A new book on mindfulness for busy people aims to give people advice and support on how to de-stress their lives.
Mindfulness is very much in vogue these days and it perhaps says something about the frantic-ness of modern life that workplaces are increasingly looking at different ways to deal with stress – one of the major causes of absence from the office.
A new book by Dr Michael Sinclair and Josie Seydel entitled Mindfulness for busy people aims to give people the practical tools they need to deal with their lives. Dr Sinclair describes himself as “a busy professional often juggling far too many things at once”. That includes working as a consultant counselling psychologist and as clinical director of the City Psychology Group in London. He is the consultant to a number of corporate occupational health departments in the City of London where he helps tackle employees’ stress management and productivity.
Josie Seydel is a chartered counselling psychologist and a clinical associate with the City Psychology Group. She adds that she is also the mother of two young children “so understands stress quite well”.
The book begins by addressing precisely the sort of questions a sceptic might have, starting with ‘I have no time to waste, so is this book really for me?’. In fact the exercises throughout the book are titled ‘I haven’t got time for this practice’. You get the feeling the authors have heard from a lot of doubters in their time.
Mindfulness is not, they say, about positive thinking, improving your time management skills or just switching off. It’s about being aware of your busyness and accepting what you can’t change rather than struggling against it and creating more stress. This is not, they say, the same as being lazy and complacent. Far from it.
They say: “To limit stress and busyness in life, to become more effective and productive, it is important to move on the things that we can change and let go of the struggle to change the things that we can’t. From acceptance often comes clarity offend and with that arises the possibility of change to help us get ahead in life.”
It is also very much about living in the present moment rather than tuning out of conversations, paying more attention to your iphone than to your colleagues, friends or families or dwelling too much on the past or worrying about the future [and getting frustrated and angry about both]. In one section, the authors ask how connected people are to their life and list things that suggest they are basically not focusing most of the time. Included in the list, very pertinently, is ‘skim reading this book’ as a reminder to perk up and pay attention.
The book is crammed full of exercises which can be done quickly and slotted into the working day. They involve stopping, listening and focusing on a given issue, such as what drinking a cup of coffee actually feels like.
There are case studies interspersed, such as Sandra, a working mum with three children who tries to keep everyone else happy but never has any time for herself despite fantasising about taking long hot baths or curling up on the sofa with a book. Sound familiar? The authors says she is too preoccupied with time and not having enough of it rather than enjoying the time she had. They say: “Sandra was waiting for a time when there weren’t any demands on her, to take time for herself, the truth is that in every moment – whether she was spending time with others or not – she always had the possibility to spend time with herself also.”
A lot of the stress we feel, they suggest, comes from our own thoughts and emotions – they compare the mind to a busy hamster going round and round on a wheel – and we need not to buy into “unhelpful thoughts” that may have a negative effect on our mood or confidence.
That doesn’t mean pushing away emotions, but understanding what lies beneath them. The authors include exercises on dealing with emotions such as anger and frustration, as well as boredom.
They end with some tips on how to feel less stressed, including doing random acts of kindness and being less self-critical. The aim is a feeling of inner stillness – something that is in keeping with the fact that it originates from ancient Eastern philosophies.
The parting message, which is one that is relevant to many working parents, is this: “Simply be BUSY, without adding more busyness and stress on top of that.”
*Mindfulness for busy people is published by Pearson Books, price £12.99.