Stressed At Work? How To Manage Stress With Mindfulness

The more we give our challenges weight and importance, the more they will weigh on us.

Each day feels the same.

You get to work feeling like, “Today is going to be a good day. I’m not going to get my feathers ruffled and I’m not going to feel stressed out by all the things I have to do today at work.

But while it sounds good to feel balanced and centered throughout your work day, there’s simply no doubt about it: work is overwhelming and stressful, period. Right?

And there you are again at workday-end, feeling frazzled and stressed out like always.

But what if you could make minor adjustments toward developing a more mindful approach that would actually improve the way you manage stress at work? It’s more than possible.

Let’s first take a close look at an interesting Zen story:

Nan-in, a Japanese master during the Meiji era (1868–1912), received a university professor who came to inquire about Zen.

Nan-in served tea. He poured his visitor’s cup full, and then kept on pouring.

The professor watched the overflow until he no longer could restrain himself. ‘It is overfull. No more will go in!’

“Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

How can we enjoy life if we don’t empty our own cups? How can we make clear decisions if we are always full of our own judgements?

Similarly, when we show up to our work day with our “cup” already full with our perception that work is overwhelming or our workday will absolutely be stressful, we’ve got no room in our “cup” to allow for the mindful, centered thoughts that we actually need in order to approach our workdays in a healthy manner.

The more we give our challenges weight and importance, the more they will weigh on us.

Before discussing further actionable steps you can take to enhance feeling mindful and centered while at work, first allow yourself to become aware of your possible perception of work as stressful (before you even get there) and recognize that you may be bringing a “full cup” to each workday:

  • Understand that stress is a mental and sometimes physical reaction to a perceived threat or change.
  • Stress is less about the actual event and more about our perception of the event, or in other words the way we relate to the event (i.e. work).
  • Every night is a death of the old self; each rising day is a rebirth. We are not static beings. Our bodies and cells are in a constant state of renewal. Grasp your opportunity to change your mindset toward work being stressful.
  • Focus on approaching each day with “an empty cup”

The more open you become to approaching each day with “an empty cup” and are willing to receive positive experiences with and at work, the more the following practices and mindfulness exercises you can add into your workday can help you feel all-around less stress regarding work.

In practicing mindfulness, or consciously harnessing our thoughts to focus solely on the present moment (versus ruminating about past events or worrying about future events), we learn to become aware of our present thoughts, emotions, feelings, and behavior.

Tuning inward periodically throughout your workday will also help you learn to identify your stress triggers and stress cycles, and how to interrupt them before they become stronger.

  • Before work: Try driving to work a little slower, if possible, and consider letting each red light or stop sign act as your reminder to tune into how you’re feeling.
  • Repeat this mantra, “My cup is empty. I’m open to receiving positive experiences today at work.”
  • While at work: Practice this mindful breathing exercise periodically through your workday and any time you notice feelings of stress. Taking deep breaths will help slow down your mind and heart rate, and turning your attention to the physical sensation of your breathing—practicing mindful breathing—will help you to feel calmer while at work. Whether sitting in your office chair (or maybe on a short work break), take a nice, deep inhale through your nose, feel how your lungs and chest expand, and then relax on your exhale out of your mouth. Repeat three times or until you feel yourself relaxing. Your goal is simply to focus on and be mindful of your breathing, only, for a couple minutes.
  • After work: Try turning your walk to your car into a time to practice mindfulness. Recognize your workday is complete, notice each step you take away from work, and focus on each breath. Similar to your drive to work, try making your drive home unruhsed and a time to consciously focus on releasing your workday. Maybe play soothing music, and practice mindful breathing.

In creating a more mindful approach to the way you perceive work and stress, noting the importance of trying to approach your day with “an empty cup”, and by making effort to include practicing moments of mindfulness throughout your workday, you’ll discover that you feel calmer and more able to manage any stressors that may appear.

Suggested Reading: Get Out of a Rut And Build Routines (That Aren’t Boring) & Ways to Switch Off Work When You Get Home

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