We all know that stress is the number one problem in our workplace today.
But is it inevitable? If so, how does one handle it?
What can one do with excessive workloads? Unreasonable deadlines? Not enough social support? Long hours? Lack of self-confidence? Too challenging or monotonous work? Not to mention work/life balance, exhaustion, stressful workplace relationships and a host of other problems.
Well…..It isn’t the stress that is the problem…. what? Not the stress
The problem is how people physically and emotionally respond to the perceived stress.
Usually we respond in the same way that our ancestors did when confronting a wild animal or a dangerous situation. Our blood pressure goes up, we tense, adrenaline kicks in, hormones cascade through our systems and we are in the proverbial “fight or flight” mode.
Unfortunately, our daily stresses can make our bodies think that we are in those primal situations, and our internal systems will produce the same physiological reactions that our primal ancestors experienced. The problem is, that over time, constant repetition of those body responses can produce a host of medical problems due to the surge in the repeating cocktail of stress hormones.
However, there are ways to cut our stress responses more quickly so that we don’t automatically run down the same paths, producing the same toxic results for our systems.
If one practices daily for a few minutes to train the mind and body’s ability to prepare for, recover from and adapt to stressful situations, an incredible resilience can be developed to handle the stressors of the workplace and other life challenges.
How does one create resilience?
Fortuitously, HeartMath®, an organization located in Boulder Creek, California has developed a collection of tools and strategies specifically designed to lower stress and to increase emotional and physical resilience. For more than 25 years they have been on the cutting edge of research and technology concerning stress and resilience. With their simple tools and daily practice, they teach how to change one’s reactions to stress, resulting in significant lasting benefits affecting not only workplace scenarios but all facets of life.
HeartMath has been used nationwide and internationally in hospitals, in all branches of the US military, in schools, by first responders, in business and the performing arts, sports and other scenarios- as an incalculable aid in producing the best possible response under situations of duress.
Published studies are available which make it easy for one to assess the clinical results of HeartMath daily practice in diverse populations
How is HeartMath different from all sorts of other “relaxation” techniques and scenarios? While other techniques such as mindfulness, yoga, meditation etc. are wonderful in themselves, it is difficult to apply them directly during the moment of stress. HeartMath can be done during the exact moment of challenge or stress, resulting in an immediate change both emotionally and physically. Since HeartMath is not in itself a “relaxation technique” it can be used in moments of great challenge, whether that concerns an Olympic athlete, first responder or a workplace scenario.
Not only is HeartMath good for the person doing it, but because it produces a pause where one can step back to reflect on the best possible response for a situation, rather than a knee jerk reaction, it also can produce better outcomes for the scenario at hand. Over time, practicing HeartMath techniques in moments of non-stress helps the body to understand what it feels like to be in harmonious equilibrium, which makes it easier to return to that state when faced with a difficult situation.
This is especially important for those in chronically stressful situations. Tension with co-workers, deadlines, work/home life pressures, performance anxiety as well as many other stressors are all scenarios which over time can lead to health problems. Learning how to transform the body’s reactions to stress either in the moment or during the long run goes a long way towards heading off possible future health issues.
Learning how to handle stress in our daily lives is not only good for our bodies, but for our minds as well. When we are able to be in a higher harmonious state it allows our brain function to operate on a much higher cognitive level resulting in increased creativity and intuition.
In the business world, this translates into creative solutions, increased intuitive clarity and better outcomes for long range goals. Much research has been done showing what kind of ROI can be expected from the implementation of HeartMath techniques not only from a health point of view but in terms of overall life satisfaction, and wellbeing. As a member of The American College of Lifestyle Medicine ( ACLM)- Lifestyle Medicine Corporate Roundtable, HeartMath is partnering with ACLM and other organizations to provide populations with evidence based tools for stress management, as well as resilience building techniques.
The wonderful aspect of HeartMath besides the results that it offers, is that you don’t need any special external tools in order to reap the physical and emotional benefits. HeartMath does offer biofeedback devices which can be used if one wishes, as an accurate reflection of what is happening inside the body, but they are not a necessary component for engaging in the tools and techniques that HeartMath has developed. The techniques are simple, “deceptively simple” as HeartMath says, but the powerful results have been documented for over 25 years in the peer reviewed HeartMath published studies which can be readily accessed online.
In summing up, we do not need to be at the mercy of our circumstances. Whatever the situation or stress that we experience, we can develop strategies that will transform our responses from physiological discomfort to a more harmonious state, bringing us the clarity and wisdom of knowing the best next step forward. In doing so, we change the dynamics within us and around us not only in our workplaces and home life, but in the world at large.
Gilda Joffe a former international performing artist, received her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in music from The Juilliard School in New York. As a Certified HeartMath Trainer and HeartMath Certified Coach, she works as an educator and consultant with individuals by phone/internet, and presents workshops to leaders and staff of diverse organizations, facilitating stress management strategies and programs that provide higher personal and professional productivity. Gilda can be contacted through her website at www.heartpotential.com