Committing to Mindful Monday is one of the easiest ways to get started with mindfulness, and is easy to incorporate into your work schedule. Mindful Mondays simply involve committing to mindfulness practices just one day per week. There are many approaches to reducing stress at work, but mindfulness is an easily accessible and well-studied method for reducing stress.
How to design mindful Mondays for work
Here’s the challenge with starting any new habit, including mindfulness:
Keeping it up.
Mindful Mondays is an initiative driven by Johns Hopkins, NYU, and Columbia University that seeks to normalize the practice of mindfulness in the workplace.
Adopting Mindful Mondays means making a commitment to yourself that you’ll practice mindfulness at least once a week.
The side benefit? This helps build your practice over time. Soon enough, you’ll be practicing mindfulness on other days without even realizing it.
Here’s what a Mindful Monday might look like:
- Wake up and shower. Notice the sensation of the warm water splashing on your skin. Linger in the steam. Notice how breathing the warm air in the shower feels.
- Eat breakfast. Slow down. Savor each bite. Notice the flavors and textures of the food you’re eating.
- Enjoy your coffee or tea slowly. Getting started in the office or in your remote work setup, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea. Hold it in your hands, noticing the warmth and taking in the sensation.
- Take a mindful walk. Time for a break. Stretch your legs and go outside if possible. Notice the sounds of nature.
- Breathe deeply during stressful moments. As stressful situations come up during your workday, use mindfulness exercises to center yourself. If you’re being hard on yourself, take a moment for self-compassion.
If you’re ready to commit to Mindful Mondays in order to reduce stress at work, put a reminder in your calendar set to recur each Sunday night or Monday morning.
With workplace stress on the rise, mindfulness is more important than ever.
Managing stress in the workplace
Workplace stress is at an all-time high. Rates of daily stress, worry, sadness and anger have been trending upward since 2009. Gallup has found that workers in the U.S. are among the most stressed in the world.
In the workplace, stress and anxiety is often framed in terms of lost productivity. And it’s true: stress at work takes a toll and can lead to missed days, lack of focus, reduced motivation, and increased turnover.
But the more insidious cost is the mental health impact.
Without managing stress properly, workers are likely to suffer in the long term.
The downsides of work stress
Sure—a little bit of stress isn’t the worst thing. Stress can sometimes be a healthy indicator of motivation and goals, and can mean your body and mind are coping with looming deadlines and daily responsibilities.
However, too much stress can disrupt your workflow. This is because stress is linked to concentration, which means that stress can result in poor quality output and lower levels of productivity.
In careers like firefighting, airline piloting, and policing, which are among the most stressful occupations according to a study by CareerCast, poor concentration can even be life threatening.
Current efforts to manage work stress
There have been recent measures that helped mitigate burnout.
Hybrid work may help. Adopting a model where workers come into the office only on certain days, and do the rest of their work remotely, builds periods of natural recharge time into the day.
The Nieman Lab has found journalism industry leaders like the AFP, Quartz, and more are looking at investing in hybrid work.
Hybrid work also helps in industries that have worker shortages. Arkansas, for example, struggles with one of the lowest numbers of available physicians per capita in the United States. These days, physicians in Arkansas can use telemedicine to increase availability of care.
Still, efforts like hybrid work and telemedicine don’t get to the heart of the matter.
Workers are still stressed.
That’s where mindfulness comes in.
How mindfulness helps with workplace stress
Through mindfulness, you learn to observe your thoughts dispassionately rather than engage with them right away.
This allows you to remain steady and resilient, even in high-stress situations.
Studies have found a relationship between mindfulness and blood pressure, body weight, and psychological symptoms such as anxiety, depression, somatization, and general psychological distress.
Whether through Mindful Mondays or not, mindfulness can be practiced in numerous ways (with many exercises taking as little as one minute).
Here are a few exercises to start with:
- Try 5 minutes of pursed lip breathing. This causes the parasympathetic nervous system to slow down, helping slow the heart rate, increase feelings of centeredness, and reduce feelings of anxiety.
- Finger meditation while at your desk. Sit or stand while holding the index finger of each hand to your thumb. Breathe in and out slowly, observing your breath closely as it leaves and enters your body.
- Consider doing mindfulness activities in a group, or even remotely. Zoom mindfulness activities can be just as powerful as in-person mindfulness exercises
For more mindfulness inspiration, see the following articles:
- 33 Mindfulness Exercises to Live in the Present Moment
- 21 One-Minute Mindfulness Exercises
- 17 Zoom Mindfulness Activities
My mindfulness practice kicked off in 2016 with a ten-day silent retreat. Since then, I’ve read dozens of books about mindfulness and completed hundreds of hours of meditation. Thinking about what makes humans happy, calm, and peaceful is endlessly fascinating to me.