Leadership / 11.08.17
Being Mindful: Learn to Reduce Stress in Only Five Minutes
If your job stresses you out from time to time, you’re not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, everyone who has ever worked has felt the pressure of work-related stress at some point during their career. Only one in three people are handling it well. So, what’s the solution?
Reducing stress and being mindful are important to Victoria Cary, senior director of ticketing at SHN. Cary has been practicing insight meditation since 2006 and teaching mindfulness since 2013. While on the Inspiration Stage at the INTIX 2017 conference in New Orleans, she shared several tips that can help us all reduce stress, increase personal happiness and bring more balance to our lives.
“When we are really stressed out at work, we are not thinking clearly,” says Cary. “We are reacting from a place of anxiety and stress, so we may not make the best decisions if we are unable to clearly see what is really happening. If we take a step back, we are much better decision makers, and we are much kinder to our co-workers and employees.”
It all starts with “mindfulness,” a concept that world-renowned stress reduction expert Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn defines as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.” Simply put, mindfulness is about being more aware of each moment as it unfolds and enjoying it for what it is without overthinking it or reacting to it.
Unfortunately, many of us spend our days multitasking, obsessing about the past or worrying about the future. Meanwhile our lives just pass us by. “Most of us are wandering through life on auto pilot,” says Cary. “We are not paying attention to what is happening internally and certainly not doing much to mitigate our state of being in a healthy way. This causes us to be vulnerable to stress, anxiety, depression and reactivity.”
So, how does one become mindful?
Mindfulness is possible for everyone, but it takes practice. Cary suggests starting the process by stopping for a moment and drawing attention to your breath. Simply taking three deep breaths can be supportive. If you have more time, you can close your eyes and focus on your body, finding the place where your breath is most prominent. You may find it helpful to lay a finger under your nose and feel the warm air as you exhale. Or, try putting your hand on your chest or belly and feeling the rise and fall of the breath. Just be with your breath. When you are breathing, know when you are breathing. The idea is to keep coming back to your breath, again and again. You may notice that you find yourself caught up in thoughts, your mind wandering here and there. When this happens, simply come back to your breath without judgement. Do this for five minutes. What we are practicing is coming back again and again to this very moment.
After you’ve practiced in this way for a while, you may want to start applying mindfulness to your everyday routine activities. “You can come back to paying attention in this way when you are walking, you can do it sitting, you can do it with your eyes open or closed, you can do it lying in bed, you can do it on your commute to work,” says Cary. “But, for it to work, you have to practice. It’s not an intellectual pursuit ― you can’t just read about it; you need to do it.”
Cary suggests practicing by becoming fully engaged in whatever it is you are doing at any given moment. For example, while washing your hands, just wash your hands, or while walking down a hall, just walk down the hall. Transitions can be helpful reminders. For example, be mindful as you walk out the door for the day or walk into a meeting. “It’s not about doing it well, it’s about just doing it,” says Cary. “There is a cumulative effect. The more you do it, the easier it is to do.”
While you work at becoming mindful, Cary also suggests going into your day with clear intentions. She suggests asking yourself these questions:
- How do I want to show up today?
- What am I going to do when so-and-so irritates me?
- When am I going to practice today?
Engage yourself fully in whatever you are doing and make a commitment to be fully present with the people in your life.
While mindfulness can help us cope with stress on the job, its rewards go far beyond the workplace. Research shows that it has numerous physical as well as psychological benefits. Perhaps most important of all, it has been found to be a key element in happiness. In applying it to her own life, Cary readily says, “It is my everything.”
INTIX thanks Victoria Cary, senior director of ticketing at SHN, for sharing her experiences at our 2017 conference. Members with questions can reach Victoria directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Finding calm in the chaos of live sports and entertainment might seem just out of your reach. Attend the session "Calm in the Chaos: An Introduction to Mindfulness in Leadership," led by Kay Burnham, vice president of guest services and current INTIX board chair at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, at the INTIX 40th Annual Conference in Texas on Jan. 29-31, 2019.
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