by Amanda M. Leftwich
Mindfulness has been a hot topic over the course of several years, but what does it mean and how can it fit into your work life? Mindfulness simply means awareness of self and everything around you. Still confused? Ponder this, mindfulness is non-judgmental awareness of self and your place in the world. As librarians and paraprofessionals, we taught to be keenly aware of patrons, but what of ourselves? Mindful practice brings self (and self-care) back into the equation in a reflective and problem-solving way. Mindfulness isn’t a cure all, but these tips may help guide your daily practice.
Breathe. Remember to pay close attention to your breath! Are you constantly holding your breath in out of fear, anxiety, or stress? Take a deep breath in and out. Repeat this a few times daily to regulate your breathing patterns.
Keep a reflective work journal. Write down your thoughts about your work experiences. What repeated patterns do you notice? Did you have a successful moment during your day with a patron? Can’t stand your boss? Write about it! The more you write, the more you’ll learn about yourself and how to express your emotions.
Slowly, walk away from your desk (right now). Have a weeding project that you’ve “shelved” for a few months? Is there a shifting project that needs extra hands? Do chairs need to be pushed into place (ALWAYS)? Any other projects that would require you to walk away from your desk? Join in! Sitting for long periods of time isn’t good for your body or mind. If you have an exercise monitor, set a reminder to move every hour on the hour. This doesn’t mean that you’ll necessarily have the time to move every hour, but it’s a reminder to start moving.
Take your full lunch break (I mean it). I cannot say this enough, please take your lunch break! Walk around the park, run errands, or stand outside for 10-15 minutes to breathe in non-book/archive air! Allowing yourself to decompress even for a few minutes is a powerful move in self-care. If you can’t get away from your desk, set an appointment on your calendar for lunch. This way, an alert will pop-up when it’s time for a break.
Help others. If you think someone could benefit from mindful practice including your employees, share the knowledge you’ve acquired and pay it forward. Remember, mindful practice is about self-awareness, if someone isn’t interested allow them to follow their own path not your own agenda.
Read about mindful practice and stress-relief. There’s so much information about mindful practice and stress-relief! Continue to read about the innovations, changes, and standards in order to remain apprised.
Here are a few favorites:
- Michelle Reale. Becoming a Reflective Librarian and Teacher: Strategies for Mindful Academic Practice. 2017. ALA Editions.
- Kristin Mastel and Genevieve Innes. “Insights and Practical Tips on Practicing Mindful Librarianship to Manage Stress.” Libres: Library and Information Science Research E-journal 23, no. 1 (March 2013). Available at http://www.libres-ejournal.info/372/.
- Melanie Greenberg. The Stress-Proof Brain: Master your emotional response to stress using mindfulness and neuroplasticity. 2017. New Harbinger Publications.
- Kendrick, Kaetrena Davis. “The low morale experience of academic librarians: A phenomenological study.” Journal of Library Administration 57, no. 8 (2017): 846-878.
Again, mindfulness is not a cure all! Nor will it grant instant gratification into all of your experiences. It will however be a lifelong practice to guide your life. Remember to breathe and enjoy the process.
Amanda M. Leftwich is Online Learning Librarian Diversity Fellow at Montgomery County Community College in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. She received her MSLS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania and BA in Art History from Arcadia University. Her research interests are mindful practices in and outside of librarianship, racial equity in librarianship, and collection development. She tweets @thelibmaven