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.

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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

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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.

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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.


6. How meditation can ease anxiety

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute. She has used meditation to help her overcome panic attacks.

Anxiety is an emotion that few of us like. Yet we all get anxious from time to time. Some of us have more anxious episodes than others and for some, anxiety is an almost constant companion.  However, most of us would like to reduce anxiety.

Developing our emotional intelligence skills has a big role to play in helping us do this.

Just as developing greater skills in emotional intelligence involves many techniques and strategies, there isn't just one way to learn how to reduce anxiety, there are many ways.

One key way is meditation. Mindfulness meditation, and meditation generally, is coming increasingly under the scientific spotlight. It is now a much sought-after and proven technique for managing your emotions. It is therefore of direct relevance to the development of your emotional intelligence. Specifically it has been found to help people reduce and soothe anxiety.

For those people with minor levels of anxiety, meditation may be all that is needed to help reduce it. For most people with anxiety however, meditation may work best when used as an adjunct to other therapies.

If you want to try meditation to ease your anxiety I recommend our "Happy not hassled" MP3s to you. All the meditations on there are the ones that I used to help me overcome my panic attacks.

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Emotional intelligence skills: What is meditation?

Let me describe meditation very simply to you, as really it is simple.

Meditation helps people monitor and calm their minds. In meditation people focus on a single, wholesome object, e.g. breathing in and breathing out; or on a phrase such as "peace and calm", and so on.

While they are paying attention to this object they watch their mind in case it drifts away onto thoughts, memories, sensations, regrets, planning, criticisms or other distractions. If this happens, which it invariably does, they gently bring it back to focusing on their meditation object, instead of commenting on the thoughts that arise. They do this over and over again.

In essence that is what meditation is.

Want to learn how to meditate? Our professionally produced recordings "Happy not hassled" explain how to meditate, what to do if you think you can't and how to manage your emotions through meditation, and they include four guided meditations of different lengths and types so you can practise in the comfort of your own home.

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Emotional intelligence skills: How can our mind increase anxiety?

Various thoughts can start and build anxiety. When we think to ourselves. "What if I can't pay the mortgage?" or "What if I broke down?" or "What if I get sick?" anxiety can be present. If we then follow and engage with these thoughts, our anxiety can get worse.

The more energy and attention we give to these thoughts, and the more we believe them, and the more we focus on them, the more likely anxiety is to grow.

For example, if we say, "What if I break down?" and then say to ourselves, "Oh that would be awful, what on earth would I do, it will be late at night and if I got out of my car I could get mugged, and then no one would know as Jonathan is away and I could be left for hours without being able to get help and I might die".

This sequence of thoughts escalates anxiety. One thought leads to another thought and so a proliferation of thoughts occurs and we are in the grip of anxiety.

If you want to try meditation to reduce your anxious thoughts I recommend the "Happy not hassled" recordings to you. All the meditations on there are the ones that I used to help me overcome my panic attacks.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Emotional intelligence skills: How can meditation help manage anxiety?

  1. It can teach us how to recognise an anxious or negative thought as soon as it arises.
  2. It teaches us how to let the thought go without agreeing with or adding to the thought, so we don't give it power or energy.
  3. We learn it is "just a thought", and so don't worry about it or believe it.
  4. It teaches us to return to our object or the present moment instead of focusing on the thought, idea or sensation that may promote or develop our anxiety.
  5. When we return to focusing on our calming object, at this point, peacefulness and calm can build and anxiety diminish.
  6. It teaches us that peacefulness is already inside us, we just have to get out of the way and let it arise.

Anxiety does not usually occur in the present moment when we are focusing fully on what we are doing (in my experience, anyway). Instead, anxiety is often brought about by thinking about an anticipated negative future, that may never arise.

Meditation helps to keep us in the present moment and stops us becoming attached to thoughts that can start or nurture our anxiety.

I have personally found meditation an enormous benefit in managing anxiety.

Learn how to meditate now. Our professional recordings "Happy not hassled" will guide you through four different meditations and give you instructions on how to meditate and how to use meditation to manage your emotions.

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5. Teachers benefit from mindfulness training

"Mindfulness for Teachers: A Pilot Study to Assess Effects on Stress, Burnout, and Teaching
Efficacy", by Lisa Flook, Simon B. Goldberg, Laura Pinger, Katherine Bonus and Richard J. Davidson

Summary of article

18 public elementary school teachers in the USA. participated in a randomized controlled pilot trial of a modified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction course (mMBSR) adapted specifically for teachers.

The results of this pilot study suggest that a mindfulness intervention adapted for educators boosts aspects of teachers’ mindfulness and self-compassion, reduces psychological symptoms and burnout, increases effective teaching behavior, and reduces attentional biases

Findings from this pilot study also suggest that teachers who do not receive any intervention during the school year may be prone to increased physiological stress as reflected in lower morning cortisol levels and decreased sense of personal accomplishment. Lower morning cortisol, has been associated with both acute and chronic posttraumatic event distress

Implications of these findings for the training and support of teachers are discussed in the article.

Click here for the full article.

Want to gain the benefits of meditation? You can do it now using our professional recordings "Happy not hassled". There are four guided meditations of different lengths and types for you and instructions on how to meditate. 

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2. Positive emotions and mindfulness: Transcript.

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

On our emotional intelligence YouTube channel we have an emotional intelligence video on positive emotions and mindfulness. This is the transcript of the key points of the session made by both myself and Michael Done.

If you haven't seen the video yet, you can watch it now.


Rachel: Meditation is a way of cultivating positive emotions.

Mike: I thought meditation was a religious practice or very esoteric kind of stuff. You're bringing it right out into the day-to-day world and translating it into improvements and changes in people's emotional experience of life.

Rachel: Yes, Richard Davidson in the USA, a researcher in neuroscience is taking brain scans of people who've meditated and not meditated and finding there are significant differences in their brain functioning. He's found positive differences and that people develop a happier state of mind. This is not airy-fairy, mumbo jumbo. This is a scientifically verified technique for developing positive emotions.

I teach it in our positive emotions seminar because it is something that almost everyone can learn to do. And you can do just a little bit at a time in the workplace. You don't have to go on a 9 day meditation retreat. You could just do a five minute mindfulness meditation during your lunch break and feel greater calm, relaxation and contentment. All of these are very useful emotions in the busy world of our workplaces.

Mike: I went through your body scan meditation this morning; it is very easy to do just sitting in traffic. It didn't take me into some hyperspace somewhere. You don't have to go into a special chamber, room or space. This practice can be used in my office, or in my car right there and then.

Rachel: Please don't listen to our meditation MPs while driving. There is a danger you might fall asleep, but thanks for the positive feedback. You're an experienced meditator so less likely to feel sleepy, but a beginner may easily fall asleep.

Often when people start a mindfulness meditation practice they fall asleep. Meditation is about alertness combined with relaxation. Beginners often get the relaxation bit first and start to nod off.

Want to learn how to meditate? Our professionally produced recordings "Happy not hassled" explain how to meditate, what to do if you think you can't and how to manage your emotions through meditation, and they include four guided meditations of different lengths and types so you can practise in the comfort of your own home.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Mike: What else can I do?

Rachel: You can do a walking meditation where you are aware of how your feet are touching the ground. If you practise walking meditation and walk mindfully at work it is good for you. Firstly, you don't bump into people so it's good for occupational health and safety issues. It also brings you back down to a point of calm.

The whole thing about cultivating positive emotions is that when you are calm and content other positive emotions are more likely to arise in you and you are more likely to move towards happiness, or feeling pleasant, delight or enthusiasm at work. Enthusiasm is really useful to have at work.

I know of someone, a lawyer, who practises mindfulness meditation in a cupboard in his lunch hour. He gets a boost of extra energy for the afternoon. What happens is that he clears his mind, and calms it down.

What meditation is, is developing a single point of concentration. As you develop that point of concentration all the worries, anxieties, regrets, anger and frustration actually ease. The more you focus on this point the clearer your mind gets. If you do this in your lunch-break you are going into the afternoon with greater energy, a clearer mind and a revamped concentration.

You'll therefore cultivate positive emotions far more easily in that way than if you sat in the staff room bitching about the nasty customers you had that morning.

Mike: When you say clearing the mind, the word that came to my mind was uncluttering. A lot of the clutter is not actually the thing that is in front of me, it's all the noise, secondary concepts, words and memories that I bring into the picture. Sometimes when I'm meditating I am needing to bring my attention back into just what is here, now. A lot of that noise therefore dissipates and I discover that what I thought I was carrying through the day really isn't as heavy or as burdensome as I thought it was. It is just that I added a lot of load in all of the associations that go with it. It's an interesting experience to find clutter leaving as you become more focussed on what is truly here and really here.

Rachel: And how many of us become cluttered and overwhelmed by our workloads and all the demands that are made on us day in and day out. You go in, the 'phone rings, someone walks into your room, you've got to go to a meeting, a customer arrives. You have to deal with a complaint, the 'phone goes again, it's this frenetic pace.

So if you have 10 minutes of calm, in the middle of the day, and with single pointed concentration, all of that eases. Then you are revitalised. Then the positive emotions arise in that space.

This is important. Mindfulness is about generating energy, concentration, focus and positive emotions. So the negative emotions ease and give way to the positive ones. You can then take all this into your workplace.

Imagine all the people in your workplace being in a really good space, having energy the whole afternoon to deal with whatever is going to happen. Instead of being worn out because the morning has been so frenetic. And that's the value of using mindfulness and meditation in the workplace.

Mike: And one of your techniques, is built right into our bodies, the breath meditation. It's there literally every second. Even five seconds at a time we can go into our breath and just get some of the benefits, between 'phone calls even.

Rachel: Or, while the computer is rebooting. There's another meditation on the MP3s "Happy not hassled". We won't talk about it much here but Barbara Fredrickson has done research on it to prove it develops positive emotions. It's loving-kindness meditation.

Just so you know, there are different meditations and they each have a different effect on people. You can choose different ones according to your state of mind and how you are feeling.

What matters about meditation is that you do have to practise it. That's when you really get the positive emotions developing.

Have you ever felt stressed, anxious or tense and wanted to relax? Or maybe you keep going over and over things in your mind and all you want is peace and calm? Yes! Mindfulness and meditation can help you relax and let go of worry, anxiety and tension.

Learn how to meditate now. Our professional recordings "Happy not hassled" will guide you through four different meditations and give you instructions on how to meditate and how to use meditation to manage your emotions.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

4. The police, emotional intelligence & mindfulness

Written by Rachel Green. Director, The Emotional Intelligence Institute.

Do members of the police force need emotional intelligence? Of course they do, they have feelings like everyone else. They are also involved in highly charged emotional situations and with people whose emotions may be out of control. They need to be able to manage these skillfully.

At the same time they need super-high levels of emotional resilience and emotional self-control.

The police have a tough job requiring emotional resilienceThey also require skills in the emotional awareness of others and need to be able to read people very accurately and monitor for subtle changes in the feelings of others. All these are sophisticated levels of emotional intelligence.

Of course, they also need to be really good at detecting whether people are lying or not, which is an emotional intelligence competency clearly identified on the Mayer and Salovey hierarchy of emotional intelligence skills.

The police also need to be able to handle their own emotions in a healthy way.

The police witness traumatic accidents, face violent attacks against themselves and deal with tragic, gruesome and horrific incidents. They need to be able to manage their own emotional reactions in a healthy way.

In addition to all of this, all police work is set in a context of community, media and government expectations, pressure and surveillance.

Policing is one of the most stressful occupations there is. Being a police officer demands a level of emotional intelligence and emotional resilience that the average member of the community does not need to draw on.

So how do the police handle the enormous stress involved in their role?

In December 2010, Australian Psychologist published an article called "On being mindful, emotionally aware, and more resilient: Longitudinal pilot study of police recruits", by Virginia Williams, Joseph Ciarrochi, and Frank Neave, from the University of Woolongong.

It explored a series of possible coping mechanisms that police recruits may use to combat the high levels of stress associated with being police officers. Here is a summary for you.

Want to learn how to meditate? Our professionally produced recordings "Happy not hassled" explain how to meditate, what to do if you think you can't and how to manage your emotions through meditation, and they include four guided meditations of different lengths and types so you can practise in the comfort of your own home.

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Emotional intelligence research background

The study involved 60 trainee police officers, in NSW, Australia. They were studied from the trainee phase into the workplace as probationary constables. 

The emotional intelligence hypotheses were that:

  1. Typically the police engage in avoidant coping strategies (or sealing over or escape coping strategies) to handle stress. Avoidant coping strategies typically involve the avoidance of the feelings and thoughts surrounding a traumatic event, and include "any action attempting to escape from, suppress, change, forget about or in any other way avoid parts of their private experience with which they are uncomfortable. Private experiences include thoughts, emotions, memories, images and bodily experiences".
  2. People who chronically avoid their internal experiences, and who are less aware of them, tend to adjust more poorly to stress.
  3. The use of other coping strategies such as acceptance, mindfulness and emotional awareness will more effectively help the police maintain a positive mental health status and personal effectiveness.

Emotional intelligence and other assessments

All the police recruits were assessed on the following tests:

  • Acceptance and action questionnaire (A&Q).
  • White bear suppression inventory (WBSI).
  • Toronto alexithymia scale (TAS-20).
  • Mindful attention awareness scale (MAAS).
  • General health questionnaire (GHQ-12).
  • Depression, anxiety and stress scale (DASS).

Emotional intelligence: Results

1. A lower mindfulness score was related to higher mental ill health. In other words, the higher the subject's mindfulness score the less likely they were to suffer from depression. The lower the mindfulness score the more likely they were to experience high scores on the depression measurement.

2. Those subjects who experienced difficulty in identifying their feelings:

  • had low scores on the acceptance measure,
  • had higher levels of thought suppression, and
  • were most likely to experience mental health problems and depression.

3. Skills in emotional identification and self-awareness got better mental health outcomes. Those who are able to process emotional information and recognise and differentiate between different emotional reactions coped better with stress.

Want to gain the benefits of meditation? You can do it now using our professional recordings "Happy not hassled". There are four guided meditations of different lengths and types for you and instructions on how to meditate. 

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart

Emotional intelligence: Research comments

  • Initially 592 subjects were involved in completing the baseline questionnaire. Only 60 of those subjects completed the follow up questionnaire 10-12 months later. The fact that these 60 subjects selected themselves indicates the possibility of a sample bias.
  • When comparing the initial assessment results with those 10-12 months later there was "a significant difference in the GHQ and DASS indicating that depression and general mental health worsened." This is of concern, as it means that as some of our probationary officers enter the police workforce they may already be suffering from a drop in mental health.
  • "Difficulty identifying feelings, low acceptance and thought suppression were all associated with poorer mental health." This suggests that encouraging the police to use other strategies in managing their emotions may be more effective.
  • Mindfulness could be one of several emotional coping strategies to develop in our police officers, as it is linked to better mental health outcomes. The study found that those officers who tended to be mindful had higher levels of well-being and less depression.
  • Difficulty identifying feelings predicted increases in mental health problems, showing the importance of the first competency on the Genos emotional intelligence model: Emotional self-awareness.
  • Subject were recruits. I'd also be interested in a study that examined the successful coping strategies of experienced police officers who have remained emotionally healthy. 

Emotional intelligence: Conclusions

The authors say, "Difficulty identifying feelings, and mindfulness, are key variables in predicting the well-being and mental health of police in their first year of service".

However, they also add that, "Avoidance of feelings and experience are not expected to be unhelpful to people in all contexts. There are likely to be occasions in which avoidance and suppression of emotions may serve useful purposes in the short term. Rather we expect problems to arise when police rigidly attempt to avoid all unpleasant feelings and experiences."

Would police recruits benefit from mindfulness training as part of their programme for developing emotional resilience?

Emotional self-awareness skills training may also be usefully included in the training of police recruits.

Learn how to meditate now. Our professional recordings "Happy not hassled" will guide you through four different meditations and give you instructions on how to meditate and how to use meditation to manage your emotions.

MP3s: $29 (US). Add to Cart