Written by Christa Clarke
I meditate in my office. I have a tea corner. I grow plants. To my current coworkers, I am very conscious about my mental well-being while at work. However, I did not always consider the office a place where I could practice mindfulness and take an active role in my mental well-being. Taking mental health days is just the tip of the iceberg. I am sharing 10 practical ways to embrace mindfulness and maintain your mental well-being while in the office.
1. Create a Morning Ritual for the Office
Instead of diving straight into piles of paperwork or emails after the morning rush hour, take a moment to ease into your workday focused and relaxed. For example, my morning ritual consists of watering my plants, brewing a fresh cup of loose leaf tea, and reading a short devotional. As I sip my tea, listen to peaceful gospel or classical music as I eat breakfast and prioritize my to-do list. A simple morning ritual when you arrive in the office is the perfect way to take control of the way you start your workday.
2. Stretch or Do Desk Yoga, Plus Rest Your Eyes
When working primarily behind a computer screen, our bodies build up tension. Shoulders. Neck. Legs. Eyes. The tension and stiffness can even lead to pain. When you are starting to feel tense or even just need a boost of energy, try these desk stretches or desk yoga poses. Don’t forget to relax your eyes by following the 20–20–20 rule.
3. Take Shorter Breaks More Often
There is a psychological cost to working hard, especially when working on tedious or difficult tasks. Basically, you will get tired, lose your ability to think creatively, and start to make more mistakes without taking breaks. Many of us fool ourselves into thinking we are too busy to take breaks. We aren’t. Breaks are necessary to improve attention, increase energy, as well as to retain information. Try using the Pomodoro Method to increase your productivity by working on one task for 25-minutes, and taking a 5-minute non-work related break. Pivot between focused working periods and short breaks. Every 4th cycle take a 20–30 minute break.
4. Be Realistic about Your To-Do List
If you are like me, you may have the tendency to overfill your to-do list and find yourself dissatisfied or overwhelmed by the number of items remaining that will spill over into the next day. If left unchecked, this can become a vicious cycle of feeling like you are playing catch up more often than you are not. By utilizing the Pomodoro Method that I mentioned earlier, you will learn how long certain tasks will take you to complete. After learning this intel about yourself, you can effectively schedule the tasks that you prioritized during your morning routine in between meetings.
5. Stop Multitasking!
In a nutshell, multitasking is not just inefficient but it is also stressful! Switching your focus back and forth from one task and its objectives to another can actually cost you up to 40% productivity time. Coupled with your to-do List (see above) this can lead you back down the path into the vicious cycle of feeling like you are continuously playing catch up.
6. Find Time to Meditate or Breathe
The beauty about meditation is this you can literally meditate anywhere, almost at any time. Learning to meditate is simple: just breathe and pay attention to the rhythm of your breath. An easy way to get started with meditation or breath-work in the office is by creating a sign that reads “Meditation in Progress” and place it on your office door or visible in your cubicle. Set aside 1 minute or even 5–10 minutes of time to yourself. Take a moment to note how you are currently feeling, without judgment, and then just breathe. One of my favorite apps for guided meditations includes Headspace.
7. Leave Work, At Work
In a previous workplace during the busier seasons, I found myself often unable to fall asleep because my mind was racing about what I needed to accomplish at work. I even had the occasional vivid dream about work! I ultimately decided I need to create better barriers between my work life and home life. My first step was removing emails from my phone. Not all of us are fortunate to have a job where your boss is okay with waiting until the next working day for your reply. If this is your current situation, you can still create barriers between your work life and home life by creating rules about when, where, and how you are willing to work while at home. For instance, no working in the bedroom. Another rule, no working from 6 to 8 PM and all work ceases by 10 PM.
8. But, Make Your Office Your Home Away from Home
While creating boundaries for work outside of the office, it is equally important to create an environment in which we are comfortable while at work. Therefore, you should not be afraid to show your personality and add personal touches to make your office feel more like home away from home. In my office, I have: plenty of plants, a painting, pictures of my spouse and me, and an accent lamp. Bring elements into your office that will contribute to your happiness, creativity, focus, and relaxation.
9. Volunteer to Coordinate Quarterly Wellness Activities
I currently work in an office that hosts quarterly wellness activity for employees in the various departments that we work closely with. One quarter we took a morning stroll outside. Another quarter, we painted during lunch. Quarterly wellness activities for the office is not only a great way to get to know your coworkers, but also a fantastic way to start introducing wellness into your office culture.
10. Talk to Your Boss about Mental Health
Talking to your boss about your mental health or even utilizing a mental health day can be a difficult conversation. However, it can also be one of the most important conversations that you will have during your career with your boss. If you have a mental health concern or illness, The Muse (a digital career resource platform) has a practical how-to guide on how to discuss your mental health with your boss. If you are wanting to ask your boss for a mental health day, Brit + Co (a digital media company) has an excellent how-to guide on how to ask your boss for a mental health day.
Christa Clarke is an entrepreneur, public speaker, and project manager. She is passionate about providing success-minded women of color the tools and resources to flourish in their careers and lives. Learn more about her and her work by visiting her website www.FreeingShe.com and connecting with her over on Instagram @heychristaclarke.