The deal didn't come off, your workload is increasing, you made a costly mistake, you get negative feedback, someone hasn't returned your calls, you're not progressing - how do you deal with this? Do you allow yourself to be knocked down and sucked into a downward spiral or are you able to bounce back and learn from adversity? Either way, each moment is a new moment to learn how to become more resilient in the workplace and to all the challenges of life.
Read on for our top 5 mindfulness tips for building resilience in the workplace.
"A mindful state may facilitate disengagement from an initial appraisal of a stressor into a metacognitive state whereby thoughts about the stressor are appraised with greater perspective and less habitual, emotion-laden responses. In this way, the individual is able to de-center from an experience in a way that enables a more balanced appraisal of events to occur." Garland et al. (2011)
The essence of resilience in the workplace is the ability to navigate through adversity in a calm and balanced way. Emotively reacting to situations and beating ourselves up with judgement and self-criticism traps us into a narrow field of negativity that holds us back and inhibits growth. Instead, being able to take a mindful approach in the moment offers space to come back to the reality of events, noticing if we are catastrophising or mind reading perhaps. It gives us clarity to know how to best help ourselves and how we can learn and move forward.
We cannot change events that have happened, or how people treat us, but we do have complete control over how we respond to them, lessening the impact on our own physical and mental well being and developing a much more resilient one.
Our top 5 mindfulness tips to help you build resilience in the workplace:
1. Take a Breathing Space
First comes mindful awareness that you are struggling in some way with stress, overwhelm or maybe you can feel you are about to blow your top in the middle of the office. Once you have awareness you then have control over how you respond and one way to help you do this is to take a Breathing Space. Commonly known as a Coping Breathing Space when used at a time of need, this practice guides you through three steps towards a calmer state of being. Firstly, checking in with yourself to acknowledge your mental and physical state, then narrowing awareness down onto the sensations of breath flowing in and out of the body. Breathing slowly and deeply soothes the nervous system and focusses the mind before moving to the last step of widening awareness to take in the whole body again and the surrounding the environment. By intentionally taking time to switch out of autopilot and into a more being mode of mind helps to switch off the stress response and provides clarity to take stock and gain a wider perspective of events.
CLICK HERE to listen to the Breathing Space audio.
2. Step out of intensity and become an observer
Research shows us that by observing our reactions switches activity from the Amygdala in the brain, which is involved in strong emotions and fear, to the Hippocampus, which is involved in memory, learning, compassion and introspection. This is known as de-centering and doing this shifts our focus from one of intensity to scrutiny, lessening the impact of the initial stressor. Next time you notice the arrival of anxiety, stress, anger or any other emotion and the cycles of thought that accompany them say to yourself, 'aha, here is stress, this too shall pass and it's ok for me not to like it but let me feel it' and then drop awareness down into your body to investigate with a friendly curiosity as to what sensations are present. Maybe you might notice you are clenching your fists or jaw or that you have butterflies, tightness in the chest or maybe you are tensing muscles in your body. Observing in a playful way, as if you had to report back about them, where they are, describing the sensations, noting if they are coming and going or moving on etc will take you away from, and break the habitual chain of, intense thinking.
3. Stop 'Critical Colin' and 'Doubting Doris' in their tracks
When the going gets tough, our minds can become tough towards us too and we begin to believe our inner critics. Thoughts of self-doubt, criticism, shame, judgement etc really are only that - thoughts, but they can be very compelling and we easily believe them to be true, which in turn shape how we perceive events and how we respond to them. This internal propaganda is just fake news and not based on any fact but on implied interpretations so it really is beneficial to learn which facts to give attention to and which ones not to. We can only do this with mindful awareness! The next time you recognise these types of thoughts have arrived, try gently challenging them with questions such as: "Am I confusing a thought with a fact here?", "Am I over-generalising with 'everything' and 'always' statements?", "Am I only seeing this from one point of view?", "Am I mind-reading or gazing into the future?", "Am I setting myself up to fail with unrealistic goals?", "Am I only seeing my weaknesses and not my strengths?" , "Am I only seeing things in black and white and not the grey areas?", "how do I know this to be true, what evidence am I basing this on?" and so on.
4. Be kind.
Kindness is a strength not a weakness and combining mindful self-compassion with awareness makes for a powerful practice in building resilience. First must come awareness of what we are facing and the self-compassion rather than the self-criticism helps us to move forward. An analogy I like to use in teaching is to think of difficulty like the early morning dew on grass. As the sun rises it begins to dry the dew, with the light from the sun being the mindful awareness and the warmth from the sun being the mindful self-compassion, working together offering a different approach to relate to difficulties in a lighter way. Take regular self-compassion breaks in the day to simply check-in with how you're feeling, how you are responding and what you need to help yourself. Are you becoming stressed, caught up in negative thinking, do you need a break, something to eat, a walk round the block to clear your head or could do with some advice from a colleague over a coffee maybe? Doing this will help you sustain performance throughout the day rather than charging through only to crash and burn later on. By regularly affording yourself self-compassion breaks throughout the day you will release stress, be more resilient and less reactive to any triggers you encounter and will be less likely to carry negativity into your next moments.
5. Adopt a resilient and positive mindset
If you wake up already feeling stressed with a feeling of impending doom about the day ahead, you will be more likely to bring a stressed and negative attitude to the rest of your day. If this isn't how you wish to spend your day take a few mindful breaths to break that negativity loop and switch you in a clearer, present mode of mind to be able to take a different perspective. Regularly checking in to monitor your mental and emotional state throughout the day will help you stop catastrophise less and stay resilient to things as they really are. If there is something within your control to make your day go easier then do it, if it is not within your control then all you can do is change your mindset to relate to it in a less stressful way - and you have the power to do that at any time you choose.
Founder of The Mind Hub