As everyone knows, the workplace can be a distracted, highly paced, multitasking world in which we are rarely aware of how our minds actually work or the stories we tell ourselves on a moment-to-moment basis. Mindfulness is a form of focused mental training where we learn to pay attention to immediate experience rather than being distracted by what went on in the past or what we need to do in the future. It also encourages acceptance of that experience – a form of nonjudgmental awareness — that promotes openness and objectivity. This can result in
the development of resiliency and stress hardiness.
The fact is stress is often not so much about an event itself, but about what we are telling ourselves about that event. Research on stress clearly shows that too much pressure can adversely impact performance. Say for example, you walk into your office and see a stack of work that is so mountainous papers have cascaded off your desk and onto the floor. If your mental chatter goes something like “This is overwhelming. I’m never going to get home tonight. I have to get all this done today!” it is likely you will show a significant stress response, complete with increased heart
rate and abdominal butterflies. The upshot is likely to be poorer performance and decreased work efficiency. However, if your internalchatter is more along the lines of “This is really a lot of work. I probably can’t get this all done, but I’ll do what I can and that’s OK”, you are likely to stay focused, relaxed, and will perform better.
In reality, we are rarely aware of our mental chatter and what it does to us. If you are not convinced, try a simple exercise. Set a timer for the next five minutes and simply count to ten. When you get to ten, go back
to one and start again. Is it easy to stay on task or do you get distracted?
Stay curious and watch where your mind takes you. It is likely you will be surprised at how difficult this simple exercise can be. Focused mindfulness training results in greater awareness of this constant internal dialogue
and provides concrete tools for the development of increased mental fitness, focus, and wellbeing.
Dr. Kim Aikens is an internist with a fellowship in Integrative Medicine from the University of Arizona. Inspired by the mind/body aspect of her studies, Dr. Aikens continued her education with certification training in
Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) at the University of Massachusetts. Dr. Aikens founded The Aikens Approach in order to bring mindfulness, resiliency, and leadership training to corporations. She also
has an MBA from the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan as well as training in executive and leadership coaching from the University of Miami.