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Stress Awareness Month

With stress awareness month coming up if thought I would share this with you. I have just starting working as an associate with Yellow Tree Wellbeing, a fantastic organisation that is passionate providing wellbeing programmes to employers to support your employees in their health and wellbeing at work. We spend the majority of our adult life at work which is why it is paramount that as an employer we have a duty of care to our employees providing the best possible environment and support during their working week.

From my own professional and personal experience STRESS is very detrimental to our health if not managed well, causing a range of mental and physical health conditions. Stress creates energy in the body when we go into a flight or fight response and produces adrenaline and cortisol, enabling the body to respond. Utilising the excess energy that we produced through exercise will help to release and disperse that trapped energy, giving it a channel to be released, helping to prevent inflammation within the body. From working with many people from all backgrounds over many years as a personal trainer, yoga instructor, meditation practitioner, nutrition coach and menopause coach, I know how beneficial exercise is for stress with my clients. This along with a eating healthily and looking after our minds as well as bodies will not remove stress from life, but enable us to utilise tools to manage the stress that life brings.

Suzanne O'Callaghan

Lifestyle Fitness

April is Stress Awareness Month and at this time of year, we like to provide practical tools, techniques, and tips that you can share with your teams as part of your wellbeing initiatives. The first of our free resources this year, is a 6-week mindfulness challenge. With 6 different mindfulness practice to implement, this course will help your people build resilience, stress less and improve your overall wellbeing, provided to us by

I first tried mindfulness in around 2010, in a short session with my then team, run by a colleague. We sat quietly, with eyes closed and were asked to focus on our breathing and just “be.” Feeling awkward and restless, I gingerly opened one eye to peek at my colleagues. Were they feeling as uncomfortable as me or were they enjoying being in the moment? I caught the eye of a friend and we quietly giggled in our shared discomfort. As we left the session, I whispered to my friend “I don’t get it, why be when you can do?!” Clearly, I wasn’t ready for mindfulness in 2010.
By 2015, I am running an employee wellbeing business with a psychotherapist for a business partner. It’s encouraging me to look at my approach to life, its pressures, and my ways of building resilience. My internal drivers to be strong, be quick and be perfect are not always a recipe for good health. And my desire to keep busy, motivated, and active don’t allow much time for rest and relaxation.
I realise that though many of my strategies for dealing with pressure are helpful (like exercise) I don’t have any that are passive rather than active, truly allowing me to relax and recharge and igniting the “rest and digest” response (the opposite to the fight and flight stress response) that my body and mind needs.
I revisit Mindfulness and find a substantial amount of robust, scientifically valid research that supports it as one of the best ways to manage stress as well as reducing anxiety, irritability, and depression. It’s compelling. So, I started with some exercises from “Mindfulness, a practical guide to finding peace in a frantic world” by Mark Williams and Danny Penman, then Ruby Wax’s “Frazzled” and of course, the “Headspace” app.
Today, I use Mindfulness as a reactive strategy (5 minutes meditation or breathing at the end of a particularly stressful day), proactively (10 minutes every day for a month) and when doing activities (focusing just on the activity I am doing, such as a mindful walk, rather than a dash around the green to get my steps in!) And as a business we regularly include mindfulness as part of the wellbeing initiatives we provide to our customers to improve and maintain employee wellbeing. We always get great feedback, even if it’s not for everyone (yet!)
Personally, I have definitely seen the benefits of all these practices, with even just 5 minutes of focused breathing being enough to help me feel calm and peaceful. The month-long practice has by far been the most beneficial for me, I notice my ability to respond rather than react, stay calm in stressful situations and of feeling generally more relaxed.
But this practice has fallen by the wayside in recent months (ok, years). And that is why I am doing the 6-week challenge, it’s just the nudge I need to get me back into the practice!
Fiona Doran-Smith is the Director and Lead Consultant of Yellow Tree Wellbeing helping businesses reduce employee stress, sickness and absence and improve employee wellbeing, engagement, and performance.


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