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Thursday
Oct232014

7. Manage anxiety in business: How mindfulness helps

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. She has used meditation to help her overcome panic attacks and has had a regular meditation practice for over 30 years.

Whatever your levels of emotional intelligence, managing anxiety is paramount if you are to be successful in business. Whether you are a small, medium or large business the demands placed upon you can leave you managing anxiety in a broad range of situations. And it sucks!

Why can anxiety rear its hateful head so often for people in business? Because there is so much to worry about!

There's legislation, recruitment, business loans, staff wages, cashflow, business premises, security, occupational safety and health, unfair dismissal laws, staff retention, tax payments, difficult clients, complaints and more. The list of potential anxieties seems limitless.

No wonder many businesses have anxious owners, especially if they do not have high levels of emotional intelligence. This article will look at one of many ways business people can reduce and even prevent anxiety by developing mindfulness. It is the emotionally intelligent thing to do!

Emotional intelligence 1: What is Mindfulness?

Although Mindfulness is based on a tradition going back over 2500 years it has been brought into current thinking by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a medical specialist. He has adapted mindfulness into a course called Mindfulness-Based-Stress-Reduction (MBSR) and is the person who has been credited with first bringing mindfulness techniques and meditation into mainstream medicine.

According to Jon Kabat-Zinn mindfulness practice is a "systematic cultivation of awareness through a particular way of paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally". It is an opportunity to sit with ourselves and to be in relationship with our senses and what arises.

Thousands of people have benefited from learning his method and have seen their stress levels and anxiety plummet, even when their circumstances have remained the same. People don't even have to do it for very long before they can start to get results from it. Dr Kabat-Zinn has been running ten-day mindfulness retreats for CEOs for over 12 years.

However it is not neceassary to do the full MBSR programme, but simply to learn how to be mindful and meditation and mindfulness meditation teaches us this.

Emotional intelligence 2: PAY ATTENTION TO SENSATIONS.

Anxiety often arrives because people are imagining bad events arising in the future. They think of what will go wrong, how difficult a task will be or how bad they will feel if something occurs.

Mindfulness meditation encourages us to leave our future worries and anxieties to one side, for now, and instead to return to the sensations that arise right now, in this moment. The sensations of seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting and touching can all happen in each moment, but anxiety can take us away from them. By focusing on them they can take us away from anxiety.

For example, if you are sitting in the staff tea room having lunch notice every sensation involved in slowly moving your lunch to your mouth, feel each fork full of food as it enters your mouth, and then focus on the food as you slowly eat it. Feel it between your teeth. Sense the tongue moving it around. Become aware of the food moving, the saliva joining it and the desire to swallow.

What are you doing here? You are focusing your attention on the sensations of what you are doing now. Moment by moment. When you become more grounded in the ongoing sensations of the present moment anxiety about the future has less of a hold and you'll find managing anxiety in business can become easier.

Do you think you can't meditate? Try the meditations on our MP3s. They're easy, even for beginners.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Emotional intelligence 3: FOCUS ON YOUR BREATHING.

When you get anxious your breathing may change. It may speed up. It may become shallower.

Focusing on your breath may help it to settle back into a smoother gentler rhythm. Wherever you are your breath is with you, slowly going in and going out of your body, even when you're not thinking about it.

Notice your breath going in and your breath going out. Your breath going in, your breath going out. Your breath going in, your breath going out. Have you got the idea? It's very simple! You just have to stay focussed on it.

Once your breathing is less agitated you may feel less agitated too. Whatever you are doing in your business you are always breathing. You don't need any special equipment, any special environment or to go anywhere, so watching your breath going in and out is something any business owner can do. Even just for a few moments.

Want to have calmer breathing? There is a mindfulness breathing exercise on our "Happy not hassled" meditation MP3s

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Emotional intelligence 4: BE SILENT WITH NO AGENDA.

Developing self-awareness is a very important part of being a successful business manager or owner. Mindfulness practice helps people develop self-awareness and insight.

One thing we can do to practise mindfulness is to simply sit in silence with no agenda. Our business lives are full of timetables, meetings and agendas. We are driven by what we must do and what must be done. No wonder we get axious. Sometimes the ability just to stop and be quiet for a few minutes can help our minds settle and our anxiety ease.

Can you sit for five minutes in silence with no agenda? What happens when you do? Can you sustain your attention on the silence or your breath for just 5 mins?

Most of us can't. Instead, our minds flit here, there and everywhere. It is this flitting that can fuel anxiety.

Seldom are we fully present when we are involved in reading our e-mails, or listening to customers or staff, or participating in meetings. Jon Kabat-Zinn says, "When we divide our attention we are neither here nor there. ... Wouldn't it be better if you had 100% of your marbles present when the proverbial stuff is hitting the proverbial fan rather than only 20%, 40% or 60%?".

By becoming more mindful we can develop greater skills in perceiving what is going on in a meeting, we can listen more fully to what someone is saying, and we can know how we are feeling and what we are thinking. In addition, our thinking can become clearer. All this helps in managing anxiety and running a successful business.

By being silent we can know what is happening inside ourselves so we can manage and reduce anxiety.

Find silence too difficult? Try our 6 minute body scan mindfulness exercise instead. It's on our MP3s.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Emotional intelligence 5: DEVELOP A MINDFULNESS PRACTICE.

We need to develop a great deal of discipline to run a successful business. Practising mindfulness based stress reduction, (MBSR), may also be a useful part of running a successful business. It need not involve large chunks of time. It can be quiet moments one at a time.

It can be two minutes in the toilet. It can be three minutes waiting in a queue. It can be practised on the train, while you are waiting for a meeting to start, or sitting in your own car before driving home. I even know of one person who shuts himself in a cupboard to practise mindfulness each lunchtime, such are the benefits.

Studies by Dr Richard Davidson, a neuroscientist, have demonstrated that measurable and positive changes occur in the brain during mindfulness practice. His research has shown that when practising MBSR over an 8 week period people get a demonstrable improvement in brain functioning, a lowering of anxiety and stress levels, and an increase in immune functioning.

The choice is clear - find yourself managing anxiety in business or discover the benefits of calm and clear thoughts to guide your business.

If you would like to follow some mindfulness exercises they are available on this MP3s "Happy not hassled". 

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Please note: Anxiety occurs to varying degrees; it can be very minor to completely debilitating. It also takes on different forms. Please seek the professional help you need. It is also often recommended that people with anxiety seek the help of a good psychologist, medical practitioner or psychiatrist. Meditation is not a cure-all for all anxiety problems.