I am highly stressed and anxious at work lately at a social service agency. We have suffered severe cutbacks in our budget, yet have increased caseloads that we must handle with less staff. Needless to say, our motivation level is low, as is our energy and efficiency. I’m worried about our mental health and burning out with this increasing pressure and anxiety. Do you have any suggestions as to how we might handle this situation?
Signed: Drowning in Stress (DIS)
I spoke with one of our JVS Employment Counsellors who just finished a session at work on mindfulness. The program boosted their satisfaction, improved their health and helped them take better care at work and in life in general. Many employers have started to offer a mindfulness training program that uses techniques to help its employees be empowered, calm and reduce stress, anxiety and depression on the job.
According to Laura Mandell, founder of Corp Calm and renowned teacher of mindfulness meditation in the workplace, there are proven benefits of this type of meditation in action. Many studies from leading research centres have cited business benefits of mindfulness within organizations, including: (a) Decreased staff absenteeism and turnover, (b) Improved concentration, memory and learning, (c) Improved productivity, and (d) Improved professional relationships
Mandell presents the following four ways in which mindfulness can be effective in reducing stress at work and positively impacting the work environment:
1) Becoming better observers.
Mindfulness teaches us to purposefully pay attention to what is happening in the here and now – without judgment. In a stressful work situation it’s often not the actual moment that is stressful, but the ideas, fears or expectations we associate to a moment. When we can objectively observe a situation we can also see the “bigger picture” with greater ease, and this can improve our ability to contribute to our workplace in a meaningful way.
2) Becoming effective listeners.
This is one of the key skills and competencies of any employee. Mindfulness teaches the skills to be more present and focused, and therefore to be able to listen more fully and effectively. The result is the ability to take in more complete information and with that, cultivate better working memory and become more responsive to the needs of colleagues, employees or clients.
3) Learning to focus.
In our fast-paced wired world of multi-tasking, it’s very easy to become distracted while juggling many responsibilities. Before we know it we are feeling overwhelmed and being unproductive. Mindfulness teaches us to focus and to notice not only when we are being pulled away or distracted, but to calmly and gently guide ourselves back to focus.
4) Cultivating mind/body awareness.
Through the practice of mindfulness, we gain an understanding of the direct connection between what we think and how we feel, which helps us better manage the day-to-day interactions of our minds and bodies when it comes to stressful situations. Not only does this help us to restore and maintain a sense of personal balance and well-being, it facilitates the development of skills necessary to do our best work and keep from getting emotionally and mentally drained.
Whether you are a frustrated job seeker battling the challenging of the job search or an employee like you dealing with possible burn-out, learning to be calm, resilient, healthy and relaxed in the face of stress triggers are valuable skills for you personally as they are to your employer.