Mental health

How the 3-3-3 Rule Reduces Work Stress and Improves Mindfulness

Anxiety is a natural emotion for all of us, but in extremes, it can debilitate us and get in the way of our work. The 2024 results of the American Psychiatric Association’s (APA) annual survey of mental health show that US adults are feeling more and more anxious. In 2024, nearly half (43%) of Americans say they feel more anxious than in the previous year, up from 37% in 2023 and 32% in 2022. Symptoms of anxiety include feelings of fear or despair, when nothing to cause anxiety is forthcoming. Feelings of frustration and irritability are normal. Sleepless nights, poor appetite, rapid breathing, rapid heart rate and inability to concentrate at work often accompany anxiety.

What Americans are worried about

If you are an employee, there are many things to worry about from the individual level to broader workplace issues to global issues. You may be concerned about back-to-office orders, layoffs and the impact of AI as it infiltrates the workplace. Or you may be worried about a difficult time at work, the boss looking over your shoulder or the tension of waiting for the results of the job test.

On a personal level, your intimate relationship may be on the rocks, a loved one may have a medical problem or you may face financial problems. Globally, the APA study finds that Americans say they are worried about current events (70%), the economy (77%), the upcoming US presidential election (73%) and gun violence (69%). ).

The APA study also revealed other concerns:

  • To keep themselves or their families safe, 68%.
  • To keep their information safe, 63%.
  • Their life expectancy is 63%.
  • Paying bills or expenses, 63%.
  • The opioid epidemic, 50%.
  • The influence of technology in everyday life, 46%.
  • Climate change, 57%

How to Use the 3-3-3 Rule to Reduce Anxiety

When you are anxious, your ability to focus on tasks is poor, you may think about the future or regret a mistake you made in the past. Psychologists now use what are known as cognitive techniques to help people bring their thoughts back to the present moment. Mindfulness reduces mind wandering and mistakes at work.

During stressful situations, the mind takes us out of the here and now. Your anxious thoughts wander and are fixated on worrying about the future or regretting the past—making you feel out of your body or grounded in some way. There are many methods of mindfulness meditation that you can find here.

But one of the simplest and easiest tools to bring you back to the present, reduce anxiety and calm your mind is a mental tool called the 3-3-3- rule. As you become aware of the moment-to-moment sensations of the body, mental processes and emotions that arise, this practice grounds you and helps you focus and concentrate. As you practice the three steps, take one minute for each and do them slowly. You can repeat the exercise as many times as you need to achieve that current state of calm.

  1. Listen for one minute. Pay attention to the three sounds you hear around you. With your eyes closed, you may hear a rumble like thunder, the sound of traffic or voices in the distance or the sound of the wind calming your breath or your stomach rumbling.
  2. Pay attention for one minute. Name three things you can see near you. Take the time to notice their shapes, colors and other details as clearly as you can in your mind.
  3. Hold for one minute. Pay attention to the three things you can touch and understand how each one feels. You can cross your hand over a chair at your workplace, objects on your desk or a screen you’ve been staring at. Notice if the texture of each object is smooth or rough, warm or cold or heavy or light.

The Science Behind the 3-3-3 Rule

When you are anxious, the brain becomes myopic, focusing on threat or anxious thoughts to survive. As threatening thoughts swirl around your head like a school of sharks, anxiety hijacks your nervous system and throws the prefrontal cortex (or rational part of the brain) offline, overshadowing the bigger picture. what you would see if you were there now. .

The 3-3-3 rule activates your brain’s circuitry and refreshes your mind during the workday. It breaks the thought cycle of anxiety, depression or excessive worry. It triggers your sympathetic nervous system (the fight or flight or stress response), activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the calm or quiet response) and you affirm the present moment where there are no worries. . And enable you to work more effectively and efficiently and deal with problems at work calmly.

It keeps your attention on the process stream, rather than focusing on the completion of the task. You are able to bring curious attention to yourself, your work and your relationships. In addition, it helps you to master the many papers, complex work relationships and new technologies (like AI) instead of being slaves to them. It helps you with stress at work, business failure, job loss or anxiety and worry about career goals.

If you use this three-step, three-minute rule once or twice a day regularly, it has long-lasting effects. It expands your stable horizon, and over time, prevents anxiety from hijacking you when faced with work challenges.

But the best part is how being mindful for a second makes you feel in your own skin. You begin to realize that the past is over and gone, the future is never here and now is where life really happens. Being comfortable and independent there, helps you to thrive and experience life as it happens, enjoy yourself, your work and your friends and loved ones to the fullest.

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