I work with so many people these days whose jobs involve constant pressure and stress. It’s almost become the accepted ‘norm’ to eat lunch on the go, to have more emails and phone calls and people to see than there is time for in the day so the next day begins with a backlog. People do their best to cope with the targets and expectations but rarely do they experience the satisfaction of completing everything that needs doing.
I see people with incredible, chronic tension in their bodies. Headaches, insomnia, panic attacks, anxiety and depression are not unusual. But when we have become used to operating in this very driven way, the notion of mindfulness, of stepping out of ‘doing mode’ and into ‘being mode’ can seem pointless and a waste of time. Just sitting or lying down and noticing our experience may feel ‘wishy-washy’ and a bit ‘out there’. Our doing mind wants to know why we are doing it, to analyse the process, to feel the results.
The problem with mindfulness is that it needs to be experienced over time in order to appreciate the benefits. Telling someone that, with practise, they will feel calmer, more rested, have a clearer perspective and feel more resourced, isn’t helpful when their doing mind is constantly analysing the experience: “Well, I’m sitting here and I don’t feel any different and I don’t see how this is going to help me”. Before long, they’re likely to be up and busy doing something else, convinced that mindfulness ‘doesn’t work’ or isn’t for them.
Conversely, these thoughts, which highlight the doing mind in action, are the very reason why we need to practise – to realise for ourselves the relief that we can experience when we make the choice to simply notice such thoughts and not react to them.
Mindfulness isn’t saying that we should sit around all day doing nothing. It can actually help us become more efficient and more productive as we develop the ability to focus, adapt, empathise, see different perspectives and regulate our emotions. With practice, we are more likely to make clearer choices, prioritise our tasks and look after ourselves as we work – even giving ourselves the space to appreciate the pleasant aspects of our day – so that we are less exhausted and stressed.
It can seem a daunting task to add mindfulness practice into an already full day, but even 10 minutes a day can bring huge benefit in our working and personal lives. The Mindful Leader, published by Ashridge Executive Education at Hult International Business School, is an interesting study that charts the experiences of 57 senior business leaders on their mindfulness journey: https://www.trainingzone.co.uk/develop/business/mindfulness-for-leaders-new-research-shows-sustained-benefit