Mindful

When it comes to work, a lot of us are not exactly satisfied these days. So says a Gallup report called State of the American Workplace, which surveyed 150,000 full and part-time workers and found some staggering results: only 22% of those polled reported being engaged and thriving in their workplace, while a whopping 70% identified themselves as either “not engaged” or “actively disengaged.” (And dissatisfaction isn’t the only concern here—health might play a role as well. Another recent Gallup study found that actively disengaged workers are more likely to have health problems.)

Of course, there are always factors beyond our control: horrible bosses, difficult coworkers, poorly organized workplaces. But in a slow economy, leaving may not always be an option.

“I think many people are feeling a lack of choice right now,” says Jeremy Hunter, who teaches in the MBA program at the Peter F. Drucker School of Management in Claremont, California. “Add to that, we’re living with the fallout of years of downsizing. One person is doing multiple jobs, which is creating a chronic level of stress.”

So what’s the best way to make the most of your current situation? When it comes to stress of any kind, Hunter suggests mindfulness techniques to help improve things during the day:

“Your organizational environment may not be particularly healthy, but you can be.”

Skill #1: Learn how to watch your own emotional responses.

We can change the way we deal with situations we don’t have control over. “Your organizational environment may not be particularly healthy, but you can be,” Hunter says. Recognizing and acknowledging what you’re really dealing with at work is an important first step.

Skill #2: Learn to relax.

When stress is hitting you daily, the idea of relaxation may seem impossible. “But taking time for yourself is absolutely key,” says Hunter. That doesn’t mean you have to take a three-week vacation. Stress relief is as close at hand as a few five-minute pauses throughout your day where you are quiet and reflective, just being in the moment.

Skill #3: Take into account that if you’re stressed out at work, others in your organization probably are as well.

That doesn’t mean cutting others more slack than you allow for yourself, but it does mean learning how to lower reactivity and raise responsiveness. In stressful atmospheres things can escalate, but they don’t have to. Any of us can opt to be the first to dial it down.

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