Many of my students ask me how to use mindfulness and meditation for work stress and anxiety. It’s a good question. Feelings like stress, anxiety, nervousness, and being overwhelmed, are commonplace at work. Thankfully, there are lots of ways mindfulness can help. There are exercises, breathing techniques, mantras, mudras, and guided meditation for work stress and anxiety.
One simple solution is to start using mindfulness at work.
If you’re feeling stressed and anxious at work you are not alone. A survey from the Anxiety Disorders Association of America shows that 9% of people have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, and 40% experience daily stress and anxiety. And according to The American Stress Institute, 80% of people feel stressed at work.
The good new is that you can use meditation for anxiety.
The signs of work stress and anxiety are:
- Excessive worrying
- Feeling Jittery
- Shallow breathing
- High heart rate
- High blood pressure
- Needing to take excessive time off work
- Overreacting to problems at the office
- Dwelling on the negative
- Inability to concentrate on work tasks
Some of the causes of workplace stress and anxiety include:
- Bullying at work
- Working too many hours
- Low pay
It’s worth noting that if you have a disorder you are entitled to certain rights in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
There are many things that can help you to feel less stressed at work, such at taking regular breaks, going for walks, yoga and ta chi, spending time with friends, and yes, meditating to reduce stress at work.
Let’s look at the link between meditation and stress at work.
The Link Between Meditation And Work Stress / Anxiety
As we’ve seen above, stress and anxiety at work are often caused by pressure, lack of breaks, information overload and poor relations in the office.
Meditation is the psychological exercise of focusing the mind on the present moment. Originally a Hindu, Buddhist, and yoga practice, it has become more of a therapy and a self-help tool. There are many benefits of using meditation for work stress and anxiety. But to fully understand this, we have to dig a little deeper into the brain, meditation, stress and anxiety.
Stress and anxiety are mental responses that have physiological symptoms. You’ve probably already noticed the “fight or flight” response at work, when your heart beats faster, your muscles become tense, and your breathing quickens, and (though you wont directly notice this) your glucose levels increase. You might experience negative self talk at these times, perhaps thinking to yourself, “I can’t do my job” or “I can handle working here”.
The physiological reactions of stress and anxiety are designed to get the body into a state where we can literally fight or flight. But over time, if we constantly experience stressful events, we risk facing burnout and chronic work stress.
The key is learning to handle short-term stress in the workplace. If we do not do this, the amygdala activates the stress response system (the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenalcortical), which includes the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and the adrenal cortex. Meanwhile, the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex amplifies signals from the amygdala, making everything feel more intense. Failure to control our stress response will cause ongoing stress, which, according to Bruce McEwen [neuroscientist, Rockefeller University], “changes the way the brain’s neurons communicate with each other.” It can even effect our children, according to research from Jennifer Chan [University of Pennsylvania].
Stress and anxiety can interfere with work life because they cause areas of the rain to function inappropriately. The frontal lobe (which combines thoughts with sensory experience) and the amygdala (part of the emotional brain) can malfunction. This can potentially cause poor decisions at work that can affect careers. Some people may also experience panic attacks at work, which make it near impossible to carry on working.
Thankfully, we can use meditation for work stress and anxiety. Methods like Anapansati (mindful breathing), Vipassana (Buddhist insight meditation), and guided meditations for workplace stress can have a positive effect on the brain by reducing cortisol and strengthening certain brain regions.
Research reveals the benefits of meditation for work stress and anxiety.
For starters, research from Benjamin Shapero [instructor in psychiatry, Harvard Medical School] shows that mindfulness can reduce activation of the amygdala, which reduces the “fight or flight” response. Mindfulness is the process of focusing the mind on the present moment. Originally a Buddhist method, it is advocated by teachers like Pema Chodron and Thich Nhat Hanh. Simply focusing the mind on the present moment helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to produce feelings of relaxation.
Research [Drs. Garry R. Walz and Jeanne C. Bleur, American Counseling Association] shows that Loving Kindness Meditation (Buddhist Metta Bhavana) can help to reduce negative thoughts and, therefore, to reduce stress and anxiety at work. More about Loving Kindness Meditation below.
Meanwhile, numerous studies point the benefits of Vipassana meditation for workplace stress and anxiety. Research shows that this method promotes happiness (Malboeuf-Hurtubise, Taylor, Lefrançois, Essopos, & Lacourse, 2018), improves emotional regulation (Szekeres & Wertheim, 2014) and improves one area of life effected by stress and anxiety: Sleep (Li, Kee, & Lam, 2018).
Let’s look at how to use meditation at work.
Types Of Meditation For Workplace Stress And Anxiety
When it comes to using meditation for workplace anxiety and stress, there are many options available. For starters there are apps for iPhone and Android, such as Headspace, Calm, and Stop Breath & Think. These are easy to use but research from Harvard in 2019 showed that these mindfulness apps aren’t as powerful as proper, traditional meditation.
There are also guided meditation, breathwork, mantras and mudras, mindfulness-based stress reduction and more.
Here are some of the best types of meditation for anxiety and stress at work. Note: You can learn all these methods via our main menu.
Guided Meditation For Workplace Stress And Anxiety
There are numerous free guided meditations for workplace stress and anxiety. My personal favourite is this one by The Mindful Movement.
Mindfulness is the quality of focusing the mind on the present moment. It is about being accepting and non-judgmental. A simple practice, it is now used in many forms of therapy, including Mindfulness-Based Intervention and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Vipassana is a Buddhist technique in which we focus on the breath and then mindfully observe thoughts and feelings as they arise. This technique has been shown to make us less reactive to negative thoughts and feelings. It also helps to balance our emotions.
Anapanasati (Mindfulness of Breath) is a Buddhist meditation in which we focus the mind on our breathing. As we focus on our breathing we stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us to relax and naturally reduces work stress and anxiety.
Loving Kindness Meditation: LKM is one of the most popular forms of meditation at the moment and is advocated by the like of Sharon Salzberg. In this method we use a meditation script to express our desire for people to have love and kindness. We then imagine those same people saying the script back to us.
Simple Meditation Script For Work Stress And Anxiety
- Follow this very simple meditation script for work stress and anxiety.
- Sit or stand with good posture such that your spine is long but relaxed, with a natural curve at the bottom.
- Take ten breaths in through the nose and out though the mouth.
- Now, one by one go through each of your senses. Say to yourself, “I am seeing [and what you see]…””I am hearing…” and so one. This will naturally return your mind to the present moment.
- Once you’ve gone through the senses, label your thoughts and feelings. “I am thinking…” and “I am feeling…”
- Now simply remind yourself that you can choose to focus on the present moment instead of getting lost in thoughts and feelings.
“I can handle this”
“I am calm and productive”
“I am in control”
“Another day, another dollar”.
In this article we have seen the many benefits of mindfulness and meditation for work stress and anxiety.
The good news is that it is quite simple to begin using meditative exercises to relax at work. Simply try each of the methods above, or contact me if you would like to book a lesson so I can teach you to meditate properly.