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Practical ways to build employees’ resilience to stress and prevent burnout

Blog by Marion Beauregard.

Wellbeing in the workplace is a vast subject which cannot easily be covered in one blog post. All my upcoming blog posts will be linked to the topic in one way or another. What I am interested in is looking at specific areas that can drastically galvanise employee wellbeing if considered and addressed carefully by any business.

So let’s start with – probably the biggest ailment of the 21st century and the greatest threat to a business’s success – stress in the workplace. By now, we should all know that there is good stress and bad stress. A certain level of stress is desirable in business since it can boost people to achieve or perform better and it can improve motivation and productivity. However, as individuals, we all have different thresholds in terms of resilience to stress. Put two people under the same amount of stress and you are most probably going to witness a difference in how they react to it and how they deal with it. For some people, the level of stress can become too high too quickly and at some stage become unmanageable stress, resulting in negative effects on the person’s physical and mental wellbeing ranging from physical ailments such as aches; pains and recurring colds to emotional symptoms such as loss of patience, lack of motivation and anxiety.

If these symptoms are not addressed, stress can lead to mental health problems such as depression, panic attacks, chronic fatigue and sleep problems with the extreme outcome of unmanaged stress being burnout. I am very interested in the topic of burnout and do not get bored of talking about it with business owners to try and illustrate how badly they need to put something in place to prevent it from happening. When someone suffers burnout, it takes them a long time to recover and be fit for work again. Not only does this cost the business a lot of money but also, most importantly it damages the employee’s health (very badly). And who would want their employees to be unwell?

Managing stress effectively is a crucial part of a preventative approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Employers have a duty of care towards their employees and should not be shy of looking after them and taking action to proactively promote staff wellbeing.

I do realise that the above portrait I have painted of stress is very dark and does not look at stress triggers – these can be home or work related and we’ll look at that another day – but what I want to do here, most importantly, is tell you more about one action you can take to prevent burnout and build employees’ resilience to stress.

I specialise in Sophrology for the Workplace and specifically stress, burnout and sleep. So, what is Sophrology?

Sophrology is a method that many French businesses have employed for in the past few years as a gentle but effective approach to maintain physical and mental wellbeing in the workplace. It was developed in the 60’s and is used in a wide range of environments on the Continent including hospitals, businesses, educational establishments, sports and art industries. Sophrology has now crossed the channel and is becoming more widely available in the UK. In practice, it combines breath work, body movements, concentration, muscular relaxation and visualisation.

Sophrology is a technique that helps employees effectively manage the expectations and pressures of their jobs by improving their ability to adapt to the causes of stress or by reinforcing their resilience to stress by reducing its associated symptoms. Sophrology enables each person to stay in balance, with a reduced level of stress to ensure optimal performance and productivity, beneficial for both employees and the business.

The stress management techniques that Sophrology offers are not only designed to address the effects of stress but also to tackle the causes. They allow each staff member to discover their own thresholds and limits providing them with tools to prevent their tipping over the edge and eventually flirting with burnout.

Naturally, this approach requires some preliminary work done by the business with regards to reviewing workload against headcount, working hours and environment, skill assessments, training plan, current reward and recognition system and internal communications. All of these are outside my scope of intervention but my work within a business greatly benefits from being made aware of the current context so I can take it into account and deliver the most appropriate service for the business and its employees.

Businesses choose to introduce Sophrology in the workplace in different ways and some of the formats include group sessions, tailored individual sessions and specialised workshops.

A typical Sophrology group session would involve a short introduction to the technique and an informal assessment of the participants’ current stress levels and sleep. This would then be followed by practice of a carefully chosen combination of breathing exercises, guided imagery techniques and gentle body movements. All these tools are designed to make the person independent in their practice. They create their own toolbox of stress management techniques that work for them and that they can easily re-use in the workplace. They learn tools to identify and release physical and mental tension, boost their energy levels, improve their focus and develop positive thinking. The session ends with a discussion where participants are encouraged to share their experiences and receive advice on how they can fit the techniques into their current routine. People experience stress in different ways but most of us have experienced the unpleasant physical and emotional feelings that stress can trigger in one way or another; Sophrology gives people tools to deal with these symptoms as and when they arise and prevent the situation from occurring again.

As an example, Liverpool Victoria recently gave Sophrology a go by introducing it to their employees in their Exeter office. After a short Sophrology session, participants recorded an average reduction of 52% in their stress levels. Feedback was extremely positive and they went away with a set of techniques to easily improve their wellbeing in their everyday lives.

Adopting Sophrology is a sign of benevolence from a business towards its employees, demonstrating a real caring approach and interest in creating a better wellbeing within the workplace.

In my following blog posts, I will focus on the links between sleep quality, negative thinking and wellbeing in the workplace, the importance of balancing personal and professional life and what a business can gain from approaching their staff’s health and wellbeing holistically.

If you are curious about Sophrology and would like to discuss how to use it in your workplace, do not hesitate to get in touch by phone (+44)7929 056 135 or email [email protected]. I am also on social media, Facebook, Twitter and Linked in. Follow me to gain tips and tools to improve your wellbeing and lots of exercises to try at home or at work.

If you are a HR professional interested in the health and wellbeing of your employees and you are considering running a Wellbeing programme in the future, I strongly encourage you to attend the Workplace Wellbeing and Stress Summit organised by Symposium Events on Thursday 28th November 2013 in London. This day will give you the chance to uncover both the strategic and practical elements of implementing wellness programmes, as well as giving you the tools needed to boost wellbeing and create a healthy culture in your own organisation. If you would like to attend, take advantage of the 40% special discount that Symposium Events is offering my readers and enter the code HR162VT at the check out on their website: http://www.symposium.co.uk/workplace-wellbeing-stress-summit/. I will be attending the event myself and would be delighted to meet you there in person to discuss health and wellbeing in your workplace.

Speak to you soon in another post!

Marion

About Marion Beauregard

Marion Beauregard is a Sophrology practitioner based in London. With a background in office work and a specialisation in stress, sleep and burnout, she works in partnership with businesses in the UK and in France to help improve staff’s health and wellbeing through tailored effective stress management programmes.

Marion’s approach is highly experiential, providing people with techniques that they can easily re-use at home and at work. The focus on practice over theory aims to integrate techniques at a deeper level and help people quickly and effectively access their natural ability to feel calm, relaxed and positive.

Marion has a particular interest in burnout prevention, burnout recovery and return to work post burnout.

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