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The case for introducing relaxation in your workplace

The health and Safety Executives states in their annual statistics report for 2012/2013 that stress, depression or anxiety and musculoskeletal disorders account for the majority of days lost due to work-related ill health.

These issues cost thousands of pounds to the business and badly affect employees’ health and wellbeing.

Realising the urgency of the situation, more and more businesses are starting to roll out health and wellbeing strategies.

When looking at stress levels, an effective action is to equip staff members with techniques that they can re-use at work and at home to reduce their stress and feel calm again. Practices like relaxation, Sophrology or mindfulness have widely proven their efficiency in the past few years, both as preventative methods but also solution focused interventions.

Stress has a direct impact on the nervous system. The nervous system has two components: the sympathetic nervous system, triggering the fight/flight stress response and the parasympathetic nervous system in charge of regulating the body and bringing it back to harmony after experiencing stress. Stress is good and positive in small doses as it can help us achieve. However, stress becomes negative when we experience too much of it. We need a good balance between both. If the sympathetic nervous system is stimulated for too long, vital energy is depleted and that is when we notice the onset of stress related illnesses. Relaxation techniques stimulate the activity of the parasympathetic system, effectively restoring balance, lowering stress levels and allowing the body to recover.

Why should you encourage your employees to relax?

Aside from lowering stress very quickly and building strong resilience, employees who practice relaxation often experience the following:

* An increase in focus and concentration: taking short relaxation breaks throughout the day allows the body and mind to rest and recover so employees are able to focus better when back to work

* Better interpersonal and communication skills: an employee who is feeling rested and calm communicates more effectively and less aggressively with colleagues

* An increase in productivity and energy levels: studies have shown that practicing relaxation throughout the day helps keep a clear and focused mind for longer and helps get more things done

* More positivity in the workplace: a combination of relaxation and meditation reduce negativity and increases positive feelings like kindness and compassion

* Decrease in muscle tension: stress manifests itself through micro tension in the body. Relaxation releases the tension in the affected areas, reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders

* Better sleep quality: relaxation has a direct positive impact on the quality of employees’ sleep resulting in an increase of energy levels during the day and better focus

* Boost creativity and problem solving skills: relaxation slows down brain waves so employees enter a slightly altered state of consciousness where the ‘creative’ right side of the brain is stimulated. Their mind drifts off and enables them to find solutions that would not have easily come up in a state of stress and tension.

Suggestions for introducing relaxation in your workplace

There are different types of relaxation and it is important for the company to find the style that suits them best. Sophrology, for example, is dynamic, engaging both the body and mind in the relaxation process by combining breathing techniques, physical movement, concentration and visualisation. From experience of working in the corporate world, I find that short stress-relief sessions are more effective than whole stress management training days. Fifteen minute group sessions are very good to inject a burst of relaxation into your employees’ day. Ninety minute tailored relaxation workshops on specific topics like stress or sleep are very interesting as not only employees gain an understanding of the topics addressed but they also go away with a set of techniques they can re-use throughout their lives to reduce stress and sleep better. A simple action that can already make huge difference is to encourage employees to take four to five micro-breaks per day; taking a minute or two to bring their attention within themselves, consciously releasing the tension in the body, performing a few stretches and focusing on the pace and pattern of their breathing.

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