As a lifelong resident of the Washington, DC metropolitan area, I have a lot of friends and family who are federal employees or contractors. Or their business or the place they work sells or supports a business connected to the federal government market. The stress level for many people is greatly increasing because of fear or concern about the changes the president-elect plans to make to our government and thereby, our country. Those who work in trade and foreign policy have expressed to me that when the subject has been raised in a lunch conversation or two among their colleagues-friends they were not hopeful, happy discussions.
It’s in times like these that practicing mindfulness can be a big benefit to your day-to-day life. If you oppose the new president elect’s policies you can fight it through your individual protest on your free time, complain on social media or support organizations that are working against his goals. But when you’re at the day job, you’re there to do your job. All my professional friends and family members have been through changes in the executive branch before. We all know that how you feel about this new climate we are entering in our country has not a thing to do with the job you are expected to perform. But rather than let this next 4 years add more stress to your life, I’d like to suggest you consider mindfulness. It will reduce the stress that goes along with your concern and feelings of uncertainty about what might happen.
Mindfulness is all about being in the present moment. It’s learning to stop for short breaks during the workday to breathe deeply and train your mind to focus on now. Right now. Three minutes of deep breathing really can change your life.
A researcher from Harvard University, Herbert Benson authored a book in 1975 titled, “The Relaxation Response,” which used scientific research results to prove that short periods of meditiation focused on breathing can change the body’s response to stress. Basically they’ve proven that if you practicing mindful breathing exercises changes your body’s reaction to stress and you no longer releasing stress hormones throughout your body. Your blood pressure goes down, not up. That shallow breathing that we all experience when we’re getting all spun up is no longer.
In a follow up book published in 2010 titled “Relaxation Revolution,” Benson uses further research to prove that breathing can even change the activity of our body’s cells. This is a fascinating idea that confirms that by learning to use your breathe you can make your mind change your very cellular existence!
It’s science like this that makes me love mindfulness. This is why I believe that practicing mindfulness at work gives you your power back. People, processes and policies don’t get on your last nerve anymore. You can change your day and even begin the process of changing your life simply by taking a few mindful breathing breaks everyday.
If you have health problems, mindful breathing has a huge added health benefit. It has been proven to help reduce blood pressure. Yes, incorporating a deep breathing practice can help to improve your blood pressure. There are a host of other health benefits, too. Curious about how to start? Check out this video by one of the masters of mindfulness, Jon Kabat-Zinn.