We’ve all fallen victim to a busy, hectic workday where we feel frazzled, unfocused, and exhausted. Mindfulness can be the key to staying sane in the midst of managing our patients, devices, and other commitments. Mindfulness, put simply, is awareness of your experience in the moment. It’s the act of focusing on the here and now and using that awareness to change your emotional, mental, or physical state.
The benefits of mindfulness include improved memory and focus, stress reduction, less emotional reactivity, and greater well-being. Being mindful requires paying attention to what you’re doing and how. Most of the day, we’re on autopilot and completing one task while thinking about several other things. Cultivating mindfulness, or focused attention on the present, requires practice.
Following are examples of ways to add mindfulness to your day and your office.
1. Slow Down
The easiest way to boost mindfulness is to slow down. When you wake up, don’t reach for your phone, but allow yourself a few moments to just be. Build margin into your schedule by arriving 15 minutes earlier to work and easing into your day. Set specific times of day to check your emails and let go of the need to multitask. By slowing down and focusing on a single task, you’ll be more productive. Slowing down also gives you time to evaluate emotional responses. Taking a pause before responding to an angry patient or upset staff member can provide perspective.
You’ll notice the quality of your breath changes depending on your emotional state; stress or anxiety may produce short breaths in your upper chest, while anger may involve deep fuming breaths. Throughout the day, check in with yourself and your breathing. Being mindful of your internal state informs your external behavior. When you feel yourself becoming stressed as the waiting room backs up, mindfulness reminds you to focus on the present moment and on what you can control. Take a few deep breaths with your eyes closed in the middle of challenging situations to refocus and reset your energy. Just focus on the cycle of your breath; inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale. Mindful breathing exercises can be done outside of stressful situations as well. There are many mindfulness-based smartphone apps where you can set reminders to build this time into your day and make it a daily habit.
Many of us work non-stop throughout the day but studies show that brief diversions can vastly improve our focus. Instead of working through lunch, take a break and eat without a screen. If possible, eat outside for some fresh air and Vitamin D. Treat yourself to breaks throughout the day as needed for coffee or a walk to clear your head. Limit the amount of work you take home. Making time to disconnect at the end of the day strengthens relationships with family and gives your brain a break. If you can’t do a hard stop, consider creating a window of time to focus on spending quality time with loved ones.
Danielle Richardson currently practices in Downtown Houston with Texas State Optical and runs a holistic wellness company, Fierce Clarity. She is a registered yoga teacher and hosts wellness retreats, yoga classes, and pop-up events for busy, professional women to help manage stress and avoid burnout. You can find Danielle on Instagram at @Fierce Clarity.
This article originally appeared in the May 2018 edition of INVISION.