As a corporate event manager for many years, running large-scale trade shows, conferences & awards ceremonies for companies like Amazon I’ve dealt with a fair amount of stress, deadline pressure and tricky characters at work. My saving grace, throughout it all, was my yoga practice.
OK, so you’ve probably heard the story before: yoga changed my life, and while that may be true, that isn’t the point of this article. There may be many reasons why the practice of yoga doesn’t appeal to you, and that’s OK, however, the practice of mindfulness can have all the same, if not more benefits, and doesn’t involve Lycra or a brightly-lit studio.
It can also boost your career.
How distracted do you feel now? Are you reading this post really quickly because you have something else you need to be doing? Or are you reading this post because you got distracted doing something else? Are you procrastinating right now?
The human mind is very good at distraction. It always has been, even before the invention of smartphones, Trump memes and cat videos. The mind doesn’t get distracted because there are so many other things for it to think about, it gets distracted because it is uncomfortable with the task in hand.
It is often said that yoga can teach you to become comfortable with discomfort; so much so that eventually the discomfort disappears. Just as yoga can do this with the body, mindfulness can do the same for the mind. By training the brain to focus on the task in hand and noticing how it feels to do that thing, you are training it to be less distracted. Productivity = an undistracted mind, therefore mindfulness practice = productivity.
If you’re looking to get ahead at work or start your own business, productivity is key.
Stress manifests itself in different ways. In my personal experience, one of the key manifestations of stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed; of having too many things to think about and not being able to focus on any of them. For this feeling, see above.
An arguably more alarming feeling of stress comes in a moment of heightened anxiety; when you just can’t cope with whatever is happening at that time, perhaps you have a panic attack, or start to cry, or feel that you need to just run to the toilets at work and hide.
A regular mindfulness practice can prepare us for situations like this, so that when they do arise we know how to deal with them properly. Practising mindfulness helps you to recognise how many crazy thoughts you have in your brain on any given day, acknowledge their existence, and not get caught up in their story, or their ‘meaning’.
For example, let’s imagine you have a really bizarre dream. You wake up remembering it clearly, what do you do? Do you start reading into this dream; what it means and if you should make decisions and changes in your life based on this dream? No. Most likely you’ll just think to yourself ‘well, that was a weird dream’ and get out of bed and carry on your day.
Mindfulness helps us to treat our waking thoughts the same way as we treat our dreaming thoughts; as weird, usually unexplainable reactions to a weird, and unexplainable experience of the world. The more we acknowledge our thoughts non-judgementally and with detachment, the more we are preparing ourselves for those ‘panic’ moments, so when they come, we can practice that same detachment and easily calm ourselves down when the mind starts to spin out, which means you can stay calm when you might otherwise say something you might regret to your boss / client / colleague.
Being able to manage stress & stay calm in high-intensity situations will impress your boss, putting you first in line for extra responsibility when it inevitably comes.
The practice of mindfulness is simply about being present in the moment; noticing & experiencing the world around you, soaking in it. It takes you off auto-pilot &into a state of awareness & clarity. Without the distraction of to-do lists, worries or regrets in your head you’re freeing yourself up for creative thinking. By noticing the world around you, you can identify problems which need solving, think up of new ways to speak to customers, or be inspired to create or innovate.
Being creative may help you find the solution your boss is looking for, or help you identify your own business niche, think of a story for a stand-out piece of content or simply find new customers.
To discover how to practice mindfulness in the context of a busy, modern lifestyle, sign up to You Go | Do Yoga’s FREE ‘Couch to Connected’ 5 day mindfulness course here