Stress in the workplace is a common issue that many of us face on a daily basis. Often, stress can negatively impact our work, our relationships at work and home, and our mental health. A growing body of research has shown that simple mindfulness practices can reduce the impact of stress in the workplace and improve our overall well-being.
What is Stress?
Stress is a normal emotional response to an internal or external stimulus that can result in physical and psychological symptoms. We become stressed when we are challenged with overwhelming situations. Some signs of stress to watch out for include difficulty sleeping, changes in appetite, increased fatigue, increased heart rate and respiration, changes in behaviour, irritability, and inattention to everyday tasks.
Although some level of stress normal, untreated excessive or chronic stress can lead to more severe mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression. Employers should learn to recognise the early warning signs of stress and work to create a healthier work environment to help mitigate the harmful effects of stress.
What is Mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the practice of consciously focusing one’s attention on the present moment. The ‘aim’ of mindfulness is to cultivate an increased awareness of our thoughts, feelings, physical sensations, and surrounding environment. When practiced, mindfulness has been shown to reduce the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression .
Mindfulness is the practice of becoming aware of the present moment by acknowledging and accepting our thoughts, our feelings, and physical sensations without judgement or criticism. By training the mind to stay present, we gradually learn to become more aware of our thoughts and feelings and less reactive to them.
Employees can reduce workplace stress and increase their general well-being by practicing mindfulness for a few minutes a day.
How to Practice Mindfulness in the Workplace
When practiced, mindfulness can be very effective for reducing stress in the workplace. As Jon Kabat-Zinn, one of the founders of the modern mindfulness movement, said, “Mindfulness isn’t difficult; we just need to remember to do it.”
Taking breaks is an important part of practicing mindfulness at work. Breaks provide a temporary respite from stressors, allowing us to emotionally ‘reset and reboot our systems.’ Breaks allow us to pause, refocus and consciously choose how we re-engage with tasks.
Evidence suggests taking small, regular breaks throughout the day leads to better concentration, higher levels of attentiveness, less fatigue, fewer lapses in productivity, better mental health, and improved well-being . To achieve this, we should aim for at least two 10-15 minutes of breaks during the workday.
Practicing Mindful Breathing
Mindful breathing is an effective technique for recognising and responding to stress in the workplace. Mindful breathing involves taking slow, deliberate deep breaths in order to become aware of the present moment. By focusing on the breath and the physical sensations of breathing, we are better able to become aware of our thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations.
Practicing Mindful Listening
Mindful listening is a powerful communication skill for establishing meaningful connections and creating positive work environments.
Mindful listening entails actively listening to others, paying attention not only to their words but also to their tone and body language. Additionally, it involves reflecting what was said and clarifying any miscommunications or misunderstandings.
According to a recent study published in the Journal of Management , practicing mindful listening results in increased employee job satisfaction, more effective team collaboration, and improved workplace interpersonal dynamics.
Practicing Mindful Eating
Mindful eating can be a great tool to help solidify the practice of mindfulness at work. When we eat mindfully, we purposefully pay attention to what we’re eating. We notice the flavour, the texture, our desire to take another bite.
By practicing the skill of mindful eating, we can apply the same principles of mindfulness to other aspects of our life. Eating mindfully can lead to increased focus, attention to detail, and general awareness.
Implementing Mindfulness in the Workplace
Implementing a mindfulness program in the workplace can significantly improve overall morale and cultivate a more positive and productive work atmosphere.
Establishing a Mindfulness Program
For employers seeking to implement a mindfulness program in the work environment, the first step would be to meet with employees to determine their interest level. It can be helpful to offer an initial introduction or class outlining the basics of mindfulness to help engage employees in the process.
The types of mindfulness practices used can vary depending on the needs of the workplace and employees. Simple breathing exercises can be used to help employees cope with stress or to focus during meetings. Mindful walking can also be used for lunch or break times as a way to relax or become more aware of physical sensations.
Providing Mindfulness Training and Resource
To help reduce workplace stress, employers should consider offering ongoing support and guidance for employees as they practice mindfulness at work. This could be done through regular courses, workshops, or private sessions with a qualified mindfulness instructor. By providing employees with an enriching mindfulness experience, employers can help promote lasting positive change in the workplace.
Mindfulness is an excellent tool to help manage workplace stress. When stress is managed effectively, it can positively impact workplace morale and the team more generally.
With regular practice, being mindful can have a lasting impact on our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. When we learn to notice our emotions, we can better regulate our levels of workplace stress.
Mindfulness Space offers workplace mindfulness training and courses in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto.