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Mindfulness, meditation and mental health

Thu, 03/22/2018 - 11:00
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It's no secret that working life can be stressful. Whether it's running to catch the train in time in the morning, dealing with a crisis at work or having to juggle personal commitments on top of it all; the 40-hour work week can leave you feeling quite drained by the time the weekend is in sight.

A recent survey by management consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed just how bad the strain on modern professionals is. The firm interviewed 2,000 UK workers both in junior and senior roles, and concluded that as much as one third of the UK workforce may be struggling with some kind of mental health issue. Stress, anxiety and depression were among the most commonly cited problems.

Researchers noted an inability to switch off as a reason why so many professionals are struggling. The incessant buzzing of mobile phones and the checking of emails and returning of calls that extends far after working hours upsets work-life balance, leaving people unable to detach themselves from the pressures of work.

This is where mindfulness comes in.

Mindfulness is essentially a type of meditation in which you focus your mind on the here and now, becoming more aware of your surroundings and the thoughts and feelings of that exact moment. It's about taking a step back from any worries about the past or the future.

It can be practised in a number of ways: by focussing on your breathing or becoming more aware of your body by carefully examining the different sensations you're experiencing. Yoga and tai-chi are also great ways to practise mindfulness.

More than just a way of finding your inner calm, mindfulness has been proven to have a positive effect on mental health conditions like anxiety, stress and depression. A 2016 study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, which studied the stress levels of 35 job seekers, found that after just three days of practising mindfulness their brain activity had changed. The subjects started showing increased activity in those parts of the brain dedicated to processing stress and calmness.

So whether it's your job or your job search that's causing your stress levels to surge, it might be time to give mindfulness a go. To start out, simply try it for 5 to 10 minutes, repeating the process each day for the best results. Afterwards, reflect on how you feel. It's all about figuring out the techniques that work for you.

Sources:  Abintegro, SELF Magazine; The Independent; NHS

The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Pearson

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