Stress in the Workplace: A Mindful Anecdote

It’s a Rainy day in Dublin and I am stuck in traffic on my way in to work at The Sanctuary.  On my drive in, the radio has been reporting that The Economic and Social Research Institute has declared that in between the years 2010 and 2015, stress in the workplace has jumped from 8-17%. This is not surprising as I look all around me at the multitude of commuters fighting the rain, congestion and road works- and this fight happens before anyone even steps into the office.

I’m one of the lucky ones. My work as a mindfulness teacher helps to create and sustain the conditions for managing stress. In fact, I know that at the end of this car journey there is a warm haven of soft lighting and cushioned corners: a place for the weary to take refuge.  Again, I am one of the lucky ones.

Saying that, workplace stress can happen in any setting. Whether it be working alongside someone who we find difficult, working in a highly competitive marketplace or maybe even experiencing job INsecurity, workplace stress can affect us all- even this mindfulness teacher.

However, the Economic and Social Research Institute report highlights the fact that work- related stress is at its highest in the caring professions. This is no surprise. While the working with others who are struggling can be extremely rewarding, there are also many external stressors, such as compassion fatigue, emotional exhaustion and even depression can set in due the demands of the job.

Still, the question keeps rolling around in my mind. How do I manage stress in the workplace?

One of the most helpful ways that I manage stress in the workplace is to manage my ‘negative predictions’ or to notice when I have become lost in the storyline that a) is not based in fact and b) will most likely not happen.

“I’m not good enough”; “Somehow, I am going to fail”; “When will they realize that I’m an imposter?”; “I will never get everything done”; “I can’t make a difference, so why try?”

When I notice these storylines, and there can be many, I bring my attention back to the breath, my body and the moment in front of me. Thankfully, in almost all cases, the moment in front of me is manageable.

To do this, sometimes I do a small practice such as the ‘3 Minute Breathing Space’. The ‘3 minute Breathing Space’ is a practice that was created by Mark Williams, Zindel Segal and John Teasdale as a means of not only bridging the gap between a formal meditation practice and the movements of day to day living, but also a practice that can be deployed for challenging situations or for when we have become ‘caught up’ in the moment and operating on autopilot. This practice helps shift us from a place of reactivity to a place of response.

The practice is quite simple. There are three stages and each one takes approximately one minute. Saying that, I have done this practice in as little as 45 seconds to 5 minutes! It’s important to make it your own.

  1. Pause, and with this pause, notice what is presenting to you in this moment. Are there any body sensations? Are they telling you anything? An emotion? A barrage of thoughts or maybe one persistent thought?

This is an internal check into what you are experiencing  in this moment in regards to thoughts, feelings and body sensations.

  • Narrow the focus to finding the breath as it moves through the body, almost as if you are coming home to the body. Sometimes it can be helpful to place a hand on the tummy or the chest and rest the attention on the movement.
  • Broaden the attention back out to take in the whole body, the space around the body and anything that is present with a view to move forward from a place of presence.

By taking this time to pause and to connect in with the breathing body, we create a space in which to move forward more skilfully. We create the opportunity to move forward mindfully.

So as I drive into work, I notice I can feel a fluttering in my stomach, indicating a sense of anticipation and a small bit of nervousness. I focus in on the breath, resting with the rhythm of air as its being received and released by the body. Then I broaden my attention out again to take in the road ahead of me. And in this moment, the road leads to The Sanctuary, a place that is welcome to all and a place that all can take refuge in. Quite manageable, indeed.

Are you a carer/ or working in the caregiving field who is struggling with stress, illness or maybe just looking for a place to pause? Or perhaps you are caring for a loved one in the home?

Check out our Caring for the Carer Well-being Retreat Day this August: Click here

Maybe you are not a carer but are looking to manage your workplace stress.The 3 Minute Breathing Space is taught on the mindfulness programs which are delivered here in The Sanctuary. Our next selection of mindfulness courses will be starting in September 2019.

Please visit us at or contact enquiries

-Jane Negrych

Why not try a 3 Minute Breathing Space? Prof. Mark Williams who created the practice, guides it here.

Jane Negrych is the Program Manager at The Sanctuary. She has been teaching mindfulness, compassion and mindfulness teacher training programs at home in Ireland and throughout the UK. She has completed the MSc in Mindfulness Studies with the University of Aberdeen, where she is currently an Honorary Teaching Fellow on the program. She also delivers mindfulness and compassion courses for the Recovery College in DCU.

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