Did you know that 83% of workers in the US report suffering from work related stress? A study conducted by Everest College shows the overwhelming majority of workers experience stress due to their work.
Furthermore a study by the APA found that only 43% of US employees think their employers care about their work-life balance.
How have we let these numbers get so out of hand? A better question might be, how can we begin to handle the problem?
A great place to start would be a short exercise in mindfulness. In this post we’ll not only discuss what exactly mindfulness is along with its benefits, we’ll also provide you a 10 minute exercise you can do with your team! This brief exercise can help to revitalize your team and lower any stress they’re currently feeling in their day. Let’s jump right in!
So what is Mindfulness?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA.org, 2012), mindfulness is “a moment-to-moment awareness of one’s experience without judgment.” It is a mental state achieved by focusing your awareness on the present moment, including acknowledging and accepting your thoughts, emotions, bodily sensations, etc. in a judgment-free way. It is a skill that is acquired through practice.
In other words, mindfulness is a level of awareness we can build over time to have a pulse on how we’re feeling in all areas of our life.
That all sounds great, but how exactly does it benefit us?
Practicing mindfulness can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. It can also improve your mood, your immune system, your productivity levels in and outside the workplace, and your sleep. Studies have shown that people who practice mindfulness daily experience a happier and healthier life.
As we all know, work is a big part of our lives and all too often we overlook the stress that it puts on us. By taking time to build our mindfulness we can bring awareness to what’s causing our stress and handle it appropriately.
That brings us to today’s exercise! So gather your team, and let’s give it a shot. Encourage everyone to play full out and really give it a try. Once this 10 minutes is over, they’ll leave feeling rejuvenated and ready to tackle the rest of their day.
Mindfulness Activity - Body Scan (Approximately 10 mins)
For this exercise, choose one person from the group to read the script and lead the activity.
Start by sitting comfortably in your chair with a straight back and when you’re ready, close your eyes. (Pause and give folks a minute to do this.)
Rest your hands gently on your knees or in your lap. (Pause) As you begin to relax, feel your body become heavy and settle into your chair.
Take a deep breath into the nose (pause) and out through the mouth. (Pause) As you continue to breathe, draw attention to the breath as your stomach expands when you inhale and contracts as your exhale.
Now, we’ll begin our body scan. As we scan each body part, notice any sensations you feel in each area without judgment. (Pause)
Start by bringing your attention to the top of your head and scalp. You might feel throbbing, tingling, soft vibrations, or nothing at all. (Pause) Allow yourself to experience these sensations without labeling them.
Then, lower your attention to your forehead, face and temples. Notice any tightness, heat or coolness.
Bring awareness to the jaw. (Pause) Soften this region by breathing out any tension you feel in this area.
Lower your focus to the neck. Allow your throat and the back of the neck to soften as you breathe in and out. (Pause) If you notice any tension, see if you can allow it to gently relax using your breath.
Now, bring your attention to your shoulders. (Pause) Notice any tension or strain. If you notice any sensations, direct the breath to this area to help it soften.
Scan the length of your arms. (Pause) Notice any coolness or heat, tingling or pressure. Observe any sensations that arise on the surface of the skin or deeper within.
Lower your awareness into the wrists, palms and fingers. (Pause) On the next out breath, allow your hands and fingers to soften and become relaxed.
Direct your attention to the chest, torso, and abdomen, observing the rise and fall of this area with each inhale and exhale. (Pause for 5-10 seconds)
Draw your attention to your back. (Pause) There may be some intensity here. Experience whatever sensation you’re feeling without judgment and without labels.
Bring your attention to your pelvis, glutes and hips. (Pause) Notice where your body makes contact with your chair. (Pause)
Scan the length of your legs. Concentrating on any sensations you feel in your thighs down into your knees, shins and calves. (Pause) If you feel any tension, draw your breath deep into this area and let the tension or tightness release.
Continue your focus to your ankles, feet, and toes, allowing your feet to become relaxed and heavy. (Pause for 5-10 seconds)
Now, settle into the stillness. (Pause) As you become aware and more alert, take a moment to acknowledge your efforts today: taking the time to connect with your body, widening your capacity for acceptance and practicing being present in the moment without judgment.
As the practice comes to an end, slowly bring your attention back to the room. (Pause) Take one slow deep breath in through the nose, and fully exhale out through the mouth. (Pause) Enjoy this relaxed and present state and take it with you into your day.
We hope that this short 10 minute exercise has provided a glimpse into the benefits of mindfulness. With continued practice your team can bring awareness to areas they carry stress and begin to reduce it. Try running this with your team even once per week for continued growth and benefit.