Stress management

Work Stress: An Email Meditation To Reduce Tension At Your Desk

Checking your overflowing Gmail inbox — or sending out a message to an important business contact — is a pretty surefire way to make your pulse quicken and your mind start racing with worries about deadlines and obligations. In fact, one study actually found that checking and sending email at work can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, and cause levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body to spike.

“People expect us to respond within 24 hours … just handling the amount of email we get can be stressful,” Dr. Lillian Cheung, mindfulness expert and editorial director of The Nutrition Source at Harvard, tells the Huffington Post. “But instead of getting stressed and overwhelmed with emails, I think it’s an opportunity for us to refresh and restore ourselves.”

Taking a moment to perform a short meditation before sending an email can be an easy way to lower your stress levels and integrate mindfulness into your everyday work life. Before sending out your next message, try a simple breathing exercise outlined by Cheung and zen master Thich Nhat Hahn in their book “Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life.”

After writing an email, stop and take three deep breathes, focusing on each inhale and exhale. You can repeat to yourself, “Breathing in, I thank the power of the Internet. Breathing out, I am fully conscious of my current email actions.” Then, input your recipient and cc-recipient addresses, and click send on the email.

“Not only are you helping yourself to calm down, but you’re also preventing yourself from making mistakes,” says Cheung. “It’s just a moment of pause and it doesn’t take long.”

Read the original instructions from “Savor,” and click here for more ways to de-stress at your desk.

via Work Stress: An Email Meditation To Reduce Tension At Your Desk.


Yoga Isn’t Just Good For Your Mind, It’s Good For Your Genes | Greatist

There are lots of reasons to start practicing yoga and meditation. Yogis get to shop at Lululemon and tote around fancy rolled-up mats. Those who meditate attract admiring looks when they sit poised in lotus position in the middle of a crowded office building.

Okay, so we’re being a bit facetious. But, as it turns out, the om-and-down-dog crowd may be doing more than just jumping on the latest trend. Multiple studies released over the last few months provide solid evidence that yoga and meditation can undo the serious damage that stress wreaks on our bodies. At a time when many Americans report high levels of stress, these findings are a good reason for healthcare professionals to start recommending these techniques on a regular basis.

What’s the Deal?

In one recent study, researchers recruited a small group of newbie meditators and trained them for six weeks in the art of breathing deeply, repeating mantras, and ignoring intrusive thoughts. At the end of the training, researchers drew blood before and 15 minutes after participants listened to a 20-minute guided meditation CD. What they found was remarkable: All the blood samples showed positive changes in gene expression the process by which certain genes are turned “on” or “off”.

Specifically, genes linked to energy metabolism, mitochondria function, insulin secretion, and telomere maintenance were activated, while genes associated with stress and inflammation were deactivated. Researchers also ran the same experiment on a group of more experienced meditators, and found that the pros’ blood samples showed even more significant, positive changes in gene expression.Other recent research has yielded similar findings. Scientists have found that yoga induces changes in the expression of genes related to the immune system in other words, yoga may boost immunity, and that practicing yoga and meditation can help the body heal faster from disease [1] [2].

Why It MattersAt the same time that scientists have been finding that yoga and meditation can cause changes at the cellular level, other researchers have shown how chronic stress can cause long-term physiological and psychological damage. In studies, mice that have high levels of cortisol the stress hormone also show weakened immune systems. Presumably, these findings may apply to humans as well. [3].  And people who report high levels of stress in their daily lives are more likely to experience chronic health conditions and/or psychological disorders down the line [4] [5].

The implications of both these areas of research are huge. As many as 20 percent of Americans say they experience extreme stress and many don’t know where to turn for help. Yoga and meditation provide a scientifically-backed, highly practical way to help manage some of this stress before it does lasting damage to our minds and bodies. We’re not talking about a huge lifestyle change, either. In the most recent study, blood samples showed changes in gene expression after participants meditated for just 20 minutes albeit after spending some time learning proper yoga and meditation techniques.

The good news is that it’s likely some of the most stressed people are already yogis and/or meditators. As of 2012, more than 20 million Americans practiced yoga, and more than half said they practice for stress relief. At the same time, in 2011, more than six million Americans were advised to practice alternative mind-body therapies by their healthcare provider [6].All this research provides convincing evidence for making yoga and meditation something healthcare professionals recommend on a regular basis. Other possibilities include workplace interventions that focus on teaching yoga and meditation techniques. With any luck, at some point these practices won’t even be considered “alternative” anymore.

Do you practice yoga and or meditation regularly? What are your motivations? Let us know in the comments below or tweet the author at @ShanaDLebowitz.

via Yoga Isn’t Just Good For Your Mind, It’s Good For Your Genes | Greatist.


Karen Gifford: Meditation Saved My Job and Changed My Life

I began meditating when I was a litigator in the enforcement section of the New York Fed’s legal department. I led investigations into misconduct in the banking industry and brought civil enforcement actions based on what I found. My cases involved activity like embezzlement, loan fraud and misconduct on the trading desks that were new at banks at the time.

I loved my work. It was fascinating and I was lucky to have brilliant colleagues. I also believed — and still do- that what I was doing made the financial system run better and more fairly.

At the same time, my job came with obvious stresses. Cases that can result in significant fines, injunctions and bans from the industry are extremely contentious, to say the least. The bankers I brought cases against thought I was ruining their lives and took my enforcement actions personally. Shouting and swearing were very much part of my day; my opponents were often best lawyers in the country who could outspend me by many multiples.

While I was managing this challenging but rewarding legal practice, I was raising young children with a spouse who traveled four days a week. We were lucky to have a wonderful nanny; still, the demands were intense. Many nights I fell asleep on the floor of my children’s room, so exhausted I didn’t realize what happened until I woke up hours later with creases from the rug on my face.

At first I saw meditation as a way to cope with the demands of my work situation. I could see I needed to do something to make my life function better, and I really didn’t want to give up my job. I’d heard meditation helped with stress, so I began trying to meditate every day.

After my experience, I’m amused when business people tell me they can’t meditate. A good meditation practice just requires some discipline, concentration, and the ability to set goals and work towards them. These traits are the common currency of most professionals, and ones that I used when I began meditating.

The hardest part for me was getting started. I had many reasons to be motivated, but sitting still and watching my thoughts didn’t come naturally to a “do-er” like me. At first I sat for just two minutes a day — and that was hard! Eventually though, I found my way, and meditation became one of the pillars of my day. I learned that no matter how crazy things were at work or at home, I could go inside and find a place of deep calm, sweetness, silence and even joy.

So meditation helped me stay at my job and I was happy. I didn’t realize, though, that the calm I felt was just the beginning. Meditation is a transformational practice, not simply a means of stress reduction. Far from tamping down my nervous system so I could endure the difficult parts of my life, meditating made me more aware, present and open to change — and many changes ensued.

For one thing, meditation changed my home life. I enjoyed the time I had with my kids and spouse more fully, without being so pulled into work problems, or worse, stressing out over how little time we had together. Of course, sometimes I was more aware of things that weren’t working at home, but even that became more productive than upsetting. After a while, everyone at home was happier. This is a beautiful surprise of meditation — the changes it brought seemed so simple, but had a profound impact.

More surprising was what happened at work. As I got to know my mind a little better, I began to realize that my thoughts weren’t me, and I didn’t always have to believe them. I could decide whether the opposing counsel screaming at me over the phone was actually a terrible person out to torment me, or just another human being having a bad day. I began to feel more comfortable questioning my preconceptions than always trying to defend them.

This shift had a radical effect on my experience of work. I started to view work difficulties not as something to push away, but as opportunities to engage with my own mental constructs. And believe me, I had lots of opportunities! If you want to see your own patterns and assumptions, a demanding job will bring them to the fore. My office became a place for deepening self knowledge, not just somewhere I got things done.

Ironically, all this inner work made me more effective at my job. Watching stressful feelings come and go during meditation gave me tools I put to use in many situations: I was less reactive in negotiations, less intimidated by the “big guns” opposing me, worried less about outcomes and therefore was more able to do my best work. I was more myself in court, and I believe that made me more persuasive.

Did meditation turn me into the most invincible lawyer ever? Probably not. But it helped me become the best lawyer I was capable of being. Meditation certainly helped me keep a job I loved for years longer than I would have otherwise. Later, it created the mental space to question the all-work-at-all-costs ethos that dominates the legal profession, and find a way to practice part-time. And eventually, when I decided it was time to move on, meditation helped make the move out of legal practice — a notoriously fraught transition — pass relatively smoothly.

So if you work in the professional world, don’t think that meditation isn’t for you. You have the skills you need to build a strong meditation practice. If you take the plunge and start sitting, I can’t predict all the ways meditation will affect your personal and professional life. What I can promise is that it will, and how it does will surprise you. And I’m happy to say the surprises just keep coming.

Follow Karen Gifford on Twitter:

Karen Gifford: Meditation Saved My Job and Changed My Life.