Employee Wellness

Mindfulness Can Help Employees Cope With and Manage Negative Emotions 

Distress, anger, sadness, and other negative emotions can become overwhelming, affecting employees’ mental and physical health and the health of the organization.

The Calm Team

6 min read

In the decade preceding the pandemic, companies were beginning to understand the importance of employee emotions to the bottom line. Studies showed that building a workplace culture of joy and love improves employee satisfaction, commitment, and accountability. In contrast, allowing a culture of fear or anger to grow reduces employee productivity and increases burnout and attrition.

Innovative companies such as Zappos, Southwest Airlines, and Vail Resorts invested in creating positive emotional cultures. They embraced love, joy, having fun, and similar concepts as core values. They invited employees to rate their own or colleagues’ emotional well-being. Managers were encouraged to listen attentively and with empathy to employees rather than expect them to suppress their emotions. Employees, in turn, were often asked to assume the good intentions of others in difficult work situations.

Creating a positive emotional culture is critical but just the foundation. The turbulence of the past few years has shown that employees need more support to achieve and sustain emotional well-being both inside and outside work. They need help coping with and managing negative emotions regardless of their source. And they need strategies to keep fear, anger, sadness, and their variants from becoming overwhelming or chronic. 

Chronic negative emotions can affect mental and physical health

Indeed, when not managed, feelings of distress, sadness, or anger can escalate to chronic stress, anxiety, or depression, which in turn can lead to a wide range of physical challenges, from headaches and fatigue to more serious and costly health conditions. People with depression are at higher risk for diabetes, stroke, and cardiovascular disease, for example. Emotional stress is a major contributing factor to cancer, heart disease, respiratory disorders, suicide, and other leading causes of death in the United States. 

In short, feeling bad chronically can lead to low productivity, burnout, or attrition, and it can threaten the health of both the employee and the organization. That’s why employers must find ways to help employees cope with and regulate challenging emotions when they arise, both in the workplace and beyond.

Mindfulness helps people cope with and regulate challenging emotions

Mindfulness is a powerful tool to explore for promoting employee emotional well-being. It’s the practice of focusing your awareness on what you’re feeling in the present moment with acceptance rather than judgment. Mindfulness can involve meditation, breathing techniques, imagery, music, and other methods of relaxing the mind and body.

Among its many benefits, practicing mindfulness has been proven to help people learn how to regulate challenging emotions. In fact, studies suggest that mindfulness practice alters those parts of the brain that respond when emotions are triggered. Mindfulness also can improve one’s ability to resist turning to unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or binge eating, to regulate emotions. 

It’s not surprising that mindfulness meditation is the most prevalent non-pharmacological approach known to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.

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Practicing mindfulness for 5 to 10 minutes a few times a week can make an impact on stress and anxiety

Practicing mindfulness is something that any employee population can easily incorporate into their daily routines, whether they work on a factory floor, out on the tarmac, or behind a desk. Studies show that just 5 to 10 minutes of meditation practice daily can significantly improve mindfulness and effectively buffer stress and anxiety. 

With the expansive variety of meditation formats available today through digital tools, there’s something for everyone, even those who are resistant to the idea of meditation.

For example, Calm Business offers a wide range of content for mindfulness practice, including meditations of different lengths for meditators at any level, soundscapes, and curated music.

On top of that, Calm is proven to reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. In a randomized controlled trial of more than 1,000 participants at a large retailer, employees who were offered Calm experienced a 24% reduction in anxiety symptoms and 25% reduction in depressive symptoms relative to employees who did not receive Calm. 

Mindful managers are key to creating a healthier workplace

Building a culture of mindfulness and mental well-being starts with mindful managers, says Megan Reitz, professor of leadership at Hult International Business School in the UK:  “How you show up as a leader affects how others around you show up. It affects how they think, feel, care, speak, and listen.” 

According to Reitz, by practicing mindfulness through meditation, managers improve their ability to regulate emotions, empathize with others, focus on what’s most important, and look at situations with new perspectives. As a result, leaders are likely to be more resilient, collaborative, and focused, which is critical to good leadership and healthier organizations.

By implementing a Mindful Manager Program with Calm Business, Ogilvy was able to improve mental well-being and leadership skills across a population of 800+ managers in North America. As a result of Ogilvy’s four-week mindfulness manager program, 60% of managers reported less stress in their day-to-day activities, and 70% improved their ability to be mindful.  

More strategies to incorporate mindfulness into the workplace

In addition to introducing digital tools, you can incorporate mindfulness into employees’ workdays in several ways. Here are a few strategies to consider: 

  • Start meetings with a mindfulness break  
  • Start meetings with a two-minute bubble breathing exercise
  • Introduce a quiet space if employees are working onsite
  • Offer virtual or onsite yoga classes
  • Educate employees to demystify meditation; it can be like a podcast or friendly advisor to guide you through stressful moments
  • Launch a one-month mindfulness practice challenge
  • Offer manager training to teach managers to be more self-aware, regulate their emotions, and create a more nurturing culture

Empowering employees to regulate emotions is a vital part of a healthy workplace culture

The health of an organization depends on the emotional, mental, and physical health of its employees. As employers look to create a positive emotional culture, it’s vital to help employees manage negative emotions as they arise. Mindfulness is a proven strategy that anyone can use to regulate emotions before they escalate into more serious conditions.

And for every $1 invested yearly in prevention and intervention programs, employers can save $2 to $4 on other expenses. An investment in mindfulness is good for employees and the bottom line.

For more information on promoting healthy minds in the workplace, connect with our Calm specialist today

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