Many of us experience the Monday Blues, or, in my case, the Any-Frigging-Day-Of-The-Week-Blues! That feeling of heavy limbs as your alarm yelps and screeches at you in a pitch it seems only dogs should be able to hear. Even if you love the job you do, there’s no bouncing out of bed, or eagerness to start the day. Instead, the bed has reached the ultimate temperature, the mattress is moulded perfectly around each and every contour of your body, and you feel like if you could just close your eyes for a little longer, you might have the best sleep of your life.
Sorry, but you really have to get up. Face facts and just get on with it. But is there a way you can make it better? Perhaps you feel like you’re not achieving anything at work, or getting any level of fulfillment? Like you’re wasting your day when you could be doing something more productive? Bored of the mundane tasks, day in day out? Well, maybe you can use it as the perfect opportunity to actually really do something for you. Yes really, for you – at work. One of those things you always say you want to do, but never get time. The call of Netflix is just too loud. The temptation to look at Facebook for the umpteenth time, and just see what Lucy – that girl you never really knew in your class at school – is doing with her one legged dog and feral child (well in all honesty, it’s most likely a normal dog and regular child, but the level of interest you’re paying it right now indicates that it’s something far more exciting)!
So, what’s this thing that you can do whilst you’re being paid to do something else? Well, actually, it’s just mindfulness. Simple mindfulness. And you’ll be perfoming at your job better than you ever thought you could too – gold stars all round. You can simply put your focus 100% into every single task you are doing – or at least build up to every single task, I’m not going to suggest you try and reach Jedi Master stage straight away! Hell, I’m a long way from any kind of level of perfection. Just a few minutes of staying mindful is impressive for me!
I’m no mindfulness expert, but I have recently had time off due to stress and anxiety, and I’ve learnt a lot of techniques to help me cope. I’ve enjoyed applying these in my own way, and that’s what I’m going to share with you here. Just a few hints and tips I’ve found really make a difference – and help to turn your day at work into something you gain from too (rather than just the pennies in the bank).
You can apply this if you work with the public, or if you sit in an office. Even if you work on a building site. You may need to adjust some of the things I mention to fit your situation, but in general, it’s all about being present and being totally involved in what you are doing. Try not to wander in your mind and be elsewhere. Don’t think about what’s for dinner, or what may happen if you get home and find that in a weird domino-effect of made up disasters, the house is simultaneously flooded and on fire at the same time (seriously, this is how my brain works). Just think about where you are and what you are doing. Feel it, Breathe it, Think it.
Working With The Public
I address this first, because many of our most challenging times in the work day can come from dealing with the public. Whether it’s a difficult encounter, or simply an interruption.
Engage – if someone (a customer for example) wants to have a chat with you, really listen. Don’t wander off whilst they’re talking, thinking of how rude it is they that are interupting your work process, or how there’s an email you really need to send and all of the things you should be doing that you’re not doing right now. Just actually listen – you know, with your two ears! It’s amazing how being involved in a conversation (even if it’s one that bores you more than watching paint dry) can take you away from the rest of the world for a few minutes. Ask questions, take note. Do you know what, as well as being mindful for a few minutes, you might even learn something really interesting. Now, there’s a thought.
Every Day, Mundane Tasks
We all have them in our daily work day. From filing paperwork, to stacking shelves. There’s something a little mundane in every job. We do them day in, day out, so many times that our brain shuts off from the process of actually doing them. When this happens, your brain can become like a room full of cats, with you on the other side of the door. You can hear the commotion and only surmise as to the damage – one’s up the curtains, the other is flicking a ball around the floor, whilst one is tight-rope walking on the top of the door. And heaven’s only knows what mayhem the others are involved in.
Imagine braving to reach your hand through the door, throwing a handful of catnip in and letting it do its magic. When you open the door moments later, every cat will be rolling around, sedate and purring. Mischief over. This is exactly what mindfulness does for your brain in these situations. And it’s so easy to do. If you’re filing papers, for example, feel the paper between your fingers (not in the paper-cutty kind of way), concentrate on the action of turning the paper, and placing it in the proper way. Read the top line of each page.
If you’re rolling or folding paper, listen to the noise, feel the way the paper responds to your moulding of it. Perhaps you’re typing – feel the keys beneath your fingers. Listen to the sounds the keys make. It’s almost hypnotic when you practice this, and before you know it, you’ll have had a solid few minutes where you realise you didn’t think of fifty thousand things at once. It’s freeing!
Working with Your Hands
I think in a job where you work with hands, it’s probably one of the easiest places to be mindful. You already need to concentrate on what you are doing – nobody wants to buy a hand-thrown pot which looks worse than the leaning tower of Pisa (well maybe some people do, but let’s say not)! But, as with the mundane tasks mentioned above, when you’ve done it enough times, you can still wander away and the cats will be back to play!
So, say you’re building, making or painting. Feel your tools and materials in your hands and beneath your fingers. Feel the textures, the shapes, the rough edges and the smooth lines. Smell the clay, allow yourself to get lost in the feeling of things coming to shape as you mould or work them.
Commuting to Work
Often, we can listen to music or read a book to distract us from the boredom of that sweaty, crushed and panicked (especially if travelling in the South East of England and relying on public transport) journey to work. However, it also gives us the ideal opportunity to take time for ourselves and actually get the most of a pretty undesirable situation. It can be the best practice for mindfulness. If you can master mindfulness whilst having your nose planted in someone’s sweating armpit, whilst at the same time having your body crushed into a new position – that even your yoga teacher says isn’t possible – then you can do it anywhere.
These are just a few examples of inserting a bit of mindful, “me time” into your work day. It can help the day go a little smoother, be a little calmer, and perhaps a little more enjoyable.
Thanks for reading. Have a wonderfully mindful day!