How to De-stress the Workplace – an experiential class

Amy EdelsteinCultural DevelopmentLeave a Comment

How to De-stress the Workplace – an experiential class

with Amy Edelstein

For most of us, our work environment is a place of satisfaction and stress. Are you increasingly feeling the tension and not the satisfaction? Do you feel like your workplace—with all its distractions and demands—is ruling you?

If you’ve started to experience a loss of control and stability when you are at the place where you’re supposed to be performing your best, it’s time to call in the reinforcements. Time to give yourself some much-needed support.

Time to . . . be here now.

“Being here now” became a cliché for a reason. Being here now has power. It has restorative capacities. It leads to insight.

This session, we’ll do some experiential exercises in mindfully focusing and becoming present to what is.

Try them. You’ll appreciate it. Your co-workers will appreciate it. Your employer will appreciate it. (And you may start a mini-mindful revolution in your own circles as others want in on your secret.)

How does it work?

Try these experiential steps. Instead of just skimming this post, let yourself experiment. Try the short meditations out. See what happens. Experience focus. Keep going. Approach this with intention. Expect depth. You don’t have to do all 10 steps at once. Stop at the one that most catches your attention and give yourself to it.

Ready? Let’s go.

10 Big Ideas. 10 Steps.

1. Get Present.

Have you ever gone through your entire day at work feeling like you never really arrived? (Does that happen more frequently than you’d like to admit?)

Address this by getting present at the beginning of your workday. Begin with a brief focusing. As you become familiar with the technique, lengthen your sessions at home or on your lunch break.

2. Focus on the Breath: A PRACTICE EXERCISE

First, we’ll practice a basic mindfulness technique: Observing the In-breath & the Out-breath

Note: Please do not practice this while driving. Mindfulness focuses you but it changes your sense of time and reflexes. So, now that we’re safe and in our seats, let’s get started.

Breath meditation is one of the simplest ways to center. It comes from the ancient Buddhist practice called anapanasati.

We all breathe without thinking about it. It makes it an easy, immediate, and universal action to corral our attention and bring us into the present.

To begin, put your attention on your inhalation and exhalation. As you rest your attention on the gentle sensation at the tip of your nose, allow your thoughts to recede into the background. If your focus wanders, gently bring it back. This isn’t a contest or a measure of your self-worth so be kind with yourself. Awareness is best cultivated with focus, intention, and ease.

As you cultivate your ability to focus on the immediacy of the breath and its sensations, keep challenging yourself to see how precisely you can locate the movement of the inhalation and exhalation.

Start with 10-minute increments. Increase as you can. Experiment. Note what you observe. Enjoy!

3. Locate the Sources of Your Stress.

Now that we’ve arrived here and now, let’s look at where our stresses come from. Write down your top five stresses in the workplace.

Here are some common ones:
1. My overwhelming Inbox
2. The calls and texts that continually interrupt me when I’m trying to concentrate
3. Having too much to do & not enough hours in the day
4. Feeling tension with my boss, my team, my staff
5. Worries with my spouse, my kids, my parents following me to work

We each have our own top 5. Locate yours. Now, instead of feeling oppressed by the issues you don’t know how to resolve, just become conscious of what they are. When we’re aware, we empower our ability to choose what we want to respond to and how.

As you do this exercise, generate a spirit of scientific observation and discovery. At this moment, we’re not judging others or ourselves, we’re not trying to fix or dissolve these issues—we’re making them conscious. As you’ll come to see, being aware has its own magic.


Take ten minutes to allow your experience, your mind, emotions, sensations, and the entire universe to just be as it already is.

For most of us, without practice it’s not so easy to let go and let everything be. Here’s an image I use that has helped many:

Imagine that you are lying on your back looking up at the night sky. What wonder! There are endless pinpricks of stars above you and meteors shooting across the firmament.

When you look at the night sky, you don’t have any trouble letting the Milky Way and the meteors simply be there.

Now put your attention on the blackness behind the stars. Keep your attention vast and unrestricted. Focus your awareness on the blackness of the sky, the backdrop. Stay with it. Move your attention off your thoughts, worries, fears and frustrations.

When you bring yourself out of the meditation, notice how you feel about the thoughts, the objects of your stress. These are the “stars” that usually take your attention and limit your field of awareness. Notice how much more space you created and the ease that brings into your own experience.

5. Create a Bigger Container for Stress

We have control over our relationship to thought and stress, not necessarily over the causes of the stress.

When you are at work, on a project, and things are going wrong, it creates stress. The worry can be justified. You’re not on time, you’re over budget, and maybe the end result is not what you—or your client—intended. Expanding your awareness so that there’s room for all of these objective issues to be will allow you to respond in the most creative way. It will also give you the personal strength and resilience you will need if you have to take responsibility for your or your team’s shortfalls.

How do you create a bigger context? Look at your own life in a continuum of the lives that have come before you and the ones that will come after. Not just your children’s and grandchildren’s but 10 generations each way. What was happening 10 generations ago? See how much that influenced what was to follow and how little you could know or see the outcome of various actions. Create space for each generation’s inevitable mistakes and for unexpected successes that emerge. Now put the whole universe into a vast 13.7 billion year evolutionary context.

This won’t take away error, responsibility, or appropriate blame. It will give you room to work with reality, it will give spaciousness and detachment, and that ease and compassion will make all the difference for yourself and for everyone around you.


5-minute mindfulness exercise:

Choose a particular thought that is repetitive and troubling you. Examine that thought from close up. Then look at thought from the vantage point of the first floor. Keep going up. Look down on that thought from the top floor of your building.

How much more of the world can you see from there? How does your concern look from this perspective?

Look down from the window of a transatlantic jet. From the surface of the moon. From Mars. From even further back in the cosmos. Notice how when you expand your perspective wide enough, when you are seeing so very much, you can’t even see your thought anymore. Are you experiencing an unexpected support? Do you feel the wider expanse of space and conscious awareness buoying you up? Pay attention and see what is shifting in your experience.

7. Take a Mindful Timeout, 2x a Day.

Set your alarm and reserve 5 minutes 2 times a day during your work hours for a mindful time out. Turn off your email, turn off your phone, close YouTube and Facebook. Focus on your breath, do a mindful body scan, open your inner doors of awareness.

These 10 minutes will empower you more than you can imagine. You’ll be exerting control over your experience. You’ll be insisting that protecting the quality of your attention is more important than the endless demands and interruptions.

Your clarity and spaciousness of mind is essential to your health and to the health of your environment.

When you commit to doing this, you might come up against internal resistance. You might start hearing yourself listing a litany of excuses of why you can’t honor this commitment. You may find you have subconscious resistance to exerting this kind of authority and control over how you spend your time. Pay attention. Notice what’s there. No need to argue with these excuses, just go ahead and do what you intended and see what happens.

Make some notes to concretize your experience of letting go.

8. Observe, without Judgment

You may be a very good analyst at work. You may be very good at assessing and judging the pros and cons of any situation. When we do mindful practice, we want to temporarily suspend all that mental functionality.

Observe without judgment. Be present with what is. What do you see? Frustration. Pain. Defeat. Humiliation. Shame. Anger. Fear. Endings. Uncertain beginnings?

Focusing and detaching creates space for interest and curiosity, and most of all choice. You create space for options. The more we expand our repertoire of responses, the more flexible we’ll be in times of pressure. That flexibility is key to our sense of being present to life.

9. Detach Yourself.

Detachment isn’t indifference. Detachment is a state or posture free from the distorting influence of anger, ambition, and self-importance. These powerful emotions cloud our perception, making difficult if not impossible to respond well. The workplace is fraught with emotionally charged interactions. Practice mindfulness to detach yourself and cultivate a deeper reservoir of peace.

10. Let Go of Negativity.

Let go of negative thoughts and emotions through the practice of mindful awareness. Be loose and aware, like a racecar driver. As you let go of calcifying negativity you’ll find ways to bend under pressures and be able to snap right back into place.

For more on Amy Edelstein’s corporate mindfulness programs, see

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