Reducing Stress

Reducing Stress

Many of us are challenged by the pace of work or life in general - by the incessant emails, calls, texts, tweets, Whatsapps and Instagrams to name but a few. Our efficiency and ability to concentrate can become affected and we can start to feel stressed by the content of daily life. 

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In my own workplace at the Bar, over recent years, colleagues have slowly started to address more openly the impact of stress and the need to promote a sense of wellbeing within the working environment. This awareness has been supported by recent research conducted by the Bar Council in October 2014, which found alarmingly that: in 3 barristers found it difficult to control or stop worrying; 2 in 3 felt that showing signs of stress equals weakness; 1 in 6 expressed feeling in low spirits most of the time and 59 % demonstrated unhealthy levels of perfectionism; and felt that psychological wellbeing within the legal profession is rarely spoken about.[1]

            Unfortunately, these findings echo the reality of many modern workplaces. Long bouts of stress can start to weaken our immune system and cause high blood pressure, fatigue, depression, anxiety and even heart disease.  All of these responses over time can be extremely wearing on our physical bodies and mental state. As Dr. Brantley explains in his book "Calming Your Anxious Mind", chronic stress means "chronic hyper-arousal of the body through its fear system. The price for this is high, both physically and emotionally." He explains that fortunately, “there is good news" as we have a "balancing response to fight-or-flight wired" into us, and mindfulness mediation is one way of activating it.

            By practicing mindfulness meditation, we engage the parasympathetic nervous system – the “rest and digest” system – which can help us to regulate and reduce the flow of certain chemicals in our bodies, including adrenaline, epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. Engaging this soothing system is a reliable way of helping us to activate our natural capacity to be well. In short, we experience what is known as the “relaxation response”, a phrase coined by Dr Herbert Benson in 1975 to describe the way in which we can experience deep relaxation from practicing meditation and how a daily practice can help us to mitigate the effects of harmful stress.[2]

[1] Wellbeing at the Bar, April 2015: www.barcouncil.org.uk/media-centre/publications/2015/may/wellbeing-at-the-bar-report/

[2] The Relaxation Response by Dr Herbert Benson, 1975.

 

 

 

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