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Stress Relief at Work

Jennifer Edwards

Invest in YOU. Practicing key elements and fundamental teachings of meditation throughout your day will:

  1.  Work to release daily stress in the moment.
  2. Allow you to carry a meditation practice with you through your whole day.
  3. Build a readily–available foundation of relaxation; ultimately making access to your meditation practice easier.
  4. Eradicate, or at least limit, the excuse: “I don’t have time to meditate.”

“Work time” offers a perfect opportunity to practice the fundamentals of meditation and relaxation. You spend more waking hours at work in a given week than you spend anywhere else. Invest in you while you are there. Often, time is spent plowing through your workday. Instead, use this time to focus on a practice of daily, applied stress reduction and meditation.

Start Everyday Fresh! Just as every meditation is different, so is each day at work. Do not walk into work expecting it to be like your last time there. Let go of expectations and focus on being present. Carrying “historical” or past feelings, grievances and frustrations can only lead to a build-up of stress symptoms. Stay grounded and centered in your physical and emotional self. Allow the (thinking, problem-solving, ‘work’) mind to be focused, yet gentle. Stay “at home” in you: body, heart and conscious mind.

The natural question is HOW. You are taught to hold onto the stories and dramas of interpersonal interactions, therefore it seems hard to simply let go of the emotions of your work situations. You are taught to take it personally. You are taught that home is a place far from work (ironically, even if you work from home). The truth is, you work HARD to hold onto the emotional energy of situations and interactions; and you work HARD to divorce yourself from the fact that you are one whole, same person in all areas of your life.

Somehow work has become a place where everything is thrown out the window. Decide today to change that. Clients often tell me it is too hard to focus on being positive at work. They say, “It’s busy, it’s noisy, the environment is not in their control.” However, invariably when these same individuals begin to clear their bodies, hearts and minds of preconceptions and perceptions of what work is, they find it easier to be “at home in themselves” at work.

You replay and tell the stories of stressful situations and disconnections over and over. This story telling engrains dramas of your day in the body, heart and mind, which in turn, become fatigue, burnout, overwhelm, headaches, and general work-related-stress symptoms. This pattern of embodying “your stress” instead of living in your TRUE EMBODIED SELF, or “home,” is the root-cause of the concept we call stress.

Use the following meditation exercises to integrate this practice into your workdays. Choose just one and practice for an entire week.

Meditation on Breath: All meditation practice begins with a focus on your breath. Use the hours you have at work to both develop a relationship with your breath, and allow the practice of deeper breathing to naturally reduce stress symptoms.

Take a deep breath so that the muscles around your waistband release and expand. If you find it difficult to do this, wear looser clothing tomorrow or loosen your belt. If it is your mind that is making it difficult, give yourself permission to “stick your stomach out.” If it makes it easier, do this in a place where you are alone, behind a desk, counter or in the bathroom. Whether you spend your day at a computer, serving food, making coffee or teaching children, it is vitally important to release tension as it builds in your body, specifically in your abdomen. Over time you will find that you have less bloating, abdominal cramping, indigestion, fear and anxiety during your day. You will also find it easier to speak clearly and loudly, and over time, you will experience more confidence and creativity. Additionally, focus on your breath will no longer be something you have to work to find, it will be a natural part of your day.

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Meditation on receptivity: It is common to think of relaxation or meditation as a practice of keeping the world out; intentionally turning away from the world around you. However there are meditation practices (Vipassana meditation, for example) that focus on taking EVERYTHING IN. I find this particularly helpful as I live in New York City and mentor mostly city dwellers with “high-stress” jobs.

Practice at least three times a day: Take several minutes to literally absorb every site, sound, smell, sensation in your environment. Do not tune in to any one particular sensation. If people are talking around you, listen to only the flow and cadence of their speech, not the words they are saying. Feel yourself still and slightly removed from all of it. This is an exercise that builds the habit of non-attachment; perfect for work and also often the goal of building a meditation practice. You are not removed from the goings-on of the world around you; you are also not overwhelmed by it. You can be alert, aware and calm in the chaos of a busy office, bustling café or over-crowded hospital emergency room. You will find as you practice this, your ears will automatically hear what you NEED to hear, you will see more clearly what is actually going on and you will be able to disengage with the wants of those around you, intuitively knowing what they need.

This is also a wonderful exercise to practice as a walking meditation on your lunch break. It is vitally important to physically step away from work when you can. Get out of your work environment, stretch your body and practice a moving, eyes-open, present, yet non-attached meditation. Allow your focus to be receptivity: what can you receive from (not take on, absorb or carry for) others and the world around you. Again you are your home, in every moment. What do you want to fill your living space with?

Meditation on love: Actively focus on sending peace/good vibes/joy to every co-worker and your boss. Whatever words you choose, the sentiment is the same: Good thoughts to each person you encounter. This does not mean you have to like each person you meet. This is for you. By sending good thoughts and love out to others, you do two very important things for yourself: First you must fill yourself with positive feelings to be able to send them to others. Second you build a “bubble” of good thoughts around you and between you and others. When you focus on sending a good thought to each and every one of your co-workers, there is little mental space for judgment, resentment or harsh feelings. This is great to practice at rush hour, in your car, on the subway, in long lines; everywhere frustration builds. Just remember, while it may help others as well, this practice is for YOU. Fill and fuel yourself, and your “home” with unconditional love.

Meditation on truth: Take time to explore and write down exactly what your personal bottom lines are. Bottom lines refer to the farthest you will go at or for work; or in other words, where you draw the final line. In this way you can begin to build an understanding of your personal truth as it applies to your life. Sit with this. Allow truth to resonate in your emotional/ heart center. While this practice engages the mind, move each of these bottom-line truths through your body, breath, heart and into an aware, meditative and awake practice.

Be clear. Keep this list of bottom lines on your desk, post it on your refrigerator, bulletin board, desk top, blackberry, top of your dresser; places you will see them everyday. Keep this list out until you have memorized, learned and felt each item. Make adjustments if you need to. However, know your bottom lines so well that they become your guidelines for how you will live your life. In this way, you will develop the practice of not compromising yourself in anyway for anyone. Knowing your bottom lines makes decision-making easier and ultimately reduces much stress. Do not negotiate your bottom lines with yourself. Give yourself permission to honor your needs in every situation!

How long will you stay in a company without a promotion? How many weekends will you work before you say no? How many business phone calls will you take at home? Does family always come first? Second? Third? How much “you” time do you need? (Everyone needs time for himself or herself!). Most importantly, how much stress are you willing to experience before you do something about it?

The closer you live to your truth, the deeper you can go in your meditation practice and the easier and less stressful your days at work and at home will be. Find “home” in your body, your self and your meditation practice. Know that they are all one-in-the-same. And they all travel with you in work, play and every moment of your life.

Come back to your breath now. Within that breath dwells receptivity, love and truth.

Relief3Jennifer Edwards is a master teacher focused on stress reduction, self-awareness and personal growth. She writes and speaks to audiences throughout the US and abroad. She is the author and founder of “Relaxation on the GO,” a book and recording series and on-line journal. Her diverse vocational background reflects her understanding of the physical body as an instrument for self-mastery.

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