I’ve been having a great time this week sharing the Optimal Mindset message about stress reduction with various professionals in traditionally stressful work environments. Although Accounting, Law, and Financial Investment professionals are well known for coping with a cyclically stressful work environment, there is now added pressure to reset the corporate balance sheet by operating with a leaner staff. More work to be done by fewer employees is a sure fire recipe for added stress.
Mindfulness training can benefit the corporate workforce by teaching employees specific skills for relaxation. Just learning to take a full, easeful breath can be a real revelation for those experiencing chronic stress. Mindful breathing and progressive relaxation techniques help remind employees what relaxed feels like and provides concrete tools they can use during times of high stress — sitting in a conflict-filled meeting, coping with a flight delay or dealing with the sudden crash of crucial hardware right before a big client presentation. Mindfulness training also increases awareness, helping employees recognize when their stress level is ramping up so they can take proactive measures and avoid stress-related physical symptoms like acid reflux, migraine headaches or crippling upper back and neck tension.
My mindfulness message really hit home this week when I met with one of the executive shareholders at a major Portland accounting firm. We were meeting with the firm’s wellness program coordinator to discuss offering the firms’ employees an 8-week onsite Optimal Mindset course. I was doing the usual enthusiastic sharing around the benefits of linking mind and body to maximize performance without employee burnout. With tax season rapidly approaching, the shareholder agreed that it cost too much to hire and train employees, then lose them after the busy season, thinking “I just can’t go through that again.” He then admitted that he believed “there really is something to this breathing and stress thing” and shared an amazing story.
The month before, the shareholders had an onsite visit from a nurse sent to complete executive health evaluations, a requirement to update their health insurance policies. This particular executive shareholder, my personal tax accountant and one of Portland Business Journal’s “best and brightest,” had always tested well with blood pressure readings in his doctor’s office. He’s a lean and active guy who watches what he eats and regularly exercises, so he was astounded when his onsite blood pressure reading was suddenly “not good at all.” At first he was totally baffled; then the nurse suggested that he sit calmly, without talking, and breathe deeply for a few moments. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to share the contents of his head with the nurse, he spent a few quiet moments just sitting and breathing. Then the nurse retested his blood pressure.
You guessed it. The deep breathing had returned his blood pressure back to the usual low reading. ”I was convinced,” my accountant confessed; “as a numbers guy, I could see the cold, hard proof that the mind and the body really are connected, and that breathing can help with stress reduction.”
I broke into an ear to ear grin and almost launched into a Hallelujah chorus. Instead, I calmly suggested that the firm set aside money in next year’s budget for Optimal Mindset training, so that the 2013 tax season could be a less stressful one. With two and a half months of 40-60 hour work weeks looming ahead, they both agreed that would be a really good idea.
In the meantime, I’ll be back to share at a brown bag session later this spring to educate employees about Optimal Mindset, and offering a short experiential session to the firm’s partners so they can experience the practical and easeful training first hand. It’s a “feeling is believing” thing — with the numbers to back it up!
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a spring sample session for your office!