Engaging the Spirit in Corporate Wellness

The leadership of corporate wellness programs need to adopt a holistic approach as they consider wellness options for their employees.  A holistic approach engages and develops the whole employee and celebrates the multidimensionality of each person.  Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual components are ideally woven into a program to fully benefit the employees and the organization.

The spiritual component may seem surprising to many as something to include in corporate wellness, but let’s be honest… we don’t leave our spirits at home when we go to work.  According to Google definitions “the spirit is the nonphysical part of a person that is of emotion and character, the soul.”  To do so would be like coming to work incomplete and missing the part that makes us most unique.  Stressful environments can erode the soul, drawing us farther and farther away from who we are at the core.  We are at our personal best when we integrate and connect to our multidimensionality.  In doing so we have all our aspects available to us including:  intellect, creativity, passion, emotion, intuition, logic, natural flow and beyond.  An organization with spirited employees is a healthy, thriving and productive organization.

In many workplace climates stress is on the rise, with so many changes and uncertainty.  Incorporating mindfulness and stress management education in corporate wellness is beneficial to the employees, clients and the organization.  We must look at our organizations holistically and that includes incorporating the wellness of the employees.  Offering informational and inspirational wellness workshops that invigorate the mind, relax the body and feed the spirit are necessary in this day and age.

Valuing employees, those individuals who spend a great deal of their lives dedicated to the success and advancement of the organization, is beneficial to everyone involved.  Results may include: employee satisfaction; improved employee health and well-being; better customer service; increased productivity; decreased absenteeism; and better inter-staff relations.  Sure, holistic workshops are an investment but employees are worth investing in.

I recently “unplugged” by spending a few days in solitude at a yoga ashram in the mountains of Colorado.  One day while I was visiting there was a organization, Boulder County Public Health, that organized a full-day retreat for it’s employees.  I was surprised to be along side corporate employees who were doing yoga, meditating, eating nutritious food, and hiking together.  I spent part of my day observing and engaging with these employees.  It was most impressive to see what this outing was doing for the spirits of these employees.  The reason I visited the ashram was to rejuvenate, gain clarity and renew my spirit.  Of course, this adventure both educated and renewed the spirits of these employees.  It was simply brilliant and I thought about how much experiences like these could benefit every aspect of an organization and it’s employees.

In 2010 I taught Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation at a dozen social service agencies in Wichita, Kansas.  At the time very few understood or had experienced mindfulness meditation.  It was truly refreshing to employees as they opened to the new experience.  I have been offering stress management workshops that incorporate mindfulness meditation to professional caregivers and business professional for several years now.  There has been an increasing openness and interest in incorporating this highly effective stress reduction method into the lives of the people I instruct.  In 2010 it seemed very progressive and somewhat “out there” to many people.  In just a few years it has become acceptable and more “mainstream”.

I began Self-Care Specialists with mindfulness infused stress management course offerings that ended with the experience of mindfulness-based stress reduction exercises.  I continue to offer these fresh and progressive courses, but am expanding my course options to include mindfulness meditation retreats.  The Introduction to Mindfulness Meditation can be offered in a 2 or 3 hour course.  The Mindfulness Meditation Retreat is more extensive and is available in 4,5, or 6 hour time increments for a deeper immersion into the practice of mindfulness.  These courses include breath-work, guided imagery, gentle movement, awareness and healing exercises.  For course options for caregiving organizations http://selfcarespecialists.com/courses-caregiver/ and for corporate businesses http://selfcarespecialists.com/courses-professional/

We need a paradigm shift in which we include corporate wellness as an important aspect of the business.  Understanding that the likelihood of a sound, whole business increases as we invest in the wholeness of the individuals working for us.  Everyone benefits from a supportive work environment that encourages and invests in employee wellness.

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Misuse of Alcohol to Manage Stress

Under stressful circumstances many people turn to alcohol to help manage stress.  Alcoholic drinks are often consumed to “take off the edge” or “relax” after a long, hard day of work.  While this may seem to help in the moment, in reality it pushes the emotions one is experiencing below consciousness or awareness.  It is difficult to resolve emotion that has been repressed and can build up if the pattern of repression is habitual.  Repeated alcohol consumption to manage stress can lead to addiction, which can have severe consequences affecting every area of one’s life.

Those who are experiencing personal trauma and/or secondary trauma through their work, family relationships or socially may be especially vulnerable to misuse of alcohol in order to mask painful emotions.  The moments when an individual most feels like they need a drink are often the worst time for a drink.

It is a good practice to be mindful when you feel the urge to have a drink.  Good questions to ask yourself are “why do I feel the need to drink right now?” and “what activity could I engage in that would be better for my health?”  Examples of healthy alternatives can include exercise, mindfulness meditation, breathwork, taking a relaxing bath, journaling, or seeking support.

The ability to meet yourself where you are, regardless of how difficult it may seem in the moment, is a skill worth mastering.  If you don’t like where you are, it is a good indication that you need to do something different, nurture yourself and/or perhaps seek some support or assistance to work through the emotions brought on by stress.  This can be done by talking with a trusted friend, co-worker, life coach, support group or therapist.  More involved help may be necessary if you suspect an alcohol addiction.

I was facilitating a Compassion Stress Management course for professional caregivers last year and had a participant walk out in the middle of the class.  A few days later I received an email from this individual that something I said had inspired her to leave and find an Alcoholics Anonymous group that was meeting in that city (she was from out of town) immediately.  This was an excellent example of self-awareness, courage and doing what she found necessary to cultivate a healthier, addiction free lifestyle.

A link to the article “Workplace Stress as a Trigger for Addiction” has been included http://stepstorecovery.com/workplace-stress-addiction/  for those who are interested in reading about the link between stressful work environment and the use of drugs and alcohol to cope.  Additionally, it provides alternatives available to promote a healthy lifestyle.

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