In January, Deloitte and Mind released a report on Mental Health in the workplace.
- Between 2008 and 2018, overall sick days taken per year, per employee has fallen from 5.3 to 4.4
- However, time lost because of mental health conditions has increased
- Poor mental health cost UK businesses more than £43bn in 2018
- That’s up 16% since 2016
So what’s the problem here?
Imagine your day. I’m sure there are days when you don’t get away from your desk. You eat on the go, you don’t take breaks, you take work home and continue to work late to get things done.
So, at what point does your brain get an opportunity to recharge and reset?
If you paused for just a moment you’d likely observe the extent of your mind racing, your shoulders and jaw tensing, and a nervous energy building.
Whilst nervous energy can be useful, feeling it’s presence all day, every day, isn’t healthy. We need to function at a different, more moderated level to achieve focus, creative thinking and clarity, otherwise the brain panics and bounces all over the place.
Thousands of years ago, we had to fight for survival. Whether faced with the threat of being attacked, or accidently eating poisonous berries, we relied on the fight/flight mechanism within our brains. This clever system allows our bodies to prepare quickly for an emergency by flooding us with adrenaline and cortisol, diverting critical resources to key areas, meaning we ‘fight’ or ‘run’ in times of danger.
The problem is, this ancient part of the brain hasn’t evolved to discern between a real danger or a perceived danger. It therefore acts in the same way whether you’re under a deadline at work or about to be run over by an oncoming car!
It just wants to keep you safe. But, with many of us stuck in a cycle of stress, we are constantly in a state of anxiety – and that’s not a good place to be.
How can mindfulness help?
Mindfulness techniques can be very useful in ‘unhooking’ us from our unconscious thinking and interrupting that mind/body state we can become embroiled in.
When we pause, we notice. When we notice we can take appropriate action.
The question is how do we bring mindfulness into our busy working day and ease those stresses? Here are some ideas that can help.
- Use a trigger to check in with how we’re feeling. It may be when we get up to make a cuppa or go to the loo, but, pause and take a breath. Often just checking in with our mind/body state allows us more clarity to observe what’s going on inside us.
- Move around. If you have a sedentary job, you’ll know sitting in one position for hours on end is not good. Get up, switch your environment and move your body.
- Eat away from your desk or workstation and enjoy the flavours of your lunch. Eat slower, notice it and let it digest rather than wolfing it back at your desk whilst answering emails in between bites.
- Using breaks to get outside in nature – connecting with the outside is good for you. If you can find some green space, take a walk in it. Try not to put headphones in, instead tune into the space. Notice your breathing, your foot placement as you walk and the sounds around you.
- Stretch. If you’ve had a busy day and haven’t had chance to get away from what you are doing use your pause to stretch it out. A few deep breaths expanding your lungs and opening your chest can allow you that check in you need to be able to reset and clear some space in your head.
By taking these small steps you can start to pave the way to a more mindful existence, and hopefully start to tip the balance back in your favour.