Are you struggling with a stressful or demanding job that is exhausting you and making you feel unwell? Learning how to live more mindfully can’t fix your job, but it can provide you with some much needed relief.
For most of my career I have worked in high pressure, stressful jobs. Frequently I have felt completely overwhelmed by the demands placed on me, both in terms of excessive workload and the nature of the work itself. I would work long hours to keep up, eat lunch on the run, and rush from one meeting to the next. I never seemed to have enough time to properly focus on anything. It felt like I was constantly juggling multiple competing demands. I would worry endlessly about everything I was doing, fearing that I would make a mistake or would let someone down. I often felt out of my depth and I constantly doubted myself and my ability, despite my track record showing that I did get things done on time and to a high standard.
This may sound familiar to some or even many of you. It is common to find ourselves in high pressure work environments where the demands and expectations are extremely high. We are often thrown in at the deep end with inadequate support and guidance. Those of us who excel are often rewarded with increasingly demanding work, which can overload and overwhelm us. Our 40 hour week grows to a 60 hour fast-paced week, which leaves us exhausted, stressed and unwell. However, we often feel like we have little choice but to struggle on. We need to pay our mortgage and support our families. We need to do this work so we can get a promotion or a better job. Or we fear we will not be able to get another job if we quit. It can make us feel that we are between a rock and a hard place. I know. I’ve been there and it is awful.
While you may feel incredibly trapped in a stressful work environment, learning how to live more mindfully can provide you with some much needed relief. Here a two mindful techniques you can practice that will make a real difference.
Paying attention to the present moment
This involves focusing on what is happening in this present moment, rather than worrying about the future or dwelling on something that has happened in the past. When we get caught up in our thoughts about the past or the future, we often become stressed and anxious. We also miss what is happening in this moment, including the small, unexpected moments, which can bring happiness and joy.
To focus your attention on the present moment, try observing with your senses (sight, hearing, touch, taste, smell), giving them your full attention. If you find your thoughts wandering, notice them, and gently bring your focus back to what you are observing.
Here are some examples.
Doing one thing at a time
We are encouraged to do multiple things at once, particularly in the work environment. We have two or three jobs on the go, we are on the phone while we are writing an email, and we are thinking about a work problem while we are in a meeting. Trying to do more than one thing or even think about more than one thing at a time makes us feel frazzled. It also doesn’t work. Research has consistently shown that multi-tasking is not effective. We are better from a productivity and a wellbeing perspective, to focus on one thing at a time.
It is actually easier than you may think. Here are some ways to do it.
When we pay attention to the present moment and focus on doing one thing at a time, we become more aware of life as it is happening. This helps to interrupt the stream of thoughts and worries that cause us so much stress. It gives us a break from the constant pressure of trying to juggling multiple demands and enables us to more meaningfully connect with what is happening around.
The research clearly demonstrates that being more mindful reduces stress and improves our quality of life. It is good for our health and our relationships. I know from my own experience, that it makes it easier to cope with a stressful work environment. It is not the sole answer, but it definitely makes a real difference.
To find out more about how you can manage a stressful and demanding job by being more mindful, check out our online course at:
Jane Hurst, PhD
Instructor, Walking Tall
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