You have to review a budget report and finish a proposal, all while making it in time to pick up your child from day care. With your mind racing with all you need to do, you feel trapped, frantic.
The answer to getting yourself under control to manage your workload is to center yourself in the present moment. How can you squeeze in your meditation practice in an environment where you can’t pull out a yoga mat? Here are nine methods for practicing mindfulness at work that won’t make you feel awkward — only calmer and ready to tackle the rest of your day.
Give thanks for your lungs, for you can practice deep breathing anytime and anywhere to tame wayward emotions and racing thoughts. Inhale. Now hold your breath for three seconds and slowly exhale.
Your breath holds the power to relax the physiological mechanisms that cause you to freak out. Learn 2-to-1 breathing, where you exhale for twice as long as you inhale. This process activates your parasympathetic nervous system, which tells your body to calm down and relax.
2. Yawn and Stretch
You might automatically perform these movements, but you can also use them to focus your awareness on the moment. Plus, research indicates that you can optimize productivity by moving around for two minutes out of every 30.
Stand up, fake a big yawn — heave a heavy sigh — while stretching your arms over your head. You can balance on your tiptoes or bend forward to touch your piggies. The latter movement helps to release any pressure on your lower back from sitting for extended periods.
3. Look Out the Window
If you are fortunate enough to have a workstation with a view, take advantage. You can practice mindfulness merely by turning your head. Plus, you give your eyes a break from your screen — try to follow the 20/20/20 rule.
As you gaze outside, ask yourself what you see? Are there any birds in the trees? What are they doing? Will that frolicking squirrel escape from that inquisitive dog out for its morning walk?
4. Step Outside
Instead of scrolling through social media on your 15-minute break, use the opportunity to get outside. Doing so will improve your mood and may help boost productivity when you return.
Take a mindfulness stroll. Focus on the way your feet feel when they hit the pavement and observe other sensations. How does the air feel against your skin? What sounds do you hear?
5. Stroke Your Fingers
You’re in a budget meeting, the speaker is droning on endlessly, and you start to sweat as you envision the stack of paperwork you need to complete — by day’s end. How to restore calm and avoid looking impatient?
Ground yourself in the present moment by using one hand to stroke the fingers of the other. As you rub each digit, mentally say, “This, too, shall pass.” Doing so gives you time to remember that a single late assignment probably won’t shatter your prospects at your company — but disrespecting the speaker might.
6. Eat a Snack
Hopefully, you can sneak in a snack throughout the day. If so, use the opportunity to both tame your tummy tiger and practice mindfulness.
Before you pop that chocolate on your tongue, take the time to savor the aroma and texture. Chew slowly, letting it dissolve in your mouth as you enjoy the taste. Focus on the way your body feels as it receives nourishment.
7. Give a Little Thanks
Practicing gratitude is a surefire way to improve your mood and return your attention to the present — and the positive things in it. When you feel overwhelmed, stop and think of something for which you feel grateful.
If you’re having trouble thinking of anything, why not use writing to generate the feeling of thankfulness in your heart? You can write a thank you note to anyone — the third-grade teacher who influenced you or your dog awaiting you at the door when you arrive home. Sometimes, words can help you generate the requisite emotional state.
8. Light a Candle
If you work in an office, please don’t light a scented candle. They can emit toxins such as toluene and benzene, which are known carcinogens.
You can use an electric tea light for this practice — you can find packs on the cheap at most dollar stores. Once you flip the switch, do nothing for a minute or two except gaze at the flickering “flame.”
9. Do a Body Scan
Finally, you can do a mindfulness body scan to regain poise and focus. This technique may also help ease chronic pain when stress causes you to clench your muscles.
Focus on your breath — you can gaze at your screen as if deep in thought to keep your practice private. Starting with your toes, work your way up your body, taking note of each sensation. If you encounter any areas that feel sore, try breathing into them while mentally saying “relax.”
Practice Mindfulness at Work With These Nine Techniques
Sometimes, the office can prove overwhelming. By practicing mindfulness at work with the nine techniques above, you can stay focused on the present moment and improve your performance.