Mindfulness at the Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself

Oct 24, 2017 | Stephen Jackson

If you run your own business and feel stressed out all the time, you’re not alone.

A recent study found that reported that 34 percent of entrepreneurs were “worried,” and 45 percent of them reported being stressed in their business endeavors.

But one way that everyone — from CEOs to freshly-minted interns — can work to reduce stress and promote wellbeing in the workplace (and their lives in general) is to make a commitment to practicing “self-care” throughout their day. It’s a catch-all term for a deliberate action you take to promote your physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. And one approach to self-care is “mindfulness” which, simply put, is the act of bringing your awareness to the present moment.

Of course, there’s a certain amount of assumed risk involved in entrepreneurship, and a booming business will provide more to-dos than are possible to complete in a single day. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that a high-octane approach to a busy day is always a hallmark of a successful businessperson.

It also goes without saying that a stress-induced, frantic environment is not a good place for people to work, and can foster a litany of physical and psychological problems, not to mention the negative impact it can have on a company’s profits.

I was interested in some effective approaches to practicing self-care at the workplace, so I reached out to Amanda Gilbert, a meditation and mindfulness instructor living in Los Angeles. Gilbert has been a formal practitioner of meditation for over a decade and has studied the biological and psychological effects of mindfulness meditation at the Aging Metabolism and Emotions Center at the University of California San Francisco. Today, she teaches private and public lessons to individuals and corporations throughout California.

Gilbert lays out two approaches to self-care accessible to anyone, especially those who feel they just can’t find the time to do it: Either work to practice self-care whenever one can find a moment to do so, or set up a framework for practicing self-care before the day gets underway.

Be in the Moment

“I find this to be really effective and important for people who lead very busy lives who feel that having a plan or a framework to practice self-care might seem a little too much at first,” Gilbert says. “Just having the intention to say ‘When I can, I’m going to take a mindful pause’ or ‘When I can, I’m going to push away from this computer screen and give myself two minutes of downtime.’”

“We can build a mindful pause throughout our day at anytime, and at any point,” Gilbert continues, explaining that people often choose to just “power through” stressful parts of their day instead of taking a brief moment for themselves. “Those are moments where we can learn to pay attention to that moment of self-awareness.”

Gilbert says that a mindful pause can look like two different things. “For one, it can literally just look like pausing — not doing anything big or extraordinary. Just pausing and letting yourself just be for 10 or 30 seconds. We can bring ourselves to our five senses, we can notice where we are, bring our attention to what we’re seeing, smelling, or tasting. That’s a mindful pause. Additionally, a mindful pause can also look like just taking a few really intentional, mindful deep breaths.”

The latter, Gilbert says, helps pave the way for practicing “mini-meditations” throughout the day, as even a few deep breaths help to activate the relaxation responses throughout the body and the brain.

“Just taking that moment to take a few deep breaths immediately builds mindfulness into your day,” she says. “It’s really self-care in the moment, and self-care in action.”

Create a Framework for Practicing Self-Care

This method speaks to people who feel they are better suited to setting a plan to do something for themselves at some point before the day gets underway. “If that’s the type of person you are, set an intention to have a little self-care routine throughout the work day. Nothing too heavy or unmanageable — start small by integrating little habits into your day,” Gilbert says.

For example, you could plan to meditate for five minutes in the morning, five during lunch, and five at the end of the day. Alternatively, you can make sure to bake into your day things that make you happy, such as taking a break for a healthy snack, or planning a 15-minute coffee break with a friend who works around the corner.

“We can ask ourselves each day, ‘Okay, what’s going to be my self-care moment today?’”

A Feedback Loop

“All of this self-care ultimately gives something back to you, and to your business. This is really big because a lot of people think that self-care is selfish, that it’s not going anywhere, or it’s a waste,” Gilbert says, pointing out that some might think that five minutes of meditation might be better spent knocking out three more important emails.

“But when we do build self-care into our days and when we do practice mindfulness throughout the day, we show up — way more present, way more centered and full of balance — so the quality of our work drastically increases,” she explains. “That will go directly back into the business… it’s important for people to realize that self-care is actually a feedback loop.”