Executive Destress

Meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi

Executive Destress

From juggling and drumming to meditation and sleep therapy, business executives are trying everything to manage the excessive stress that can eventually lead to strokes, heart attack or total burnout.

But what is it that really works and how does one find the right technique that will ensure optimum functionality?  Many businessmen are using Transcendental Meditation as a solution for stress. Recommended by GP’s, it aims at restoring the both the will and the ability to manage life more effectively.  Using nothing other than concentration and a few easily learnt techniques to control the thoughts and calm the body, Transcendental Meditation can be practiced anywhere. Regular practice has been known to lower blood pressure, lessen the risk of developing chronic diseases and assist with insomnia.

As with all stress relieving techniques the trick is actually in the commitment. Making a firm commitment to keeping yourself in a balanced and calm state of mind requires taking time out to focus solely on that purpose.

Many companies recognise the importance of introducing Wellness programmes to combat stress in their executives, some corporations employ the use of companies for on-site neck and shoulder massages, maintaining that this practice lowers absenteeism and increases productivity.

Massage therapists recommend a weekly or monthly massage to bring the mind and body into a total state of relaxation and so prevent a build up of pressure. Shiatsu and reflexology are also forms of bodywork that allow the participant to relax without having to do anything.  Look out for massage therapists that travel eliminating the necessity to drive to an appointment.

Rita Edwards from the Cape Town branch of Kinesiology explains that stress forces us into our survival brain or lower brain giving us less access to higher cognitive function such as initiating new ideas, logical reasoning , thinking and rapid recall of information. Her antidote is to use Brain Gym, a series of simple physical exercises to stimulate the motor cortex which has nerve nets into all the other areas of the cortex.

An effective and quick example of Brain Gym is to position the thumb 10cm in front of the eyes, then to trace a sideways version of the figure eight with the thumb, Follow the movement of the thumb with the eyes, repeating eight times.

Physical activity being high on the stress busting list, we laud those executives that disappear on Wednesday afternoon golf excursions. Research shows that they may actually produce a greater volume of quality work than their stressed out counterparts. Other physical activities well known for calming and relaxing the mind and body are Yoga and Tai Chi. Enrolling in regular classes is very beneficial in  maintaining balance in the body, mind and spirit.  Both these disciplines use breathwork and physical postures or movements to relax the muscles. Yoga being particularly good for neck and back tension created by a build up of stress.

Gaining popularity in Europe, sound journeys constitute an alternative way of calming and relaxing individuals or groups. Described as a massage on a ‘cellular level’, soothing and mesmerizing sounds produced by acoustic instruments are played to the group while they are comfortably positioned on a mat. Chris Tokalon, sound journey therapist from Johannesburg maintains that the music takes the listener on a journey allowing  anxieties to be left behind.

Healthy stress provides us with challenge and stimulation but it is not always easy to gauge when there is an overload of stress. Usually the body will respond by working harder and harder; and although it may seem that performance and efficiency are improved, a sudden breakdown and overwhelming fatigue may follow. Under stress the body produces an increase in the hormones adrenaline, noradrenaline and corticosteroids, in the short-term these hormones produce tense muscles, queasiness and an increase in breathing and heart rates.

Learning the art of tranquility and relaxation, learning to not place any emphasis on outcome and turning the mind and body to a Zen-like state will assist in keeping tension and anxiety out of the way.  

It may not be as difficult as you might think.  The secret is to find a specific technique that suits you, allows you to unwind, and then stick to it.

Stress management expert Phyllis Pilgrim from Baja, California suggests distancing yourself mentally from the problem or anxiety for a few minutes, and looking at the ‘bigger picture’. 
Following these steps will help alleviate stress in an emergency.

o Immediately change your environment, go to another office or room, or outdoors into the fresh air.
o Inhale, stretch the arms up, exhale lowering the arms.  Repeat 5-10 times.
o Take a deep breath and exhale for a count of 10, allowing anxieties to leave with the out breath.
o Inhale positive thoughts and think about solutions to problems.  Repeat 10 times.
o Drop the shoulders and exhale.  Roll the shoulders forwards and backwards. Repeat 10 times.
o Inhale with a smile, and exhale with a blowing movement, making strong exhalation sounds.
o Breathe normally stretching the neck first then the shoulders, shake the shoulders.
o Be still and allow your mind to clear completely.

Stress-reducing Remedies:
- Rescue remedy as a supplement or in tincture form can be taken 3 times daily, or in extreme cases every 15 minutes.
- A course of Ginseng tonic will help the body adapt to stress.
- Chamomile tea is calming and can be taken throughout the day.
- Kava Kava is an excellent stress buster, available from health shops and pharmacies.
- Bach flower remedies such as Elm will assist with feelings of overwhelm from the pressures of work and family.

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