Whether you’re working hard to close a multi-million pound deal in the virtual data room late on a Friday evening or scanning hundreds of documents for the latest litigation exercise, it’s easy to lose track of time and end up with a stressful situation, tied to the billable hour with no light seemingly at the end of the tunnel. The longer we work, the higher the chance of a mistake – it’s a vicious cycle that results in longer hours rectifying such mistakes.
Mindfulness and well-being in the workplace has never been more important. It’s important for Lawyers, Paralegals, Corporate Accountants and Professionals alike to have a clean state-of-mind in order to achieve maximum results – as they say, “work smart!”
We are delighted to introduce Richard Brook from Creative Wellness, one of the leading wellness coaches as a guest contributor for our blog. You can find out more about Richard at the end of this post.
1. Take breaks from your screen & expose yourself to natural light
Computer (and phone) screens irritate the hypothalamus of the brain, keeping the nervous system over-stimulated. We become entranced and immersed with the screen after short periods of time, losing connection with our body sensations.
Hungry? Tired? Thirsty? These and other creative needs keep you balanced, but after 20 minutes you lose awareness of these.
Once we have taken a break from our screen, we have the benefit of being reconnected with our feelings, along with some time to regenerate ourselves. Just think about how much time flys by whilst sat our screens. Is this how you want your life to go by?
As for the natural light – glass filters out the spectral rays that need to hit your retina, so you must get outside into daylight for your body & mind to recognise daytime!
2. Quality sleep
It sounds absurd to discuss sleep in the same article on work habits, but the reality is we work late – sometimes very late. As we discussed in point 1, we can often end up spending longer on the screen than expected. Due to the aforementioned irritation of the hypothalamus, your nervous system can actually take hours to switch off – even after falling asleep! The result is much less energy the next day.
Try to stay away from ‘blue screen’ devices a couple of hours before sleep and engage with an old school approach such as picking up a book.
Eating before bed also leaves the body processing while you are trying to switch off – so try to avoid food a couple of hours before.
Mindfulness is the ‘glue’ and overarching quality that makes the rest of this article possible. Without increasing awareness of what you’re doing, how can you be conscious of taking a break or that you are tired and need to move? What about the need to talk to a fellow human to become re-energised and refocus on work?
Mindfulness brings you back to your senses – literally. We spend a lot of time in our ‘left brain’ intellectual capacity, and lose touch with our ‘right brain’ senses and creative capacity. This presents a danger, with the conceptual part of our brain creating stories and plans that our instincts (don’t actually agree with) and our body can’t keep up with. (Basically) we end up being lost in thought and don’t notice our senses starting to shout with pain, exhaustion and emotional distress!
Mindfulness comes in many forms – when you put your attention back into your body, it starts to rebalance itself and bring you back to your senses.
Every now and again when you have moments of self-awareness between periods of concentration, choose wisely about what you do with your attention. Put it into your body, senses and particularly your breath which has numerous benefits, leading us nicely on to the next point…
Stress will inhibit and constrain your breathing pattern, affecting our subtle perception and emotion. The more severe the stress, the more we tend to ‘hold’ our breath. In a state of tension, your adrenals switch on in various degrees of fight or flight, almost like your abdomen freezes – literally holding your breath. There are numerous ill affects of this, not least on how it impacts your digestion.
To break the cycle as noted above, catch your moment of self-awareness and put your attention immediately to your breath and in turn, this will tell you all you need to know about your state and how stressed you are, stimulating your ‘right brain’ and calming the nervous system, activating a relaxation response.
Try it right now! Drop your attention down to your abdomen (pro tip: focus on a point about two finger widths beneath your belly button) and notice what happens – your breathing immediately deepens. Thankfully, you are also giving yourself some quality attention, which is soothing. This also increases your subtle radiance and the sense of presence to those around you.
Movement is important to rescue your posture from being mouldded into the shape of a chair. Organs also require movement in order to function most efficiently by dispersing a sense of restlessness and pent up emotions that get ‘stuck’ in the body.
Movement also starts to re-balance the body’s natural Yin/Yang polarity. To be healthy, we need distinct periods of activity which help to facilitate periods of deep rest and vice-versa.
6. Relaxation: amplified stress creates the need for amplified relaxation!
As someone who spends large periods of time living both in the exquisite peace of nature and the exquisite chaos of the urban world, you must believe me when I say residing in a city alone is stressful. The pollution, the noise, the discordant electromagnetic energy (see below) and the sheer density of people compromising your personal space can grind you down – and that’s before the work pressures, deadlines and transport issues!
Our default stress level is already on high, so you need to concentrate on relaxation time. 20 minutes of deep relaxation can be equal to 4 hours sleep (some yogic sages state it’s even higher) – that kind of regeneration will certainly leave you in a sharper state the next day!
Find yourself a yoga class that has a strong relaxation component and enjoy!
7. Get out into nature and embrace negative ions!
The air around us is full of ion particles (you can even see them sometimes as tiny sparks in the air when the light catches them). In a natural setting, these ion particles have a nice, refreshingly negative charge. There tends to be particular proliferations of them where there is running water. Think about how refreshing it is near a waterfall, or even when you’ve had a shower.
Pollutants in the air, technological devices and air conditioning tend to turn these ion particles into having a positive charge, creating a subtle sense of irritation. Think of a stuffy air-conditioned office in a polluted city and you should start to see the picture!
The remedy is to get regular periods of time in nature to reset your balance and help you refresh.
– Take regular breaks from your screen to come back to your senses
– Breath deeply and make choice to regularly get outside the office (such as for lunch) for some natural light
– Try to access a natural environment such as a park, whenever you can. Perhaps pass through one on your way home
– Try to attend a yoga class, ideally a couple of times a week
Richard Brook is an international acupuncturist, yoga teacher and wellness coach based in London. He works with businesses and individuals to empower them to achieve better health and give the practical skills, impetus and knowledge to lead a naturally inspired life.
You can find out more on his website, Creative Wellness.