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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Mindful Stress Relief in the Workplace

Today, stress is one of the leading causes of physical and mental illness in the United States and the cause of 70 percent of personal doctor visits. American workers spend more than 40 hours out of the week at their jobs, often giving up weeknights and Saturdays and with advanced technological devices such as smartphones, ipads and other mobile devices, workers stay more connected than ever to their vocational responsibilities. This leaves a small window to spend "quality" time with family, friends or even themselves. Leisure time seems as short as crossing the street between Manhattan blocks and still that has to be divided up between essential domestic activities such as washing clothes, banking, grocery shopping, running household errands, etc.

Occupational stress can be derived from an emotional and physical toxic environment including verbal abuse, sexual harassment, power struggles with co-workers and superiors, sitting at a desk too long, poor lighting, or poor air quality. The impact is detrimental to an employer's bottom line, augmenting health costs, damaging morale and lowering performance and productivity. The World Health Organization estimates that stress causes American businesses $300 billion dollars a year. Sleep deprivation, anxiety, hypertension, depression, headaches, ulcers and other physical complaints are some of the results. Unaddressed traumatic incidences of on-the-job bullying by a coworker, boss, or client with physical threats increases the chances of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and workers' compensation claims.

It is the employer's responsibility to help prevent and relieve stress in the workplace. Besides creating realistic deadlines, scheduling flexible work hours, offering childcare services and offering appreciation and incentives for jobs well done, implementing wellness or spa days can have short term and long term effects in teamwork, increased productivity and overall happiness in the workplace. Providing stress management classes for employees is also beneficial. Technology companies understand the importance of avoiding "burnout" and high turnover. Google offers a class called, "SIY," Search Inside Yourself, utilizing mindfulness at work. covering attention training, self-knowledge and self-mastery, and the creation of useful mental habits. It has been reported that more than 1,000 Google employees have taken the class, and there’s a waiting list when it’s offered, four times a year. Employees who take the class see significant changes in their work behavior. Companies like IBM Corp., Medtronic Inc., Surface Logic Inc., and Shuster Laboratories Inc offer in-office meditation programs for stress reduction.

Mindful Ways to Relieve Stress in the Workplace:
  • Practicing meditation for relaxation;
  • Replace bad habits such as smoking and low self-esteem with good ones and reprogram beliefs for peak performance through self-hypnosis;
  • Practice positive self-talk and verbal communication;
  • Keep conversations germane;
  • Listen to high frequency music such as Mozart, classical or Steven Halpern, new age while working;
  • Doodling and automatic writing to release tension;
  • Creating vision boards to accomplish goals;
  • Practice deep breathing exercises;
  • Hang original pieces of art to balance energy;
  • Decorate your office with green plants.

Overall, stress comes from the inability to respond to challenging external circumstances in a healthy manner. Ultimately, the way a person chooses to think and perceive the situation is the culprit. The moment you feel stress in your body, is the moment you know you must choose to do something different and that starts with changing your thought process to bring the body back into natural balance, feeling relaxed and more at ease.

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