Stress is all around us. Whether it’s caused by money, work, relationships, the political climate, or personal health and safety issues, stress is like an unwelcome visitor who just won’t leave.
According to the American Institute of Stress, workplace stress is the biggest culprit of them all, and it’s only getting worse. Per the organization’s recent survey, 80 percent of people feel stress at work. 40 percent reported that their job was “very or extremely stressful.”
Specific stressors range from job insecurity to being overworked. They also include personal issues with bosses and peers. Leave it unchecked, and stress can sabotage your career, disrupt your sleep, and have serious health consequences.
The American Psychological Association says that “job strain,” defined as coupling high demands with low decision-making latitude, is “associated with increased risk of coronary disease.” That’s not good, but, fortunately, you can fight back.
So, to reap the benefits of exercise, go for a walk, hit the yoga mat, lift some weights, or fire up your Aaptiv app for a custom workout. But, if you’re looking for an extra edge to decrease the stress in your life, try pairing that exercise with regular meditation.
How Meditation Reduces Stress
Countless studies have been performed to determine exactly how meditation affects the body and mind. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, mindfulness meditation can be effective in reducing anxiety, depression, and pain. They recommend that clinicians talk with their patients about the role that meditation can have on psychological stress.
Another study that specifically addressed work-induced stress followed 22 senior executives in India. After undergoing a mindfulness-based stress reduction program over 16 weeks, participants showed physical and mental improvements. They enjoyed reductions across various stress indicators, including physical, sleep, behavioral, and emotional. They displayed better self-compassion, and their blood pressure and blood cortisol levels improved.
A seven-week Australian study also looked at how mindfulness meditation can impact workers, finding compelling results. Inside the office, participants showed more calmness and relaxation and a better ability to handle difficult matters at work. Outside the office, mindfulness was found to promote better relationships with family members and reduce blood pressure.
So, if you have a job that makes you stressed, anxious, or otherwise exacts on a toll on your well-being, mindfulness meditation might be able to help. Best of all, it’s a low-cost option that you can perform anywhere, even at work.
How to Get Started
There are many ways to meditate, and it’s not a one-size-fits-all practice. Some might prefer the spiritual side of transcendental and zen meditation, while others might prefer the breath and movement of Kundalini yoga. But, for many, mindfulness meditation is a great place to start.
This form requires nothing more than a quiet place free from distractions. You simply focus solely on the present—your breath, your thoughts, your emotions—without giving pause to the past and future. By giving all of your awareness to the present, you’re better able to understand and appreciate your current state. If your mind wanders, no problem, just try to refocus your thoughts and your breath. Remember: you can’t win or lose at meditation.
Do this for a few minutes each day, and you can enjoy those moments of calmness and clarity. Do it long term, and studies show that beneficial changes in brain function and your ability to process emotions can extend into everyday life—not just when you’re meditating.
Meditating in the Workplace
If you’re specifically looking to reduce work-related stress, you can meet the challenge head-on by meditating at work. Of course, certain jobs allow for this more easily than others. But, if you can steal a few minutes of peace while at your desk, on your lunch break, or in the park across the street, you can infuse your day with a sense of calm.
If you’re meditating at your desk sit comfortably and close your eyes. A private office or empty conference room can also help allay any apprehensions.
Begin to breathe deeply and evenly, and try to focus on each breath. Attempt to block out any outside distractions, like the afternoon meeting, sales goals, or that upcoming presentation. Keep on breathing and focus on the present for five minutes, and there you go: you just meditated.
As you feel more comfortable meditating, you may be able to extend your sessions for longer periods of time. Or, you may opt to take several short meditation breaks throughout the day.
You may even decide to try taking a meditative walk around the block or putting on some headphones and listening to a guided meditation—whatever helps you to reduce stress and feel better both in and out of the office.
If you’ve got 10 minutes to spare, search “Morning Meditation” in your Aaptiv app. Led by Jade, this beginner’s meditation is a great way to kick off your day.