7 Meditations To Help With Work Stress, According To Experts
It happens to everyone. You're at work, and suddenly seized by anxiety or just totally overwrought from stress. While it's normal in the sense that it's common, it's not a great thing for your overall wellbeing. Unfortunately, taking breaks and prioritizing how you are feeling during the day plays second — or fourteenth — fiddle in work culture. So giving yourself a few minutes to do some meditations for stress at work can make a real difference.
"Meditation helps with stress and anxiety in a number of different ways, including that it encourages us to engage with our thoughts and feelings in a different way rather than to react reflexively to them," Amanda Seavey, Ph.D., a licensed psychologist and founder of Clarity Psychological Wellness in Raleigh, North Carolina, tells Bustle. "Over time we also relate to stress differently and are better able to remain steady and resilient in the face of it."
A meditation practice helps us stay in the present moment rather than be pulled into ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. It allows you some time to just be.
Seavey says that it is important to note that the more regularly we meditate, the more we experience the benefits. Waiting until we feel highly stressed may not be the best strategy, Seavey says — although it is certainly better and more fruitful that battling forth through a stressful moment.
Below, try some of these breathing techniques and meditations to help through those tense times in the work-a-day world.
1. Brief Mindfulness Breathing
Seavey says that a brief mindfulness of breathing practice may be a really straightforward place to start when the steam is rising out of your ears. Just take a moment for yourself. That email response can wait a beat.
"Simply stay anchored in your breathing, following each inhalation and exhalation as they happen," Seavey says. "When you become distracted, note that your mind has wandered and come back to following the breath."
The more small moments you spend being mindful of your breath, the more you see there is possibility for calm and space "in the now."
2. Deep Belly Breathing
An easy breathing technique from Kundalini yoga includes a deep belly breath, demonstrated in the video above. Easy to do while just sitting at your desk or taking that much needed breather in the single use bathroom.
While sitting with a straight spine, place one hand on your heart, and one below your navel point. Close your eyes, and simply begin breathing in deeply.
The pattern of the breath begins from the bottom up, inhaling from the stomach to the heart, then exhaling from the heart to the stomach. Repeat this slowly and deeply.
3. Finger Meditation
Saying a mantra or a phrase can really help to get you out of your head, and that's the finger meditation is all about. Audrey Christie, MSN, RN, CCMA, a holistic wellness practitioner, tells Bustle to simply sit or stand tall for this one, elongating the spine, and begin to notice your breath.
"Touch each fingertip to the thumb on the same hand and repeat the following, one word per finger touch: Peace Begins With Me," Christie says.
If you want, you can think of a different four word phrase that helps sooth you. Maybe "Work Is Not Life."
4. Pursed Lip Breathing
This video shares three different breathing techniques that help with stress that can be done in just a few minutes. As Meghan Livingstone explains in her video, you want the parasympathetic nervous system to slow down and regulate as much as possible.
Pursed lip breathing is super easy, and requires, as it indicates, pursed lips. You inhale through the nose for four or five seconds, then exhale for as long as it takes through your pursed lips. The resistance created through the pursed lips creates a lengthier exhale, which is great for calming you down.
5. Diaphragmatic Breathing
"The common misconception is that it has to take place in a quiet spot on a tasseled pillow," Christie says, who points out that so many of these meditations can be done without people noticing you're doing anything. Diaphragmatic breathing — breathing into your diaphragm, and then holding — can totally slow things down for your internal landscape.
Simply sit or stand tall, elongating the spine, and breath in deeply through the nose for a four count. Hold in the breath for four, then breath out for four. More advanced practitioners can increase this to eight or 12 counts, Christie says.
"You will notice quickly that you begin to calm," Christie says. "Repeating only a handful of times is necessary."
6. Soundscape Meditation
Life coach and NLP practitioner, Sarah Morris, who is also the founder and director of Brain Happy, tells Bustle that she recommends a meditation she calls "sound scape."
"Notice every sound you can hear," Morris says. "What sounds hadn’t you noticed before? Spend two minutes listening to all the sounds. Don’t get caught up in any negative thoughts about ‘annoying’ sounds – just hear them and let them be."
Anything that can momentarily shift your thinking away from your work stress is helpful for creating space in your mind.
7. Just Stand For A Minute
Take a full sixty seconds to stop, feel your feet on the floor, and the breath in your belly. Then, adjust your posture to be upright and open, and focus on your breath flowing in and out. It feels good.
"Doing this throughout your day at work and everywhere allows us to remember where we are," Koshin Paley Ellison, psychotherapist, founder of the New York Zen Center for Contemplative Care, and author of Wholehearted, tells Bustle.
"Mindfulness is a popular term these days and another translation of the word is 'remember,'" Ellison says. "When we stop, drop down into experiencing our bodies, remember what is truly important, compassion can begin to flow."
So instead of constantly feeding the gerbil wheel, he says, taking time to have compassion lights up the true pleasure centers of the brain.
When you work these breaks into your day, before you know it, you'll be an inner peace master. Silent meditation retreat, anyone?