One of the key challenges facing the female leaders I interviewed during a research project into Women in Leadership was struggling with the 24/7 culture in an increasingly global marketplace. Expectations to answer calls and respond to e-mails immediately whatever the time of day or night on top of an ever increasing workload are stretching people to breaking point. Leaving work behind when you walk out of the office door seems like a distant memory to many of the senior leaders I coach. It’s not surprising that stress levels at work are rising at a rapid rate. According to UK government statistics 526,000 workers suffered from work-related stress, depression or anxiety in 2016/17 resulting in 12.5 million working days lost. As well as the human cost, those non-productive days have a significant impact on the bottom line of companies already struggling to stay ahead of the field!
As stress levels rise doctors, counsellors and coaches are increasingly recommending mindfulness practice. What used to be considered by many people as “alternative” is now firmly in mainstream health practices. In a nutshell, mindfulness is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, whilst calmly acknowledging and accepting your feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. Research shows that that the practice of mindfulness techniques can enable people to develop resilience to the challenges and stress of the modern workplace. Mindfulness also raises self-awareness and self-management and many research studies show remarkable gains in business productivity as a result.
Take a mindful minute
When I recommend mindfulness practice to clients who are feeling stressed by a heavy workload their initial reaction is often “I simply don’t have time!” However, once I explain that it only takes a minute most people are willing to give it a go, so why don’t you?
This short exercise, called ‘the mindful minute’, will enable you to create a simple and short mindfulness meditation tailored just for you. Here’s how:
Lower your eyes and notice where you feel your breath. That might be the air going in and out at your nostrils or the rise and fall of your chest or stomach. If you can’t feel anything, place your hand on your stomach and notice how your hand gently rises and falls with your breath. If you like, you can lengthen the in breath and the out breath or just breathe naturally. Your body knows how to breathe.
Focus on your breath. When your mind wanders, as it will do, just gently bring your attention back to your breath.
This exercise can be done for longer than one minute. However, even for one minute it will enable you to pause and be in the moment. You might also find it helpful to breathe out stress on the out breath and breathe in relax on the in breath.
Doing this short exercise at intervals throughout the day will enable you to create minutes of present moment awareness, with all the positive benefits of mindfulness.
If you are feeling stressed by a heavy workload and would like help finding your mindful moments please get in touch to find out how I can help you. Christine Griffin – Executive Coach – firstname.lastname@example.org – +44 (0)7796 147127 – www.griffinity.co.uk