By Will Williams | UPDATED: 10:42, 07 November 2019
In the midst of International Stress Awareness Week (4th November – 8th November) the founding member of Beeja Meditation, Will Williams, has shared expert advice on healthy ways to deal with stress, methods of calming down and explains how sleep can help us stay calm and be productive.
Alongside the expert advice, Beeja Meditation ran a survey of UK business leaders to discover just how stressed they are, the causes of stress, their coping methods, as well as the ability to talk about stress in the workplace.
The survey revealed that 26% of respondents feel stressed several times a week, with 22% feeling stressed on a daily basis.
Over half (58%) of the business leaders surveyed put their stress down to heavy workloads, with other factors being tight deadlines, senior members of staff, other colleagues and too much overtime.
When working with corporate businesses, Will has pinned down a lot of the stresses to “tech overload, never being able to switch off. A culture of adrenalisation to get sh*t done, that actually compromises physiological and neurological function and underpins mental health issues.
In addition there is a rampant culture of perfectionism which leads to negativity, misunderstandings, unattainable expectations, and LOTS of negative self talk.”
Headaches, depression and a lack of sleep are some of the main effects of stress in the workplace.
Will Williams on a lack of sleep and what to do if you’re struggling to nod of:
“When we don’t sleep well, we under secrete happy hormones and over secrete stress chemicals like cortisol and adrenaline, leaving us in a poor mood, and if chronic, significantly raising the probability of developing mental health issues.
A lack of good quality sleep also means our pre-frontal cortex – or CEO of the brain – doesn’t charge up with energy, meaning we tend to lack focus, creativity, decision making ability and empathy.
Lack of sleep also means that the part of your nervous system that mediates the fight or flight response – the sympathetic nervous system – is more actively engaged, meaning that you tend to be more reactive, aggressive, withdrawn, and fearful.
The best pre-sleep methods that I know of are yoga nidra and binaural beats. However, if you have a really solid practise, you don’t need to use techniques before bed because your nervous system will also be calm.
I would also advocate making sure that the timing of mealtimes, bedtimes and screen time is in alignment with your body’s circadian rhythms rather than working against them.”
When it comes to coping with stress 14% of survey respondents said they drink once a day to cope with stress, with another 26% drinking several times a week to cope.
33% of respondents spend time with family and friends to relieve stress, while 40% say they spend time with pets every day to relieve stress – the highest of any other daily coping method.
Will Williams on spending time with our pets:
“People feel unconditionally loved by their pets, and love is the most powerful emotion we can feel. Pets also don’t judge us, and in a world full of stressed and negative people who critique our every move, this is a very necessary outlet. Pets also give us a tactile experience, raising our hitherto deficient oxytocin levels, making us feel better about ourselves.”
Just under half (42%) of respondents said they had never meditated, while just 12% do so everyday. However the effect of meditation can have a positive impact on our work-life.
“It quickly calms down the activation of the amygdala, which triggers the fight or flight response. This means the nervous system is more balanced, you have less cortisol and adrenaline, you feel mentally sharper, without the edginess that comes from using stress as your driver.
This has many positive side effects. Firstly, you tend to be more collaborative than competitive with your colleagues. You tend to praise more than criticise. You get your work done without fuss. You can make balanced decisions rather than fear driven ones. You can switch off at the end of the day, meaning you have a more fulfilling personal life which is absolutely fundamental to a long term successful work life.”
And what can you do when stress takes over at work,
“If you’re in a meeting, feeling your feet on the floor and focusing on your breath are good ways to keep yourself on an even keel.
After that, the best tip is strategic application of meditation before and after work so that you don’t get stressed during the day! Much better to proactively preempt stress rather than reactively try and calm it down – because once those adrenals are pumping as if your life depends on it, its a bit late – the biological horse has bolted.”
The ISMA’s International Stress Awareness Week runs from 4th to 8th November 2019, alongside Mind’s National Stress Awareness Day, which takes place on 5th November 2019.
Will Williams is the founder of Beeja and a meditation and mindfulness expert. He discovered meditation 11 years ago after experiencing stress-related insomnia and when he spoke to a friend whose life had been transformed by Beeja meditation, he gave it a go. He now dedicates his life to sharing the practice.