WHEN YOU THINK OF stress, work is probably the first thing to cross your mind. From working long hours to project overload, it’s easy to see how stress hits the workplace. And let’s face it: Stress is real – and we all feel it. It’s also toxic to the employer. According to the American Institute of Stress, stress costs U.S. businesses over $300 billion every year in the forms of absenteeism, turnover, health care costs and lost productivity.
Stress not only takes a toll on your emotional and physical health at work, but the toxicity can spill over into your home life. Stress management can help you maintain emotional stability and reduce stress that surfaces in either your personal or professional life. It can also potentially prevent burnout.
So how do you curb stress without dropping your performance or working less? One way is to make mindfulness and meditation a habit. Mindfulness and meditation don’t make the causes of your stress go away, but they can help with dealing with it. Mindfulness and meditation are different from one another, but when practiced together, they provide a wide range of benefits.
Mindfulness is the practice of training your attention to focus on the present and observe your own thoughts or feelings with a calming acceptance. Research shows mindfulness in the workplace can improve employee focus, behavior and stress management. On the other hand, meditation is a mental exercise for the purpose of reflection and contemplation. While mindfulness and meditation are all about relieving stress – and of course they do that – they also have other impacts that can help you at work.
Here are four benefits of meditation and mindfulness in the workplace:
1. You’re more present. When you’re in the moment and purposefully paying attention, your brain can function at a higher level. Mindfulness not only helps you regulate your emotions and gain a deeper understanding, but when you’re fully present you can be hyper-focused on your tasks ahead, your team, your business or your goals. This is even more crucial for managers. Managers who maintain an open mind, stray from judgment and are emotionally present can help inspire others, develop employees’ skills, provide support and bring out the best in people.
Tip: Discipline yourself to provide more time for important meetings or discussions. With a packed schedule and back-to-back meetings, it can be easy to squeeze in and rush through important conversations between meetings. Make room for those key discussions by scheduling them without a hard stop, or cushion them with an extra 15 minutes in between.
2. You make better decisions. Emotional decision-making can be a recipe for disaster. Employees involved in crucial strategic company decisions require a clear, unbiased mindset. As researchers at INSEAD and The Wharton School found: “Just one 15-minute focused breathing meditation can help people make smarter choices.” When you’re able to evaluate information in the present moment, frame the decision and examine discrepancies clearly, you’re able to give an authentic response or even determine whether there’s a decision to be made at all.
Tip: Slow down and step back. In order to thoughtfully problem solve, you must first remove any emotional barriers. Stick to your values and consider all sides to exercise your mindfulness while decision-making.
3. It promotes creative thinking. Creativity is key to most workplaces. When you meditate – even just five minutes of focusing on your breathing, body or a certain phrase – your attention strays away from all your thoughts and centers your focus. One study suggests meditation techniques can promote creative thinking. With a focused, shift of thinking, you’re able to open doors to new avenues allowing you to conceive new ideas.
Tip: Unplug, unwind and let your brain do the work. Let your next big idea surface by setting aside a moment in the morning to meditate. Allow yourself to start the day by connecting to your mind without the distractions of email, texts and phone calls.
4. You connect to your sense of purpose. When you’re in the thick of a project, it’s easy to forget all the aspects of who you are while you’re at work. When this happens, you can feel disconnected from your passion and purpose. Engagement in your work comes when you feel a deep connection and sense of purpose that fills you with energy. Meditation and mindfulness are two of the many ways to connect with your sense of purpose at work and find how your role makes a real impact. Define your true purpose in work and life. Then focus on your vision for the future. When work becomes meaningful, success will follow.
Tip: Write a list of what motivates you at work. Whether it’s certain projects or people that help energize you, when you identify the “why” behind your motivation, are clear on your purpose and how your work is contributing to it or not, you can get back on track and draw inspiration.
Meditation and mindfulness open your mind and body up to cultivate new ideas, lead with integrity and step back and reflect on how you’re doing. Before you catch yourself sliding down the slippery slope of stress – or even burnout – let your job help do the work for you by weaving these best practices into your daily work schedule for better emotional and physical health.