I’ve been given a lot of thought to the development and understanding, not of others but my own self for forever it seems. My days are packed and filled with meetings, conference calls and a sea of emails. It’s hard during the workday where I can even find a moment to myself let alone think about mindfulness or even self-care. When I do find myself a free hour or two without the grind of calls and meetings, those minutes are filled checking my social media, listening to music or running runnings errands and driving from meeting to play date.
I like to maximize. My day starts at 5:30 AM and doesn’t finish until I have an opportunity to sit down, which is generally at 8:30 PM, with about 45 minutes left before I decide to crawl into bed and call it a day.
I’ve been becoming worn out by this cram everything in way of life. I sometimes get breathing difficulties. I occasionally wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious, which causes me to lose sleep, become exhausted, and feel even more anxious. I believe I have no more time for me. And I can sense it in my writing, my family, my hobbies, and my work.
How Stress is Hurting Our Lives and Work
I know I am not alone with these feelings. It’s the American way. We take less vacation than anyone else in the world and business leaders are revered for working 120 and 130 hour days. Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults. A 2017 Attitudes in the Workplace Study found that 80% of workers feel stress on the job. And nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress and 42% say their coworkers need such help too. We are in desperate need of training and resources in addition to permission from ourselves and our bosses to take a break.
For the longest time, I believed that this sense of disorientation was unique to me, but I’ve since realized that the majority of us occasionally experience similar feelings of disorientation while also feeling pressured to project perfection. This sense of stress, worry, and unease has a significant impact on how we collaborate, perform, and manage our many obligations and duties. Because I feel guilty taking time for myself, I’m no longer prepared to risk my life, my health, and my ability to succeed at work. There must be an alternative.
Enter in Workplace Meditation and Mindfulness
Over the years I have tried different tactics. I’ve outsourced my email and administrative responsibilities to a virtual assistant. I have taken a vacation from social media and Facebook. I’ve changed jobs, worked with coaches and even went to therapy. It hasn’t been enough. What I thought I needed was to be perfect, to get everything done and most importantly, more hours in the day.
When I started doing yoga in 2005, I experienced a personal awakening. For the next two years, I practiced every day, spending time on myself and, most importantly, carving out time to get to know myself and to recharge, refresh, and get through my crazy and busy days. I had the luxury in 2005. I was a childless, single woman with free time to devote to herself. I didn’t have the demanding work schedule, responsibilities as a father and spouse, or the strain of financial responsibility that I do now. Although I am aware that they are justifications, they reflect my reality and perhaps yours as well. I have been treading in a sea of anxiousness, feeling overwhelmed and like I wasn’t doing enough. Something needed to change.
I started out by just pledging to spend 10 minutes each morning or evening practicing mindfulness and reflection. I made my plans, admitted my fear, and simply listened to myself. I just concentrated on my breathing when I couldn’t stop thinking. Although the effects have been modest, I am sleeping better, experiencing less anxiety, and am more inspired, creative, and focused. It was completely free, and it was the best therapy I could have possible given myself.
We Need to Teach Mindfulness and Stress Coping Skills at Work
I questioned why schools, organizations, and employers aren’t equipping their students and employees with the skills to learn how to be more mindful and help manage stress in their lives if work is the biggest stressor in our lives and has immediate and real implications not only in terms of productivity but also employee health and wellbeing.
The change doesn’t have to be a big one but it has to be a purposeful and intentional one to really drive behavioral and personal change. That behavioral change helps when we as people have a gentle nudge from our co-workers, friends, boss and workplace. Practicing mindfulness at work could be as simple as tapping into fitness wearables and Apple watches the majority of your employees are already wearing and encouraging employees to simple breath for a minute in their offices, cars, and cubicles. Employers can use existing employee recognition programs or invest in a manager meditation and mindful program for managers or a small group of employee ambassadors to encourage a mindfulness practice across an office, department or company.
Mindfulness As a Jumping Off Point to Employee Health and Well-Being
Encouragement of employees to finish their personal benefits assessment is crucial, but stress reduction and mindfulness are equally important, if not more so. Getting every employee to take part in a step challenge may not be as significant or as attainable as this simple improvement. Everyone of us has at least a minute to breathe and focus on themselves. That’s what we deserve, and doing it has long-term advantages.
I recently purchased Dr. Sarasad Vinod’s book, 9 Secrets of Successful Meditation, and I heartily recommend it. I’m extending my 10-minute practice and pledging to engage in daily mindfulness and meditation for at least 30 minutes. While I don’t think I’ll ever be a guru, I am attempting to prioritize self-care more and plan my time intentionally for both professional and personal needs. I believe that we, together with our staff, merit that much. Because we are constantly fretting and taking care of other people’s gardens while neglecting our own, we need to spend more in ourselves. Change that, then.