It’s an accepted part of 21st century living to feel constantly frazzled, and being overworked has become some sort of peculiar badge of honour. But feeling stressed by your nine-to-five doesn’t have to be a way of life, Dolly. Mindfulness teacher Rachel Broomfield gives us five pointers for when the day job gets too much. And if you need a bit more, how 'bout Kings Heath drop-in sessions for more of the meditative good stuff?
"Mindfulness is literally all about becoming more aware of what’s going on in the present moment. Working at your desk for long periods of time can lead to stiff necks, tension headaches, and even anxiety and depression. Often the muscles in your shoulders and neck are the first to react to any minor stresses so while you're at work, check in with your body regularly to see which muscles are feeling tense. Consciously allowing these muscles to relax helps your body to relax and your mind too. If you're not likely to remember, set yourself a reminder and as you do this more often, it'll come more naturally."
Notice the small things
"Beginner’s Mind is an important aspect of mindfulness. This is where we use all of our senses to experience something we usually take for granted. Break your routine at lunchtime or during your coffee break, choose to sit somewhere a bit quieter and really bring your whole attention to whatever you’re eating or drinking. Often we eat and drink ‘on the hoof’ while thinking about a conversation we’ve just had or thinking about what we’ve got to do. Bring yourself back to the present moment by taking the time to notice the textures, colours, aromas, tastes and sounds of what you're consuming."
"We've all had the urge to fire off a stroppy email to an irritating colleague. Other people can be one of the main stresses of the workplace. When someone is starting to grate, notice how your body and your breathing automatically respond. Our muscles become tense and our breathing shallows and starts to get faster, it’s the classic fight/flight/freeze response. But it’s a pretty bad idea to allow your fight reflex to kick in. Save yourself a chat with HR and see if you can consciously relax those muscles and deepen your breathing instead. Sometimes clichés exist for a reason."
Find your focus
"If you’re having difficulty focussing, then use this breathing and counting technique. Spread the fingers and thumb of one hand and gently trace around the outline using the index finger of your other hand. Starting at the base of your thumb, trace up towards your thumbnail and breathe in (one), then down towards the dip and breathe out (two), then up the index finger and breathe in (three), and so on until you’ve counted to ten and reached the base of your little finger. Then start again at one. Notice how you can slow your breathing down to be in time with the finger tracing. And notice how you get your calm back. You're basically a Jedi."
"If you've reached a point where everything else gets too much, take five minutes out to simply allow yourself to think. Think and observe your thinking. Watch each thought pass by. As though you’re sitting on the side of a road and watching the cars go past – each thought is like a car, some are nice colours with friendly people inside like the happy thoughts we think; others are not so nice to look at, with angry people inside like the negative thoughts we can experience. Just allow this thinking process. And watch each thought coming and going. If you want, you can start to label each thought eg. planning, remembering, worrying, sad, happy and so on. Notice that thoughts are not real, they’re just thoughts."