Americans are working harder than ever before. Longer hours, slimmer budgets, fewer raises, downsized staffing and tighter deadlines seem to be the norm in today’s workplace. Figures from The American Institute of Stress (www.stress.org) show that 75% of us feel that stress levels have steadily increased over the past decade, and that we currently have more on-the-job stress than the prior generation. 80% of workers say they need help in learning how to manage that stress. It’s no wonder that job stress is more closely associated with health complaints than personal or financial stress. For employers, job stress is extremely costly, and is estimated to carry a $300 billion price tag in U.S. industry overall. So, how can we get through our workday without imploding, exploding, or bringing it all home?
Take a Break to Meditate
Studies have shown that practicing meditation reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, promotes quality sleep, enhances concentration, improves memory, lowers depression risk and empowers your immune system. Meditation techniques are simple to use and it takes very little time to achieve a positive effect. In fact, a recent study has shown that a person who meditates regularly will retain the positive emotional benefits of meditation even when they’re not actively meditating!
There are many styles of meditation to choose from. Some originate from spiritual traditions – TM and Kundalini come from Hindu traditions, Mindfulness and Zen Meditation stem from Buddhism. Western-style techniques include Guided Imagery and Self-Hypnosis. They’re all unique, so it’s worth trying a few to see what works best for you.
A Quick And Easy Meditation
Meditation requires relaxed, focused attention. Here’s a simple breath-based meditation that can quickly de-stress you and get you centered and ready to face the next challenge. Sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed and take a slow, deep inhale. Hold that breath for two counts and then let it out slowly. Do this three times and then breathe normally. Pay attention to the sounds you hear around you, without reaction or judgment. Pay attention to how your body feels against the surfaces of the chair. Pay attention to how your feet feel in your shoes, resting against the floor. Pay attention to how your breath feels in your throat and in your lungs as you breathe in and out. Let any thoughts that may come up just float by like brightly colored fish in an aquarium – just observe them from a distance. You'll have time to delve into those thoughts later – right now, just pay attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale. When you're ready, take another deep breath in, exhale, and open your eyes. Just doing this very simple exercise for a few minutes will allow your body and mind to release stress and align with the present moment.
So, instead of your usual coffee, tea or candy bar break – next time, take a bliss break! If you work in a busy office without a private area, consider asking your boss or HR department to help you create a dedicated meditation or "quiet" space in the office that everyone can use. If that's not possible, try meditating in your parked car. It’s easy to meditate on a train or bus – you’ll just look like you’re catching a few quick zzz’s, but make sure you don’t miss your stop! Of course, never meditate while driving or operating machinery.
If you can’t find a way to take a bliss break at the office, take a few minutes to de-stress when you get home. Considering our busy lives, I feel there no rules about when, where and how much to meditate. If you can only grab a few minutes a day, that’s great - and it will work!
Stress is a fact of modern life, but we can lessen its effects and boost our wellbeing and health by using meditation. It’s never too late to learn these effective and timeless techniques.