Mindfulness: It’s not just for yogis, it’s for techies too

A piece from A2U’s Joel Archibald on how to better manage stress at work through practicing mindfulness and other mediation-related activities.

 

‘Tis the season to be jolly – or is it?

According to a survey by the American Psychological Association, 38 percent of people said their stress level increases during the holidays. In general, 25 percent of people view work as the number one stressor in their lives – only adding to the stress of the season.

Inspired by Citrix’s recent blog post, “Connecting mindfulness, work, productivity and employee engagement,” we wanted to continue the conversation – especially during the holiday season – around the benefits of mindfulness and how that translates to improved performance in the workplace.

As a member of the technical team at A2U, my entire job revolves around solving problems and making customers happy. Don’t get me wrong, I love what I do but fixing cranky machines, troubleshooting issues and staying up-to-date on trends and best practices can be a bit stressful at times.

Often, I find that on days I’ve practiced mindfulness or some type of meditation I’m better at my job. I can think more clearly, keep my emotions in check and overall, better manage the stress in my life. That’s why when I read that mindfulness has been shown to reduce stress levels by almost 50 percent after a single session, it was no surprise.

Truth be told, many people still think of the practice of meditation as something hippies do. Or, that if you meditate, then you must eat a bunch of granola and wear yoga pants.

Busting that myth wide open, let me say this: I meditate and I’m not a “yogi.” I’m a techie!

The reality is, mindfulness has finally gone mainstream. People of all backgrounds and hobbies practice (and benefit) from mindfulness. Not to mention, big companies like Salesforce, Apple, Nike and Procter & Gamble promote employee meditation as a form of professional development.

 “I meditate 20 minutes a day, unless I have a busy day. Then, I meditate 40 minutes,” said Ray Dalio, Founder, Bridgewater Associates (world’s largest hedge fund).

So, why are yogis, techies and high-powered execs alike jumping on the mindfulness bandwagon?

Because of science.

In a 2016 study, it was determined that deep breathing exercises can increase cognitive function and the retention of newly learned motor skills, increasing your productivity at work. Mindfulness and other meditation-related activities leads to a state of relaxation. Your body and brain reap tons of benefits including, but not limited to:

  • Higher brain functioning
  • Lowered heart rate
  • Increased immune function
  • Increased focus
  • Lowered anxiety

Personally, it’s built mental resilience and helped me reduce the urge to multitask (which is especially important in our line of work in IT!).

Neuroscientist and Leadership Coach, Dr. Tara Swart says, “Regular mindfulness practice for two to three months increases folding in the outer cortex of the brain. The frontal cortex regulates emotional responses. If it’s more densely folded, we’re better able to regulate how we react to our emotions. That’s something that contributes to mental resilience.”

In my work, I’m tasked with coming up with creative solutions and when I’m distracted – it kills my focus and creativity. That’s partly why I meditate. It’s essential to me effectively carrying out my duties.

Whether I’m prepping for a big presentation or driving toward a looming deadline, I reach for my secret sauce: practicing mindfulness. I’ve learned to manage stress and anxiety through simple breathing techniques, meditation, a healthy diet, exercise and a set sleep schedule.

During Yuletide and beyond, join me IT friends, in taking a few minutes each day to breathe in and breathe out in order to achieve decreased stress and increased productivity. If you’re striving for work-life balance and want to improve your job performance, this is a good place to start.

What’s your favorite mindfulness practice that keeps you focused and energized to do your best work? Yoga? Walking? Shoot me a line at joel.archibald@a2u.net.