Thirty-two-year-old Shruti Mishra had been expecting her Pune-based office to resume work from office early this year. But when the email popped in her inbox, she felt she wasn’t ready. After more than two years of working from the safety and comfort of her home, which meant more time with her six-year-old daughter and more time to look after her health and wellbeing the thought of going back to work made her anxious and nervous. She was suddenly worried about the morning rush hour, deadlines, dealing with toxic colleagues and how her daughter will adjust to her mom not being around all the time? She was worried about her mental well-being.
The mental well-being of employees has always been an area of concern for managers. Many corporations do offer wellness programs—almost 90 per cent of organisations have some employee wellbeing initiatives in place—but the effectiveness and levels of engagement prove to be significant challenges. Returning to physical offices can prove to be a challenge and affect the mental well-being of some employees. Luckily, help is at hand.
MEDITATION FOR A CALMER, SHARPER MIND
Adopting and embracing wellbeing practices such as meditation and mindfulness can be of immense help while navigating this transition and for overall mental wellbeing at the workplace. These are tools to establish greater balance, grounding, and focus on work, in addition to fostering more joy and fulfilment.
Meditation offers that much-needed restorative pause to an overworked mind and a restless heart. When we meditate, we practice concentration, listening, and relaxation. These qualities are vital to our health and happiness, yet increasingly compromised in the rush of day-to-day life. By maintaining a daily practice of meditation and mindfulness, we can enhance our well-being at both home and office. Here are some of the benefits of having a regular practice.
Improves attention: It is the most significant benefit for working professionals. Don’t we all end up scrolling our phones just when we have a tight deadline? Or struggle to be attentive during a long meeting? Science shows that introducing more mindfulness into our lives ultimately influences areas of the brain that are responsible for attention. The more we meditate, the more we strengthen our ability to focus.
Reduces anxiety and negativity: Your next appraisal, deadlines, and your child’s exams clashing with an office event, there are endless triggers for anxiety and negativity. Maintaining a regular mindfulness practise has been shown to decrease the tendency to have intrusive negative thoughts. And multiple studies have now established that regular practice of meditation can alleviate stress and reduce anxiety.
Stronger social connections: Employees with good social connections at work are seven times more likely to be focused on their assignments. Several studies have found a positive relationship between mindfulness and relationship quality.
Better sleep: Restful sleep is the key to being productive at your workplace. In general, meditation practice has been found to facilitate relaxation in the body and calm for the busy mind. It can help you fall asleep too. Meditation has been reported to enhance the levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone.
FOCUS ON THE PRACTICE, NOT REWARDS
Meditation may initially appear overwhelming and confusing. Sitting still for 15 minutes may look as daunting as doing 50 reps of Surya Namaskar. But with practice, it gets easier.
First, you need to trust the process and focus on it instead of thinking of its outcomes. Don’t get affected by the onslaught of thoughts while you are meditating. Let them come and go, just observe your thoughts. It’s natural for you to start the practice with certain expectations of how you are supposed to feel but you gradually transition to a state where just being in that moment, in that state of stillness, becomes bigger than any expectations. This is when the practice starts to change you into a better version of yourself.
MINDFULNESS AT WORK
Once you get familiar with the process, you can meditate any time and literally anywhere. You could be waiting for your cab in the morning or during your lunch break. In addition, here are some simple mindfulness tips to enhance your mental well-being during the workday:
Set an intention: It could be “I will try to stay happy today” or “I will remain calm” or “I will be empathetic at work” … anything that will make you more calm, focused, and joyful.
Take regular breaks: After every two hours of work, take a breather. Have something to drink, walk around, look outside the window or just stretch your limbs. This will help you stay focused and productive.
Perk your senses: Listen to the sounds in the office, smell the scents and aromas around you for 30 seconds. Then open your eyes and focus on a picture on the wall. This will awaken your senses and help you focus better.
Mindful lunch: Take an hour-long break away from your work area. Eat mindfully, without looking at a screen or reading. Experience and relish the taste of your food. Post-lunch, relax for 15 minutes. This will reset you for work.
Release stress: If you start feeling stressed at any point, inhale deeply through your nose. Exhale through your mouth and while doing so imagine that you are exhaling the stress out of you. Repeat this exercise three to four times.
Express gratitude: At the end of the day when you log out, take a moment to reflect on the day. Make a note of what worked well and express gratitude for it. Also, acknowledge what didn’t work out and inspire yourself to try something different the next day.
It is estimated that one-third of your life is spent at work. Your professional life is very much an extension of your personal life and, therefore, you need to prioritise your mental wellbeing at work. Make the most of your time spent in the office and learn to keep a calm and peaceful attitude throughout each workday.
The writer is Global Head, Mental Health, and Wellbeing, RoundGlass, a global Wholistic Wellbeing company dedicated to empowering and enabling people on their well-being journey.