This week I have been invited to give a Meditation Workshop to a local business, as part of Victorian Mental Health Week which runs from October 4th-10th. Mental Health Week is an annual Victorian event (that has been running since 1982) and aims to :
· raise awareness of the importance of mental health and well being in the wider community
· increase community awareness and education about mental health issues
· encourage participation in life enhancing lifestyles.
According to the National Institute of Health 90% of illness is caused or aggravated by stress; and the World Health Organisation says job stress is a worldwide epidemic and predicts stress will be the number one killer by 2020.
Modern day stress is often insidious and hidden; we may no longer be the lunch plans for a field of hungry lions, but our modern day stressors are equally disturbing .. constant noise, endless engagements, ongoing distractions, emotional turbulence, threats to our self-image, demands on our professionalism, job losses and financial threats. Today we are still experiencing 'fight-flight' stress responses to modern day threats .. leading us to feel a loss of control, disconnection and sense of being overwhelmed. Suddenly unable to cope with the uncertainty and pressure, our body begins to experience health issues (dis-ease). We have lost our balance.
More than just a 'pain', job stress is partly to blame for significantly rising health care costs, falling productivity and increasing work absences due to illness. Tests have shown that chronic stress kills brain cells, affects the nerve cell connections in the brain, and hormones released by stress can impair the brain's memory centers. Constant stress through the body-mind impairs judgement and performance. "We have so many activities that help strengthen the body, we really wanted something to strengthen the mind" : Reebok, Company Health Promotion Manager Ron Bartkiewicz
When we rest the mind, we renew and reconnect with the quiet spaces and places inside. When our mind is calm, our life finds balance and ease. Meditation is the simple act of slowing down and is also an enjoyable and life affirming wellness practice.
In the corporate world, teaching people to reduce and manage stress through effective breathing and relaxation techniques is a first line strategy to reduce stress. It continues to surprise me how many people simply don't realize how their bodies react to stress, have forgotten what stress feels like and (unfortunately) what relaxation feels like. We may pound the tarmac or pump at the gym to honour our 'temple body' .. but when do you honour your 'temple mind'?
Energy moves on the breath and the fastest and most effective way to ease anxiety and restore equilibrium is to slow and deepen the breath. Just taking a moment to close your eyes and breath slow and deeply into the belly, pausing for a brief moment before exhaling fully you will instantly engage the natural relaxation response .. and slowly but surely your mind will follow.
Does your company have an employee wellness program? Have you considered providing staff with some simple relaxation tools, such as Meditation, to focus and improve their performance and sense of well being? Tell me what your business is doing to manage stress this week as part of Mental Health Week.