GUEST POST: MINDFUL STRATEGIES FOR WORK

Friends - I'm excited to bring you the first ZHP guest post! Sofia is a therapist, a friend and an active member of our ZHP community. I suspect you'll enjoy her writing as much as I do. I recommend that you follow Sofia's facebook page by clicking here and I included her bio at the end so you can get to know her! ~ Anthony 

3 Mindful Strategies to Keep You Motivated and Inspired at Work.  

By Sofia Reddy, LICSW

A few years ago, I was very close to leaving the social work profession. It was getting more and more challenging to get through the day and I was getting sick often. I knew I was on the path to burnout and needed to do something about it.
 
I started blogging about self-care and stress management and attended retreats to learn about mindfulness and meditation. I started listening to Dharma and other inspiring talks through podcasts, such as Tara Brach (psychologist, meditation teacher and author) and the Zen Cast podcast. A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony through Facebook friends and connecting with the ZHP community. I’m glad I did!
 
I have learned a few strategies over the years about how to maintain my energy levels during the day so I can feel motivated to keep doing the work I’m doing. I now find myself feeling healthier and inspired by the work that I do.
 
Below are 3 tips for mindfulness in the work place. Hope you give them a try. Let me know how it goes!
 
You cannot entertain weak, harmful, negative thoughts ten hours a day and expect to bring about beautiful, strong and harmonious conditions by ten minutes of strong, positive, creative thought. 
-Charles F. Haanel
 
Tip 1: Notice your thoughts. The above quote is posted on my bulletin board over my desk at work. It reminds me that the thoughts I choose to focus on have a powerful impact on my attitude. My attitude is what will set the tone for the day and therefore influence my interactions with others.
 
I like to start the day with a positive intention. This helps me focus my attention on what thoughts I want to entertain – positive and encouraging or negative and discouraging. We don’t have the power to make our brains stop thinking, but we do have the power to choose which thoughts we focus our attention on.

Try this: Start the day with a 10-minute mindful meditation. Notice what thoughts are entering your mind. Let the negative thoughts go as easily as they came. Visualize them floating down a stream, like leaves passing by. Afterwards, take a few minutes to jot down the thoughts you do want to focus on. Refer to them during the day to keep you focused and on track with your intentions.
 
“If it’s not simple, it’s not mindfulness. Have meditation be about ‘how are you?’” –Gil Fronsdal, Zencast episode 461
 
Tip 2: Check in with yourself.  In this podcast, Gil reminds us to make mindful meditation practice a simple act of checking in with ourselves. So, how are you? Are you hungry? Lonely? Angry? Tired? HALT is the acronym we teach our clients to be mindful about in order to maintain health and well being. For many of us, we get so busy in our days and with the need to be productive (often our jobs demand it), that we forget to simply check in with ourselves. I have heard from many colleagues over the years that they find themselves skipping meals and having to delay using the restroom. When I did that, it wasn’t long before I started to feel run down and sick. I would end up with migraines or headaches from being stressed and forgetting to eat or hydrate.
 
I now make sure to eat a nutritious breakfast before leaving the house (even if it’s a banana or hard boiled egg) and drink water throughout the day. I take mindful lunch breaks, even if it’s only for 10 or 15 minutes. I enjoy and fully savor each bite of my meal. I keep healthy and quick snacks around like a bag of almonds or peanut butter and veggies. I take a few minutes to go out for air (recycled office air can leave you feeling stagnant and drained).
 
Try this: Decide on one habit you can start today to take care of yourself. What are you willing to commit to practicing each day? Pair it with another habit you do automatically, like in conjunction with your morning coffee or right before or after brushing your teeth. For example, can you drink a glass of water with lemon before your coffee? Can you do some light stretching right before you brush your teeth? Can you stand up and stretch or move around after an hour or two of checking emails? Set a timer or an alert in your electronic calendar.
 
I set up a reminder to take a walk at noon each day, even if it’s a quick walk around my building. If I don’t have time, I commit to walking up 4 flights of stairs and get exercise in that way. Start with one new healthy habit. Make it reasonable and doable for you and your schedule. Repeat it every day for 21 days. Notice how it feels. It will become part of your new routine before you know it!
 
Tip 3: Make friends in your profession. One of the most important aspects of healthy living is having a strong support system. Though we might have wonderful connections outside of work, it’s just as important to try to seek out healthy connections (if possible) at work. Perhaps there is a colleague or supervisor who we have a personality difference with and that impedes our interest in work friendships.
 
Every work setting has its challenges, but it also has it strengths. Is there a colleague you can connect with over lunch? Is there an inspiring leader at your organization who could become your mentor? Is there a way to connect with colleagues in other organizations through professional organizations or conferences in your field?  Can you get a group together to practice meditation at break? Sometimes, we might find ourselves feeling isolated in the work that we do, so it’s important to seek out camaraderie and connection. Even for us introverts, healthy supports are necessary and rewarding. Numerous studies have found that social support can help prevent depression, lower blood pressure and improve overall mood and health.
 
Try this: This week, check out a professional organization in your field. See if there is a networking group or meeting that you can attend. See if your colleague wants to go to lunch or start a meditation group. Treat yourselves on a particularly stressful day. Or get out and take a walk together. Set up a day to meet up with colleagues after work. Make it a point to limit the amount of time spent on complaining about the stresses of work and get to know each other better. Attend training with a colleague. Share and discuss what you gained from it and how you will apply it to your daily work. Send an email to a supervisor or colleague thanking them for their support. Again, commit to one thing you are willing to try this week. Make it reasonable and do-able.
 
Try it and let me know how it goes.
 
Sofia Reddy is a licensed independent clinical social worker (LICSW) in Massachusetts. Sofia works as a psychotherapist in a mental health clinic that serves returning veterans and also teaches graduate-level social work courses. As a therapist, she teaches about mindfulness in recovery and facilitates meditation groups for clients. Her 24/7 job is raising her son and daughter, keeping up with her home, and managing her marriage while trying to maintain her own self-care through the practice of yoga and meditation.

To connect with her, visit her website at 
www.sofias-sanctuary.com or FB pagehttps://www.facebook.com/sofiasanctuary