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2 Powerful Stress Busting Techniques—Backed by Research

Posted By Theona Layne, Friday, June 29, 2018
Updated: Thursday, June 28, 2018

You feel the strain every day don't you?

Whether it's work, finances or taking care of the kids, stress is an unwelcome visitor that never seems to leave. Well, you're not alone.  According to a recent Gallup poll, 8 in 10 Americans report feeling stressed out.

Over time, stress can contribute to a plethora of health issues like chronic headaches, heart disease, depression, anxiety; the list goes on. Managing stress levels, on the other hand, ups your chances of living longer and healthier, provides clarity of mind and sharpens cognition.

Try these two effective stress blasting techniques to help you find your Zen. 

 

1. Tap Away the Stress

With the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), the power to melt away stress is literally at your fingertips. The principle behind EFT is relieving negative emotions by gently tapping specific meridian point on the body.  Tapping while focusing on a negative feeling or a particular problem helps the body release stress hormones.

Tap Away the Stress

According to Eileen Lichtenstein, a level two certified EFT practitioner, "Doing EFT brings serotonin, which is a feel-good hormone, up to the section of your brain called the Amygdala." The Amygdala is the part of the brain which deals with feelings and emotions.  

EFT is so effective that it's even used to help war vets suffering from Post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. In a recent study, published in the Permanente Journal, the technique reduced PTSD in war veterans by over 60 percent after 5-10 sessions.

Tapping is quick and painless. You can do it anywhere and at any time to help resolve negative emotions like anger, depression, anxiety and of course, stress.  All you need are your fingertips, a tapping chart and a few minutes.  

 

Tapping Points ChartFollow these simple steps to tap way stress and anxiety. 

  1. Start by identifying the problem.  Are you worried about someone? Are you anxious about giving a speech, plagued by bad memories? Do you suffer from panic attacks?
  2. Rate your stress on a scale of 1-10. Ten = very anxious, and zero = no anxiety at all. 
  3. Focus entirely on one issue. 
  4. Use two fingers to begin tapping the Karate Chop point while using a setup statement.  (See Chart at right)

A setup statement looks like this: “Even though I’m stressed out about [insert problem here], I deeply and completely accept myself.”

So, for example, if you're anxious about giving an upcoming speech, you can use the following set up statement. 

“Even though I'm anxious about the speech I'm giving next week, I deeply and completely accept myself.”

Now continue to tap while saying the following statements. Of course, you can adjust this script to suit your specific situation. 

Top of the Head:  "This anxiety is giving me knots in my stomach." 
Eyebrow: "I'll probably forget my speech."
The side of the Eye:  "What if I make a fool of myself in front of everyone?"
Under the Eye:  "Just the thought of giving a speech in front of all those people makes me break into a sweat."
Under the Nose: "Maybe I can pay someone to give the speech for me."
Chin: "I  really hate giving speeches!"
Collarbone: "This anxiety is too much!"
Under the Arm:  "The thought of giving this speech makes me want to throw up."

Now, take a deep breath.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how intense is your stress?
Tap through the script again until your stress levels disintegrate. 

 

2. A Walk Among the Trees

For 20 seconds, close your eyes and imagine walking in a lush green forest with sunlight streaming on your face and a babbling brook flowing in the distance. Now open your eyes. Do you notice how much more calm and centered you feel?

That's one of many benefits you can expect from participating in Shinrin-yoku, the Japanese term for forest bathing, or spending time in forested environments.

A Walk Among the Trees

As Amos Clifford, author of the book Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature, puts it, "forest bathing is about slowing down, coming into our bodies, and coming into our senses. The forest in a way gives back the gift of ourselves, of who we are, who we tend to forget on a daily basis."

Amos could be on to something.  Spending time in nature, not only reduces stress but provides additional health benefits.  According to a recent meta-analysis study of 700 people, individuals who practiced forest bathing had significantly lower blood pressure and cortisol levels than non-forest bathing participants.

Don't live near a forest?  No problem.  City dwellers can still reap the benefits of connecting with nature by visiting local urban green spaces.  Urban green spaces are part of, you guessed it, urban areas. 

Urban green spaces are usually entirely or partially covered with grass, trees, shrubs and other vegetation.  Examples of green spaces include parks and community gardens.  Studies show a direct correlation between green space availability with increased physical activity and improved mental health.

 

If there isn't a green space near your home, consider using the following resources.   

  • Call your community recreation center and ask about area parks and trails.  You can also check out your state government's website for similar information.
  • Find protected areas in your region by visiting the Nature Conservancy website at nature.org.  
  • Visit FindYourPark.com. It's a website sponsored by the U.S. National Park Service and the National Park Foundation that serves as an online directory for national park areas.

Use one or both of these natural stress busters to chill out and find your Zen.  


EFT Tapping Chart used with permission from Thriving Now.
Telephone Interview with Amos Clifford, author of the book Your Guide to Forest Bathing: Experience the Healing Power of Nature
Telephone Interview with Eileen Lichtenstein, a level two certified EFT practitioner


Theona LayneTheona Layne is a Pittsburgh-based freelance health and wellness writer. For the past four years, She’s provided reader-friendly, scientifically grounded researched articles for businesses and publications helping individuals achieve optimal health. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts in Writing as well as a certification in Medical Terminology. Her work has appeared in publications like Clean Eating Magazine and Health and Wellness Magazine. Writing samples are available on request, or you can read a few writing samples right now. When she isn’t writing, Theona enjoys staying on top of the latest health-related news and information. Connect with Theona Layne by visiting her website.

Tags:  EFT  Emotional Freedom Technique  forest bathing  PTSD  resilience  Shinrin-yoku  stress  thriving 

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Wellness Strategies to Support Mental Health in the Workplace

Posted By Will Williams, Friday, May 11, 2018

In the USA, approximately one in five adults experience mental illness in any given year. The personal impact, from emotional distress to stymied career development, is a significant consequence for those affected, and the broader economic burden is similarly profound. Serious mental illness costs the USA $193.2 billion in lost earnings each year, and employers are increasingly required to navigate this difficult issue in a professional, supportive and consistent way.

wellness strategyIt can be difficult to set in place an effective framework for dealing with mental health issues in the workplace, but having a coherent wellness strategy in place can make a big difference, both for the bottom line and the experiences of employees. In this, businesses and other institutions have a big responsibility.

While the monetary burden is something employers have to consider, more important is their influence on the recovery and wellbeing of their staff when they are facing difficulties; inappropriate pressure, unfair dismissal and (even inadvertent) discrimination could have far-reaching consequences for the individuals involved. Anybody which employs staff has a responsibility to assist them as far as is possible when they become unwell, and to take great care in avoiding any action that may exacerbate the issue.

So what kind of wellness strategies should employers put in place?

Understanding Mental Health Issues

The first step in any wellness strategy that focuses on mental health is creating an atmosphere of openness and compassion within the workplace. Mental health issues have been widely misunderstood for many years, and are often also an “invisible illness” which might not be immediately obvious to a casual observer. For instance, someone with anxiety may appear to be coping well while secretly struggling, or an employee who performs brilliantly one day can find they are unable to leave their bed the next.

There’s also a societal perception that people suffering from mental health issues will be more volatile, less reliable, and less capable of competently fulfilling their role. Even if this belief doesn’t actually apply within a workplace, people who have become mentally unwell may be concerned that they’ll be perceived this way, and therefore nervous about coming back to work or being open about their symptoms. There may also be situations in which a person’s mental health issues manifest themselves in overwork and perfectionism.

Employers should endeavor to understand the mental health issues they may encounter in their workforce, using resources such as the charity Mind, WebMD, and the National Wellness Institute to familiarize themselves with the symptoms, personal experiences, and challenges associated with problems like depression. Issues such as grief, stress, and burnout — which can affect anyone — are also important to consider, even if they are more the result of circumstances than a diagnosable mental illness.

Creating information packs for employees can also be extremely helpful. Firstly, it makes anyone who struggles with mental health issues aware that an organization is sympathetic and knowledgeable about mental health, and therefore more able to talk directly about the subject. Secondly, it makes other employees more understanding and less likely to place pressure on their unwell colleagues — as well as cutting down on any insensitive or misguided remarks.

Workplace flexibilityEmbracing Flexibility

Having a flexible approach to working practices can make a huge difference in the lives of people living with chronic mental health problems, and supports those who are experiencing other emotional difficulties, such as bereavement. For example, someone who suffers from anxiety may have trouble sleeping, or their medication may make them drowsy in the mornings. Shifting or temporarily shortening their hours could help to keep them in work, and retain the skills, knowledge, and input which make them so valuable to the organization.

Flexibility benefits both staff and companies in a variety of ways. It allows staff to return to work more quickly, saving organizations the money they would have spent employing cover and dealing with the shortfall in work. By supporting people back into work, the employer also saves the funds it would require to pay redundancy, as well as recruiting and training a new member of staff. Finally, they won’t miss out on the value that particular employee brings to the role — the reason why they were hired in the first place.

From an employee perspective, when organizations collaborate with them to make returning to work as seamless as possible, they can benefit from a faster recovery and reintegration into the workplace. Returning to work often improves people’s mental health, boosts their confidence, eases financial concerns and provides a social outlet. If an employer can make reasonable adjustments, such as...

  • Creating a phased return to work after a period of absence, where the employee works gradually back up to full-time hours over a few weeks or months;
  • Being mindful of an employee’s particular needs, such as those with social anxiety being excused from meetings and allowed a private workstation;
  • Having the option to work from home if facing other people feels overwhelming - for example after losing a family member;
  • Allowing employees to see their doctor or therapist within work hours and as often as needed.
  • Providing frequent breaks and the option to leave the workplace without prior notice if the employee is experiencing symptom flare-ups, like panic attacks.

...then it makes the working lives of those with mental health issues easier to cope with, and ultimately assists them in regaining their health.

Considering The Impact of Stress

Stress in itself is very damaging, but when combined with poor mental health its impact can be profound - worsening and even triggering mental illnesses in many people. All workplaces should be aware of stress levels amongst their staff, especially as too much stress directly impedes most people’s ability to perform. This lost productivity is an expensive consequence for organizations, and if they become known as a particularly stressful place to work then their reputation may also be damaged.

MeditationPeople tend to work at their optimum in demanding, yet calm, working environments - places where they are challenged, engaged and focused but still generally relaxed, enjoying the “flow” of work. This quickly disintegrates when too much stress is applied: whether that’s through aggressive management, unmanageable workloads, or systematic problems that mean they can’t effectively do their job. People also become stressed if they are constantly interrupted, micromanaged, or pressured into situations they aren’t comfortable with - such as being given sole accountability on a project they aren’t au fait with or told they have to present a pitch.

A stressful and chaotic working environment will impact the mental health of the majority of people who work within it, as burnout and panic begin to wear everyone down. Much of the solution to this lies in working practices and company policy, which will vary from organization to organization depending on the particular demands of their service or industry. However, they are other strategies which most organizations can apply which will help prevent damaging levels of stress:

  • Encouraging a good work/life balance. Organizations should make it clear that no one is expected to work outside of office hours, and that work emails shouldn’t be read or answered in an employee’s time off.
  • Pay fairly and include good employee benefits. This is something that may be easier said than done, especially in small businesses, but low wages, not enough holiday time and poor sickness pay can be hugely stressful parts of any job.
  • Providing opportunities for employees to discuss any issues they have confidentially while ensuring that their concerns are addressed and resolved.
  • Implementing a workplace well-being program where employees are supported in living happily and healthily; through meditation classes, the appointment of a wellbeing officer and distributing advice.

Providing meditation classes — as Google and Nike have done — and if possible a calming space where employees can go to meditate, is one way to help people de-stress. Studies from Harvard neuroscientists have demonstrated physical changes in the brains of meditators, where the “stress center” (known as the amygdala) decreases in volume — convincing physical evidence of meditation’s positive impact on the experience of stress.

This has further implications for mental health problems like anxiety (https://www.willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk/why-meditate/mind/anxiety/), where sufferers feel a constant sense of danger because their amygdala is in high alert, even if there is no real threat. In teaching techniques like meditation, and allowing time in the day for people to practice them, employers will be providing those who experience poor mental health with a coping mechanism that will help them to better manage their symptoms.


Will WilliamsWill Williams is one of Europe’s leading Vedic meditation experts, and a wellbeing advisor to the OECD working group on Education. He has worked with the BBC, American Express, Spotify, Uber and many others in implementing corporate wellbeing programs, and his first book, The Effortless Mind, is available on Amazon.
You can contact him at willwilliamsmeditation.co.uk.

Tags:  Meditation  Mental Health  Stress  Worksite Wellness 

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