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Stress is a universal human experience. While it manifests differently for each individual, one thing remains the same: everyone feels stress at some time or another.
Work is one of the biggest stressors today. In fact, the American Psychological Association found that work is the most common source of stress for 61 percent of Americans. Work-related stress can have an impact on focus, productivity, and happiness, which can affect not only your job, but the rest of your life too. Combatting stress is vital to improving your quality of life both in and outside of the workplace.
Mindfulness: How and Why?
Try practicing mindfulness, one of the most useful tools for stress reduction. It may sound intimidating or out of your reach, but mindfulness is an incredibly accessible exercise with countless health benefits. It simply involves being aware of the present moment — no judgment, just acceptance.
Keep in mind that though thoughts and feelings are not the same, thoughts can influence feelings. Even if the activity you’re doing doesn’t upset you, if you think about unpleasant or stressful things, you can start to feel upset. Mindfulness works because you let go of those thoughts by actively focusing on the present moment.
It’s important to note that while mindfulness and meditation are similar, they are not the same thing. They serve the same purpose — to clear and calm the mind — but mindfulness is actually one of many forms of meditation. So while both mindfulness and meditation can be practiced in multiple ways, the practice of mindfulness is specifically about focusing on the present moment.
Work Stress and Mindfulness
Mindfulness can help you recognize unhealthy thought patterns and your reactions to potential triggers. Once you’re aware of the causes, you can work on replacing negative thoughts with positive ones and make a choice about how you respond to them. This is the key to using mindfulness to reduce stress.
In addition, mindfulness is not a quick-fix to your problems; things won’t change overnight. Much like you have to wait to see changes in weight after starting a diet, mindfulness needs time to work. Think of it as making an investment in yourself and your health. It may take time to see results from the initial deposit, but with some patience and determination, mindfulness will pay off.
To cope with stress and negativity while you’re on the clock, incorporate mindfulness activities into your workday. You don’t need a special space or guided meditation to practice mindfulness; you can do it anywhere that you feel comfortable.
Meditation is a tried and true standby and perfect for doing on your lunch break. Or consider taking a page out of your parents’ book and use different breathing techniques to calm down during stressful moments throughout the day. Even the simple act of not only eating, but really experiencing the taste and texture of your food at mealtimes can help you stay in the present.
Practicing mindfulness throughout the day can help you handle the stress in a more positive way. And best of all, the benefits of mindfulness can last well beyond your session, leaving you relaxed and prepared for whatever comes next.
Mindfulness in Practice
There are myriad ways to practice mindfulness — you simply have to find out what works best for you. It can be as intensive or unstructured as you choose. From a guided mindfulness meditation to simple exercises when you begin to feel tense, make this practice work for you.
If you aren’t sure where to start, include small moments of mindfulness throughout your day. Try actually listening to your coworker when conversing with them, instead of waiting until it’s your turn to talk. Step away from your phone for a few minutes while focusing on another activity. Before digging into your meal, take a moment to appreciate its scent and look, then be sure to slowly savor the taste and texture of each bite.
Don’t be afraid to designate time for your mindfulness practice. Between the craziness of work, family, and other obligations, it’s all too easy to let your own needs fall by the wayside. By setting aside time to take care of yourself, you will bring out a better version of yourself. Reducing stress at work will positively affect other aspects of your life and help you feel better overall.
Stress may be an inevitable part of life, but you can control how you respond to it. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or even controlled by stress, especially if its roots are entangled with your job. And it’s harder to find a new job than it is to integrate mindfulness into your days. Mindfulness can help improve your satisfaction and focus at work while eliminating that stress. And by finding a healthy way to cope with stress from work, you will feel better in all areas of your life.