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Working with mindfulness

When it comes to practising mindfulness, the workplace is the ideal environment in which to learn how to manage your stress and cultivate your relationships with others, explains Anna Black in her book Mindfulness @ Work…

Author, teacher and mindfulness practitioner, Anna Black took up mindfulness as a way to manage stress at home and in the workplace. With a professional background in publishing, she has first-hand knowledge of the pressures of the corporate world and how important it is to manage stress, especially in today’s digital age. Anna believes that the rise in awareness of mindfulness and the number of people practising it is a reflection of the increased pressures we all experience.

Early warning system
Anna openly admits that mindfulness has changed her life on lots of different levels. “I can see the ‘stories’ that are playing in my mind and how these vary according to my mood,” she explains. “This can be really helpful when coping with life stresses such as family illness, moving house or work re-structures, etc. I notice my mind jumping ahead to all the ‘what ifs’, but I can recognise that these thoughts are not facts but simply a narrative that has a particular tone (negative/positive) according to my mood. It doesn’t change the nub of the problem or issue, but it does limit the additional suffering I (as we all do) often create around a problem.

Confidence boost
Mindfulness has also given Anna more confidence in herself and in the decisions she makes. “Being better tuned into my body I can get a better sense of whether something feels right for me. I have taken the principle of ‘baby steps’ and letting go of specific goals/outcomes, and instead I let things unfold and feel my way through major life changes. Mindfulness gives me a wider perspective, so I’m less inclined to get stuck in black and white thinking and more inclined to see another person’s point of view. I feel more connected to others – strangers as well as my friends and family.

Workplace stress
Anna believes the workplace today is very different to the one she entered 25 years ago, with expectations to be on call 24/7. “The more connected we are the more distracted we are becoming,” she says.  “Many people struggle to integrate mindfulness into their everyday life and particularly the workplace, where the emphasis is often on problem solving,” Anna explains. “Mindfulness can get sidelined as something one does at home and yet we spend most of the day working, so it’s often where we need it the most. Mindfulness is a form of attention training and among other things develops concentration and focus. It also helps with the anxiety that can be created by always being on tenterhooks for the next email or crisis.

Work-life balance
Many of us get so caught up in the day-to-day juggle of work and family that we often give up things that are specific to us, such as going to an evening class or the gym. Because we are always putting other people first, it can seem like an optional extra, but Anna believes this is anything but. “We all need these nourishing activities in our lives and it is important to create the time and space for them,” she says. “Many people – working women in particular – often discover how little time they have for personal pursuits and most importantly how hard they are on themselves – mindfulness.

A way of life
So, does Anna think her life would have been different if she hadn’t taken up mindfulness? “It has given me the confidence to explore opportunities and to realise what is important to me, which is more about quality of life than the material status of things,” she explains. “Mindfulness should be more than a technique that you whip out when things are difficult, but rather a way of life – at home and in the workplace.”

This article was originally published in Issue 1, Breathe Magazine – Make Time for Yourself.