Three Mindfulness and Meditation Techniques That Can Help You Manage Stress at Work | Life

  • If your job is stressing you out, try these three techniques to help you cope.
  • Meditation is a great way to gain control of your emotions and put you in a more focused/relaxed state.
  • Likewise, mindfulness, the practice of observing inner and outer realities nonjudgmentally, can also help you find inner peace.
  • Take a look below to see how you can successfully implement these strategies.

It’s 10:45 on a Tuesday and you’re running late for work. You’ve just been to the dentist who scolded you for grinding your teeth – she says that’s what’s causing your jaw and neck pain.

You’ve woken up between 2:00 and 4:00 most nights during the last month, and when you wake up, it’s hard to stop thinking about work. Your boss is becoming more and more aggressive towards you and you just can’t concentrate. To make matters worse, your inner critic seems to be more vocal than usual.

This scenario, or variations of it, will be familiar to many people. Work stress can be particularly persistent for you if you are younger and trying to make a good impression in your workplace.

Without discounting the value of discussing issues you are facing at work with relevant superiors, meditation practices can do a lot to help you manage stress in situations like these.

Extensive research supports the positive effects of meditation techniques, including mindfulness, mindfulness-based meditations, and meditations that cultivate compassion.

READ MORE | Seven tips for finding happiness at work

This article is part of Quarter Life, a series about issues affecting those of us in our twenties and thirties. From the challenges of starting a career and taking care of mental health, to the excitement of starting a family, adopting a pet or just making friends as an adult. The articles in this series explore the questions and answers as we navigate this turbulent time in life.

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1. Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of observing your internal realities (thoughts, emotions, memories and sensations) and external realities (social and physical environment) in a non-judgmental way. It has been shown to improve anxiety, stress, insomnia, and pain, among others.

Regularly cultivating awareness of your body (an internal reality) can help you detect negative physical symptoms early. For example, teeth grinding is often associated with tight muscles around the jaw, neck and shoulders. If you pay attention to your body, you can detect the early stages of stress-induced muscle tightness and consciously relax them.

A simple but effective technique based on mindfulness is the body scan. Spend some time each week (at least two minutes) bringing your attention to your toes, slowly working your way up through your body, checking in as you go, until you reach the top of your head.

You can find thousands of guided body scans online, and you can use this technique anywhere, including at work.

2. Mindfulness-based meditation

This practice usually involves using some kind of anchor to help maintain a central focus in the mind. Anchors can include the breath, a mantra or phrase such as “I am here now”, or an image such as a candle flame (real or digital). Each time you get distracted by a thought, memory, emotion, image, or sensation (like an itchy foot), return to anchor.

You can practice this anywhere, with your eyes open or closed. Start with 60 seconds twice a day and build up from there. Don’t wait for the mind to be quiet – it won’t. Your job is to return to the chosen anchor.

Research has shown that practicing meditation can improve emotion regulation, which can help you better manage stressful situations at work and increase your focus. A study I did with colleagues found that a mindfulness-based meditation program reduced stress, anxiety, and burnout in emergency physicians compared with a control group who did not undergo the program.

Using the breath in particular as an anchor can reduce stress by calming the nerves associated with the fight-or-flight response that takes over when we’re anxious.

This technique can be especially helpful if you’re having trouble sleeping. Equalizing your breathing (in five seconds in and out five seconds, for example) while practicing mindfulness-based meditation can help you break free of cyclical thinking in the middle of the night and go back to sleep.

READ MORE | Should you tell your boss about your mental illness? Here’s what to weigh

3. Meditation to Cultivate Compassion

Our inner critic can become very vocal in times of stress. It is helpful to detach yourself from that voice using mindfulness-based meditation. During difficult times, you must also cultivate compassion for yourself, as a person who makes mistakes (like any other human being).

Find a quiet place and sit or lie down. Set a timer for two minutes. Close your eyes, equalize your breathing (five seconds in and five seconds out) and try to imagine your own face.

Physically smile into its face and imagine it smiling back at you. Wish yourself health and happiness. Realize that you are a human being who deserves love and respect. Your inner critic may disagree, but do your best to tune out that voice.

Sometimes this practice can also help us to manage difficult emotions related to other people. Remember, your boss is likely to be just as vulnerable to stress as you are. We can use this practice to evoke their face, smile (physically and internally) and wish them health and happiness.

A word of caution: don’t try this with bullies or people who abuse you. In extreme cases like these, we need to be careful not to provide internal excuses for people who harm us. Discuss this first with a healthcare professional, such as a counselor or psychotherapist.

For maximum effect, you need to use the right tool for the right job. In a few weeks, you may need to use all three tools daily. For calmer weeks, you can practice for two minutes on Mondays and Fridays, checking in with your body and mind to make sure everything is okay.

Like any skill, the more you practice, the more proficient you will become. Above all, be kind to yourself.

Padraic J. DunneSenior Lecturer, Center for Positive Health Sciences, RCSI University of Medicine and Health Sciences

This article was republished from The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read the original article.

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