06 Jul Mindfulness at Work: Managing Stress When Everything Is Hitting the Fan

Mindfulness and work seem like opposites.  Mindfulness conjures up feelings of peace and serenity while the thought of work brings on a wave of stress.


While it’s impossible to eliminate stress, it is possible to manage how situations affect you.  You may not be able to control what’s going on around you, but you always have the ability to control the story you tell yourself about it and the actions you take.  And that dictates how you feel about it.


The Mindful Approach to Stress


We all handle stress differently.  Some people appear to be completely calm when their insides are doing flips.  Others are calm inside and out.  Some become clearly rattled on a daily basis while others can handle things up to a point and then “lose it.”


The stress that you feel is based on how you interpret what’s going on around you.  Everyone sees the world a little differently based on their beliefs, past experiences and social programming.  What may be “no big deal” for one person could totally rock another person’s world.


Mindfulness can help you turn earth-shattering situations into something closer to “no big deal.”


The next time your stress is rising and your monkey mind is screeching, follow these steps to bring more calm to your day, accomplish just as much (if not more) and feel more relaxed at the end of the day:


  1. Notice when you’re feeling stressed, tense, anxious or worked up.
  2. Pause to notice the sensations in your body and the thoughts passing through your head.  Realize that most of them are not helpful to your situation.
  3. Take a deep breath or three to calm yourself.  This helps to bring you down from the higher levels of stress and tension that you probably didn’t realize you were experiencing.
  4. Remind yourself that you’re only human and your best is the best you can do.  Your best will be different each day.  Your best is not perfection.  It’s simply the best you can do at the moment.
  5. Examine the future that your monkey mind is scaring you with. Realize that it’s incredibly unlikely to happen.
  6. Bring yourself back to the present moment where everything is just fine.
  7. Take a few more deep breaths.
  8. Focus on the one action you can take that will make the most impact on your situation.
  9. Take action on that one thing and nothing else. Immerse yourself in it.
  10. After 25 minutes to an hour, take a break. Do something physical that’s different than what you were working on.
  11. Continue with what you were working on (if it’s not complete) or do the next most important thing. Choose the one thing you can do that will help you the most.  Do that calmly.
  12. Repeat steps 10 and 11 until your day is done.

Smile, regardless of how you feel.  Sit or stand tall.  Changing your physiology has been proven to change how you feel.


Rushing and stressing won’t help you.  Moving in a relaxed way will.  In some cases you may be able to complete things more quickly by slowing down.  And you’ll make fewer mistakes.


I can hear your monkey mind now, screeching that this is a crazy, stupid idea.  He’s doing that because he’s the one screeching at you to hurry up and stress out.  How has that worked for you?  He’s just trying to keep his job, and going against his screeches is threatening to him.


You are not the monkey.  You have the ability to make your own choices.  Choose what’s best for you, not what the monkey or anyone else thinks you should do.


Paige Burkes has come to understand that we need to find more effective ways of achieving our versions of happiness and success. The traditional methodologies are no longer working for us. In fact, they’re making us more stressed and less happy by the day. You can read more on her ideas for implementing mindfulness in your life at Simple Mindfulness.

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