Stress negatively impacts businesses each day. Overworked, overwhelmed employees often feel as though they’re running in circles, never quite getting anything accomplished. Over time, this feeling can lead to burnout, severe job dissatisfaction, and susceptibility to a number of diseases and illnesses.
The positive effects of meditation have been well documented over the years, but time-challenged professionals hardly have time to go to yoga every day. Luckily, you don’t have to take a regular class to put valuable meditation techniques into use in your everyday life. Here are some meditation practices you can bring into your daily stressful situations:
Related: Meditation—Your Way
One of the most useful aspects of yoga for your daily life is mindful awareness. In a meditation session, this involves merely clearing your mind and focusing on the present moment. By centering yourself and thinking only about your breathing and posture, you can move yourself away from the stresses of the day and truly be in the moment.
There are tricks you can employ in your daily life, too, without closing your eyes and sitting still. Try using observation to appreciate the environment around you—as you wash your hands, focus on the feeling of the water as it hits your skin, or as you open a door, truly feel the doorknob. You can also focus on one object to the exclusion of all else to relax your mind, like a leaf blowing on a tree outside your office window or a dust particle floating through the air—anything that provides an appreciation for natural objects.
Raj Jana, the founder of JavaPresse Coffee Company, created a meditative practice through something as simple as grinding his morning coffee. “In this period of mandatory downtime,” Jana explains, “my hands are too busy to text, and I’m too occupied to think.” All of his energy and focus is devoted to grinding the coffee, from noticing how his hands are moving to taking in the aroma of the beans.
Mantras are often associated with the word “om” and are used in many meditation sessions to refocus the mind. But your mantra can be any word you choose. Popular modern mantras include Norman Vincent Peale’s “I change my thoughts, I change my world” and Gandhi’s “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Choose a saying that reminds you of your own goals and dreams and use that mantra to quiet your mind and center your thoughts.
When you find yourself feeling overly stressed, find a quiet place where you can clear your mind and relax. In time, you’ll likely find that you can use that mantra in any stressful situation to calm yourself. Your colleagues will respect your ability to remain cool under pressure and react to every situation professionally.
There’s a reason breathing is so closely connected to yoga and meditation. When you take deep breaths, it actually tricks the body into reversing the physiological effects of burnout, such as rapid heartbeat, tense muscles and dilated pupils. Deep breaths slow your heart rate, improve oxygen delivery and lower your blood pressure, effectively reducing the health problems that can result from too much stress.
For best results, practice breathing exercises when you’re alone. When a stressful situation arises, you’ll then be well versed in the art and able to put it to use to calm your mind, even if you’re in a business meeting or facing a hostile co-worker in your office. You can choose from several different types of breathing exercises to find the one that works best for you, including abdominal breathing, progressive relaxation and guided visualization using an online meditation audio tool.
Abdominal breathing—also called diaphragmatic breathing—is all about taking deep breaths, rather than the shallow ones we’re used to, to get oxygen into your body. The goal is to inhale slowly through your nose until your stomach pushes out and then exhale for an equal amount of time. This reduces stress and helps with digestion.
Progressive relaxation is a similar method of pushing your muscles to an extreme and then relaxing them. In progressive muscle relaxation, you tense your muscles up in sections, such as focusing on your neck and shoulders. You then let the tension go and absorb the relaxation through your muscles and body.
Guided visualization focuses on heightening your senses to achieve relaxation. The guidance may ask you to picture a peaceful nature scene, like a waterfall, or a healing light bursting throughout your body. One good tool for guided visualization is the Stop, Breathe & Think app, which offers guided meditations for specific needs, such as sleep or anxiety.
When used correctly, meditation is a great way to battle the many stresses professionals face every day. By practicing these exercises when not in a stressful situation, you can prepare yourself to use them when others are around.
Serenity Gibbons is a former assistant editor at the Wall Street Journal and a New York University alumna living in California. She is the local unit lead for NAACP in Northern California. She enjoys writing about and interviewing people who are making a difference in the world.