Stressed? Overworked? Feeling out of control? Sound familiar? Thanks to technology and the 24/7 world we live in, the pressure seemingly never ends. Workers feel they are on call at all times, day or night, and that they are never caught up. Most would say they work too many hours, and often with few real breaks.
In fact, according to the World Health Organization, the cost of stress to American businesses is as high as $300 billion. This includes health care and lost productivity because of diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses. The real question is what to do about it. We are all in search of the answer, and one that has been gaining in popularity is the practice of mindfulness.
The concept is not new. Mindfulness originated in Hinduism and then Buddhism, and has become more pervasive in the West as a way to handle emotions and help alleviate depression, anxiety and other symptoms. It is also a part of positive psychology as a way to help individuals enhance their well-being and life satisfaction.
What is mindfulness? It is a meditative practice that revolves around paying focused attention to the present moment, without judging or labeling the experience. This enables a person to acquire mental and emotional rest throughout the day. So, instead of immediately reacting to issues that create stress, a practitioner can employ mindfulness techniques to regain control of the situation.
With more and more research showing the practice can reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve memory and lessen depression and anxiety, programs have multiplied in schools, prisons, hospitals and many work places. The University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business just added a mindfulness session in its executive MBA program. Likewise, companies such as Google, Target, Aetna, Procter & Gamble, Apple, McKinsey & Co., General Mills and others have instituted mindfulness programs to help employees cope with stress.