This article originally published in Spa Professional Mexico Magazine, Spring 2015 Issue.
Stress is the basic cause of 60% of all human illness and disease, according to the American Institute of Stress. Seventy-seven percent of people regularly experience physical symptoms caused by stress and 73% regularly experience psychological symptoms caused by stress.
As leaders in an industry where you offer your customers an experience of wellness, it’s especially important to be aware of your own and your employee’s level of stress. Left unchecked, it can cause low productivity, high turnover, poor communication, general unhappiness and may eventually lead to burnout. This can negatively impact you, your employees and ultimately your customers/guests.
One of the simplest and most effective antidotes to stress is practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness is paying attention, on purpose, to the present moment, non-judgmentally and with full acceptance.
At the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, daily mindfulness sessions entered the agenda for the first time. According to Susie Ellis, several CEOs there acknowledged that mindfulness has an impact on the workplace: it reduces stress, improves the sentiment of wellness and promotes calmness, clarity and creativity. Mindfulness training programs are now in large companies around the world from Google to Goldman Sachs.
Recent scientific evidence reports that practicing mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, literally changes neural pathways in the brain. It’s now proven to reduce anxiety, fear and stress and increase the ability to learn, retain information, be resilient and regulate emotions. In general, practicing meditation creates an overall sense of happiness and personal wellbeing.
So, how do you create a culture of mindfulness? It all begins with you. The better you are at managing your own stress and remain calm in stressful situations, the easier it will be for your employees to remain calm. And if your employees are calmer, imagine the positive effect it will have on your customers. This is what I like to call the Triple Wellness Win.
Here are five quick, practical and simple techniques you and your employees can to use increase mindfulness and reduce stress in the workplace.
Tip #1: Stop and Take 3 Mindful Breaths
When you begin to feel that familiar feeling of stress entering your mind and body, the most important thing you can do is to simply notice and accept it. Next, take a moment to pause from your current activity, close your eyes and take three mindful breaths. A mindful breath is a slow, deep breath during which you focus your mind simply on the sensation of breathing. Then, open your eyes and notice how you feel.
Tip #2: Take a Mindful Walk
Mindful walking is a form of mindfulness meditation that you can do without making time for it during the course of your day. Next time you walk, instead of allowing yourself to get lost in thoughts of the past or future, pay attention the present moment. Focus on the sensation of walking, and become aware of your feet making contact with the ground. If you need more to fully engage your attention, count your steps from one to five, then go back to one again. If possible, keep a slow pace so as to slow your mind. You can do this any time, while walking from one part of your workplace (be it spa, resort, hotel, office etc.) to another, or for a few minutes during a break.
Tip #3: Listen Intently
Mindfulness is also about being fully present for others. When you are engaged and truly listening to someone, you feel a greater connection. If someone feels like you appreciate what they have to say, then they feel like a more valued individual and they are going to want to connect with you. On the other hand, if they feel like you aren’t really listening, they won’t feel important and they may not feel like being around you. Either way, it has a ripple effect.
Tip #4: Pause and Use Mindful Words
The other side of listening intently is being mindful about how you express your thoughts. Your words, tone of voice and body language have a huge impact on how other people will interpret you. So, the next time you are having a conversation, practice by pausing 2-3 seconds before you speak. This will allow you to become present in the moment and respond more clearly. This slowing down allows you to become calmer, and therefore the other person feels more at ease and a sense of peace has the opportunity to enter the conversation.
Tip #5: Set An Intention
In our busy lives, we can be so focused on “doing” that we forget that we are human “beings.” One of the most powerful techniques can be to set an intention, and this can be done in two ways. The first way is to privately write down an intention of who you want to be at the beginning of your day. For example, My intention for today is to be focused, calm, kind and productive. The second way you can use this tool is to publicly set an intention at the beginning of a meeting. For example, The intention for this meeting is to find a win-win solution for the main item on the agenda. These words imprint themselves into our subconscious minds so that literally by the end of the day or the end of a meeting you will find yourself behaving differently and coming to solutions without any conscious effort. This practice has the ability to changes attitudes and perspectives for ourselves and others.
Using these quick and simple mindfulness tools can help drastically reduce stress in the workplace. With a calmer state of mind, you can concentrate more easily, make better decisions, become more creative, gain a greater ability to see the big picture – and overall become a happier, healthier person.
Wellness comes from the top down. If you can see the far-reaching consequences of your daily actions, and those of your organization, you become more than just a leader – you become a visionary.