Power in the Pause : Mindful Strategies for Career Wellness
For 40 hours (or more) each week, we pack up mind, body and spirit, grab our coffee and show up at work. Like it or not, all three parts are right there with us in the cubicle, on the shop floor or in the big office with the best view. Our minds are engaged, our body sits or stands and moves comfortably in our workspace and our spirit feels content as we do our “work worth doing.” Or not.
Career wellness plays a role in the mind/body/spirit equation. When things aren’t well at work, it affects how we perceive the level of wellness in our lives overall. We bring the stress from our work back home and into our relationships. We carry it in our bodies and it affects our health.
While the demands of real life don’t always make it easy to change our work situation, we can focus on our own personal growth by practicing mindfulness in the workplace. Google, Twitter, General Mills and other large corporations, as well as a growing number of smaller companies across the country, are incorporating mindfulness training into their business models. However, if we aren’t fortunate enough to work in an organization that has embraced this type of training, we can take matters into our own minds.
In its simplest form, mindfulness is turning our intention and attention to the present moment without judgment. Think of it as a focused and compassionate pause. The secret is that there is so much power in that tiny pause.
When we are mindful, we witness our thoughts and feelings as a true observer. It is from this vantage point that we are better able to choose our actions consciously, from a place of awareness and emotional intelligence. When we are mindful, we notice our foot tapping faster and faster during a meeting that is cutting into our lunch hour. We pause. We notice. We accept. We choose our action.
When we act from this place of present-moment awareness, we may not like the situation, but we can take power from the pause and make better decisions than if we act from a place of frustration, anger and anxiety. Notice the stress and the anxiety. Acknowledge it. Once acknowledged, we can choose to give it power or not. Being mindful at work doesn’t mean being tolerant of challenging or negative situations. It means addressing those situations from a more focused place to increase your chances of a healthy outcome.
The scientific evidence on the effectiveness of mindfulness has grown in recent years and supports and spearheads the growing trend toward mindfulness in the workplace. WorkWithMindfulness.com is a site that provides an overarching summary of what the science of mindfulness is saying. In quoting from studies from various peer-reviewed journal papers, the site summarizes evidence that mindfulness:
- Reduces reactivity, helping us let go of unhelpful habits and make wise choices
- Helps regulate our nervous systems and reduces stress hormones
- Allows us to feel more connected with others and engage in more empathetic interactions
- And, studies show that mindfulness may help sharpen our cognitive performance; including concentration and working memory
Often, work stress comes from a sense of feeling like we are powerless in our job. Mindfulness reminds us that we are never powerless. There is power in each and every moment. Focusing attention on the here and now stops us from handing our power over to others. “My foot is tapping? Oh, why look at that, yes it is! I’m so glad I noticed that. Now I can take a deep breath, or three, and return to this typically-annoying situation with a sense of power over how I react to it.”
- If only it were that simple. Here is one way to introduce the practice of being mindful:
- First, become aware of the practice of mindfulness. (Pause. Notice. Accept. Act.)
- Next, practice the practice of mindfulness.
- Finally, keep practicing the practice of mindfulness.
When we begin the journey of being mindful, it is often easier to begin outside of the area that is causing the most stress. Instead of trying to be instantly mindful in the middle of a volatile boardroom setting, begin the practice in a more benevolent setting: while taking a walk, petting the dog, mowing the lawn or making dinner. The more we become accustomed to pausing in tranquil moments, the more naturally we will find ourselves doing it in challenging situations.
So, tomorrow morning, when we grab our coffee and head to work with mind, body and spirit in tow, let’s pause. Find the power in that pause. Notice the texture of the coffee cup, notice the aroma and the steam; notice our body’s reaction to it. Be grateful for the way it warms our hands. And let’s start the work day by being well in that moment.
Barbara Berger is a certified career coach who specializes in working with women in transition, mid-life career changers and students. Connect at [email protected] or visit CareerWellnessPartners.com.