Stress is now having a huge impact on companies as it become the number one reason for days off sick.
In 2017/18, a staggering 15.4 million working days were lost because of stress and anxiety. This is costing businesses millions of pounds due to a decrease in productivity.
With the busy lives we lead now, trying to fit more and more into our work and personal life, it’s not surprising that stress and anxiety are on the increase.
You may think stress just affects the mind but research has shown that it has a very detrimental effect on our physical health too. Every thought produces a chemical reaction – just because we can’t see our thoughts, doesn’t mean the body is doing nothing.
Most of us have been in situations where we’re worried or anxious, where your stomach starts to churn, you have difficulty breathing, etc. So those thoughts and feelings of worry have a very real effect on your physical body and health.
When you’re stressed, the body thinks you’re in a state of fight or flight and so increases its production of adrenaline and cortisol. Adrenaline increases your heart rate and elevates your blood pressure. Cortisol levels increase the risk for depression and mental illness. On a short-term level, these increases are not a problem. But when a person is stressed or anxious for long periods of time, the over production of these chemicals can lead to various health issues such as:
- Heart disease
- Increased blood pressure
- Sleep problems
- Memory and concentration impairment
Businesses need to realise that it is important to find ways of combating stress in their workforce. Encouraging people to eat healthily and exercise regularly is a start.
Research is showing that Mindfulness Meditation has a huge effect on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. Meditation actually changes the physical structure of the brain in a positive way. As people age, there is a loss of grey matter (brain cells). But it has been shown that people who meditate regularly have denser grey matter in regions of the brain such as:
- Hippocampus – helps learning and memory.
- Cortex – emotional regulation and response control.
The fact that meditation changes the cortex, means that people react differently in stressful situations, staying calmer than before. It also helps people to focus for longer periods of time and become more calm and relaxed overall.
Most of the time when we’re at work or home, our brain waves are in beta state. Meditation takes the brainwaves to a theta state, this is when we’re feeling very relaxed, say lying on a beach.
Having practised Mindfulness Meditation for over 10 years, I know from experience that you focus more and remain calm in stressful situations. No longer do thoughts from all different directions come into my mind, instead I can focus on the task in front of me.
Mindfulness Meditation is like a gym for the brain. We’re not actually told that we can control our thoughts and mind and so this practice is very much about teaching the brain/mind that we control our thoughts. And in the process, we improve our physical and mental health hugely.
Teaching Mindfulness Meditation in businesses has shown me that people are very open to this and enjoy the fact that during this time they can relax during a busy working day. People have said that over time they can focus more, are more productive and find it easier to concentrate on a task.
This week is mental health awareness week in the U.K. so take note of how stress is affecting your company and decide how you can tackle this area.
About The Author
Dr Malti Patel has a PhD in Artificial Intelligence, training in Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and has been practicing Mindfulness Meditation for over 10 years. Her company EnlightOne provides training to help businesses ensure the wellbeing of their employees.