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.
See also 6 Ways Meditation Can Help You Feel Happier at Work
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.”
See also 10 Things Most of Us Don’t Do When Trying to Achieve a Goal—But Should
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.”
See also The Mindful Diet Week 1: Build an Awareness Foundation
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.”
See also A Guided Meditation You Can Practice Anywhere
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.
7 Simple Ways to Call in More Joy—and Feel Less Stressed
It can be easy to get caught up in the non-stop “go” of life and lose sight of what brings you the most happiness. If you can relate, this emotional detox is for you.
Joy. It’s our most natural state. When we are in it, we feel light, effortless, smooth, confident, and free. What makes joy so powerful is its purity. It is an unfiltered state of unconditional love. Joy is abundantly and effortlessly alive, yet we let so many things—frustrations, mishaps, fears, anxieties, unhealthy relationships, and past experiences—taint it. These emotions are not toxic, but the way in which we have conditioned ourselves to respond to them is—that’s what I call reactivity.
Here is the thing: we are born with emotions; reactivity is what we learn. Raw emotions are like nutrients, reactivity like toxins. No one comes into this world with denial, expectations, the urge to gossip, guilt, doubt, and insecurity—these are reactions reinforced by how we interpret and respond to our feelings. Our spirits want to stay in sync with joy and avoid disconnection, but joy can be stripped from life at times when we most want to connect with it—like now, during the holidays.
See also A Meditation Practice To Let In Joy + Happiness
Like a food detox, an emotional detox leaves you feeling energized, clear, and fulfilled; it cleanses the pathway for new habits and behaviors, and lays the groundwork for connection, happiness, and love.
How to Do an Emotional Detox: 7 Simple Steps
These tips will help you let go of stress and tap into your own joy. The best part? You can do them all today.
1. Up your turmeric intake
Turmeric is a warm spice that’s high anti-inflammatory properties. Besides finding it in the spice aisle, you can also find it in the form of a supplement. It is used as a natural medicine for conditions such as headaches, arthritis, fibromyalgia, itchy skin, and more. Turmeric, to me, is an essential yet affordable way to support your detox. Try adding it to soothing herbal tea (non-caffeinated teas such as elderberry and peppermint ease digestion, while ginger and saffron can help ease tension and promote emotional balance), spicing up salads, or simply take it in the form of a supplement.
See also 10 Ways to Love Yourself (More) in the Modern World
2. Use your heating pad
By placing warmth on your abdomen or heart, you can help calm down and soften resistance of your emotions. Heat increases blood-oxygen and circulation, detoxifying the area being treated. I love to use aromatherapy heating pads for a bit of extra therapy. Try using one to detoxify your neck, feet, and hands, and even face and forehead.
3. Incorporate crystals into your practice
Crystals can be a conduit for healing because their properties can increase the flow of energy in your body as well as within your environment. Crystals can ward off negativity while promoting relaxation. If I know I am entering a heavy or possible toxic situation, I tend to put some crystals around my neck or in my pockets. A few essentials are selenite (for clearing negativity), rose quartz (the crystal of unconditional love), and kyanite (for decreasing our resistance). Meanwhile, crystal elixirs (made by infusing water with the healing energies of crystals) can help move you through stuck emotions and patterns. Stones work deeply and permanently in our subconscious level of being and have the capacity to move energy on many levels, even upgrade our DNA.
See also 6 Steps to Use Crystals in Your Daily Routine
4. Try sound therapy
Sound therapy is a form of vibrational medicine. It is often created with instruments such as tuning forks, singing bowls, and gongs and found in wellness and healing centers. Personally,
I prefer the healing sounds of crystals bowls. My husband and I have attended a few crystal bowl circles together. We both found it powerful to lie on our yoga mats next to each other, holding hands, as the vibrations penetrated our bodies.
5. Practice alternate nostril breathing
This technique helps you deepen your breath, reaching the depth of your lungs. Begin by sitting up tall, either crossed-legged on the floor or in a chair. Gently press your shoulders back and down. Place your chin parallel to the earth. Soften your eyes. Take the thumb of your right hand and close off your right nostril so that you’re exclusively breathing out of your left nostril. Breathing from your lower abdomen, begin to inhale slowly (inflating the sides of your waist) to the count of three. Pause at the top of the inhalation for one count, then exhale out of the same nostril, pulling in your navel to the count of of four. (Make sure your exhalation is one count longer than your inhalation.) Pause. Then using your right hand again, close off your left nostril with your ring finger. Repeat the same count on this side. Repeat this exercise three to four times, and notice how relaxed and open you become.
See also Looking for an Emotional Detox? Try This Sequence from C.L.E.A.N.S.E. Yoga
6. Change your pillow
Replacing your pillow can give you a surprisingly fresh start. When you sleep, you release the stress from the day. Your pillow and mattress are two places you discharge a ton of negative energy. I once had a client who tossed her entire mattress after getting a divorce to dispel old, trapped negative energy.
7. Exercise your olfactory system
Using essential oils in a diffuser or on your skin can help you relax and feel more balanced. So long as the oils are non-synthetic (organic), using scents is one of the quickest ways to activate the calming centers of your brain. Certain scents have been proven to calm organs such as your heart, liver, and intestinal tract. Lavender is known for its soothing properties, while the scent of sandalwood can help you get grounded.
See also 5 Essential Oils Combos That Smell Better Than Your Favorite Candles
Excerpted from Emotional Detox: 7 Steps to Release Toxicity and Energize Joy by Sherianna Boyle. Copyright © 2018 Adams Media, a division of Simon and Schuster. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
Slow Flow: Learn to Live from Love with a Brahma Vihara
Take a few minutes to dedicate each practice to love and watch what begins to shift.
Ready to move deeper into vinyasa and build a practice that supports you for decades to come? Start today with Slow Flow: Sustainable Vinyasa Yoga for Life, designed by Cyndi Lee, renowned yoga teacher and founder of OM Yoga. This six-week online course will refine your approach to vinyasa yoga through creative asana sequences, essential modifications, dharma talks in mindfulness, and much more, so sustainability and precision are top of mind every time you flow—now and in well into the future. Learn more and sign up today!
Words carry intention and plant seeds. That’s why taking a moment at the end of your asana practice for this dedication could start to shift things in your life. This practice called Brahma Vihara, which translates as “abode of the gods” or “abode of the heart,” is not to be confused with prayer. It’s shared by several eastern traditions and can be used as a prescription for living from the heart. In this video, you’ll learn the dedication and how to interpret all four of its parts.
A TCM-Inspired Home Practice to Ease Holiday Stress
This 12-pose sequence will help you remember what the season is really all about.
’Tis the season of good tidings, peppermint mochas, and gatherings with friends—and also lots to accomplish (gift-giving anyone?), people to accommodate (hello, Aunt Erma!), and more than likely, weeks of over-extending ourselves.
And while all of this busy-ness is due to a truly wonderful time of year, it’s important to get clear on what “stress” actually entails.
See also Ready to Let Go? A TCM-Inspired Sequence for Fall
The Physiology of Stress
When we are in high gear, plowing through a long to-do list to get stuff done (read: we’re stressed!), the body turns on the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS), otherwise known as the fight-or-flight mode. When the SNS is turned on and we’re under perceived stress, it triggers energy to be released, allowing the body to fight or take flight.
By activating the SNS, the energy is directed to prioritized systems to fight or flight and takes energy away from (or shuts down) non-priority systems, such as the immune, digestion, and reproduction systems. This is why some people are more prone to illness, digestive upset, and for women, menstrual irregularities during or after stress.
The SNS’s counterpart is the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PSNS), or the rest-and-digest mode. When the PSNS is activated, the body conserves energy and turns “on” all down-regulated systems.
So, how can you activate the PSNS? By stimulating the vagus nerve: the longest cranial nerve that interconnects the brain to many organ systems and runs through the back of the throat and through the diaphragm.
Pranayama and Yoga are primary ways to access the vagus nerve, because the breath has the capacity to stimulate the vagus nerve through the back of the throat (hello, Ujjayi breath!) and diaphragmatic breathing (a.k.a. belly breathing). By stimulating the vagus nerve, we increase our vagal tone and turn on the PSNS, ultimately counter-balancing the stress response.
See also 8 Detoxifying Poses to Boost Digestion of Holiday Feasts—& All That Seasonal Stress
Interval Yoga: The Ultimate Counter to Stress
Interval Yoga is a combination of heart-pumping, timed movements interspersed with strengthening flows. The dynamic change between increasing heart rate and space for the heart rate to slow is great for a few reasons:
- Research indicates interval training may lengthen telomeres by increasing activity of the enzyme telomerase. Telomeres are the ‘end-caps’ on chromosomes (DNA that carries our genetic information) that protect the genetic information and prevent cell aging. Every time a cell replicates, the telomeres become shorter, eventually leading to cell death when the telomeres have been “used up.” By increasing telomerase activity to add telomere length, we are essentially adding longevity to our cells—and therefore ourselves.
- In Traditional Chinese Medicine, winter is the energy of yin within yin—and yin equals cold, rest, and non-movement. To counter-balance all of this yin energy, we will add yang energy (heat and activity) through movement and blood-pumping intervals.
- In TCM, stress affects the energy of the liver, creating Liver Qi Stagnation. One of the liver’s functions is the free-flow of energy throughout the body and to all organ systems. Which means stagnation here can feel like constriction in the body, neck and shoulder tension, constipation, irritability, and being quick to get angry. The best remedy for liver Qi stagnation is movement. Moving the body and getting the blood flowing will move the liver Qi to alleviate the above symptoms.
A 12-Pose Home Practice to Counter Holiday Stress
The Holiday season is about giving to others—our time, presence, presents, and energy. That’s why it’s especially important to make this practice about giving to yourself. Create a space that feels supportive to you: play music that feels good for movement; light a few candles; diffuse your favorite essential oils; and set an intention to nurture you.
Also, keep in mind that you can customize how fast or slow you move based on your energy levels. Please, honor your body and modify this sequence to fit your needs.
See also Slow Flow: 4 Tips to Polish Your Step-Forward Transition
About our author
Teresa Biggs, AP, DOM is a board-certified Doctor of Oriental Medicine and Yoga Medicine Instructor and founder of Biggs Acupuncture & Wellness Center in Naples, Florida. Learn more about Teresa at biggsacupuncture.com.
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