How much of your life do you spend in the present moment?
Or, let me rephrase that: How much of your life do you spend driven by a cocktail of fight-or-flight, powering-through, surfing on a wave of stress hormones, juggling all the balls in air powered solely by your daily meal of a Lemon Zest Luna Bar?
Good news—you are not alone. The American Psychological Association has found that about 25% of Americans experience high levels of stress, while another 50% report moderate levels of stress. In fact, according to the most recent APA Stress in America Survey, two-thirds of Americans say they are stressed about the future of our nation. So there’s that, too to add to the mix.
It’s up to us to fight the good fight. But if we’re not actively managing our stress levels, when we encounter both real and perceived threats on a constant basis, our bodies react as if we’re constantly under attack—and the fight-or-flight reaction stays turned on. You guessed it, our energies gone haywire don’t add up to much productivity at home or at work. And, longer-term, with that constant surge of stress hormones comes higher doses of anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment. Ick.
If there were a scientifically-tested magic pill to combat this nasty behemoth, would you give it a try?
Try on mindfulness for size. Mindfulness, as defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and professor at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, is “The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, nonjudgmentally.” In 1979, Kabat-Zinn developed MBSR, a secular 8-week program, initially intended for hospital patients to learn how to use their innate resources and abilities to respond more effectively to stress, pain, and illness. According to the program website, the series of classes combined with a daily commitment to their mindfulness practice improves the participant’s health and well-being through meditation, yoga, and above all, the systematic cultivation of awareness.
Both anecdotal and scientific results of the program and in meditation are profound. 90% of people with clinical levels of anxiety experience significant reductions in anxiety when they meditate. Brain scans reveal amazing results—increased grey matter concentration in regions involved in learning, memory processes, emotion regulation, self-referential processing, and perspective.
Mindfulness is all the rage, because it works. Let us count the ways.
- Sufferers of chronic pain, anxiety and panic experience major reductions of symptoms.
- Focus gets dialed-in at work and cognition is on-point.
- CEO’s use it with the goal of creating agile and flexible mindsets as a foundation for leadership.
- Intrapreneurs at Shell use it to unlock the innovative potential of their colleagues.
- Stanford teaches a course on how mindfulness unleashes creative innovation in product development.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves.
How about we take this opportunity to breathe in through your nose–one
and out through your mouth—two. Breathe in, slowly and deeply counting three on your next in-breath,
and four, out-breath.
Continue this pattern until you reach ten.
And it also shows that skill in breath counting is associated with more meta-awareness, less mind wandering, better mood, and greater non-attachment. Headspace app has a handy one minute Breathing exercise that helps (free). Apple. Android. (and their origin story is pretty fascinating too).
Think 8 weeks is too long to commit to a full MBSR program? How about just 30 minutes, once per week at a convenient location—your own office—if you are lucky enough to call 1844 Sir Tyler Drive your place of employment. You have the opportunity to learn how to unplug, combat the stressors head-on and start to carve out some space to deepen a personalized mindfulness practice through the facilitation of integrative health coach Jessica Ahlum. With a masters in clinical psychology and certification through Duke Integrative Medicine, her approach to overall health is holistic, with a focus on the integration and balance of all areas for the purposes of disease prevention, management, and reversal; health maintenance, and self actualization. Powered by her positive energy and years of experience as a licensed massage and bodywork therapist and couples coach, Jessica is no stranger to utilizing multiple modalities to seek a better world for her clients through her company Health Impacts where health is each and every person’s individual priority.
During the weekly meditation sessions, there is no incense, hocus pocus, herbal tea or sitting cross legged on the floor (only if you feel moved to). Jessica first pauses to acknowledge the group and the practice, then leads a guided or silent mediation, then she wraps up the session by opening up the group for feedback and to share their experiences.
It’s important to note that Jessica designed and developed this mindful awareness group and its content for tekMountain and CastleBranch—and leads these weekly meditations in a personalized way to meet all individual needs of the participants. This mindful approach reflects tekMountain and CastleBranch’s commitment to cultivate an organizational culture of acknowledgement, acceptance and awareness. From the inside out, tekMountain is germinating innovation through transformative thought to CastleBranch—and beyond.
These weekly meditation classes are held on Wednesdays, once from 12noon-12:30pm and again from 12:30-1pm in the Idea Room in the main building. Grab your colleague who normally likes to hoover down his lunch in front of his ‘puter, take off your shoes (or not) and give it a try.
If you are curious about exploring mindfulness, here are some curated resources, classes, TED Talks, books, local meditation venues and mobile apps that we recommend to help guide you on your journey.
- Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Distance Learning
- The Science of Enlightenment: How Meditation Works
- Turning the Mind Into an Ally
- Walking meditation at a replica of the Chartres Cathedral labyrinth
- All it takes is 10 mindful minutes
- Why Buddhism is True: The Science and Philosophy of Meditation and Enlightenment
- Headspace meditation app (10 free basic sessions)
Here at tekMountain, we believe that our employees, resident entrepreneurs and coworkers’ ability to regulate their stress is becoming increasingly critical to their success as individuals, and to the overall well being and success of our ecosystem at large.
Our current blog series on productivity has provided resources and scientifically-backed strategies to pinpoint roadblocks, provide clarity and empower us to consider options to curb habits that may not be serving us so well—both professionally, as well as personally. Perks of working here include a range of exercise classes, such as intense stress-busting metabolic conditioning, quarterly classes to build skills such as coding bootcamps, and weekly stretching & mobility classes to reduce fatigue, workplace stress and to gain agility and balance.
We at tekMountain are dedicated to contributing to the dynamic conversation serving the wider business community. We are actively cultivating a culture of collaboration, dialogue, resource-sharing and brain breaks. We’d love to hear your strategies, tips and tools you use to keep on track, centered and in the zone. Tweet at us, or leave comments on this blog or LinkedIn.