Mindfulness at work

Continuing our look at Mindfulness, this week we are going to see how it can be used to combat the stress and anxiety of work.

Work is an important part of life – not only for income, but because it provides an outlet for self-expression and personal fulfilment.  But despite the benefits a career can bring, it can also be a significant source of stress. Some of us find it hard to establish a healthy work/life balance, and this can lead to mind and body exhaustion. Exhaustion can make it harder to deal with life’s ups and downs.

In order to enjoy your working life and ease daily stress, we recommend incorporating the following mindfulness tips into your day:

Stop multitasking

A common source of daily stress is juggling multiple projects at once. While this may seem a more productive way to work, studies show that it is actually ineffective. Switching from one task to the next trips up the brain and takes away the ability to focus. Concentrating on one thing at a time can help you to focus on the present moment and improve your efficiency. 

Set regular mindful check ins 

Setting a gentle alarm to go off at regular intervals during the day will act as a reminder for you to step away from your work, pause and rest your mind. Aim for a mindful check in every hour. This will help you to refocus your mind and ease stress as it accumulates throughout the day.

Decorate your workspace with visual reminders   

Visual reminders – such as a photograph of your loved ones or colourful images – can help to bring you back to mindfulness whenever you catch sight of them. You may even want to write yourself positive, mood-boosting notes and stick them to your wall. These will remind you to check in and focus on the present moment.

Mindfulness check in practice 

When you find a moment to be mindful, start by taking a slow, deep breath and use this sensation to take awareness of your physical body and how it feels. Can you feel areas of tension? Feelings of energy or tiredness? Notice the environment around you (what can you hear/smell?) and how your clothes feel against your skin.

Next, turn your attention to your thoughts and emotional state. What thoughts are running through your mind? What emotions are present? Use this focus to open yourself up to the goings-on around you. Tune into the whole present moment and proceed with awareness.

This process can take as little as 30 seconds or up to 10 minutes – depending on how long you feel you need to pause and take a step back from your working day.  

It may seem that this practice detracts from the time you spend actually doing work, but you'll soon find that a short mindfulness break will allow you to feel more focussed, more motivated and much more productive in you work.  So why not give it a go and see where it leads you! 

In our next post, I'll be sharing some great websites with you where you can find some guided mindfulness meditation downloads!

An introduction to mindfullness

You may have heard the term ‘mindfulness’ before, but many people are unaware of what mindfulness is and how it can be extremely beneficial, not only to those going through periods of emotional difficulty, but for everyone else as well.  Along with the likes of Yoga and Meditation, mindfulness can help the body and mind to relax, allowing improvements in concentration, focus and stress levels. 

Over the coming blog posts, we'll be exploring mindfulness along with ways to incorporate it into your everyday life.  In this post, we are going to take a brief look at what it is and a basic mindfulness exercise which you can begin at home.

 


Mindfulness is a technique of becoming fully aware of yourself in the present moment. Studies show that people who practice this technique experience positive changes in their lives, including better focus, reduced stress and improved self-esteem.

In mindfulness we learn to stop making judgements about what is ‘positive’ or ‘negative’. We simply learn to accept our thoughts as thoughts. Although the technique stems from Eastern thought and Zen Buddhism, medical professionals are only now beginning to recognise the health benefits of applying these practices to everyday life. Studies show it has a measurable effect on brain processes, and can be used to help people with depression.

Here’s a seven step guide to a basic mindfulness exercise:

1. Make time

Mindfulness only needs to take 10 minutes out of your day. Commit to this 10 minutes – make it a part of your routine, just as breakfast is, or walking the dog is. Ideally you will practice mindfulness at the same time everyday (to get your body used to the routine) but this is not imperative. Simply choose a time when you’re least likely to be disturbed.

2. Find space

Whether it’s your spare room, your garden shed, or the living room before the rest of the family are up – make sure you set out a space of your own where you can practice mindfulness without being interrupted. Make sure you turn your phone off, close the door and turn off all TVs, radios and any other distractions.

3. Get comfy

Mindfulness isn’t about punishment – you’re allowed to be comfy! Sit on the sofa if you like, or put a cushion on the floor. Make sure your back is straight and let your hands fall in your lap.

4. Breathe slowly

Take five, slow breaths breathing in as deeply as possible. On the fifth breath, shut your eyes.

5. Focus on now

Now think about how your body feels, how the cushion or floor feels against your legs, how the room smells and any other sensations. Let these thoughts drift through your mind but don’t think about the implications, just the facts.

6. Relax

Staying still for 10 minutes is more difficult than you think. As your mind focuses on the present moment, it’s likely it will try to wander to other things, like what you’re going to do after the 10 minutes is up, or all the other things that are normally on your mind. Don’t panic – you’re not doing it wrong. Every time your mind wanders, simply bring it back by focusing on the position of your body and the sensation of oxygen filling your lungs.

7. Ease yourself into the day

When the 10 minutes is up, make a goal for the day – even if it seems small and insignificant. It could be to go and make a cup tea, or it could be to go and make a start on your work. As you get on with your daily tasks, think back to your 10 minutes of mindfulness, and how it felt to focus entirely on the present moment.

 

In later posts, we'll be looking into this technique further at introducing new mindfulness exercises for you to try at home!

What you need to know about therapy

Therapy can be mysterious and intimidating, especially if you don’t know what to expect. So here’s what we in the therapist community wish people knew about counselling and psychotherapy.

 

1. It’s not really a therapist’s job to give you advice.

They’re not here to tell you if you should call off your marriage or quit your job. The real job of therapy is to get to know yourself better and change the way you’re thinking, the way you’re behaving, or the way you’re understanding the world. 

Sure, they might tell you about strategies to cope with a mental illness like depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, but when it comes to your personal life decisions, they’re more of a facilitator.  Do you really want to come to therapy to give your power away to someone else or do you want to learn to have that power on your own?

 

2. They probably see a therapist, too.

Simply put, never trust a therapist who hadn’t been to therapy themselves.  Many training programmes actually insist that students have regular weekly therapy sessions throughout their training as it's an invaluable tool in this line of work.  

Not only does sitting in the clients chair give a therapist a valuable insight into how you feel, but if a therapist is unable or unwilling to understand their own emotions and processes, they will have a great deal of difficulty helping you to understand yours.

 

3. Most therapists don’t prescribe medication.

That’s typically the job of a psychiatrist / doctor, not that of a counsellor or psychotherapist. However, with your permission, your therapist can coordinate with another provider to help you start or end a medication, if that’s something you’re interested in.

 

4. You don’t have to be diagnosed with a mental illness to go to therapy.

One common misconception is: “That you have to be ‘crazy’ to go to therapy.”  There are a lot of reasons why people go to therapy that have nothing to do with mental disorders. And when people do go because they have a disorder, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. You’re going to get help and speak to an expert just like you would seeking help for any other medical condition.

It’s usually this in between area — when you’re struggling but not completely debilitated — that people hesitate to go to therapy because they feel like they don’t need it. But if you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed or not able to function as you’d like to, that’s a sign you do need to talk to somebody.

 

5. Your therapist isn’t talking about you with their friends at the bar.

Rule number one is confidentiality.  A therapist would quickly lose their professional accreditations and memberships if they talked about clients outside of the therapeutic framework.  They may discuss certain cases or broader themes with a small group of trusted colleagues or with a more experienced therapist in a process called "supervision" (which all therapists are required to have on a regular basis), however this is all kept on a strictly confidential basis.

 

6. And they probably aren’t Googling you.

Many therapists view Googling a client without their permission is an overstepping of boundaries and almost a breach of confidentiality. Clients can feel violated if their therapist brings something up in the session which they saw on the Internet and that is the opposite of what is trying to be achieved. 

The therapeutic relationship is all about trust and the client needs to trust that they can bring up their issues at their own pace rather than the therapist knowing all about their lives in advance. 

 

7. Your therapist probably won’t acknowledge you in public unless you do first.

Don’t worry about running into them at a restaurant and hearing “Hey, glad to see you out and about!” while you’re on a date. The general consensus is that therapists won’t acknowledge you in public unless the client initiates it, and even then, they won’t acknowledge that they are your therapist unless you do first.

So feel free to say hi and introduce them as your therapist/yoga teacher/neighbor, or ignore them entirely. It’s your call, and it’s something you can talk to them about ahead of time if you’re worried about it.

 

8. Just going to therapy won’t necessarily help — you have to participate.

Therapy isn’t like going to your doctor for a sinus infection and leaving with antibiotics. It takes collaboration — not just passively sitting back and waiting for results. It’s pretty disappointing for clients when they think that’s the way it works.  They want the therapist to ask them a bunch of questions and it’s like a treasure hunt.

But if a client is prepared and willing to talk about what brought them in and what they’d like to work on, it can make the whole process more collaborative and efficient.

 

9. Therapy doesn’t have to be a long-term commitment.

Sometimes people hesitate to embark on therapy because they feel like ‘If I go once I’m going to be sucked in for 10 years, three times a week,’ and it feels like this huge decision. But the length and frequency of therapy is very individual. It can be a one-time deal, a few months of sessions, or longer depending on what you’re going through and what you’re looking to accomplish.

It’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions about a therapist’s approach in the first session or two. Things like: What would treatment look like? How long are we going to be working together? How will I know when we’re finished?

 

10. The right “fit” is the most important factor when it comes to finding a therapist.

You could be seeing the best, most qualified therapist in the whole world, but if the fit isn’t good, its not going to be as effective. What research tells us is that of all the different variables in therapy — types of treatment, education of the provider, length of treatment, all that stuff — one of the biggest factors in therapy success is fit.

What does that look like? Feeling heard, understood, and respected. The experience of therapy itself isn’t always going to be fun or enjoyable.  But in the context of that, you should feel safe, accepted, and heard, and at times challenged.

 

11. And stopping therapy doesn’t mean you can never go back.

As a therapist, we hope that by the end of treatment, a client feels like they’ve improved their functioning, whether in their relationships or their job or as a student.  That they’re feeling like they’re contributing to whatever is of value of them and not distressed by the symptoms they were experiencing.

Of course, life happens and things change, and just because you felt better for years doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily need help again in the future and that is perfectly fine to come back.

 

12. If you’re worried that something might be inappropriate — like hugging them or asking about their personal life — just talk about it.

Not every therapist will be open to hugging their clients, but if you really feel compelled to, don’t be embarrassed to bring it up. A client should feel free to say anything or ask anything.  Ask it if it’s on your mind and then let the therapist decide whether or not they’re going to answer that. Try not to filter yourself or censor yourself.

 

13. They don’t have all the answers.

Sometimes people think therapists have a special ability to see inside you but we really don’t.  We have a particular training and understanding of how humans are, how humans behave, how emotions work, and we’re able to use that to understand the specific situation someone is in. We don’t have these magical skills that we’re instantly going to read into you — it’s a process.”

 

14. Being a therapist can be hard work.

Between juggling several clients every day and helping patients through particularly traumatic events, it can be an incredibly daunting profession.  Obviously it can be hard to hear difficult stories hour after hour, day after day and then still have enough energy for your own family at night.  It can be a challenge, but it’s certainly manageable.

Therapists are professional secret keepers and that takes a toll after a while which is why many will schedule in regular breaks throughout the year.  So if you find your therapist taking a week off every few months, it's simply a chance for them to recharge their batteries and to come back the following week in the best possible position to help you.

 

15. But chances are, they also find what they do incredibly rewarding.

When therapy works, and it does, you’re going to walk out of there with a new understanding and new ways of doing things. You own it. It’s yours. It goes with you for the rest of your life.  Whenever a therapist is able to see someone’s growth process taking place, it brings such delight and positive feeling.

 

If you would like to find out more about therapy, please contact one of our team today

What to say to someone suffering with an anxiety disorder

Most of us will experience periods of heightened stress and anxiety in our lives, but for some, they experience significant levels of anxiety on a daily basis for weeks or even months at a time.  Living with an anxiety disorder can be extremely isolating with those around you unsure what to say or do.  Some walk on eggshells, afraid to “set you off” whilst others may distance themselves completely.  Those that do stay close may even get frustrated or angry simply because they don’t understand the significance of what you are experiencing.    

Whilst it’s often advised that opening up to people about our struggles is the most effective way to heal, it can be easy to say the wrong thing.  If you have a loved one suffering from an anxiety disorder, it is important to show your support and acceptance. Being there for them is the best way to begin healing and this can make a big difference in their recovery.

Here are common statements that you may think are helping your loved one, but may actually be hurting them and what you could say instead.

Don’t say, “Everything will be OK”. Instead try, “I am here for you. I will support you”.

Whilst saying “everything will be ok” may sound reassuring, it actually communicates that not only do you not understand the significance of their experience, but also that you aren’t prepared to listen to them or help them.  Having someone close who they know they can rely on to listen, understand and support them unconditionally is a huge advantage for someone with an anxiety disorder.   

Don’t say, “It’s all in your head”. Instead try, “Let’s go have some fun”.

Saying “It’s all in your head”, like the previous statement is very dismissive of their experience.  Although the truth is the anxiety is a creation of their own mind, the statement suggests that they can control what is happening to them.  This puts more pressure on their emotions and often making the anxiety worse.  Engaging in physical activities such as walking or yoga can help to ease the physical symptoms of anxiety whilst doing something fun and enjoyable can counteract some of the negative messages in their minds, even if that is just for a short time.

Don’t say, “What do you have to be anxious about?” Instead try, “How can I help you feel less stressed?”

This statement suggests your friend doesn’t deserve to feel anxious which often then compounds the issue for them as they then feel guilty about feeling anxious.  It is important to assume you don’t know everything that is going on in their life. Rather than comment on what you know or think is happening, simply offer a helping hand. Show you are there for them.  This may be helping them with practical tasks or responsibilities, even if that’s just picking up a few item of shopping for them.  It may be just listening to them, or maybe be just being there to offer moral support. 

Don’t say, “There are people with worse problems”. Instead try, “I’m sorry, do you need to talk?”

Generally, people experiencing anxiety will know other people have problems too, but they do not need to feel guilty about what they are going through. The most important thing you can do for your friend is to be encouraging, supportive and non-judgemental.

 

If you suspect that a friend or loved one is experiencing a protracted and severe state of anxiety, it is important they seek professional help either from their GP or from a trained counsellor or psychotherapist.  Even when under these professionals though, they will still need your help and support.  Even though you may find it difficult or frustrating to deal with a friend with an anxiety disorder, remember you can step away from it at the end of the day, whereas they cannot.