Wednesday 4 November 2015 10:00 am

National Stress Awareness Day mindfulness tips: Six ways to keep calm when work stress gets too much

Today is National Stress Awareness Day – so what better time to address the stress that's been piling up in your job.

Work stress is an unavoidable fact of life, but it's how you deal with it that counts. According to The BeingWell, a not-for-profit helping stressed-out Londoners achieve “mindfulness”, there are six simple ways to stay focused during the day and not let pressure get the better of you.

1. Appreciate your food

When you eat lunch, don't do other things at the same time, even if you are eating at your desk. Devote yourself entirely to the action of eating, and make sure you enjoy the experience.

“Take a few minutes during the day to just eat. [Don't] multi-task lunch with conversation, the computer or phone. Just absorb the taste and textures of the food. Take in the smells. You’re much more likely to feel satisfied and nourished.”

2. When you walk, focus on the action

Don't allow your mind to drift to unpleasant places when walking, like the many emails you have to reply to or the document you have to finish by the end of the day. Just focus on putting one foot in front of the other and it'll hep clear your head.

“Often when we walk in familiar surroundings our minds disconnect and go for a wander of their own. And when things are stressful, our minds can go to unhelpful places. When walking, sense deeply into the movement. The contact with the ground. The stretch and contracting of the muscles. Notice the sights, sounds, smells, temperature. This gives you respite and a break from negative thinking. And the mini-break restores a bit of wellbeing."

3. Pay close attention to your breathing

Thinking too many negative and stressful thoughts can actually stop you doing your job properly in some cases, but moving your concentration to your breathing helps break the pattern.

“Paying attention to breathing can also slow the cycling of repetitive thoughts and worries. When the thinking slows down, there can be more clarity and creativity. Notice the air enter the body, the movement of the body as it breathes. Follow a full in breath and a full out breath. Repeat this a few times.”

4. Pause for a moment before doing simple things

When you have a busy job, you can find yourself always in a rush, and once you're in that mindset it's hard to break out of it.

“Before automatically opening an email, answering the phone, pushing the button in the lift… pause. Notice with full awareness the actions you are taking. This develops your ability to not just react unthinkingly. This is a valuable skill when you are under pressure.”

5. Don't rush to speak

When someone at work is talking to you, or if you are in a group discussion and everyone except you seems to be saying something, don't rush to offer your own opinions. Relax, let the words wash over you and only speak when you know exactly what it is you want to add.

“Open up fully to hear what someone is saying. Put on hold what you want to say next or any immediate judgements. Just take in the words. Listen with what you see and observe the tone, pitch, pauses, expressions. This will give you much more information to find the right response.”

6. Don't do exactly the same thing day after day

Falling into the same pattern of events every day can cause you to lose touch with what's going on outside your own little bubble. Just small, regular adjustments can help you gain some perspective.

“Getting out of your routine slightly can bring you back to your senses more. Bring novelty to the familiar. Try a different type of coffee or tea in the morning, take a slightly different route to work, rearrange your desk or a room at home slightly.”