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Home » Your Health » Mind-FULL at work?

Mind-FULL at work?

Try incorporating a little mindfulness into your day
Drawing of a businessman in a yoga pose

By Karen Lynn Kyliuk
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Published Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Would you like to look forward to your weekdays as much as your weekends?

Or at the very least, would you like to leave work each day with enough energy to enjoy other life priorities such as family, friends and leisure activities?

If so, then maybe it's time to take a new approach to your workday, one that is less mind-FULL and more mindful.

Let me explain the difference between the two.

People who are mind-FULL tend to spend their workday multi-tasking – rushing from meeting to meeting, juggling several assignments at once, and trying to meet ridiculous deadlines as they slog through the day.

Not surprisingly, doing this day after day, week after week, can have quite a negative impact on one's health and well-being. Being overloaded and racing around during work can leave you feeling exhausted and overwhelmed by the end of the day.

And the irony is that this approach to work isn't even effective. Studies show multi-tasking in this way is actually counter-productive and drains your mental and physical energy, putting you at greater risk for stress reactions and health issues.

The good news: it doesn't have to be this way. The trick is to go from being mind-FULL to mindful.

Being mindful at work means intentionally paying attention to – and accepting – the here and now, without judgment. It means being aware of what you are doing, how you are doing, and how you handle and resolve work pressures.

Mindfulness works by increasing your mental alertness, enhancing self-awareness to better understand your own thoughts and feelings, and how you interact with others or respond to stressors.

Mindfulness also restores, replenishes and reserves energy while refreshing our minds to pay attention to what is truly important. We all want to experience a sense of calm and mastery when we are faced with challenges or pressures, and mindfulness teaches our brain to think about and respond to demanding situations in an objective, accepting and non-judgmental way.

So how does one become mindful at work?

The first step is to develop awareness of how you are feeling, doing and reacting throughout your workday. Jot down your observations about when your energy is waning or when are you feeling depleted. This reflective exercise supports you to identify when and how mindfulness can be used to de-escalate and reduce daily stress.

The second step is to experiment. Try different mindfulness activities (such as the ones listed on the page opposite) and find out what works for you. Some people prefer quick refreshers, such as taking a few focused breaths, while others choose to engage in more in-depth mindfulness practice, such as meditation. Experimenting with a variety of mindfulness activities will help you discover what works best for you, given your workload, personality and lifestyle.

Third, make a personal plan and commitment to incorporate mindfulness into your workday. Including mindful moments into your daily routine will change your way of being.

The bottom line: engaging in mindful moments at work on a regular basis will settle your mind, and offer a fresh perspective on the present. Be patient with yourself as you learn and explore mindfulness strategies. The key is to be aware and work within yourself, doing your best without being consumed by worries or distractions. You may even find mindfulness spilling into other areas of your life, such as home and family life, in positive ways. Live your life fully, each moment, of every day.

Karen Lynn Kyliuk is a mental health resource and education facilitator with the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority.

Here are some suggestions for incorporating mindful moments at work

The 3 Bs (break, breathe and be) Stop for five minutes, breathe deeply, and just be. Be fully present in the moment, be aware of how you are doing and let go of any negative thoughts or stressors for now. This technique gives your mind a break and can be done simply and in any setting.

Mind break Use your 15-minute coffee break to participate in a progressive muscle relaxation exercise. Check out uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations for simple breathing exercises that you can do at your desk. This is an excellent grounding technique when we are under pressure and helps us to refresh our minds.

Mind walk Take a walk outside and notice the sights (trees, blue sky), sounds (birds, traffic) and smells (fresh air, flowers). This activity can be energizing and has the added benefit of physical activity.

Workload chunking Focus on one task at a time, fully and completely, without interruptions for 30 minutes. This strategy is called chunking and because it is time-limited, we actually achieve more when we give specific tasks undivided attention. You may be amazed at how creative you can be and how much you will accomplish in this short block of time.

Embrace the mundane Most people have tasks in their jobs that seem mundane, repetitive or maybe even boring. That is actually good and can be your scheduled mental break time. Tasks that require less attention allow you to regroup, refocus and recharge.

Grounding Try grounding yourself when driving between appointments. At a stop light, look and notice the green trees and blue sky, listen to the sounds around you like music playing on the radio or the hum of your engine, and feel the support and comfort of your car seat underneath you. This grounding technique is a simple way to quickly refresh and reset your thoughts to the present moment.

Ban electronics (don't panic – it is only temporary) Hold meetings where cell phone use and e-mail checks are not allowed. Studies show that workplaces that use this strategy report better understanding of goals, improved relationships and less need to clarify meeting decisions. So the next time you entertain muting a conference call to answer e-mails or do paperwork at the same time, stop, breathe and re-focus. It's amazing what you can miss if you aren't fully aware of what is happening.

Mindfullness journal Take a moment at the end of your workday or before bed to journal about any mindfulness activities you did and how it went. This builds on your self-awareness and helps you decide what to include in your personal mindfulness plan.

For more ideas on being mindful, visit the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority's mental health promotion website at wellbeingguide.ca.

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