Stress: Something that we all have to deal with once in a while – sometimes in our private lives, but probably more often at work. While some of us seem to deal with it quite easily, others suffer more. I’ve found something that seems like an easy way to make things better: Mindfulness.
Running at full speed – 24/7
We live in a crazy world. The expectation of others seems to constantly increase, whilst those expectations we put on ourselves are usually quite a lot as well: Job, family, sport – we always strive to be perfect. We always want to get better. Outperform. At least I, as a comms manager, father of three and an avid handball player, usually run at full speed pretty much all day.
My personal answer to all of this is sport. When I feel like I need a break, I just go for a run or do a work out in our gym. That usually works perfectly well for me to get my head free and recharge my batteries. I also know that I am in a very privileged situation, given the great variety of sport facilities that we have here at the adidas Group HQ. What would happen if for whatever reason I couldn´t do so much sport anymore? What if doing sports wasn’t enough to reduce the stress anymore? For many people, this situation results in sickness, burn outs or a drop in performance.
Mind full vs mindful
With this in mind, I went to a talk about `mindfulness´ which was part of the health week – a week full of talks, workshops and courses all around the topic of health – offered and organized by our health and fitness team. Now, before I go on talking about what mindfulness (or to be more precise MBSR – mindfulness based stress reduction) is, I have to say that I am a very down-to-earth person. Anything that even smells like it could be esoteric usually turns me off immediately; however what I heard at this talk was absolutely convincing.
To understand what mindfulness is, let´s picture this scene: You drive to work, but when you arrive you hardly remember how you got there. Somehow you just drove. It just happened. Sounds familiar? At least it does to me. Here’s why: In our daily lives, very often we run on autopilot. When we do something, we don´t really concentrate on what we’re doing, we’re either thinking about the past or worrying about something that might be coming up in the future. Mindfulness is exactly the opposite.
In short, mindfulness is the ability to be fully in the present – just living and breathing the moment. Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing your attention on the here and now and accepting it without judgment.
The benefits of mindfulness
MBSR is actually a fairly comprehensive program, developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn, an American Professor of Medicine. A lot of research on the topic has shown that people who practice mindfulness find that they are less likely to get caught up in worries about the future or regrets over the past. Mindfulness helps a lot in relieving stress and as a consequence, it improves physical and mental health, as well as the overall efficiency.
Want to give it a try?
Here are some easy exercises that can help you to be a bit more `moment-conscious´:
Pause for a moment, close your eyes if you like and just focus on the moment.
- What do you notice, hear, smell or feel in that very moment?
- How do you feel in that very moment
You can do this exercise for as long as you like – 30 seconds or 5 minutes – it doesn´t really matter, just take in what you notice and don’t judge or analyze.
2. Count your breath
Take a comfortable upright sitting position and just focus on your breathing. Start counting every time you exhale by visually imagining the number – 1 – 2 – 3 – and so on. Every time you realize that you’re to think about something else, start from zero again. This exercise is more difficult than it sounds, so make sure you take at least 10 minutes.
3. Conscious walking
Before you start with this exercise, pause for a moment and just focus on your body and feel how you breathe in and out.
Now you start walking slowly. Concentrate and experience how your feet touch the ground. Notice how you lift your heel, move your weight to the forefoot. What do you feel? What do you notice?
Notice how your full weight lies on one foot while the other lifts off the ground to take the next step.
Every time you realize that you start to think about something else, pause for a while and refocus on your walking.