Slowing it Down: 4 Simple Ways to Incorporate Mindfulness Into Your Day

April 6, 2016

Find yourself stressed out from work?Silhouette of a person sitting crosslegged looking toward sunset

Between the office/lab environment, mentor and mentee relationships, outside training and education, and life demands, it is all too common for stress to hijack your wellbeing. One quick effective way in dealing with life stress is to use techniques in mindfulness meditation.

A recent review of mindfulness interventions at the University of Cincinnati shows mindfulness techniques to be effective at creating positive change in stress and stress-related psychology and physiology, especially in the workplace. Benefits of these techniques are shown in a range of occupational positions, including healthcare professionals, undergraduate and graduate students, continuing education faculty, and community members.

Length of the surveyed interventions ranged from 8 hours to 32 hours, and outcome measures included: perceived stress, self-compassion, burnout, and positive and negative affect scales. Of the 17 mindfulness studies reviewed, 15 showed positive post-test changes in psychological or physiological measures related to stress. Despite limitations of sample size and variety of outcome measures, mindfulness meditation is shown to be a promising method for stress reduction in the work place

Wondering how you can utilize mindfulness techniques to improve stress?

Here are four simple ideas:

  1. Try spending 5-10 minutes a day generating focused and non-judgmental awareness of your breath. Common techniques include counting the lengths of your in- and out- breaths and aiming to increase this count, putting your hand on your chest to feel the flow of air through your lungs, and listening to the sound of your breath.
  1. Generate non-judgmental awareness of thoughts, or “purposefully paying attention to the present moment, with a non-judging, non-striving attitude of acceptance” (Sharma & Rush, 2014). Techniques include letting your mind go blank, and observing what thoughts arrive, and acknowledging thoughts that arise without judgment.
  1. Spend some time focusing on an object around you (for example a piece of food, a sentimental object, or an object in nature). Notice the detail in the object, how it feels, looks, sounds, and even smells. If you are in your office or the lab, there are websites and apps that allow you to choose a scene and set a meditation timer for as little as three minutes to take a quick mindfulness break. Check out calm.com for a preview!
  1. Spend 10-15 minutes each day stretching, while paying attention to how this stretching affects the way your body feels, and the way your mind feels. Some useful examples of gentle stretches: clockwise and counter-clockwise head-rolls, forward and backward shoulder rolls, mouth/cheek/eye stretches making “big” and “little” faces, and touching your toes!

If you are at the NIH, the OITE Mindfulness Meditation Group meets weekly every Thursday at 5:00 pm (except holidays) in the Graduate Lounge in Building 10 (Rm. 1N263).  This group is designed to be a time for you to slow down and connect with yourself and learn the benefits of meditation.  It’s a drop-in group, so it’s fine to come any Thursday that you can.

As we progress in our jobs and in our lives, stress will always be a factor, and so finding novel ways to respond to stress can be an exciting way to improve your day!

Advertisements

There’s No Place Like Home: Making a Smooth Transition to a New Place

October 12, 2010

Mom and child on mallWhen we left North Carolina 4 years ago, I worried about the impact our move would have on my then three-year-old son. He was very close to a small group of friends, enjoyed his daycare situation so much, and I was worried that uprooting him might be too stressful. My friends and family all shared the same response to my concern: “He’s so young, he won’t remember a thing!” Well, four years later, he still gets teary from time to time about missing his “friends from North Carolina.”

Leaving the familiar for the unfamiliar is difficult for all of us. We miss our old friends, familiar haunts, favorite activities. It is tough to move to a new city, new neighborhood, new school, new job – and to leave the familiar behind. Add to this other irksome details of moving – buying a house, selling a house, finding an apartment, packing, unpacking, finding your way around a new job, new community – and you’ve got a recipe for stress. All of these pieces can be triggers for stress, which is why moving is so often mentioned as one of the top stressors in life.

What is the best way to deal with the stress of moving? There are several resources available, some within OITE and the NIH, that will help you to stay sane and slowly build a sense of community in your new place.

  1. Get organized. Being organized, developing lists, and checking things off/getting things done will help you to move forward and get to know your new surroundings. Find the nearest drugstore, the cheapest gas station, the best bank for you, etc. Gather phone numbers from the parents of your child’s new classmates and seek referrals for pediatricians and dentists. Visit your town/city’s website to find out about recycling/trash pick-up, car registration, and other important information for new residents.
  2. Join in. Think about the activities you took part in at your former place of residence, and get involved in your new space. I have always been an avid hiker, so I looked into hiking groups in Connecticut after we left NC. The sooner you engage in activities that you enjoy, the better your chances of meeting like-minded people.
  3. Branch out. If you are not typically one to approach someone you don’t know, give it a shot. Introduce yourself to someone new at a lecture, standing in line for coffee, or anywhere else you happen to be on campus. Connecting with people will help you to become more fully integrated in your new community.
  4. Maintain old ties. Keep up with friends and loved ones after you get settled. While your relationships will change because of the distance between you, keeping in touch with old friends will help you through difficult moments in the transition.
  5. Use available resources. There are many resources available to you via OITE and the NIH to help you manage the stress involved with relocating. Be sure to check these out!
  6. Give it some time. It may take several months to a few years to become acclimated and truly feel a part of a new community. Give yourself a chance to readjust, and you will eventually feel at home in your new location!