These smart tips from mindfulness pros will help you stay calm—even when you’re most stressed out.
Whether you work in an office, work from home, or even work in a yoga studio, it’s likely your job causes some stress and anxiety at times. As human beings, it’s basically impossible not to feel stressed at the office. To wit: The American Institute of Stress found that work is actually the greatest cause of stress in the U.S. What’s more, a survey by Attitudes in the American Workplace VII found 80% of workers feel stress on the job, nearly half say they need help in learning how to manage stress, and 42% say their coworkers need help, too.
The good news? A strong mindfulness practice can make a big difference when it comes to mitigating some of this stress. Mindfulness is all about experiencing the present moment. When you’re conscious of your thoughts, you can be more aware of your responses and actions— especially in a workplace, where tensions can run high.
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“Mindfulness helps us gain greater self-knowledge and awareness, allowing us to observe and perceive ourselves and the world in an intentional and non-judgmental way,” says Molly Porth Cabrera, a vinyasa and prenatal yoga teacher and birth doula in Mexico City.
This type of self-knowledge (and non-judgment) can be especially helpful in a work setting. Why? Mindfulness prevents us from jumping to emotional conclusions about things like an e-mail you might be annoyed by, someone’s less-than-friendly tone, or not having a file on time that you were supposed to have received. In fact, a recent study by University of British Columbia researchers found that conflict decreased when teams were more mindful at work; mindfulness helped decrease frustration and ensured team members were less harsh and quick to get angry with one another.
Ready to usher in more mindfulness at work with tactics that’ll actually stick? Here are 9 to try this week.
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1. Act, don’t react.
Before you respond to a situation at work, breathe, says Lisa O’Rear, a yoga teacher in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “Take a moment during the day to observe your breath,” she says. “We often spend our day reacting instead of responding to our circumstances and surroundings. Practicing a deeper connection to your breath will help you stay calm, focus, and be more present.”
2. Set small, daily mindfulness goals at your job.
Try a goal of meditating for one minute each day in the middle of the workday. Even the smallest break can make a big difference when it comes to switching our mental gears and avoiding anxiety, says Chelsea Fleming, a yoga teacher in Brigantine, New Jersey. “Meditation does not need to be lengthy,” she says. “It can mean going for a walk without your phone, setting an alarm for five minutes and zoning out, or practicing breathwork in your parked car after a long day at work. Set a small, realistic goal and work your way up from there.”
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3. Hide your phone.
Whether you’re attempting to write an e-mail or conduct a face-to-face meeting, simply having your phone in sight can be distracting. Make a new rule to not bring phones to meetings, or vow to put it in a drawer where it’s “hidden” during serious work time. “Carrying your cell phone around less will drastically change your behavior,” says Goldie Graham, a yoga teacher in La Jolla, California. “The energy of the phone in general is vibrationally yucky. If you try just one tip, make it this one.”
4. Eat mindfully throughout the day.
Mindful eating has been shown to be hugely helpful for health and wellbeing. Meg Townsend, a Philadelphia-based ayurvedic yoga specialist, reiki master teacher, and retreat curator for Real Living Yoga suggests taking a few moments before you begin to eat to connect the process of eating with each sense. “Look at your food and how it was prepared. Take in the enticing aroma of what you’re about to eat. Then as you take a bite, chew slowly and notice how your mouth identifies flavors and texture, and listen to the sound of your chewing,” says Townsend. “When you give yourself this time to eat mindfully, you’re more likely to feel satisfied with your meal and your body will digest and assimilate the food with more ease. This practice of being fully present and mindful of your meal can be a most powerful shift towards vibrant health.”
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4. Take five minutes to check in at work.
Take a moment every morning—even if you’re busy—to turn your focus inward and check in with your mind and body. “My favorite way to tap in to my mind-body connection is through my breath,” says Fleming. Do a quick body scan and notice if there are any areas of stiffness or tension. Without judgement or labels of any pain or discomfort, start to deepen your breath.
5. Create little rituals.
Rituals are a great way to practice mindfulness before, after, and at work— whether it’s taking a mindful walk during your lunch hour or closing your eyes in a quiet conference room for 5 minutes. “Before my lengthy work day, I light a candle and bring it into the shower with me,” says Fleming. “Instead of rushing through my shower and worrying about the tasks at hand, I watch the flame of the candle dance and clear my head. The ritual of lighting a candle brings focus into the mundane, and an opportunity for worry transforms into an opportunity for peace.”
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6. Use your five senses to become more aware.
Engaging with the five senses can be a powerful way to bring more mindfulness into your daily work life. “Your senses are how you interact with the world around you,” says Townsend. “As you connect with each sense, stay aware of your breath and anchor in the present moment: Pause and look around to notice certain things you might not normally notice, like the light dancing on the wall or a leaf shaking in the wind. Listen to the sounds you’re perceiving close to you and also the ones at a distance. Notice the sensation of your clothing on your skin and the breath in your nostrils. If you’re outside, you might tune into the heat of the sun on your skin or a refreshing cool breeze. As crazy as it might sound, simply smelling the coffee as it brews or feeling the softness of your computer keyboard keys can go a long way toward grounding you in the present moment—and helping you be more mindful all day.
7. Keep a gratitude journal next to your to-do list.
“Circling back to the things we have—however big or small—can create a strong sense of gratitude and mindfulness,” says Fleming. Want to mix things up a bit? Name at least one “silly” thing that brings you joy, like your garbage disposal or matching socks, she adds. “Keep a journal on your desk at work and jot down three things a day you’re grateful for, and make it a daily mindfulness ritual.”
See also 7 Ways to Start a Gratitude Journaling Practice
8. Turn off e-mail notifications and delete time-zapping apps.
“So often we become immersed in the digital that we lose our true selves,” says Fleming. “Social media and work obligations play a huge role in this. When we have all of these open in the palm of our hands, they also take up space in the mind.” For Fleming, deleting the Facebook app on her phone has ushered in a lot more mindfulness. “Having to manually log in every time I wanted to scroll through my feed makes accessing the site harder, which means I’m more mindful of how much I actually use it.” Fleming also recommends turning off email notifications, so it’s easier to focus on one task at a time—and to avoid getting lured by the “ping” of e-mails and messages that threaten your new mindfulness practices.
See also 3 Science-Backed Reasons to Put Down Your Phone
About the Author
Gina Tomaine is a Philadelphia-based writer and editor. She is currently Deputy Lifestyle Editor of Philadelphia magazine, and previously served as Associate Deputy Editor of Rodale’s Organic Life. Her work can be seen in Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Prevention and elsewhere. Learn more at ginatomaine.com.
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7 Simple Ways to Be Your Own Valentine Today—and Any Day
When was the last time you treated yourself as well as you treat everyone else?
I used to have a vision board in my living room with the words in huge letters emblazoned across the top: “All of me loves all of you.” This was a non-negotiable in calling in my forever partner. The problem was thatI did not yet love all of me, and as I learned through the years of many Mr. Wrongs, we only attract people who love us as much as we love our selves.
For a long time, I was searching for someone(thing) to complete me, when what I really needed was to learn how to be whole on my own. I am now married to the man of my dreams. (Scratch that, I could not have dreamt him up, because I did not yet know that I deserved to be loved as much as he loves me.) It took a lifetime of personal work and self-love practices to finally understand that a good partner does not complete us—they complement us.
You see, the real love story of our lives is the one we have with our selves.
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So, how do we remember this when every store and advertisement is blasting the messaging that Valentine’s Day is a holiday for couples? By letting this holiday be a celebration of love. Love of others and love for ourselves.
Some people have deemed V-day Singles Awareness Day, which is a great way to take the day back. It is also helpful to do a little digging into history of the holiday. As it turns out, while we have all heard of St. Valentine, for whom the holiday is named, there may have in fact been multiple St. Valentines, and each has a different day of celebration. Translation: While society chooses to honor February 14th as Valentine’s Day, there are numerous other dates in the calendar that could count. What does this mean for us? The date is arbitrary. Everyday can, and should, be a day of love.
So, here’s an idea: How about this Valentine’s Day, you be your own valentine. Give yourself a hug. Hold your own hand. And if that sounds weird, you should be doing these things every single day. Self-love is not selfish or indulgent. When we love ourselves, we are more loving in the world. The kinder we are, the kinder those are around us can be.
Our yoga practice reminds us that we are already perfect exactly was we are and when we can embrace every aspect of our selves, others can, too. Here are some ideas for the perfect self-care day to celebrate self-love this Valentine’s Day, and every day.
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Look yourself lovingly in the eyes. Mirror affirmations are positive statements spoken aloud while looking into one’s reflection. They are a powerful way to change your view of yourself. You receive messaging all day long, whether you are conscious of it or not. Every time a bus passes or an ad plays on TV or you scroll through your social media feeds, you are receiving information. Most of that information comes with the messaging that you are not enough. Hear/read/see this enough and you start to believe it. Positive affirmations rewire your brain. Studies are now showing that this work improves self-esteem and strengthens your ability to combat negative stimuli, such as stress or others’ negativity. My favorite statement comes from the Queen of positive quotes, Louise Hay: “I am worth loving. There is love all around me.”
Go to the water. Water is the element of emotions and feelings—and the strongest and most powerful feeling is love. On this day, it is therapeutic to use the element of water to immerse yourself in love. If you live near the sea or a lake, go to the shore. If you are near a river, find a place along the edge. If you have access to a pool, dive in. If you are unable to get to any of these bodies of water, take a long soak in a bath. Soaking in water is a way to cultivate union with the deeper parts of our selves and with the world around us. When we are sad, we cry. When we exercise hard, we sweat. When we laugh, we tear. Allow the water to wash love all over you.
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Take yourself to a yoga class. Yoga is a unique activity in that it can be practiced in a group, but it is also an individualized experience. When you are feeling lonely or in need of connection, going to class is a wonderful way to feel a part of something—even when you’re flying solo. Moving as a collective and being in something together automatically cultivates a feeling of unity. I travel the world alone a lot and generally do home practices. When I am in need of company or craving connection, I go to a public yoga class—even if I do not speak the native language. There is something about breathing and sweating as a collective that reminds us that we are all connected, no matter how alone we sometimes feel.
Get a massage. The benefits of massage are numerous, from reducing stress and anxiety to improving sleep, digestion, and immunity. Often the resistance to getting one is financial, but there is no need to go to a fancy spa to get a good massage. Sometimes a $10 foot massage at your local nail salon can be just as impactful. Treating yourself to something nice also sends a deeper message of being cared for to your unconscious. You are your own caretaker. Just as acts of kindness from strangers can change your day, being kind to yourself can have an enormous impact as well.
Buy yourself flowers. When I was 17 years old, my sister bought me my first plant. She said it was going to teach me how to take care of myself. Soon after she gave it to me, I accidentally knocked it out the window of my 3floor dorm room. How is that for symbolic? I felt terrible, but a desire was ignited in me to take better care of my things and myself. Unfortunately, I do not have the best green thumb. I tried having plants in my apartment, but they would always die. I even tried fake plants. After a very hard breakup years later, I wanted to do something nice for myself, so I started buying myself fresh flowers every week. Having living organisms in your home ushers in prana, or energy. You can feel the life force emanating around you.
See also 5 Simple Ways to Fall Back in Love with Your Yoga Practice
Take yourself to the movies. There is nothing I love more than going to the movies by myself. No arguing over what film to see. No one asking questions or chewing loudly next to you, making it hard to hear. And you get to eat allthe popcorn! While it takes courage at first to do things by yourself, it also teaches you how to be comfortable in your own skin. The more content you are on your own, the less likely you’ll be to seek validation from others. It is easy to be swayed by a group. To worry about other’s opinions and to lose sight of our true desires. Without other people around, you learn to hone your own our choices and opinions.
Order in and don’t forget the dessert. Cap your day off by ordering in from your favorite restaurant. Eating alone is a great opportunity to practice mindful eating. When you’re not distracted by company or devices, you can be much more present with the taste of your food. You’re more likely to eat more slowly and chew every morsel more thoroughly when you’re not speaking. It is also nice to journal when dining alone. The temptation will be to reach for your phone and distract yourself with social media or texting friends. Try not to do that. Instead, relish the time to connect more deeply to yourself. Ponder questions like, “What am I grateful for?” or “If I could do anything, what would I do?” Give yourself a compliment by answering the question, “What do I love most about myself?” Just don’t forget the dessert!
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