I sit at my desk and stare at my computer screen. Although my eyes are fixed on the screen, I’m not really looking at anything. Even when my eyes move along the words, I’m not really taking in their meaning. I feel the restlessness creep through my legs and feet. My shoulders get heavy and slump forward.
These are my cues that I’ve slipped out of the moment. In a matter of seconds, my mind will fixate on something that happened yesterday or last year. I’ll pull up my calendar and peruse upcoming appointments. Before you know it, I’ll pick up my phone and browse social media for no reason at all, telling myself I just need a break.
We all know that’s not the case. What I need to stop these telltale signs is not a “break.” I need to pull myself back to the moment in front of me. What I need is mindfulness.
Understanding your body, behaviors and mind is key to knowing when to reach for mindfulness skills. Mindfulness is a state of mind; however, it’s not a natural one. Even for those of us who practice it daily, mindfulness takes effort, awareness and intentionality.
There are a few easy exercises you can try to learn to stay present in the moment.
Taking In the Moment
Bring yourself back into the present moment by focusing on your surroundings. I am fortunate to have several large windows at my workplace. To prevent my mind from drifting from the present, I look out each window, starting with the upper left corner and working my eyes slowly back and forth until I reach the bottom right corner.
Let’s face it: even if you love your work, things can get a little crazy from time to time. Whether it’s a conflict with co-workers or the pressure of an upcoming deadline, work stress is inevitable. But no matter what caused it, you do not have to lose your mind (fullness) too.
The key to maintaining your Zen attitude, even in difficult circumstances, is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is about being completely in the moment, embracing the situation as it is without judgment.
Where Are Your Feet?
When stress arises, the wheels in your head can start spinning. When your mind is racing, this lowers your ability to think clearly and problem-solve efficiently. So how can we return to a calm and peaceful state of mind?
Focusing on physical sensations can bring you back to center. From that headspace, you regain the ability to respond rather than react impulsively.
One of the best ways to quickly reel your awareness back in is to think about your feet. Take a breath and be in your body. Feel the floor holding you up or the tightness of your shoes.
One of the simplest actions you can take is listening to music. I listen to music often to help me be mindful – not music that I love or even music with words. I listen to instrumental music that I’ve never heard before and don’t recognize in any capacity. The newness and unfamiliarity of the sounds keeps my brain active and focused. If I get pulled out for more than a few seconds, I close my eyes and tap my foot to the beat as long as I need to in order for my body and mind to return to the moment at hand.
Do not work yourself up
Thoughts are not facts. They are just thoughts. You can always jump from a train of thought if you do not like the place where the train is going. The moment you think that a colleague or a client did something frustrating, stop. Do not throw fuel on the fire with thoughts of victimization and self-righteousness. You will only work yourself up. I do not suggest suppressing your negative emotions. This can actually have a negative effect on your wellbeing. I suggest being aware that your thoughts rather than external circumstances make you upset.
The way we feel depends more on our thoughts and less on external circumstances. It is in our hands to pursue and keep our inner peace at work.
Recognize that you can only find happiness in the here and now. Avoid your triggers. Accept the things you cannot change. Jump off your train of thought when you do not like where it is going. And take care of yourself.