A growing number of companies are realizing that the mental health of their employees is a real issue on a competitive market, demanding maximum output and performance.
I have just come back from a creative brainstorming session with a group of people involved in corporate health management. There are really interesting developments out there.
Burnout and other psychological and social stress factors at the work place are a complex issue. But companies and individuals can do much to boost their stress resilience. So how do we deal with stress?
What is generally described as burnout often comes at the end of a long period of having to deal with the same stress situation, like having to work in a dysfunctional team. Some of us in high-powered jobs have become so accustomed to a stress situation that we have lost touch to the needs of our innermost being, the basic physical need for a rest or time-out.
Prior to a burnout, patients often withdraw behind a protective wall as they stomp the work treadmill, cutting themselves off from family and friends.
Neurological research has found, that those grey brain cells in the prefrontal cortex of our brain, that is also responsible for feelings such as empathy, are greatly affected during stress. Certain regions of the brain and body are literally switched off to mobilize all resources to combat a perceived fear or threat.
Several researchers such as molecular biologist Jon Kabat-Zinn and neuro-psychologist Rick Hanson have looked at ancient Buddhist mindfulness training techniques. What Buddhist monks have practised for centuries can be a most effective way to boost your stress resilience and train your mental state of mind to be more content and happy.
Zinn has developed from Buddhist practises his Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) technique. The good news is that even though stress causes a reduction of brain cells in such regions as the prefrontal cortex, techniques that make you relax enable the brain to regenerate completely. Relaxation techniques such as meditation can even help you develop new mental capacities .
It starts with self-compassion and loving yourself and your body. By treating yourself with respect and loving care, you will be more mindful of others and your surroundings. Developing more self-compassion is a powerful tool at staying mentally healthy. But in order to overcome mental patterns that have formed barriers over many years it is necessary to keep up a regular training routine. Try out the 40 day method which I wrote about in one of my recent blogs. An effective mental training routine can be followed over three steps:
Relaxing: Yoga, Taiji, or Qi Gong exercises help the body to relax. Especially if these exercises are accompanied by a mental image. “I feel all the weight of my mind flowing out of my head through my body and into the ground…”
Focusing: Sit down in a meditation position, focusing all your attention on your breath, observing what feelings and emotions come to the surface without being judgmental to yourself about them and wanting to change them, for example: “Ah, there is anger, or fear or sadness or joy.”
Loving meditation: With the third step you focus all your attention on yourself as an outside observer wishing you all the best of health and happiness in your life. Then you move on thinking of a special person in your life who makes your heart glow with loving warmth. Send this person all your love and good energy. Then send all that loving energy to a stranger you don’t know or might have just spotted on the subway. After that comes the hardest part, sending all that loving energy to a person you don’t like or has done you harm. End the meditation by focusing again only on your breath inhaling and exhaling. Then open your eyes and start your day.
More information on the Five Elements in my book “Yield and Overcome”
Rick Hanson: Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom