyone approaches work and interacts with their team. We become more aware of our own needs and the needs of others.
Use these Mindfulness tools to improve your work life whether working remotely or in the office:
1. Start each workday with mindful breathing. Before logging in on your computer, start out with a simple breathing exercise. Breathing mindfully will help with grounding and focus. Use this very simple breathing exercise:
Close your eyes and take your focus inward.
On your inhalation, (silently) count 1234-1.
On the exhalation, count 1234-2.
On the inhalation, count 1234-3.
On the exhalation, count 1234-4.
Repeat the breathing and counting until you feel your mind clear and your body relax.
Return to this mindful breathing any time during the day when you begin to feel stressed or overwhelmed.
2. Introduce Mindfulness and its benefits. Invite a Mindfulness coach to share the benefits of Mindfulness techniques in reducing stress and raising the overall level of consciousness with the entire staff. Place the emphasis on the heightened performance and more meaningful coworker relationships that Mindfulness offers. Encourage staff members to offer ideas for how to integrate Mindfulness into the workplace. If possible, offer a quiet, welcoming space — whether indoors or outdoors — where people can step away and clear their heads.
3. Focus on listening mindfully. The workday can become rife with distractions, which means you may not be giving your full focus to others when they’re talking or asking questions. Make a practice of listening attentively and mindfully. This shows others that their opinions matter and that their ideas are worthy of others’ undivided attention.
4. Integrate the practice of “noting.” Another Mindfulness tool, “noting” means noticing or paying particular attention to something. It’s a way to become aware of what you’re feeling or experiencing during moments in the workday. With it, when a team member does something you find irritating, instead of reacting to the annoyance, note what you’re feeling and stay present with it. Having an awareness of how you feel, and noting it to yourself silently, you can breathe through it and tell yourself something like: “I’m irritated right now, but I don’t have to react to this;” or “I can tell my team member how I feel at another time when I’m not as affected by my emotions.” Noting enforces self-regulation. Practice noting throughout the day — noticing how it feels to take a sip of coffee or tea, or to take deep, calming breaths. Noting helps to ground you and lessen the stress.
5. Use Mindfulness as a truth barometer. When you make a regular practice of Mindfulness, you’re able to tap into your authentic self. It’s like having an inner lie detector that goes off, making it almost impossible not to pay attention. Mindfulness keeps your mind open to discover and learn. You become more willing to consider someone else’s point of view. And, if anyone tries to persuade you to do something that doesn’t ring true, your authentic self gives you a signal that’s loud and clear. No one else can decide who you are or what’s best for you.
Mindfulness is the perfect tool to help you raise your consciousness and create a more fulfilling, humane and productive work culture. With an increased focus and the ability to navigate your interactions, you face work challenges with calm neutrality and stave off burnout.
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Ora Nadrich is founder and president of the Institute for Transformational Thinking and author of Live True: A Mindfulness Guide to Authenticity, named in the 100 Best Mindfulness Books of All Time by BookAuthority. She is a certified life coach and Mindfulness teacher, specializing in transformational thinking, self-discovery and mentoring new coaches as they develop their careers. Ora’s meditation videos are part of the Bedside Reading and Wellness program offered by Conrad New York Downtown. Contact her at oranadrich.com.