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Good Advice: Mindfulness Expert Marisa Viola Shares Tips for Staying Present at Work

Mindfulness is all the rage these days but meditation can also make you a kinder, more compassionate person – at work. As the Executive Director of the Institute for Compassionate Leadership, Marisa Viola takes leaders on a journey to discover purpose for creating meaningful change. On Wednesday February 24th, Marisa will share her insights as part of a panel on Compassionate Leadership (RSVP for that here). Ahead she explains why you need to make time for mindfulness and how the development of a mindful presence can empower you to see resources and opportunities that others might not.

In a task-based environment, it can be difficult to prioritize taking a moment to breathe – what are some easy ways to integrate mindfulness into your daily to-do list at work?
Actually scheduling it into your day is the best way to make mindfulness an effective tool for yourself. If you have a busy day, taking moments to check in with yourself can feel like you’re derailing, but you’re sharpening your focus and making more room in your head. Meditate, take mindful breaths, or keep a physical reminder (like a written phrase or an object or an image) in your space that connects you to your intention, and shift your attention to it once an hour. Find what works for you and build it into your day.

How can mindfulness help you be a better leader? How have you seen it positively impact leadership styles? 
At The Institute for Compassionate Leadership, we teach mindfulness as a foundation of leadership. Mindful presence allows you to see resources and opportunities that might otherwise slip through the cracks. When you create a space for people to show up as whole human beings, you get access all sorts of talents and ideas, and the work feels more meaningful.

The topic of the panel is compassion, which can sometimes feel opposed to being a tough or assertive boss – why do compassionate individuals make good leaders?
Compassion is sometimes confused with being a pushover. I think of compassionate actions as respecting and honoring the basic dignity of everyone involved. There is no reason to abandon those qualities, even in high-pressured situations. They’re qualities that will cultivate trust– and bolder, more creative thought. If someone on your team can’t get around a block, coddling them may be more enabling than compassionate. Being invested in the personal well-being of those around you doesn’t preclude making tough decisions, but when tough decisions are infused with compassion, it decreases isolation and despair.

This story is all about ways to “Feel Good” every day – what does the phrase mean to you? 
Feeling good means feeling safe with yourself. It’s not about controlling every aspect of your experience, but having the confidence and curiosity to be present for yourself. Even difficult emotions or situations can “feel good” when you remain open and curious about your experience.

If you find yourself feeling stressed at work, what are three quick-and- easy things you can do to cope?

  1. The common wisdom of taking ten deep breaths is a good place to start. Be present with your breath– acknowledge and name the fact that you’re feeling stressed out.
  2. Don’t try to change it. Studies are indicating that stress is not what’s bad for you- it’s thinking that it’s bad for you which is harmful. Any time you deeply engage with something that is meaningful to you, you can expect some stress to come with it. If you can accept that as a reality, then you can integrate stress into your overall sense of well-being.
  3. Check in with a coworker. Connecting with others reminds you that you’re not alone and functions as a momentary release valve.